We met at 2 A.M. on a Sunday morning, my eyes and legs weary from the journey. The after midnight chill of my breath spread slowly on the glass separating us. My fingers drew the word ‘Hi.’ She showed me her smile. She said she was almost off work; (she was a slave to the retail industry), she would meet me at the Chinese place across the street. I got some noodles and a glass of wine, eating in silence. By the time she showed up I was on my 2nd glass, Sorry for making you wait I hate my job. It’s ok… hey. I felt her for the first time, her arms wrapped around me, holding tightly. Our bodies greeted each other, an infinitesimal greeting of two strangers in a seedy downtown restaurant who didn’t know fully what to expect. That first hug lasted only a brief moment but it seemed to drag on, I felt the warmth inside her flow to me, her hair pressed softly against my face and I could detect the faint smell of the cigarette she had just finished smoking. Our bodies separated, our eyes and smiles meeting at the same time Have you eaten she asked. I told her I had, and I got a head start because I thought she wasn’t going to show up and figured it would be a long night. What do you want to drink?
Whiskey on the rocks. Gotta love the Southern Comfort, she said! After today, why not. Are you a folder or a scruncher? Scruncher, obviously was my instinctive reply what about you. Same. What is your first and second favorite animal, and why? First and second favorite… definitely going to go with a lion and a manatee. A lion because not only are they the king of the jungle, but also because the lion knows how to say ‘I will.’ The lion bends the world around it to his will, casting off the unnecessary burdens that the camel carries around, it stands proudly and strong. A manatee because, I’m not sure it’s just what came to my head. Conversation came easily as if we were already old friends. We stepped out into the night chill but felt none of it, the warm fire of alcohol tumbling around our bellies, she lit a cigarette and we walked to the metro station. It’s the last metro of the night, you should get on home. Another embrace, and before I left I snapped a photo of her with my camera, her hand held up in dismay but a revealing smile dancing about her lips telling a different story. I called her after I got off the metro, it was about a mile and a half from the station to my house, her voice and the many stars glimmering above the Maryland suburbs guided me home gently, my exhausted body collapsing onto a strange bed, lights out.
Cute old couples finish each other’s sentences and we do too. I remember the first time we kissed, like it was yesterday but really it was a few months ago. We ate at a French restaurant and were surprised that the waiter served her a glass of wine even though she wasn’t 21, I guess he was trying to help me out. We walked back to her car – it was dark but not cold and we talked about everything, traveling to Europe and about growing up. I managed to tell embarrassing stories about myself to lighten the mood, like the time I tried to kick a piñata at a New Years party, lost my footing, and fell in front of my group of friends. I wasn’t even drunk but pretended I was to stave off the questions. She laughed at that and our hands touched. We got into her car and she dropped me off at the bus stop, Give me your cheek she said. I did. She kissed my cheek then I turned and kissed her on the lips. I got out of the car but ran back because I had left my bag and we kissed again, this time longer until the car behind us honked in annoyance.
Sometimes we don’t have much to say to each other and to clear the silence we retell old jokes. The distance doesn’t bother me, I think it affects her more but I admire the fact that she still loves me in spite of it. Nietzsche tells us that the eternal recurrence of the same adds weight to any action or thought, spoken or unspoken. This weight is necessary, he says, It imparts on Man responsibility. I think the key to maintaining this sort of thing is a lightness – where one’s words and actions serve the sole purpose of making the other laugh. I like it better this way sometimes I close my eyes and I can fly. She tells me about this pancake with an egg inside it she had in New Orleans and how she practically had an orgasm in her mouth. I like watching movies on my computer with her on the phone, watching with me three thousand miles away. We’re never in sync but it doesn’t matter. Sometimes she tells me that she misses me and I say that I miss her too.
At first, M told me that we wouldn’t get along because BK likes to go out to clubs and stuff, I like doing that too I told her. She didn’t think our personalities would gel. I was with my friends but told them I had to go because I had something important to do. I got lost trying to find the metro station in Fairfax and it was raining, I wasn’t even wearing a jacket. We met in Chinatown again and had a few drinks before going to the club. The music was loud and we danced for hours, we were in space with brilliantly colored stars and dustclouds – reds and greens fusing with blue and swirling about in a carefree maelstrom. I had to sneak her drinks because she had big X’s on her hands and I remember a guy at the entrance had given me a condom and said Just in case. I thanked him. When we dance I feel like I’m not being judged, I can be goofy out there and smile and laugh. She follows suit, then gets close to me and I put my hands on her waist, her arms rest on my shoulders and our eyes are closed listening to the music as it takes hold of us like a winter wind toying with the thin branches of a tree. So, do you wanna have sex? I grabbed her and we kissed, kept kissing until it was done. Naked, we lay together under the night sky, staring at each other until a long comforting sleep gave credence to the silence, the unspoken emotion that kept our bodies locked together for hours. I passed the night in a dreamless stupor.
I remember her telling me I don’t do long distance. I knew she had just said that to try and sound tough. I see her the way nobody else does, with me she is always naked, stripped bare and vulnerable, but also profoundly beautiful. I see her without the mask, the mask that we all wear outside and even sometimes in the throes of solitude, lying alone at night. An outward persona is the person you want others to think of when they think of you – it is strong and carefree, haughty and always ostentatious in its own way. I knew from the first moment that I was seeing the person behind the mask and it was like experiencing truth for the first time.
We had only known each other for a week before I had to leave, but when I went back a month later it seemed like nothing changed. When we kissed the weariness of traveling for six hours flew from my body and it was like I was home again. We both got sick together, walking home in a cold-night rain without an umbrella. It all goes back to our lightness and the presence of laughter, that feeling of conviction in the veracity of this. It is this authenticity I latch onto so tightly when I’m holding her, when at night even while asleep she reaches almost instinctively to me. Don’t be sad. Tears began to well at the corners of her eyes. I’ll see you in three weeks, ok. I’ll miss you. Me too. And thus began my long journey home.