(with a winking nod to Holly Golightly)
“OK OK OK … I really need to … focus … right … now,” she says furrow-browed with all the pretense of actual concentration, rifling aimlessly through a fistful of fluttering papers. Without missing a beat, she exclaims “Oooh … let me show you a really bad picture of me!”
I laugh as she grabs a magazine off a nearby bench and thumbs through its pages. “What are you laughing at? Here …” tossing me the magazine now opened to a picture of her, beautiful, squatting before the Grand Tetons, her long lioness blonde hair flowing down around black parka-warmed shoulders, eyes piercing in the classic “pensive author” stare. “Yeah, you look like shit,” I say.
Two hours prior, my cell phone had vibrated, and I smiled as its cool blue screen announced “Heat”. As I approached the Holland Tunnel, with the New York skyline crisply breathtaking bright and clear on this bitterly cold night, I pressed the button. Anticipating hellish parking in Alphabet City, we agreed that I’d pull up to her apartment so that she could load up her luggage. It was 6:30. By 8:30, she was to start the 5 hour drive to Washington, DC to pick up her grandmother en route to her mother’s rustic Idaho ranch for the holidays.
20 traffic-laden minutes later, I jerked the car off of Houston onto Avenue A, and whipped a quick U-ie into a waiting metered spot around the corner from her apartment. This didn’t surprise me in the least — in fact I allowed a head-shaking chuckle — since our relationship had been absolutely riddled with serendipitous moments like this. I rang the buzzer and climbed the stairs.
And then it starts.
Pushing through the door she’s left ajar, I freeze. She skitters past me, across the room, phone pressed to her ear, giving me a quick glance. Her hair flows wildly over — well — a cocktail dress. She is in a cocktail dress. Black, form-fit to her stunning body, the three-quarter length sleeves punctuated with brown fur. And white fishnet stockings. A lone black thread clings for dear life to her calf as she moves about the room. She just screams New York right now. Nico. Velvet Underground. I double-check my watch. 7:00. Is this what she’s wearing to Idaho?
I toss my coat on a chair, stand in the middle of the room, and watch in wonder. She hangs up the phone, throws it onto the couch, and comes to give me a kiss. Changing gears now, smiling into my eyes. “Hi,” says she.
“Yes. Hi,” say I. “I found a spot.”
“Ooooh, you are amazing! You are indeed a wonder boy! How do you do it?”
“It’s you, as far as I can tell. I’ve given up trying to figure it out.”
“OK so I just have to get my shit together here. I’m packing. You’re going to meet Evan. We have to go over to Evan’s. We have to clean his apartment. Half an hour. Shit, I have to make calls.”
“You didn’t clean Evan’s apartment yet?” We had stayed there two weeks before. Evan is her ex-boyfriend. I had dropped her off there two days ago so she could clean it. “Um, no, I fell asleep on his bed. Oh! I have your present!” She runs to the table and grabs up the fresh copy of “Speedology”. “I have to inscribe it for you.” She grabs a pen, sits on the couch, and huddles intently over Timothy “Speed” Levitch’s dedication page (“Dedicated to Black Rock City”). “Be sure to use words like ‘amazing’, ‘brilliant’ and ‘stud-muffin’, if you don’t mind.” “Shhhh.”
I pick up Baby D, her best friend’s cat, and give him a big black furry squish. “Here you go,” she says, handing me the book with a kiss. “Thank you so much,” I say.
“How much gas is in the car?”
“3/4 of a tank.”
“Oooooh! Can I tell you just how great you are? Can I tell you how happy that makes me? You are just the greatest!” Hugging me now, nuzzling my neck.
She runs into the bedroom, and I trail languidly behind, anxious to watch the spectacle. She tosses a bag onto the bed, and starts grabbing clothes from her drawers, shoving them in my hand, reading them off as she does. “Flannel jeans, sweater, sweater, jacket …” I hand them back to her to stuff in the bag. She says, “I’m starving. Let’s get dinner. And snuggle. Yeah? 20 minutes for snuggling?”
“Sure. Yes.” Looking at her dress, I say without irony “By the way, you realize they’re expecting 10 feet of snow in Idaho right now?”
I wander back into the living room to read the inscription, browse the book and put on some music. She emerges from the bedroom “I think I’m going to blow of the party tonight.”
“Party?” Looking at my watch. 7:30. “Wait a minute. Let me get this straight. You were going to go to a party … tonight?” Well, that explained the cocktail dress. But not the logic. “You’re shitting me, right?”
Laughing, she disappears into the bedroom. I put on some music and open my book. The inscription, written in a circle around the edge of the page, reads “December 2002. To my wondrous blue-eyed boy chameleon: here’s to all the maps you make, and the cities in which we meet; the chances we hardly know we have; the glances we land. I am yours – in adventure – and other things too. Love, H.” My heart emits a flutter.
Five minutes later she emerges, now wearing jeans, fleece and trail running shoes, hair up, thick black glasses. Still terribly sexy. I laugh out loud. “What’s so funny?”
“I love your transformation. It’s fucking perfect.”
She runs to me on the couch, big eyed beaming. “I can’t believe it. You know exactly what my favorite fucking moment is. I can’t believe you actually appreciate what my absolute favorite moment is.” She stares at me in wide-eyed wonder.
We, two chameleons. We, two adventure addicts. We, two experience junkies. We, two shape shifters. She sitting on my lap, smiling into my face. Gazing back up at her, like looking into myself. Realizing I need her.
“Am I too crazy right now? Is this freaking you out?” she asks.
“No. But I want to see you outside of New York.”
“Ooh, yes, it’s very different. It’s like this:” — she slips seamlessly into slow motion, her voice lowering into a sultry sing-song — “yessss, this is nice … let’s stay in this nice cozy cabin … juuust you and meee … nobody around for miiiles … and I’ll make you a niiice dinner … let’s have seeex … yesss, let’s have lots of sex … and we’ll read these great books and do nothing … party? oh no, I don’t want to see anybody … I want to stay here with you … just yoou and meee.”
“It’s New York,” I say.
“Yes, it’s New York,” she says.
And we wouldn’t give it up for the world. We need both. We need it all.
Looking at my watch. 7:45. Thinking about dinner. “Sweetie, we need to ditch cleaning Evan’s place,” I say evenly.
“Yes, we do. We still have to eat.”
“What time is it?”
“Quarter of eight.”
“Oh shit. You’re right. Dammit. Thank you. I’m not very realistic about time.” Uh huh. “I need somebody around who will help me be realistic about time.”
“That’d be me,” I say.
“Yes,” she says. “Do you mind?”
“No,” I reply. “At least you listen.”
“Yes, I listen.”
She grabs the phone and calls Beik, who will be feeding Baby D in her absence. He agrees to come over to get a tutorial and grab the keys. She calls Evan, and apologizes and promises recompense for not cleaning his apartment. “Was that OK?” She calls some friends to try to unload the party tickets (the ArtForum Christmas party, no less) … no takers. She hands me the phone to order dinner from her favorite neighborhood Italian restaurant. I put on some Billie Holiday. It’s perfect. We kiss. We dance in the kitchen. We smile into each other. “You dance very well,” she says.
The food comes, and I pay the delivery guy. She’s just about finished her packing when Beik arrives. We give him the rundown of cat food, schedule and keys. There’s only one set of keys, so we have to leave with him, lock up and hand him over the keys … our untouched dinner packaged up neatly on the kitchen table.
We grab the bag of food, lock up, and — luggage clunking at our sides — we push through the door out into the cold New York night.