March 23, 2008

Maybe You’re Gay

I hadn’t cooked dinner for a woman in a long time. There just hadn’t been any women to cook for. But I was cooking dinner for her. This was our third date; the one that mattered. I liked her. She was pretty. I could see why men once chased her; and even in her late 30s she still seemed to expect it. She said interesting things. We were similar in a lot of ways. She was self-absorbed, though, and a bit nutty. She had been institutionalized twice. And we already had a weird date during which I made her cry, simply because I complained that she didn’t ask me any questions. But she also had these big, beautiful lips. And she had said that she liked mine. I had sent her a song. The first line was “I like your lips.” We wrote long emails to each other every morning. She was the type who would move with me to the country. She was not a giver, though. She took. I had done all the work each time. She hadn’t made any reciprocal moves. Her interests were local; they didn’t go far beyond her.

I bought the freshest, most succulent looking shrimp Whole Foods had to offer. For the appetizer, I wrapped rice skins around bean thread and vegetables to make summer rolls. When she showed up at my apartment, she hadn’t brought anything, which she announced, grandly, to preempt any complaints.

We ate the summer rolls and then I began to cook the shrimp curry. I fried some onions in oil and when they started burning I panicked.

“Don’t freak out,” she said.

I liked that.

As the curry finished cooking, I added coconut milk and chunks of pineapple. The meal turned out well. She ate two helpings.

I liked that, too.

We leaned back in our seats, listening to our digestive systems. No dessert was coming, because she hadn’t brought any.

Then my cat walked by.

“I don’t think he likes me,” she said. “He swiped me when I tried to pet him.”

“Max gets jealous. I don’t think he likes women.”

I told her about Mary, who complained that Max bit her feet when we were in bed.

“I think he’s gay,” I said, laughing, ha ha ha.

“Gay?”

“Well, he likes some women. So maybe he’s bi.”

“Are you bi? Or are you gay? You’re gay, right?”

“What are you talking about?”

“I have this theory that you might be gay.”

My heart sank. She had no interest in me whatsoever. It would have been better if she had just wiped the curry off her mouth and walked out. I would have been left with a sweeter memory.

I foresaw writing this absurd episode down. I saw myself writing: The more I open my heart to these cunts, the more ways they find to kill it. But I decided against writing it down, because of its crude desperation. And even in that moment of humiliation I thought of her ass, an ass that I’d never see. On our second date, I had stared at it when she walked ahead of me. Was it a kind of boyish ass, after all?

“Your whole aura is gay,” she continued. “You like cooking. The things you talk about. Very metrosexual.”

“I’ll admit to that,” I admitted. I realized then that I should never have told her about the time I walked into a soap shop during a date in Soho.

“That coat you wore on our second date,” she said.

“That coat?”

“Very, very gay.”

“I hadn’t worn that coat in years! I wore it for you. I thought you’d like it.”

“I call you ‘the gay one’ to my friends.”

Was this really happening? Did people really talk this way to each other?

She wanted a baby; she had told me this. She was 38 now. But she was still acting as though nothing mattered but her stupid observations and that she would always get what she wanted. She had been beautiful, but the blush of youth was gone. The imagined memory of her past beauty was the pathway to seeing how she was now, like following a ghost to its body.

With the dinner crawling to an end, everything I did and said suddenly seemed undeniably gay: the way I held my glass with my pinky finger extended. My body language: gay. Describing how I put together the summer rolls: gay. Unbelievably, Bossa Nova began to play from the stereo. Gay.

We stared at each other across the table, contemplating in our own ways the ruined evening.

Max, my gay cat, hopped on my lap.

March 19, 2008

My Yiddisher Accountant

Today I went to see my militant Jewish and, possibly, racist accountant.

“How are you?” I asked him.

“I’m fucked,” he said.

“Yeah, me too. I had major surgery.”

“Really?”

“And it didn’t work.”

“What was it for?”

“Acid reflux. I got the Jew stomach. But the stupid fucking surgery didn’t work. And so I made less money this year.”

“Less money. So because of the surgery you worked less. There’s a positive.”

I snaked around my bag for the documents, for those 1099s. But I had left them at home. I only had my expenses. I moaned quietly about this, a little afraid of admitting my stupidity. But he was concentrating on something else: his giant calculator was kaput and so he was untangling it from his desk to make room for an identical replacement.

I told him about the missing documents.

“Now I’ve really fucked you,” I said.

“Pardon me, please, while I reorganize my life,” he said, from under the desk. And a little later, “Well, we’ve got enough to start.”

So we talked about my income, a little about Obama (“He’s a fucking con man”), and some more about my expenses.

“Any trips for work?”

“Not really. Went to Germany to visit my aunt.”

“Ah, tsu Daytshland.” He likes to show off his Yiddish.

“You’d get around easily over there.”

“No, no, not for me. Can’t go.”

“Really? Still? Too close to home?”

He tapped his heart. “It’s still too soon.”

“Believe me, I know. My father was in fucking Auschwitz.”

“It’s still too emotional. I’m too close to the generation.”

“In every town,” I said, “in every village in Germany, there’s the old synagogue or the place where the old synagogue used to be and there’s this plaque. ‘In 1938, on Kristallnacht, we burned down this synagogue. Our mistake. Please forgive us.’ ”

Es tut undz leyd.” We’re sorry.

“Sorry about all that trouble!”

“It won’t happen again.”

“In every town there’s this plaque. The whole country’s fucking haunted.”

“Haunted.”

“It’s a haunted fucking country. All of it.”

“Can’t go there.”

“Still, no other country’s faced up to its genocidal history as much as Germany.”

“Poland was much worse.”

“They were fucking animals. You would love it in Germany, actually.”

“I’m sure it’s beautiful.”

