Pink Eye



Hudson st & w 10th St. 10014

Neighborhood: Greenwich Village

My love life is typical in most respects. My relationships all have a beginning middle and end. With me it just happens that this all takes place in the span of a week. I don’t like to waste time.

Day 1: My last affair began on a dark and stormy night. It was a Wednesday and I had planned to stay home, get some drawing done, write, read, lie around in my bathrobe, make dinner and have a glass of wine. Friends had called and invited me to meet them in various places. “No,” I protested. “I’m staying in, going to take it easy.”

A jug of wine later, my apartment covered with paper snowflakes and cigarette butts, books splayed open in haphazard piles all over my bed, my coffee table, my stereo, my window sill, the computer open to Craig’s List missed connections, and records piled up without their jackets “in or around” the stereo, I sat by the window, cursing the bottom of the bottle and Cousin Brucie of CBS FM because he had not played my song request. I changed out of my robe and decided to go out.

Across the street it was midnight and what luck? A karaoke evening. I lined up a drink, dug into the book of songs, and went to work. I requested “Ninety-Six Tears, “ and waited for my song at the crowded bar where I sat slouched, alone on a stool making faces at nothing in particular.

Finally they called my name, but then began playing the wrong song, one I didn’t know. Not one to complain, I sang it anyway holding onto one note for the duration and occasionally punctuating my routine with some light yelps, howls, and screams. I guess my soulful screams were quite terrifying, because they cut me off mid-shriek. I went on Alco Pella until the microphone was wrestled away from me. “Thank you,” I said daintily and left the stage. Commenting on my performance, the host euphemistically referred to my style as “experimental.” I decided not to hit him.

As I made my exit, a shadowy figure stepped in front of me. He was a man apparently, but I could only make out the contour of his body. The rest, the face; the booze had washed in darkness. “I really liked your performance,” said a voice emanating from the shadow.

I said, “Buy me a drink or beat it,” and continued past the figure returning to my post at the bar. The shadow sidled up beside me and my glass was soon replenished. “What’s wrong with you?” I said. Honestly, I just wanted to know. We spoke at length, about something or other – about which I went on passionately, though now, trying to recollect the subject of my treatise, my memory fails again here – and eventually I invited him back to my place, or at least, I ran off in that general direction and he followed, hot footed (excited, perhaps, by the chase; I know how men are.).

Upstairs, we drank some of the beer that I insisted he buy before I’d let him up (“A six pack of tall boys,” I had yelled down to him from my window. I sang on in the voice of a Juliet who had lived to be my age, “And some bacon and cigarettes”), I showed him some of my new snowflakes, and then we made out hard on the couch.

Day 2:

He texted me early the next morning, “Rise and Shine.” I thought for a while of the exact sentiment I wished to express. “Buhh,” I texted back. He called me that evening, and tried to fill me in on what I didn’t remember. “I’m about 6’1,” I have a medium sized head and a small face. You said you liked the way I looked.”

I cried out in frustration over the phone, “Damn it!” because I didn’t know if I could really trust any of the things that I had ever said. “I wish I weren’t such a liar!”

Day 3:

He picked me up at my place before taking me to dinner. “Would you like a drink before we go?” I said aggressively gulping a before dinner gin and juice. “God, it’s hot in here,” I said through my growing anxiety. I become quite shy and nervous, you see, whenever it happens that I’m conscious.

“Sure, I’ll have one,” he said. After I poured my second glass I shook the remainder of the bottle. “Hmmm, I hope there’s enough left for you!” I sang flirtatiously, but completely serious actually. He got lucky and there was.

“God, it’s hot,” I said. “I’m sweating like a bastard,” I said and went into the other room to change out of the nice blouse I had on that matched my skirt, replacing it with my oversized electric blue Senor Swanky’s Restaurant and Celebrity Hangout t- shirt that still had a few staples in it from when it was taken down from off the restaurant wall at my behest.

I opened the window. We played a round of backgammon. I began shivering from the cold and layered on an extra sweater giving me that chic bag lady look that’s so popular with homeless girls these days.

We decided to go, but not before I changed back into my previous outfit. “The climate’s all wrong, ” I said regarding my flushed face with the back of my hand.

“Relax, calm down,” he told me.

I cried out in alarm, “I am calm!”

At dinner, I insisted that he order for me by prefacing my choice with “the lady will have.”

“Are you serious?” he asked perplexed.

“Yes,” I explained, “I suffer from frequent bouts of social anxiety disorder, and I might have a conniption if you make me say out loud the name of the pasta I’m planning to ingest. Why must you give me such a hard time!”

