Nature, or: Having Dinner with Four Men on a Saturday in February



1 Washington Square North, NY, NY 10003

Neighborhood: West Village

They are like a set of bees fighting over a flower. The waitress waits as long as she can before taking our orders because she knows there is an order to everything, that I was the sort of homecoming queen who slept with half the football team before a Saturday night game. Used as I am to this sort of attention, I order a glass of wine because my Ativan is too far down in the bag and I have already been underneath the table pretending to go down on someone.

What devotion does to me: I tell the story about my sister’s friend’s girlfriend committing suicide the day of her wedding, how he arrived crying and, by the end of the night, had ended up kissing two women. “Love is what you make of it,” I say at one point, when the object of my attention is looking down. It’s funny how love fills you with clichés, how all you can think when you’re falling for someone is, “I hear there is a storm headed our way.”

“A woman is raped every two minutes in the United States,” I announce, because I have never let one thing go, and Oliver, who is seated between Thomas and me, says he had the artichoke ravioli the last time he was here and that it was delicious. “I think Vice President Cheney is going to shoot someone in a hunting accident tomorrow,” I proclaim to the table at large, and you can hear the snow settling on the sidewalk outside.

Later, at Thomas’s apartment in the West Village, I sit next to someone’s wife who is a famous model while the man I am falling in love with plays songs on the television and I fall asleep because I am drunk on lithium and red wine and I can’t stand one more minute obsessing over how many women have been raped since we parked the rental car on the street outside the model and her husband’s apartment with its three security cameras monitoring the same square inch.

Words are lodged in my mouth like sores and I am tired of being in everyone’s bed, tired of men finding my hair on their pillow in the morning when their wives are in the bathroom brushing their teeth. What I want to say is this: the flower you just bought for three dollars in Washington Square Park will be the one to wind up at the Rape Crisis Center a few days from now, its back broken where the man pulled it from the earth because he got paid for however many he picked and because there were other men, bent over, doing the same thing. I once saw a woman selling paintings that reminded me of them, swollen shapes on their knees before beauty. From where I stood on the street, it looked like they were praying, but I have enough experience with the human race to know better.

When tomorrow comes and it turns out that what I said about Vice President Cheney is true, none of the men I went to dinner with will talk to me. I call a few friends who don’t have any idea of what I’ve turned into, the ones who remember me as the girl who always kept on her clothes. They reassure me for a few minutes or hours, make me feel like a bar of soap would, but when I hang up the phone the room is drenched in that same red light and I am holding the photograph I had my roommate take of me last night because I was wearing cheap lingerie and I was still drunk on all that desire.

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