It was beautiful. It is beautiful. I’m going there this summer. I don’t care that it’s haunted. I don’t care that I go to Germany and not to Poland, because only one side of the family survived the war. I go to the ones that murdered the other side. I go for selfish reasons. I go for my aunt. I go to ride my grandfather’s old bike. I ride it every day and later just as night’s coming when the rabbits and deer are out, nuzzling the fields. And I’m practically happy.

March 16, 2008

Seymour Burton

“There’s three types of people,” Cassie said. We sat in a restaurant called Seymour Burton, waiting for Gretchen.

“Oh, yeah?”

I had already lost interest. I already knew the type Cassie was and I certainly knew what type I was. I was — am — the miserable and lonely and horny type. I am the one with his penis tucked away unused.

Cassie wore a tight sweater doubling as a shirt. By design, her breasts swelled over the v‑cut. During our last dinner a few months earlier, I had noticed them possibly for the first time.

“You didn’t know that I have amazing boobs?” Her tone had approached incredulity.

Gretchen had agreed without a touch of envy: “Yep, she’s got great boobs.”

“They are,” Cassie had said. She shrugged at the self-evidence. “They’re fantastic.”

I had tried taking pictures of them with my cell phone during that entire dinner. Frankly, I wanted to squeeze them. I wondered about the nipples. A breast is only as beautiful as its nipple.

“The first type of person,” Cassie continued, “is the kind who does not want to be alone and will settle for someone just to have someone. The second type wants the right person and so spends a lot of time without someone, but they’re lonely. And the third type also doesn’t want to settle, but is okay with being alone. I think I’m the third type.”

“I’m the second type.”

“People think I’m the second type and it really pisses me off.”

“Second type. I’m always alone and I’m always lonely.”

“Let’s hear some stories.”

They always want to hear stories.

“Did I tell you that I’m seriously thinking about getting a call girl?”

I had been thinking about it, but not seriously.

Gretchen finally stormed through the door.

Cassie looked at me with horror.

“No, you’re lying.”

“It’s fucking true. And it’s in perfect alignment with my rising misogyny.”

“Isn’t it funny how ‘misogyny’ and ‘monogamy’ sound the same?”

“That doesn’t surprise me at all.”

Gretchen sat with us. She was excited about trying this place. It was new. The walls were unfinished: exposed drywall, screws, tape and plaster. The intent behind this was unclear: unfinished by way of design or lack of resources? The photos on the Web had made the restaurant look more grand, warmer, and more expensive. Our table tilted heavily on the buckled floor.

“David’s thinking about getting a hooker.”

“What?”

“Not a hooker,” I said, “a high-end call girl.”

This conversation happened before Spitzer; before it became cool to entertain the idea publicly.

Gretchen didn’t seem to care too much; her eyes rolled to the menu board on the opposite wall.

Latkes, matzoh ball soup, lox. A roasted chicken with marscapone and speck tucked under the skin.

“Oh my God, I want to try everything on that fucking menu.”

“Don’t worry,” I said, “you’re experiencing an autonomic cultural response. But, look, you’re not in the old country anymore.”

“Right, okay. But we have to get the latkes.”

“Gretchen,” Cassie said. “We were wondering. What type are you?”

Cassie enumerated the three types of people. When she was done, Gretchen thought about it for a moment. Then her eyes went back to the menu.

“The older I get, the less I care.”

March 9, 2008

Subway, Night

The two young women sat across from me on the subway, chatting excitedly with lots of hand gesticulations, amplified laughter, and a ritualized way about them that suggested they were consciously following the script of how excited, entitled, and optimistic girls were supposed to act. They looked no more than twenty, but they might have been only teenagers. We were on the F train, about to hit the East Village.

The one with long hair held a brush, which she repeatedly swept through her hair.

“I love brushing my hair!”

“Me too!” said her friend.

“I do it a million times a day; my friends think I’m weird. I love even the way it feels getting the knots out.”

The subway entered the 2nd Avenue station.

“We’re here!” cried the friend of the long-haired girl.

“I feel like I’m in a different country.”

“It’s just the East Village.”

We were all at the door now, waiting for it to open.

“I’ve never been down here. I don’t like it. The streets have letters.”

Her friend suddenly looked at me. That’s because I had started to laugh. But once our eyes locked, I felt like a pervert.

The long-haired girl raised her head snobbishly.

“I’m an upper west side girl. I like my streets to have numbers.”

Her friend looked at me expectantly; she wanted me to laugh again. But actually, thinking about my apartment, empty save for my hungry cat and of the long night ahead absent of plans and people, I really didn’t feel like laughing at all.

The door opened. The girls stepped onto the platform with a recklessness still held in check and disappeared up the stairs. I smelled their shampoo filling the air in the space they left behind.

March 1, 2008

Girlfriend Experience

I had this dream last night that I was negotiating with a high-class whore. She actually had a rate card. She charged $400 for ninety minutes, which struck me in the dream as perfectly reasonable. She looked to be in her mid-thirties. Her hair hung on her shoulders in luscious waves.

“So what are you looking for?” she asked me. “Like a total rodeo experience, or a more laid-back cowpoke thing?”

“What?” This confused me. “You know, just a nice time.”

“Oh, I don’t do that. I do a cowboy, western thing.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, look. It’s in the brochure.”

I was crushed. How did I miss the brochure? She handed it to me. It was true. All the photos showed her in some kind of cowgirl get-up.

“Geez,” I said. “I just wanted to have something more regular.”

“Sorry,” she said. “What you’re looking for is a GFE.”

“What’s that?”

“A Girlfriend Experience. They pretend to be your girlfriend.”

I was still a bit disappointed that I wouldn’t be getting the GFE from the cowgirl, but I was glad that she had pointed me in the right direction.

“Yes,” I said, “that’s exactly what I want.”