Even Love’s a Possibility

by

11/16/2001

Mott St & Prince St, New York, NY 10012

Neighborhood: SoHo

First dates are about inventing a new language, minute by minute. Smoking is the first level of communication. The realm of intergender semaphore is entirely bottlenecked through nicotine. If there’s no smoking then the glances, brushed hair, knuckle touching can reach comedy. Push the date even further and meet in a restaraunt in Nolita, the effective dmz for the new economy’s last stand, and the postcrash romance can take on an economic sincerity. Frozen little railroad stores visited by wide eyed Connecticut girls looking for a city boy. Their legs make the cement staircases at Prince Street Station look like primitive escalators. Electric stairs. Dean and DeLuca is their gateway to the dying era of boutiques.

My date flashes long hair. Sensible shoes crossed over scraped jeans, she’s thrilling and thrilled. So am I. And she’s not a Connecticut girl. They’re outside though, strolling, small vellum bags in hand, eyballing the decor in our first date setting. Our table is flourescent pink, the edges are trimmed in a yellow that defies reason. This room is stared into like a social experiment, how TV must’ve looked like to returning GI’s who passed Fisher Bros. and saw bloated newscasters in store windows. They had the courtesy to stop and contemplate: Do I walk in and buy the future? Put it in my living room and start using my eyes differently. Now it’s an Italian restaurant with wavy Dutch walls and gleaming everything. These people walking by don’t even stop, their heads turn, angle, soak up the gestures, the hostess-as-muse, and the liquor in our cups. We order sangria, made so well, splintered with so many pieces of fruit, that it makes even love a possibility.

We talk, make mistakes, tell each other mistakes made by other, inferior dates. The heat of the wine is making even the late sun unwelcome. Out of the corner of my eye, something is slowly focusing through the conversation, it takes minutes to slowly add it up on the side. Women are dancing across the street, they are shopgirls. They’re alone and preparing to shut down for TGIF. As the parallel story develops, I become distracted, and instead of ignoring my date, I involve her. I point. It is a lingerie store across the street. Two thin women-girls, matadoras of the underneath, are placing their weekends on hold for the next few hours. They’re probably convincing each other what wonderbras and wonderthongs are going to follow them home and into parties, bars, dinners and give them an extra level of survivability. The line they adore the most from suitors: “What do you do?” Jaw tightens to suppress a grin…“I work in a lingerie store.” And then the moment that’s worth all the slender titanium American Express emigréés shuttling through the store: the look in his eyes. The distant roar of genes battling to take clothes off and see what someone who knows intimate clothing intimately, how they use it. Then they get bored as the stammer begins. The basic rejection kicks in, they move on.

They’re playing trance or hip-hop, from the way they’re moving between hanging intimates. Happiness is an infection. I ask my date what should we do, we’re both intrigued. I aim my eyes at the hostess: could we send a bottle of champagne over to the store. She says yes so quickly it seems like the most obvious of alcoholic transmissions. The waiter jaywalks over with two flutes and the fizzy bomb. We return to the order of business, negotiating the upcoming night, maybe something else, more complex. The hostess taps my shoulder and points across the street. The two lingerists are holding flutes up, weightless smiles, hips revolving to remind anybody walking by they mean business. We hold sangria up, and return warm faces.

An hour later we’re deeper in our sangria river. Slushy fruit sticks to the sides of our glass and another tap comes. The women are there, champagne smirks. They thank us. They’re perkier, more charming. Like movie stars they’re smaller in person. And they aren’t sure if they should sit down (they shouldn’t, distraction would break our date bubble), so they slide a rolled package, wrapped in pink tissue, better than deja vu. Open it one commands, and my date does, a sleek thong with children’s handwriting in front: “La coquette”. All four of us let out a strange and welcome laugh. And then they’re gone, leaving us to our night.

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