Friday, May 2, 2014

NYC

“We have a mutual fuck buddy,” said the boy next to me at the bar.

He didn't say it to me. He said it to the guy on his other side. I didn't know them. They made up part of a row of six gay guys. I didn't assume this
they were talking about their fuck buddies and saying "he" and "him." There wasn't any ambiguity.

This was at a Thai restaurant in Greenwich Village. I had wandered into the area without realizing that's where I was, the way you walk a few blocks in New York City and suddenly you're someplace famous.

I was drinking peach mojitos and Googling infertility treatments on my phone while my sister was at a fitting for a fashion show. I had gotten my period so I was allowed to drink. Drinking is my consolation prize every time I get my period instead of getting pregnant.

Guy 1, who’d blurted out the announcement about the fuck buddy, said, “How long you been hooking up with him?” and bragged “two years” for him. I figured the fuck buddy must have been some kind of stud, someone you would brag about having as a fuck buddy for a long time.
But Guy 2 said only “two months” before he – Guy 2 – had ended things, and suddenly Guy 1 looked chastened.

Guy 2 explained that he hadn’t always been in the mood for sex with the fuck buddy, or hadn’t appreciated feeling pressured into sex by the fuck buddy, or something like that.

I don’t think it’s what Guy 1, who still had something going on with the no-longer-mutual fuck buddy, had wanted to hear. 
I think Guy 1 had wanted a jealous fight, or at least one-upmanship. Passion. I think Guy 1 had wanted to hear “forever.” 

***

“I wouldn’t want to live in Philadelphia, because it’s too [something], and I wouldn’t want to live in DC, because it’s too [something],” said the recently minted pediatrician to a table full of guys who mostly let her do all the talking. I didn’t catch every word but I heard enough. And being from DC, I understood.

***

“I like people in New York because they just do their own thing,” said the woman from the South who rode in a seat behind me on the bus from DC, looking out her window at a girl wearing neon-pink tennis shoes.

***

A man with a bushy beard and disheveled clothing stood near an intersection and took a selfie with a large plastic snowman. He examined the image on his cell phone, then he took the photo again, this time cuddling closer to the snowman. I took a picture of them. My photo got a bunch of "likes" when I posted it on Facebook.

***

“You have to go through the gate! You can’t go through here!” said the loud man behind us at the narrow subway turnstile to my sister struggling with the giant wheeled suitcase she’d stuffed to the gills because she had a fashion show in town and had to bring her own shoes and jewelry.

“You’re stuck,” he said to her, unnecessarily.

“No shit,” I said to him.

It felt cathartic to curse at a rude stranger, but then he told us in more detail what to do next time we had massive luggage we needed to get past narrow subway turnstiles, and I had to be grateful. 

***

“To a newcomer like me, this all looks like ‘Zoolander,’” said the young guy in khakis behind me at the fashion show in the white-on-white room.

The ladies’ room had been full of girls posing and perfecting their makeup, standing and sitting very straight, arching their backs in their high heels and skimpy dresses. Their body language implored: "Discover me." None of them had been born looking enough like models to be in the show. I wondered why they were there
— maybe to network in some way, maybe to get jobs in fashion, on the periphery of a world their traitorous genes had denied them.

A man in the front row snatched the gift bag in the chair beside me without asking me whether I had a friend coming to sit there. He rifled through the bag, comparing it to the one that had been in his front-row seat, then he tossed the second-row gift bag back onto the chair next to me, unimpressed.

I walked to the empty makeshift bar in my Express dress from a suburban mall and ordered a lemon-drop martini. The bartender eyed me, seemed to realize I was not somebody, and charged me $16 for a small plastic cup not even two-thirds full. When I went back later for another, the second bartender was nicer and only charged me $13. I realized that the price for anything is always: “It depends.”

***

“Is that the New Yorker building?” I asked my sister after the fashion show. The building said the name in all-caps, red neon in the black night. It was my version of Broadway so I couldn’t be sure it wasn’t a mirage.  

I had drunk my two lemon-drop martinis and cried when a photographer had asked if I was my sister’s mom.

“Yeah,” my sister guessed distractedly, leading us to Hollywood-themed late-night restaurants in Times Square where we could get campy desserts on a Sunday night.

“Where they make the New Yorker?” I asked again, having recently submitted short fiction to the magazine and gotten a kind rejection note.

“Yeah,” she guessed again, navigating, being the big sister for the moment. 

I looked up at it, my mecca, my rejector. My stupid drunk mind thought: Aren’t they often the same thing? 
I thought about the guy at the show who had thought I was old enough to be my sister's mom. I felt that the city had chewed me up and spat me out, that the city hadn’t liked the way I taste.

I thought of Appalachia where our hillbilly ancestors come from and where they’ve mostly stayed for hundreds of years. Our parents have already purchased burial plots there.

I thought: “I come from the mountain, I go to the mountain,” and feared I would be buried there.

***

“Are you twins?” asked the host at Bubba Gump Shrimp in Times Square, looking from my model sister to me.

I said, “Bless your soul,” and told him how well-timed his saying this was. I giggled and dimpled like a young girl.

“It’s my birthday tonight,” said our sweet waitress, who had liked that we played pranks on her goofy manager. “We’re going bar-hopping as soon as my shift ends. You guys are welcome to come. We’re going to this one bar that has all-you-can-eat hot dogs.”

My sister and I ordered a dessert-sampler platter each, and virgin slushie drinks in souvenir cups that lit up like a cheesy nightclub and said: "Stupid Is As Stupid Does."

Our waitress asked where we were staying, and we told her Queens, and she said she lived in Queens. She said, “I just moved here. I’m an actress!” And my sister said she’s a model, and they talked about how funny it’d be if the two of them went on to be famous
how they could be in some “E! True Hollywood Stories” segment about how our waitress had once waited on my sister and now they were both famous.

I said, “And I’m a writer, so I can write the screenplay that you’re both in.”

Our waitress said, genuinely: “Yeah! There you go.” 
And just like that I was in.

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