Extract: U Up? by Catie Disabato

In the follow up to her smart debut, The Ghost Network, Catie Disabato’s U Up? creates a vivid portrait of a young woman investigating her best friend’s disappearance while navigating co-dependent friendships, toxic exes, and witchy rituals.

Friday, 12:03 a.m.

u up?

My phone blared with the incoming text, a noisy alert I was as relieved to hear as an almost–murder victim is by the wail of police sirens. For hours my phone had laid inert, as useless as a lone brick, while I watched endless Netflix lying on my back and poked at my barely concave belly button.

How glorious it was to hear my phone, to see it light up again, at a late enough hour that it was a true surprise to hear it wake. u up? Oh yes, sweet phone and glorious late-night texter, yes I’m up.


Thursday 6:55 PM

u wanna go to that new tiki bar?

can’t tonight, i’m knocking off work
 tomorrow to go to the desert with noz

like for the day???

she got us a room at two bunch palms for the weekend

Friday 12:03 AM

u up?

The text was from Ezra Levinson, my best friend. We’ve known each other forever because we went to the same Jewish summer camps in high school, then to the same college and latched onto each other during orientation, panicked about moving away from our families, hungry for a familiar face. We got really close, we’ve continued to be really close, and over the years we’ve become a part of each other, what I imagine having a sibling must feel like—or even a twin. Our hair grows exactly the same, so over the past five years or so we’ve semi-accidentally maintained the same haircut.

I was surprised to see Ezra’s name on my screen, I hadn’t expected to hear from him. He was supposed to be on his way to Desert Hot Springs, sitting in his girlfriend’s, Nozlee’s, passen-ger seat, Noz steering her ancient Jeep Wrangler with one hand on the wheel and one on the gear shift, one of Ezra’s big hands wrapped almost halfway around her thigh, the desert spread in front of them like a landscape painting, cacti growing in dirt along the freeway. I’d expected to spend the weekend watching their Instagram stories from Two Bunch Palms, the chic hot springs hotel, and liking their rusty, desert-brown pictures, then meeting them in Palm Springs on Sunday night, like we’d been planning for weeks. I’d been so ticked off at both of them when Ezra told me they were going away this weekend, before our night in Palm Springs, and even though Nozlee was supposed to be one of my closest friends, she hadn’t seemed dedicated enough to apologizing to me about it. On the other hand, Ezra had apologized profusely and promised me they’d be on time.


she got us a room at two bunch palms for the weekend

Friday 12:03 AM

u up?

im UP

u wanna come out for a last one at la

La Cuevita was one of our regular bars, recently renamed from the English (Little Cave) to the Spanish, potentially to make it seem more authentically Mexican. It wasn’t authentically anything, really, but it was cave-like to be sure; the ceilings were low and the rooms were dark and what lighting there was was red. I liked red bars. I looked good in pictures in red light.

I jabbed at my keyboard erratically, so Ezra would see that enigmatic ellipsis, dot dot dot, appear in our message chain. Then I deleted the random letters I’d typed and closed the app, so the ellipsis would disappear, so he’d know I’d seen it and thought about responding but then didn’t, just to give him a little scare. Even though he’d apologized, I couldn’t get over being a little miffed with him. It was a bad weekend for both of us, and I had expected to spend every hour in his company, at bright brunch tables or in dark movie theaters, sharing plates of french fries and sitting in companionable silence when we ran out of things to say to each other. I had imagined the moment he would start telling me some story of our shared past, “Do you remember when we drove out to the Rose Bowl and it was suddenly raining . . . ?” trailing off as we both remembered the moment, and who had been with us at the time. Our other best friend, Miguel. One year ago, on this same weekend, he’d hanged himself in a hotel room in Palm Springs. That day at the Rose Bowl, Miguel had pulled us both out of the car and into the rain, expecting a movie-like moment, but all LA rain is actually drizzle and the only thing that happened was that our hair got really frizzy, and that story is actually a story of nothing, and it’s only worth telling because I will never see Miggy’s hair get frizzy again. On this weekend, of all weekends, Ezra was supposed to spend time with me, and instead he’d agreed to go to the desert with somebody else.

And yes, Nozlee was our other best friend and, yes, she had suffered/was suffering the loss of Miggy alongside us, but she wasn’t a twin. Maybe it was racist for me to think that, because she was Iranian and Ezra and I were white (Ezra’s grandfather, who had survived a concentration camp with a name I can’t pronounce, not Auschwitz, would say that Ezra was “Jewish, not white” but we knew that wasn’t true because we had always been considered white). But I wasn’t talking about appearance. I was talking about the emotional experience of being linked together. And even though I’d known Nozlee forever and loved her, and even though Ezra had dated Nozlee forever and loved her, she was not linked into us in that nearly biological way.

I put off answering Ezra’s text again and opened my text chain with Miguel:



i know it’s harder for him than it is for me
but that doesn’t mean i’m not hurt that he ran off to the desert

You have to let him deal with his grief in his own way

i don’t want ot
i want him to deal with his grief in LA with me

Today 12:07 AM

if u were me, and u were mad at ur only
living best friend for abandoning u, and u
were very snug in your nice bed, would u
get up just to keep ezra company?

U Up? by Catie Disabato is avaliable 9th February from Melville House
(9781612198910, p/b, £12.99)

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