In an interview that can be found on playbill . com, Lin Manuel Miranda talked about his original plans for the musical In the Heights. The interview said, "The original show was about a love triangle between Benny, Nina, and Nina's brother Lincoln. Lincoln was closeted and in love with Benny." Lin-Manuel got rid of Lincoln because he went to see Avenue Q and realized that Rod's story was more interesting than Lincoln's. But... I like Lincoln and I kind of wish they had kept him in. Not as a main character, but almost like someone in the background to add to the family dynamic, if nothing else.
So I wrote a story about him. The end.
Disclaimer: I am still not a self-proclaimed 'ugly songwriter who can't get girls to notice him.' Although I am absolutely in love with one, does that count?
The man and woman walked side by side down the crowded streets, occasionally separated by the impatient passerby or pushed into one another by the jostling crowd. They would whisper to each other, leaning close and almost brushing their lips against the other's ear, then start laughing, smiling near identical smiles.
Sometimes one would seize the other's hand and, with eyes bright, pull their companion into one shop or another. Soon both worked their way through hot dogs from the friendly man with the green cap and scruffy-looking goatee, who always shouted, "Gracias señor y señorita!" after them as they departed. The woman always finished hers first, teasing the man with her greasy fingers and threatening to wipe them on his jacket – which he knew she never would.
They would press their faces to the glass of the toy store, just as they had when they were children, and whisper about the toys they still kept, all tucked away, under their beds. They would point to the dolls and trains and tiny pianos and murmur, "That's what my children will find under the tree one day," or, "My kids will shout 'thank you' up the chimney after finding that one." They paid no heed to the fact that there were no small children waiting for them at home, arms open wide for an embrace and Crayola masterpieces waiting for praise on the kitchen counter.
When they did walk home, they would wave to the man who sold piragua in summer, hot teas in winter. Sometimes they would share the icy or steaming treat, passing the paper or Styrofoam cup between the two of them until they reached their front door. Walking inside, they would toss the empty cup into the wastepaper bin, the black one with the silver rim.
Soon after arriving, the phone would ring shrilly through the contented air, as if on cue. The woman would answer, a shy smile tugging at her lips, her voice high-pitched and slightly stuttering as she uttered a quick, "Hi." With a small furrow to his brow, the man would retreat to the next room, trying and failing every time to drown out the woman's excited voice. He would hide his face behind the Times, a new Reader's Digest, or sometimes poke his nose into the Shakespeare his mother had left on the low coffee table, seeing the words but not processing any.
The woman would call out his name after hanging up the phone, as if she hadn't figured out his routine. She would walk into the room, wrapping a scarf around her neck and her jacket under her arm in winter, and tell him that she was going out and ask if he would like to come along.
"No," he would always mumble to the pages. She would sigh, as if disappointed, and step around the coffee table to press her lips gently to his cheek and briefly squeeze his arm. With an excited, nervous smile thrown at him from over her shoulder, she would leave the small apartment. He could hear her footsteps down the hall and sometimes into the staircase and could count the seconds it took her to exit the building by heart.
Once or twice he would crane his neck to look out of the small window, watching her step out of the building and look around twice before the man would come, gently taking her elbow to alert her of his presence. She would smile warmly at the man, eyes sparkling and cheeks flushed. Sometimes the two would lean close to each other and brush their lips together before walking back down the street, holding hands.
He would turn away from the window, looking distastefully back to his magazine or book, trying to convince himself that he didn't care, that it doesn't matter. He would sulk and pick out favorite phrases and sometimes jot them down into the little notebook he would retrieve from his desk drawer. He would read about hurricanes in the south, inspirational stories about three year olds and poodles, rhyming iambic pentameter, his mother's handwritten notes in the margins. He would distract himself from dwelling on what the two could possibly be doing, how they could be entertaining themselves without him.
