curiously, New York, Part I
Phone in my hands, I squinted under the table at my dimmed phone screen of empty distraction. I was disturbed, tired and cranky beyond what this loud, New York hustle of a bar had to offer. I was slouched over, elbow on the table, chin in my left hand, swiping with my right, the screen’s fake escapisms dashing under my thumb while nothing could break this mood I was in. I was waiting for something… anything. An easy taxi to their house and long sleep sounded like just the ticket at two in the morning, although everyone among me was the least bit interested in leaving. I felt like nothing could break this mood I was in and my feet were absolutely killing me. Three wrong restaurants, all named Shanghai-something, a failed karaoke stint, closed for a wedding party and two other packed bars made for a painful, long night to break in a new pair of shoes all over China-town. I was over it. My heart sank and my blank, evil scowl become more obvious among the drunken crowd. For sure, I was a dead giveaway for one serious “bitch-face." I’ve been told my face always says everything and even trying to mask it with fake joy was impossible at this point. I sighed heavily into my seat and breathed in all the tired and pissed off mood I couldn’t shake.
Five of us were seated around a prime corner-end booth. I was in the middle, of course, odd one out like a sore thumb. Chatting to my right was my long-time girlfriend, Sara and a new, awkwardly exuberant guy, Darren. He was from New Jersey, a lawyer and oddly fluctuated his body and voice in an almost clown-like state. I kept to myself and thought, What IS his story, really?
Everyone has a story.
Everyone has a story.
I secretly judged his character to myself, trying to figure him out. Something about him reminded me of me, obviously, as his awkwardness shook me a bit. He seemed, nice. Unfortunately, I wasn’t having any of his jokes and he was full of them, too many, I thought. My mood started having it’s own way with me, blocking and dodging everyone’s state of pink-clouded-drunkenness. I quietly breathed in again my lost, solitary and sober world among the loud, drunkalogs of this deafening, New York bar.
Sara was into Darren's banter, a dance of forced flirtation through her honest, grounded soul. They were actually gaining ground in this ping-pong of play-on-words. Any any guy who could match Sara’s rough, comedic pessimism was worth a shot. I was secretly routing for it and if anyone deserved some alone time with a man tonight, it was Sara.
To my left, my new gal-pal, Elise and her long-time, dancing colleague Jenna, chatting up a storm. Elise was in the midst of just breaking the surface to Jenna the latest... She was slowly unraveling the tribulations of her very hot and very steamy Parisian love affair. From Elise’s insatiable details it could also be classified as the lost art of love blinded by lust; ingredients included broken translations of English/French-pillow talk, endearing bathtub face-timing and orgasms to make the most talented poet’s blush. Elise was in it, deep, and I knew just how deep. I’d been there quite recently… barely crawling my way out of the hole of lust, sweat and tsunamis of inevitable tears. Every vein and tortured tear-duct in me is still haunted, my soul still a wet wound under the gauze. Of course, given my need for personal torture, I’ll never give up the dark and twisted search for it. Maybe my soul craves some kind of sadomasochistic behavior to keep the blood a-boil. A “tortured artist” to say the least. If you can grasp the metaphor, it can take years to let go of the boiling pot handle even if the skin under your hands has melted to wax and your bones are left gnarled and charred. The fixation to keep it is absolute madness and an addict’s favourite fix. It’s the best sex of your life and you’ll do anything to keep it.
And then I felt something. Eyes. Above Elise’s head, to my left, I felt something. A haunting, liberating stare, almost creepy, like a faint breath upon the back of your neck. We all can feel it. It's just a feeling. A gut feeling. So I did. I looked up.
I saw eyes on me.
Yes, I was curious and looked up to watch a dark figure brush his bangs away from his forehead to deepen the glance. My first thought was to role my eyes at another shallow, annoying bar-hopper staring me down. He was being obvious like a few before him and I was slightly creeped out. Something poked my curiosity. And he was, curious. A random, dark figure, tall, but I couldn’t quite tell how tall given this hideous light bulb pulsating above my forehead from the ceiling. I looked down, quickly, back at my phone. Of course, there’s nothing on my phone, pointless, an endless nothingness. And then I felt it again.
Inclined by my curiosity and that same feeling, it was there, again, I felt eyes again. So, I looked up.
Shit. Our eyes met again. Ok, thats two times now, dammit, I thought.The curiosity hit me again, I felt it.
My eyes went up and they met his, AGAIN.
Shit, I thought. Shit, that’s three. Dammit.
