The Rites of Manhood
It's snowing hard enough that the taxis aren't running. I'm walking home, my night's work finished, long after midnight, with the whole city to myself, when across the street I see a very young American sailor standing over a girl who's kneeling on the sidewalk and refuses to get up although he's yelling at her to tell him where she lives so he can take her there before they both freeze. The pair of them are drunk and my guess is he picked her up in a bar and later they got separated from his buddies and at first it was great fun to play at being an old salt at liberty in a port full of women with hinges on their heels, but by now he wants only to find a solution to the infinitely complex problem of what to do about her before he falls into the hands of the police or the shore patrol -- and what keeps this from being squalid is what's happening to him inside: if there were other sailors here it would be possible for him to abandon her where she is and joke about it later, but he's alone and the guilt can't be divided into small forgettable pieces; he's finding out what it means to be a man and how different it is from the way that only hours ago he imagined it. Alden Nowlan