“And the lady will have…” He scarfed his food down in under a minute. I sat there trying to eat artichokes through my nerves, and suck down my glass of wine fast, so the waiter would refill my glass with more frequency than he did that of my companion.

“So,” he said, diverting the subject away from my many psychological disfigurements, which I had been nice enough to begin describing at length, “What’s your impression of me?”

You self-absorbed asshole, I thought. You, you, you! But I know the rules of dating so I indulged his petty egomania. Pensively, I said, “I think you’re insane.” I ate an artichoke and polished off another glass before motioning to the waiter for a refill. “But I suspect you have a nice body. So, It all works out.”

“What’s wrong with your face?” I asked in order to keep the conversation going. He had a little pink spot beneath his left eye. I was hopeful it was the remnants of a bruise he had gotten in a street brawl. No, he was on antibiotics he told me for this “eye thing,” which he said was mostly gone. He shifted uncomfortably in his chair, which is when I started to fall hard (in love I mean. I managed to stay balanced on the chair up until dessert.).

“Can I catch it?” I cooed romantically over my pasta.

“No, I don’t know. I don’t think so.”

I leaned back playing hard to get, “Well, I don’t have insurance, so I really can’t afford to catch it.”

“It’s OK,” he assured me in the candle lit room, “the doctor gave me like tons of antibiotics, if you get it, I’ll just give you some.”

“You promise?” I said touched by his chivalry.

“I promise,” he said catching my eye. The other was closed in an effort to unify the two overlapping images of him I was seeing before me.

The check came and I did not reach for my wallet. I said simply, “You’re welcome,” as I watched him pay and took a swig from the remnants of his untended glass. He argued with me over my rudeness and presumption. I agreed with him on every point, and then said, “So where are you taking me now.”

Two martinis later and a walk back to my place with a brief emergency stop into the deli at my insistence to buy a six pack of beers: “I have to get the train in a half hour,” he said, “I won’t have time for a beer.”

“Don’t worry, these aren’t for you,” I explained gently and quickly moved to the next subject, trying not to embarrass him further by dwelling on his presumptuous mistake.

Walking into my apartment, “What stinks?” I yelled throwing a hand before my nose (I had cooked stuffed grape leaves the previous day and it really did a job on my foyer, or perhaps it was another poisoned mouse decomposing in some remote corner). “Let me know if you see any rodent carcasses,” I said softly, dimming the lights to set a romantic mood.

We sat on my couch, and I told him to quit moving and then lunged at him before I mashed my face into his for a few sloppy minutes. We talked for a few more minutes, before I explained to him gently, “I’m not that kind of girl. You cannot spend the night.” He went home, leaving my honor in tact. I put the radio on, drank the rest of the six pack to wind down, and passed out beneath the kitchen sink.

Day 4:

I opened my eyes to an odd itchy sensation around my eye that would not go away. I called him from my bathroom where I stood before the mirror inspecting the affected area. “I think I got your weird eye disease,” I said as soon as he picked up.

He said, “You’re such a hypochondriac!”

“Fine,” I calmed down. “I guess I have a tendency to jump to conclusions. Wanna make out tonight?”

He said he’d call me back but no such call was made. The creeping suspicion (the one that lately begins to arrest my thoughts prematurely, so that I no longer bother to learn men’s names – I haven’t any idea what this one’s name was as a matter of fact, I addressed him as I do all my dates by simply pointing, or in more intimate situations, saying accusingly “Listen, you”) came on as the day progressed – I knew this to be the beginning of the fizzle.

As my heart began to grow cold, my eye became enflamed. But then to my great incensed surprise, I did get a late night text message from him regarding the progress of a football game. I texted back that I was also watching the game. And “You gave me your eye disease. Bastard,” I added on in the fashion of a woman scorned.

He responded in kind. “You hurt my feelings.”

I responded, “You hurt my eye,” “Bastard,” I added mostly for the aesthetic.

No response.

Day 5:

The next day my eye was even itchier, and he still had not called! Now, fast approaching the jetty of heartbreak, I was torn in crossed purposes. Do I call him and get my hands on his medicine, or wait for him to call me in hopes of capturing his heart? I texted him. “I need your medicine!”

The day waned without a response, and every time my eye itched I was reminded of the phone’s silent aria and the tiny fissures of rejection drawing a map across my soul.

“Why can’t I at least get laid, contract Chlamydia, and THEN have a guy not call me back like a normal girl?” I thought as I tilted my head back to funnel another beer, and the tears began collecting at the corners of my eyes. “This chaste bit of Pink Eye is so unnecessarily humiliating.”

