Have you ever felt lonely? Winter is near and it feels like my darkest hour. Have you ever felt like that?
—Party of One
Dear Party of One,
I arrived one Friday morning, lugging around a black suitcase with a matching black kilt all over Manhattan. I had a photoshoot on Saturday in Times Square. I needed to pull a coterie of clothes the day before to prep. I phoned a friend to secure sleeping arrangements to avoid sleeping around the City That Never Sleeps.
“I’m going to Buffalo for work,” he said.
“What? You work?”
He hasn’t worked since I met him 5 years ago. When bar hopping and bed hopping led to an eviction and six months on my floor. I didn’t have a couch. That African queen was upset when I told him that my bed would not be shared. So he created a pallet of blankets on the linoleum floor of my studio apartment in DC.
“Are you working at Buffalo Exchange?” I rolled my eyes as my heart hammered under my tank top.
“No, Buffalo. Upstate New York. I forgot. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“We planned this three weeks ago. One night in New York on your couch.”
Perhaps, I was too worried about the logistics of my photo shoot to bother confirming where I was sleeping. I fucked up. This was worst than the week I spent fucking a deranged drug and sex addict in an NYC hotel. How romantic? Against the backdrop of a blizzard, his crystal method made him crazy, but that’s a story for another time.
I was stranded in the city like Michael Jackson’s friend, that kid in Home Alone sans the five-star hotel and daddy’s credit cards. I sunk into a depression so deep, I nearly drowned my sorrows with a pint of Vodka. Each swig sedated me, burning my throat, and obliterating my judgment. I roamed the city like the Walking Dead.
I had two options: Sleeping at Penn Station or making the trek over to New Jersey. I called former friends, ex-boyfriends, and one-night stands.
I felt empty in the Empire City. I escaped to Gym bar in Chelsea and had a few drinks until 11 pm when the designer would be back home.
From homelessness to hopelessness, I traveled to New Jersey to pull more clothes. The idea of adding another outfit in an already overstuffed suit case frustrated me more. I boarded the New Jersey Transit where a 20-minute bus ride awaited.
Two garment bags, and two swigs later, I struggled back to the bus stop. One of the four wheels rolled off into the street like a coin.
I flagged a cab.
“Sir, please take me to Journal Square,” I asked while I wiped my tear stained cheeks.
I arrived at Journal Square at 2 a.m. Will looked the same—brown and bald, clad in a dingy white tee shirt and stone wash jeans. It was like a 90’s Gap ad, a black and white photo, coming to life to haunt me from those blissful retail days.
We first met two years ago at a New York bar called the Hanger. The actual bar lined the mirror and gray brick walks along the front of the bar. The chatter competed with house music. I sat in the first empty seat I could find.
I had just moved to the city a couple of months ago, and I was looking to meet someone new. As I sat, I noticed him nursing a watered-down cocktail in an oversized denim shirt. He had a handsome smile, with all of his teeth. As I get older, I notice more and more people who don’t have a full set. It’s really one of the great mysteries of our time. The rest of his face was hidden underneath a ball cap.
My drinks lined up like a Starbucks line to the bathroom. And the more I drank the cuter he got. The drinks worked like an aphrodisiac. He was an out of work construction worker due to a back injury. And remained out of work the whole time I’ve known him.
We shared an umbrella on the way to the Path train to New Jersey. I’ve never been but I didn’t let the fear of the unknown get in my way. “Can I kiss you?” I nodded and smiled. Chivalry was resuscitated in the rain. And they say New Yorkers aren’t friendly. He kissed me in the middle of Christopher Street. My lips tingled.
After we emerge from the mouth of the train station, we went to the chicken place just a few blocks away. It was pretty standard fare, compared to Popeye’s. We walked along the bricked sidewalks, chewing on chicken and chatting like school children until we arrived at his apartment. The outside was a reddish-brown stoned building that reminded me of a makeshift church. But as you travel through the halls you can see that the individual green doors that separated each apartment.
“Shh, you got to be quiet.”
“Oh,” I thought that was odd, considering we weren’t being that loud.
I followed behind him as he entered the kitchen. A rickety table acted as an island while 70’s style white appliances surrounded the room.
“You want something to drink?”
“Sure, what do you have?”
“I have white and brown liquor in these water bottles. I got rid of the bottle because I don’t like the way they look.”
I sipped some Vodka and headed over to the next room where a couch sat in front of a tv. We slept together without really sleeping together. Instead, we made out until we passed out. We didn’t really connect that much beyond that night. For two years, I received sporadic text messages in the form of Bible scriptures that read like affirmations. How would things be the second time around?
I stored three garment bags and a suitcase in the kitchen. Someone emerged from the main room, which doubled as the living room and bedroom.
“Tell him to get in the shower,” Tony said with a smirk reserved for a homeless man asking for change.
Tony and Will used to date. I showered and slipped into a tank and a kilt. One day, I need to bring pajamas.
“You’re going to be sleeping with Tony.”
“I hope you don’t mind,” I said to Tony.
The room had two fold up beds aligned across from each other, they were sort of like the carts you see in a homeless shelter. I allowed him to disperse the sheets. Another warm body comforted me.
Tony stripped down to a ribbed white tank and powered blue boxer briefs, revealing a svelte, chocolate body.
“You’re sleeping on this side,” said Tony with the authority of a cell mate. I wasn’t quite ready to be his bunk bitch. I climbed into a hard and springy bed with a mixture of dread and delight. He wrapped his arm around me as he brushed his aroused dick against my ass. My body warmed up like I just had a cup of tea. This behavior was a bit forward, considering we just met and there was no mention of drinks.
“My bad, baby.” He chuckled in my ear.
“It’s okay,” I said reluctantly.
Will glanced over.
“Have you seen Norbit before?”
“Yeah, Will is right. It’s funny ass shit.”
He reached over and kissed me. My heart hammered out of my chest, as he caressed my chest. We bumped and grind under the sheets while Will slept. Straddling a stranger in the middle of the night was stranger than fiction. I wanted to be a good guest, but I didn’t want to pay rent with sex. Yet, I dry humped him anyway, just like that I was 17 again, having fake sex with confused men. I betrayed a friend, letting him play with my crack with his penis.
The next day, I awoke with a mixture of agony and ecstasy. He greeted me with a kiss, scraping me with his crusty lips. My dry mouth and questionable breath overpowered my nostrils like a cheap perfume.
“Put your number in my phone,” whispered Tony. He peered over his shoulder dressed in camouflage pants as I entered my digits. But they used to date. But the guilt weighed me down like quicksand.
I tiptoed to the shower, running into Will.
“You slept well last night?” He asked with an expression on his face that read he knew more than he let on. No, he doesn’t know. We were quiet and technically, we just made out with extras, perfectly acceptable bar behavior.
“Oh yes quite,” I said with a smile that lasted longer than I intended.
“Well, You have a few minutes until the bus comes.” I get someone was ready for my ass to leave.
“Sure, I’ll be quick.”
Tony walked in dressed. He hugged and kissed me on the neck. My phone ranged and it was Justin, the photographer for the shoot.
“Hey, I was in the shower.”
“Where are you? We are here waiting for you.”
“Umm…I’m in New Jersey, I’ll be there in 20 minutes.”
I lied. But I had nothing else to say.
I survived the night. Changed. I’m going to miss this city.
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