The banging of the door no longer startles him; it is merely a cue to stop reading, tuck his notebook under the sofa, and walk over to the door. His mother would greet him with the same smile, the same grateful softening of her eyes as he takes her shopping bag from her and carries it into the kitchen. He would pull out the contents one by one, lining them labels-out on the counter, and his mother would enter after him, wrapping her arms around his shoulders and saying how pleased she is to see him.
The two would work side by side, occasionally bumping bony elbows together, him with the knife and vegetables and her with the rolling pin and sticky dough. She would pop her heavenly confection into the oven, sighing with pleasure, while he would dump the chopped vegetables distastefully into a large pot of steaming water.
He would listen to his mother's chatter about her day with one ear, the other trained for the tell-tale slam of the door and rushed footsteps. He would turn, eyes sparkling and ears now working in unison, just in time to see her return, cheeks flushed pink. The woman would embrace him for a mere second before turning to their mother, asking the same question she always does.
His head would turn slowly, as if at its own accord, away from the two women and towards the doorway. The man would always be standing there, posture slightly slumped and clasping his hands together, examining his feet. His cheeks would flush as he watched the man look up tentatively, meet his eyes, and smile in greeting. Sometimes a soft "Hello," or the casual "Yo," would accompany the man's glance.
The man would always remove his shoes before entering the room, his socked feet shuffling across the cheap linoleum. He would stare at the man's feet, admiring the dark blues and reds and greens the man had chosen to cover his toes. Once he saw that the man's big toe was poking at the seam of one of his socks, but he said nothing. The man never noticed, it seemed, as he was wearing these socks again. The woman would come to stand next to him, and the two would exchange shy smiles.
They would sit next to each other at dinner, the man and the woman. He sat beside his mother, across from the man. Sometimes they would wait for their father to come home; other times the still shrill ring of the telephone would deliver the more-often-than-not messages to start without him. Their father was never home on time, even when he did leave work on time, he came to notice. Perhaps it was because the man was here, occupying their mother's usual seat at the table.
Sometimes, when all five of them were at the table, he would be seated at the head of the table, with his parents sitting next to each other on one side and the man and woman next to each other on the opposite. His leg would be pressed up against those of the two sitting closest to him, who were, more often than not, the man and his mother. If either of them were bothered by the close quarters, they did not voice any complaints. He himself rather enjoyed feeling the man's slightly larger leg against his.
After supper would end, the man and woman would clear the table, plates clinking against each other delicately in the soapy water. Laughter would come from the kitchen, and he would disappear behind a book again. After the dishes had been stacked neatly in their cabinet, the man and woman would leave again, fingers entwined and smiling softly at one another. His father's eyebrows would narrow slightly behind his newspaper. He would lower the paper, his eyes trained on her bare left hand. He knew that his father was looking for a ring.
Sometimes the woman would not come home until the next day and he would curl up under his blankets, never sleeping, and look at the ceiling, his eyes growing accustomed to the darkness. He would count the little bumps in the plaster, always stopping or losing count after two hundred. He would listen for the soft click of the door opening, listen for hushed voices as the man and woman said their goodbyes.
He would look at the glowing hands of his clock sometimes, trying to calculate how much time had gone by since supper, but he lost track too easily. Instead he would wait for the woman to come into his room, notice his open eyes, and sit at the foot of his bed, telling him tales that made him shudder with pleasure and shed guilty tears once she had left.
Sometimes, when walking alone through the streets, he would come across the man. He never stopped to say hello, but sometimes the man would see him and call out his name, projecting his powerful voice over the bustle of the streets outside. He would always turn and wave, but never stop to speak to him. He would hurry home, cheeks flushed red, and hide his face behind a book once more.
He would always regret his meekness when it came time to leave home again. He and the woman would pack their bags and get on separate planes, his heading for Ohio while hers would stop halfway across the country, where she would board a second that would take her out to California. Sometimes she would call him when she reached the second airport, asking how his flight had gone and whether he had had lunch or not. He would talk to her in hushed tones so his roommates could not hear, half-hoping she would give him news of the man.
