“Right where that zebra-striped sweatshirt is hanging? That’s where I first kissed my first New York boyfriend,” I told Stacey.
“It sucks,” she said. And started walking away. Moment passed.
It seems weird to think I’ve been here so long that a landmark could have disappeared. Then again, it doesn’t take very long for that to happen in New York.
My friend Matthew is new to the city. Four months – not just off the bus, but close enough. Everywhere we go, I think, remember. I don’t say it, because I don’t want to be a dick.
I’m just getting my “new” apartment together. After a year. On Thursday, Matthew made dinner and we ate by candlelight, toasting over pork loin and couscous and other things that just don’t exist in my fridge most of the time. If it weren’t for the triangles of toilet paper standing in as napkins, you’d think I had my shit together.
Remember, remember, I want to say to him. You’re having another youth. The New York you see when you first arrive is the city of your heart. It shines in memory like your childhood backyard.
Tonight, at Boat, down the street from the former Vegas, a man wearing a chain around his neck tries for my phone number. He lives in Hoboken, which is not a crime, as far as I know, but indicates, perhaps, a different view of the city.
It occurs to me that I don’t want him to touch me. Not just because he’s unsuitable, although he is. But because Matthew has said to me, “I see from your MySpace that you’re in favor of the Oxford comma.” And pauses. “So am I.”
Outside, my friends say, “That guy at the bar is cute.” And I agree, because he is. And feel nothing about it.
As the man with the chain around his neck leans in to try to kiss me, and I don’t exactly rebuff him. But I can’t quite go through with it. Kissing him is like getting my teeth cleaned, I realize. Something foreign in my mouth.
“I have to go home,” I tell him.
He follows me for three blocks, trying to get me to let him come home with me, trying to get an explanation for the earliness of my leaving. At some point, maybe, we walk past the former Vegas, but I don’t see it. I’m intent on my mission, which is getting the fuck out.
If he were a different sort of guy, he might ask me what the problem was, and then I could say to him, “Everything in this city has changed but me.” And then I could explain to him that this is why I came here in the first place, to be the stable center of something wonderful.
Instead of explaining, I bid him goodbye and head toward the train. Matthew, I think. After a moment, I realize I’m not all that sorry that I never got to take him to Vegas.