For You, The Stars
Chapter Six: The Memphis Blues Again
Simone sent word through Dave that she wanted to talk to me and she promised not to yell or break anything and I felt I owed her a sit down so I agreed. We met at a coffeeshop and it was clear to me that she was still trying to get the story straight of how we had broken up.
“You were already seeing her, weren’t you?” she asked me.
“We’d met already by then.”
“No, I mean you started going out with her before we were over, didn’t you?”
“Did you have sex with her?”
“No,” I lied. “But we did kiss.”
“You asshole,” she said. “You should have told me.”
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t know what to say.” We were both tearing up again.
“I need to ask you something else,” she said.
“What is it?”
“When we were in New York, that night we went to Unos…”
“Did you make a pass at my friend Judy?”
“What? No way.”
“She says you did.”
“That’s crazy! You were there the whole time.”
“She says that when I was in the bathroom you tried to hit on her.”
“No fucking way.”
“Well, I didn’t believe here when she told me, but now I’m not so sure.”
I continued to insist that this was totally impossible. I felt that it didn’t ring true and that her bitch of a friend had just been trying to mess things up. The truth was, though, that we had all been pretty drunk that night and my memories weren’t so clear. Was it possible that I had said something suggestive to her friend? I suppose it was. Though if I had then she had totally been playing along with me, I’m sure. It would just be like one of Simone’s damn friends to flirt with me behind her back and then report back to her later that I had been a creep.
I went back east myself for a visit in the spring and had my first chance to take advantage of the “openness” of my deal with Cecilia. Maybe it was easier when she wasn’t around.
My friend Pierce, an artist originally from Alabama, invited me to a party on the upper-west side. She was a few years away from AA and drinking pretty heavily at the time, combining avoiding her family and trying to make it as a painter in a city that was more interested in video installations. At the time the downtown art scene only embraced paintings by noble savages.
At the party, thrown by another artist, we ran into a few other refugees from my college’s thin art-punk stratum, the people who listened to Violent Femmes and the Cure. Someone had painted the bathtub in a range of green hues. The evening went by in a sort of a haze. At one point I remember Pierce coming up to me and solemnly placing a potato chip on each of my knees.
I ran into a girl I had known vaguely at school. We got to talking and it turned out she remembered me. Over drinks she confessed that she’d “always had a thing for me.” Why was I finding this out now? This wasn’t the first time in New York that a woman from the old gang had told me they’d nursed a crush on me. “You don’t know how much I’d have wanted to know that at the time,” I said to one of them, Jenny Lin. Usually they’d be telling me this with wistful regret, in a now-it’s-too-late kind of way, but this one - I’m ashamed to admit I forget her name - was making it clear to me that it wasn’t too late at all.
“Where do you live now?” I asked her.
“Brooklyn,” she said. “Want to get out of here?”
I said sure. We went out to Broadway and caught a cab. We were pretty drunk and were really going at each other in the back seat. Nothing lewd. We were just kissing, but it was sloppy drunk kissing.
On the highway something weird happened. The cab started slowing down and the cabbie steered us onto the shoulder.
“What’s going on?” I asked from over her shoulder.
“I run out of gas.”
“What? That’s insane.”
“I am sorry, but I run out of gas.”
We got out of the backseat and stood behind the cab in the middle of the night on the way to Brooklyn. I put out my arm and within five minutes hailed another cab. Without looking back we climbed in and left our hapless first driver behind. We re-commenced to making out.
Long story short, We spent the night in her bed messing around in every way we could come up with. She really wasn’t my type physically. Kind of bony, prominent cheekbones, odd proportions. It was pure lust. She was talented, too. I remember thinking that this must be what a lot of people do: hook up at parties, have one night stands.