"You think I get invited to conventions?" It was a halfway smile, but it was somewhere in the neighborhood of a real one. Lately, all his smiles were fakes, big and cheerful and sunny for the ladies and for anybody with a specific eye for a guy in a crew cut with flat bruises across flat cheekbones. Frank had always been a bruiser, but he looked it more now than he ever had. Too spare, a little too thin, still working at packing muscle back onto atrophied bones.
But he was already thinking about the second step to every conversation like this one from the old neighborhood. What was the question, after Fucking Mets, right? and Nice weather we're having. It was
How's the wife? How're the kids?
Frank had gotten word about Nick's bullet, but hadn't seen him since. It happened when he was still a world away, and by the time he was back in New York, most of the old neighborhood was gone. They'd trickled over the years - Nick was just the most recent departure, and Frank had assumed he would just add to the tally, one more guy who didn't see the place he grew up when he looked around anymore.
But the Capital was the same, all cities in this country were the same. The same fuckin cesspits, the same pools of human garbage.
"Came back, wasn't going to stay in New York." He shrugged a shoulder. What more needed to be said? Nick would know. Sometimes the city changed, and sometimes you did. Frank wasn't the kid he'd been when he went to war, wasn't the man he'd been when he was in it. Hell, he wasn't the man he'd been a few months ago.