Occasionally she would write him letters, telling him about her excursions with friends. He would write back sometimes, when he was not busy with schoolwork, carefully crafting each sentence with care, as one misplaced word could give him away. He would tuck her letters into the shoebox under his bed, leaving them there and pulling them out whenever he missed her.
On his birthday he found cards from his parents, the woman, and the man. He did not open the last of the three, instead tucking it into his science textbook where it was out of sight but never forgotten. He saw it again after a couple few weeks had passed and he opened to the designated chapter and there it was, blue envelope still crisp and unopened.
He opened the card later that day, a small smile playing about his lips and a blush dancing in his cheeks as his eyes read over the man's words countless times, committing them to memory. He memorized the way the man looped his l's, the way his t's curved up at the bottom and how he always wrote his e-r's in cursive. He admired how the man signed his name, the spiky B followed by two cursive n's that blended together to look like a m.
He could not for the life of him remember the proper conversions for the physics experiment the next day, but he went over the man's handwriting in his head, copying out his notes with cursive e-r's and making sure his t's curved up at the bottom. He became excited when he saw a word with two n's in a row and copied it out at least a dozen times in the margins of his paper, each time squishing the n's together.
He decided to write back to the man, telling him thank you for the card and how he had been so busy for the past few weeks. He told him false tales of how much he enjoyed physics and asked how the man was doing. He told the man how much he missed the woman, knowing that he would understand. He took up two sheets of paper, ruining the first one by writing Love, Lincoln at the bottom. That just would not do.
To his surprise, the man wrote back, telling him of how things were at home. He told him how he missed the woman as well, but told him that they spoke at least once a week and wrote letters to each other almost daily. Lincoln felt very jealous when he heard that and did not respond to the man's letter, instead tucking it inside his physics book and reading it over whenever the class was dull. The edges of the letter tore from handling and the folds in the paper caused parts of the precious words to be obscured.
Lincoln wrote back a week later, deeming himself silly for being jealous. He kept writing to the man, every week feeling his stomach flip over and a giddy smile come to his face when he opened his mailbox to see his address written in the man's careful hand. He kept the letters in his physics book, which was now bursting at the seams.
When it came time to pack up is room, sell back his books, and head home for the summer, Lincoln tucked his physics book into his backpack, hiding it from view under the sweatshirt he tucked into his bag as well. He carried it with him on the plane, turning the pages carefully to read the letters he had pasted over the diagrams and equations. He enjoyed reading the letters under the pretense of looking like a knowledgeable college student, one majoring in physics or engineering, no doubt.
His mother and father greeted him at the airport, arms open wide and a small helium balloon with the words 'Welcome home' written on it in black marker. The blue ribbon was slightly curled, and Lincoln laughed and chatted with his parents on the way back home. He tied the balloon to his bed post and hid his physics book under his pillow.
The woman arrived home later in the day; the man had picked her up from the airport. She arrived with her face glowing, her fingers entwined in the man's and a jacket tied around her waist. She proudly showed her father her left hand, a band of gold with a small stone embedded in it gleaming under the fluorescent lights. She kissed the man in the entranceway, right in front of all three of them, while the man remained upright and unresponsive, as if afraid to kiss her in front of her parents.
He felt his cheeks grow hot and tears springing up in his eyes. Blinking furiously, he allowed his sister to embrace him, feeling the cold band of the ring through his thin T-shirt. Eyes shining, he shook hands with the man, congratulating him and saying something about being happy that they would be brothers.
Excusing himself politely to his room under the pretense of needing sleep, he slid under the blankets, pulling his physics book out from under his pillow. He paged through it, tears blurring his vision and fingers lovingly caressing the frayed pages. He turned to the back of the book, where the page was blank, and pulled out a pen, signing his name in handwriting that had grown to look exactly like the man's.
He might not have a diamond ring on his finger, but he would always have his physics book to page through at night. He would always have the letters where he could press his lips to the man's name, written in black pen, and watch as the familiar handwriting became blurry under his sparkling eyes.