Concerned I might go blind should my condition go untreated, I called my friend Jacob who had recently underwent a Cerebral Meningitis scare (it turned out it was just a hang-nail) to consult. He suggested I check into the emergency room at St. Vincent’s. “Theirs is the best for sexually transmitted eye diseases,” he told me. Reluctant to pay for a hospital visit without any form of insurance, I put off the decision and looked up Pink Eye on-line instead. In a panic, I finally redialed my estranged lover. “Ahh,” I screamed, intimating my feeling of crisis on his voice mail, “This is not about you or me. My eye! My eye! You see, it is, is quite, irritated. Call me back immediately!” I said with all gravity.

The phone rang finally later that night. “What the hell is going on with my eye?” I said cringing afraid to hear the details of my fate.

“What, who is this? Have we met?” he said bewildered.

He wasn’t fooling anyone. Guys pull this shit on me all the time. Finally, he confessed to remembering me a little.

When pressed, it turns out, he had no eye disease. He had lied, he told me, the spot was in fact from a street brawl, but he didn’t want to create a bad impression. It was all in my head, he said.

“Yeah,” I said incredulously, “I suppose the lockjaw is all in my head too! Right?”

Day 6: After I stopped scratching it, my eye was no longer red. The next day he called me to inquire about my health. “What eye?” I said now concerned about a suspicious looking paper cut on my hand. “Oh, that. Fine. I think I’m ok.” He asked me to see some crappy movie that night, and we were all love again, but then he canceled via my voicemail because of inclement weather, presuming to make our date for the following night. How dare he presume I’m not busy, I thought shaking my head proudly, as I continued highlighting my TV guide.

Day 7: The next day there was no word. 9:00pm came and found me trying to learn Texas Hold’em with my friends George and Stinky, while we worked through another jug of chilled Chablis, before I put on my silver tap shoes and began practicing my time steps in the kitchen to my record “Tap Your Troubles Away,” while Stinky videotaped the nimble movements of my feet. We had just commenced the at home Karaoke session, singing along to “Night Fever” as it came over the radio and we read the words off my computer screen, when the phone rang.

“I can’t believe you stood me up!” I cried out wounded.

“I didn’t. We can go now.”

But I was not about to give into the possibility of any new modern form of heartbreak. I’m quite old fashioned, and believe a lady’s time should be reserved in advance. I was insulted. “Listen to this.” I tapped out a little number and pointed the phone at my footwork, and then bringing the receiver back to my face I announced resolutely, “That’s it. I’m breaking up with you!”

“Really?” he said shocked by my declaration.

“Really,” I said not allowing my voice to betray any evidence of the cracks in my otherwise stone heart. “It’s over.”

That night George, Stinky, and I went to my friend’s office downtown, to an empty unlit loft space on the floor above his to have a few drinks and shoot the shit in an unlikely place, which is sometimes all you can do. While they told jokes and talked, and generally regarded life as a good thing, I tried to tap my troubles away in the vast darkened room; the only light streaming in from a moon that appeared to me suddenly somewhat shy, and the numberless glimmering windows in the buildings that surrounded us. I shuffled optimistically back and forth across the wooden floor, occasionally slipping on a few escaped tears and the rhythm induced tidal waves overflowing from the plastic cup of my gin and juice. Shimmying toward the Hudson River that was rushing by the west window, I reminded myself with each clicking Rif-Raf how much better it was that I hadn’t, at least, gotten my heart involved in this particular scuffle, and then retreated again in Pirouettes and Traveling Time Steps back in the other direction.

Day 8: The next morning, I woke up to a vague pain in the chest. Breaking up is so hard. For a while I had it all, I thought. I stared up at the ceiling of the Staten Island Ferry Depot, where I had regained consciousness. He really seemed like the one, I told myself, in that familiar retroactive optimism that comes after the end of every affair. And in typical post-relationship fashion, I began to review the arc of our story: It was love at first sight, I recalled, remembering fondly the shadow from which his voice had first emanated. Or rather love is blind, I corrected myself, finding a truth in my blacking out. Love had struck a blow to my head causing the erasure of most of my memory of our meeting, and the memory of numbers 7 through 9 of my mathematics timetables, and any memory of the exact location of my left sock (still at large), and was probably the cause of that lump on my head, too, I reasoned.

Suddenly regretting my decision to so rashly sabotage all possible futures of this last burgeoning but delicate affair, I texted him from where I lay next to the news stand, wondering if my actions could possibly be reversed, wondering if he still felt anything for me, wondering how it was that it had all fallen apart? I chose my words carefully. Dexterously I typed, “Is the complete Men’s Wearhouse Commercials available on DVD yet?”

He never wrote or called back. And that night, back at my place, cleaning up my apartment and putting my tap shoes away in silence, like that, another affair ended with unanswered questions.

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