I’m never late. But there I was, running late. I even took a wrong turn coming off the subway in a neighborhood I know as well as my own apartment. Maybe it was the sundering forces of fate sending me a sign of foresight. As I approached the block, I sent a text. Two minutes.
I reached the bar, a quaint, unadorned place situated sign-less on a Brooklyn corner, and peered in through the window. There she was. Her back, draped in blue dress, to me. Her head in a book. The bartender saw me and I could see that she knew who I was. I kept walking to the next block where I stopped to take a breath and set myself. The gods of fate had since departed, flown off to mock me later.
Sweat running down my forehead and soaking through my shirt, I walked in and took a seat next to her at the bar. I placed my book down and she closed hers: Proust. Fitting. She looked electric and smart in that blue dress and scarf, brown hair fallen softly just past her shoulders. Her eyes behind plastic-framed glasses emitted an energy like arms outstretched which grabbed me by the heart and sucked me in. A pendant hung in the open space on her chest.
Almost immediately, we ordered wine. So many things clouded my mind that I can’t even tell you what we drank. All I know is that I started with white before moving to red and she went red the whole night through. Soon after we ordered plates of food—her a beet salad, me some pasta dish which I also don’t remember except that it was peppery but delicious. We spoke casually and comfortably for a while about literature and writing projects and our shared epicurean adoration of good food and drink. I tried to forget just what I was doing, but could not help getting swallowed into her pulchritude and feigned innocence. As the wine kicked in and the casual talk faded off into the graveyard where all “casualties” become casualties and rest to watch disaster ensue, the flirtations swept through in full and the conversation turned intimate, open. On a first date, this could mean one of two things: there is a certain comfort between the two entities, or the destiny is mere dalliance. Or there can be some combination of the two. How many combinations can there be of two things?
I had thought for days beforehand just how I was going to tell her. I went through in my mind the many possible outcomes and reactions of divulging at various interstices. Do I come right out with it at the start? Wait until a conversational segue sometime in the middle of the evening? Afterward? Unable to reach a concrete conclusion (as if I am ever), I decided to play it by ear which, naturally, eliminates the first option. It became a matter of how long I would allow it to progress before I officially decided to ruin the lives of others.
As it turned out, I didn’t have to answer the question that had been burning in my mind as we not-so-gracefully waltzed directly into the life of the other. She knew all along. She’s sneaky. We’re both sneaky. She knew, had known, and didn’t seem to care much. Again, that could mean one, or some combination of, several things. But I didn’t care either.
And I continued to not care as I leaned in to kiss her. The night had reached that moment. The latent air of inevitability that hovered restlessly amidst the entirety of our interaction had burst, coating each of us in synchronic lust. The transparent walls of reticence melted away as she placed her hand softly and sympathetically upon my face and gave me that look—the empty stare of Medusa. I leaned in and she leaned away. Oh, the games we play.
Several minutes later, after I had paid, we walked down the street and in almost the exact spot where I had stopped to gather myself a few hours earlier, she stopped. As if all in one motion, we pulled close together and kissed for the first time as the Brooklyn night tumbled on around us. It did not shatter mountains; it was a standard first kiss, magical and awkward, with each of us trying to recognize the style of the other. I remember holding her petite body to mine, my hand placed firmly in the space beneath her ear, where the back of her neck met her jawline.
We walked on into the night, talking. We were always talking. It was late, at least for me, but she convinced me to have one more drink at a mutually favorite haunt. We sat there, sipping Cabernet, and I watched her talk, flirt, struggle with her own ethics and drunk desire. I knew what was happening, but I didn’t know what I was going to do about it. She kept telling me to leave, but only because she knew I wouldn’t.
I walked her to the door of her building, just around the corner from the last bar. Despite her urging I insisted on leaving. I had to. We kissed intensely for a long while in front of her building, the energy of her stare and kisses upon my neck lecherously pulled me towards the entrance. But it was time for me to go. So I watched her enter the building before I turned around and went home, a smile forming across my face as her scent poured from my collar.