Mossy stayed with me for a week in New York and never saw any of the sights. He left the apartment every day and found a breakfast for himself someplace and walked around the east village a little and eventually found his way to the Blue and Gold and started drinking. I’d meet him there later on and ask him what he’d done and he’d tell me nothing much.
Not the Empire State Building, then, to which I had left him directions? He’d maybe seen it from a distance, he thought. He wasn’t sure.
The Brooklyn Bridge? A shy smile, but no, it’s only a bridge. How exciting can a bridge be?
The World Trade Center? From a distance, he said. (It was still there back then).
The truth was he had come to New York not to see New York but to see his old girlfriend. And he was staying with me because she wouldn’t let him stay with her. And she wouldn’t let him stay with her because he drank too much. And as he came to understand that the truth was that she didn’t want him there at all, he responded by drinking too much.
And it didn’t help a difficult situation when it became clear that among the reasons she didn’t want him there was that she was in a new relationship. And neither did it help when she eventually told him that they guy she was in the new relationship with was me.
“You bastard,” he said to me when I joined him in the Blue & Gold after she had told him this, but before she had had time to warn me that she had told him.
I looked at him as I ordered. He wore a crooked smile. There were many reasons why he might call me a bastard and I didn’t want to give anything away until he was more specific. I returned his smile.
He said, “I always knew you two were up to something.” Specifying.
I quickly protested, “But we hadn’t been.”
It was true that he had often accused her of already sleeping with me when we all lived in London. He had never said it to me because we were only two guys who played a bit of soccer together. But he had said it to her when he was drunk and she had said it to me and we had shared outrage at the accusation and laughed at the idea that we would sleep together, and enjoyed the intimacy of sharing the joke.
We worked together and we were good mates. We liked to have a laugh together after work. But that was it. Why couldn’t he see that? And now he believed his suspicions had been justified.
“We only got together when we met up again over here,” I told him. Insisting of our innocence. When we realised we lived only a few blocks apart, we met up for a few drinks and had a laugh. Just like we used to do. And then we met again and had another few laughs and maybe more than a few laughs.
But they’d already split up by then. So it was allowable.
“Sure it was,” he told me. In an impenetrable mix of sarcasm and anger and scepticism, but still with the crooked smile.
I protested again that we had got together months after she had split up with him, and he laughed. Already a little drunk, I noticed. His laugh suggested he was enjoying my discomfort, but accepting of the situation. So I stopped protesting my innocence and we ordered another beer and got change for the pool table and went off to set them up. If we were playing pool we didn’t have to talk, and so we played a lot of pool. We had reached some sort of unspoken agreement, I decided, which was the only sort of agreement you could ever reach with Mossy.
When he was at the bar one time I tried to call her and give her some grief about telling him before telling me she was going to tell him, but she brushed my complaints aside and I was still so caught up in the whole falling in love thing that I let it go.
“I think we’re OK, anyway,” I told her. He wasn’t going to beat anybody up or tear the place apart or break down crying.
So she said she might come over.
I tried to put her off. Why mess with the situation, I asked. All week, he had been with her or with me but never with the two of us at once. Why push it now? But she was bored. She was home alone and lonely and wanted to do something and we were nearby, and she was coming. If I didn’t want to see her I just couldn’t love her very much, could I?
So I went back to Mossy and the pool table and bought another few beers and we talked about soccer and London and I told him he really should have a look at something in New York other than the streets of the East Village and the inside of the Blue & Gold and made no mention of the fact that she was coming over.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” he told me. Not caring.
When she arrived he only looked up for an instant. There were no tears, no tantrum. There would be no fighting. But I saw a flicker of sadness. And then he turned back to the table and to his next shot.
She felt we were in the clear and so why not be open. She was done with him and she wanted to sit with me and to touch me and have me touch her as we always did in that first flush of love. I only realised that night how much we touched, how close we sat, how publicly intimate we had become. And every nuance was now exaggerated. Electrified. I tried to stay away from her but I was being drawn in by her presence and my intoxication. We hadn’t seen each other all week, and I was young and she was beautiful. So I moved back and forth between where she was sitting at the bar and where he was standing at the table and I kept feeding him drink.
Threw in a few shots between the beers, and doubled up on his beers. I was drunk but he had to be drunker and all the time I watched him for signs that he might break. That he might lose it.
But he just kept playing pool. He was good, and even when the bar became busy he stayed on the table for quite a while, and if he lost he put his name up again and waited and watched in the meantime. Eventually he got back on the table one last time and fluffed his shot and offended against etiquette by moving to retake it. He was Laughing at his incompetence, but his opponent was not laughing with him. I intervened. Explained he had had a little too much. Smiled it away with all my charm. And persuaded him to abandon the game and said it was time to go home and he laughed at me again and called me a bastard again and said he always knew we were up to something. I think he had forgotten she had even arrived.
I was going with him but she told me not to leave her alone. He had keys. He would be all right. I had my doubts but I didn’t want to leave and so I persuaded him to head on home and wondered would he make it and reminded myself I was not his keeper. So I stayed. And had another few beers with her.
Allowing myself to enjoy her hand on my knee, her hand in my hair, her hand running gently along my cheek. We talked. I don’t know of what. About her, I suppose.
When it was time to go she came with me and I wondered was that wise. Would we go past him asleep on my couch or half-awake and watching TV and into my bedroom. Would that not be too callous? Too provocative. But she reminded me how drunk he had been. He would be unconscious and would have no idea what was going on. She’d sneak out in the morning. I should forget him, she told me. Which of course is what I wanted to do and so we went on and when we got in he was nowhere to be seen so it was easier to forget about him.
We fell onto my bed, drunk and young and horny and in love and we had sex. And as we did it was in the back of my mind all the time to wonder where he was.
Lost in the city.
Was he seeing its sights at last?