Staying at a disheveled hotel in Midtown across from Madison Square Garden, I call and ask her to meet me at the restaurant downstairs for breakfast. We haven’t seen each other since she moved away three years ago and have only spoken on the phone once (when she called to flirt with me after leaving her boyfriend).
I walk down to the restaurant five minutes early and grab a corner table across from the front door. I’ll be the first thing she sees when she walks past the cash register–my coffee in one hand, New York Times in the other.
It’s a dinky place with a battered, wall-to-wall, red vinyl banquette encircling a dozen little tables. An Egyptian-theme ceiling mural looms overhead. The sarcophagi and anks contrast bizarrely with a more recent effort at Irish decor. Framed pictures of foxhunts and quaint cottages line the walls, and the red-haired waitress asks in a lilting brogue how I’d like my eggs.
The only other patron here is a square-jawed, forty-something white guy who hasn’t bothered to take off his brown leather jacket. A swirl of blond hair sprawls out on the back of his hand. Reading the Post, he stuffs his mouth full of Eggs Benedict between swigs of Budweiser. It is nine o’clock in the morning. He turns the page–square thumbs, clean fingernails.
I’m trying to decide whether to hit on Nancy or apologize for having been such a cad when we broke up. I realize as she walks in the door that I will probably do both. She looks great, has the same delicious smile, bright laugh that makes me fall a little bit in love. She’s so healthy, lean, boyish in her girly way. Brown curls, brown eyes; I forgot about her eyes. I’m so not over her.
We spend an hour and a half sipping bad coffee and flirting wildly–exchanging fuck stories, gossiping about ourselves. She sits there sweating and telling me dirty stories. I’m on the edge of my seat, what will happen now? All these shocking comments from her sexy mouth. They’re coming so fast I’m already lamenting the fact that I won’t be able to remember them all. It’s such a huge fucking cliche–falling in love with her sweet voice and the way her eyebrows arch when she smiles at me. She’s saying something about the death penalty, injustice, human rights. Her breath smells amazing. She invites me over to her apartment.
She has not one but two cats. I’m allergic; she’s overly apologetic and is suddenly way too anxious. I brave her furry apartment for two hot hours of futile flirting and begin to wonder if maybe she has a boyfriend she’s feeling guilty about. What is she doing? She darts in and out of the kitchen, nervously handling one personal need after another (she’s hot and needs a t-shirt, has to pee, check her messages). I stand in the kitchen near an open window with my itchy eyes and sniffly nose. She can’t sit still for a basic conversation, but she gets up in my face with those sexy eyes for ten seconds at a time and somehow seduces me into staying. It’s like eating M&Ms. There I am two hours later holding that empty bag and wishing I’d stopped. If only she weren’t so fascinating.
She tells me stories about herself. I’m enthralled, captivated. My eyes follow her around the room as she talks. I take in the minute details of her being (her smell, that little bit of hair on the small of her back, those lips, the way she sometimes laughs just a little too loudly). She is one huge narrative experience–like watching TV. There I am two hours later flipping back and forth between MTV and some old Ava Gardner movie.
The point here is: Nothing happens. And yet, it’s so much fun.