In less than 15 seconds our eyes met four times. To the left, to the right, to the left and back to the right, his figure danced strangely behind the drunken crowd. Each time he moved, our eyes met. Each time I wasn’t sure if I should be bothered or completely absorbed. This wasn’t new, this teeter-totter of comfort in odd, chance encounters. What overwhelmed me was the grey area, a small, comfortable feeling in the grey, this odd, push and pull, towards or away from something, anything. There was always this range of exactness just out of reach and I lived in it’s seasonal dichotomy. It was intriguing, one foot in, one foot out… always on the fence. Maybe that’s why I stayed an extra week in New York. Or maybe he was staring because I stood out from the crowd with my bright, coifed, european-esque, blonde bob haircut, a possible giveaway that I might be from California, a foreigner in this loud, pool of New Yorkers.
Besides those eyes, I was still very crabby and the bar felt like it was getting louder and smaller. I looked around the room to both sides, watching my girlfriends chat away the night with shrieking-like voices, bellows and over-blown "ah-ha’s”! And here I was, all dressed up, out of my normal t-shirt and jeans, my comfortable grind. I looked pretty classy though, I had a knack for that. Earlier, we girls shopped the famous New York fashion scene and I found quite the long, dark-emerald green dress, huggingly sexy on my petite build. Just business-casual enough to still say, Yes, I’m single. Or maybe it was the sheer, black pencil-backseem stockings and black, tall, calf-high boots the girls talked me into (pinching every nerve in my feet, each step furthering mental discomfort). The girls were all quite conscientious I keep up my outward appearance during tonight’s rounds around New York. This was all very new to me. Either way, I was secretly oozing quite the sex-appeal whether I wanted to or not and sitting down was getting me nowhere.
I needed some air. My feet hurt, my ears had had enough. Every random guy who tried their best pickup line was more shallow and mundane after the next. I couldn’t take it, and I couldn’t even hear them or myself. My phone had finally lost its luster of distraction so I nudged Sara vigorously out of her intense conversation with Darren and yelled, “Ask Darren if he has a cigarette, I need to go outside!” Sara screamed through the thick cloud of DJ music, “Ashley wants a cigarette!, you have one!?!” Darren opened his jacket, slid out a smoke and handed it to Sara and Sara to me. Sweet relief overcame my body. Rolling my eyes against the crowd I scrambled for my long, black sweater, dropped my phone in disgust into my purse, it’s emptiness too deep to bother to take with me outside. All I wanted was a few moments of peace to clear my soul, my body, my mind.
As I scooted towards the end of the booth to climb over Sara she turned to me with a gleeful look, her eyes finally glistening from her slight buzz and softly yelled into my face, “I think Darren is growing on me!” I was thrilled for her. She deserved this kind of attention. My heart was heavy… for her and for my need to escape (or my honest weighty sense of jealousy). Her soulful and raw nature was pretty hard to crack - if this guy could crack it then he just might be worth it. At least someone needed to fuck her back to sanity. I knew I might need that kind of soulful injection too, however my taste is quite a specific delicacy. I’m just too picky, as we all should be. It's more my taste for visceral chemistry and this mood of mine was obviously a direct reflection of the lack of chemistry in my own life.
I grappled this long sweater around my petite frame, held the cigarette tight and swiftly swung the EXIT door open in haste, right arm out like a sword as I darted outside. Relief overwhelmed my lungs and ears as I heard the DJ’s loud bustling scratches, soften. The air outside was calm, cold, muffled and smokey-grey under the New York lamp posts. For such a “happening” bar, this corner of China-Town was oddly desolate. Then again, I wouldn't know shit about New York, I was only here for a few days from California. A lengthy escape from my so-called life along the coast. A life… I was still trying to figure out.
With zero intention for any kind of interaction with people and one giant leap for space I found my quiet abandon. I was finally outside. I lit the cigarette with my lighter, waiting for the boredom and claustrophobic dismay to dissipate. Over my right shoulder I secretly watched the gathering crowd of hustlers being carded at the front door, one after another, in and out, new faces, new groups, all excited for their next encounter with someone strange or familiar. Although, was I one of them too? Was I too, awaiting my own strange encounter? I was dressed in mostly black too, smoking too, standing outside this bar, too. Was I too, a sort of clown, all dressed up in subdued fuck-me boots and stockings? Maybe, but given my state of mind, I remained completely indifferent when it came to their version of content and conversation. My eye rolls were abundant, inside and outside and my grumpy facial-fog was too obvious. I just couldn’t connect with this crowd tonight and it seemed nothing could break my ice-queen facade.
I was also too tired to give a shit. Actually, at this point, I gave zero shits or fucks about the whole situation. There might as well been a giant blinking sign above my blonde head that read “OUTSIDER: BEWARE.” I did, however, adjust into the dress and stockings again, inhaled the long, endless cigarette between my fingertips and exhaled relief as my ears stopped ringing and my mood slowly lifted. I did feel a bit sexy in this getup, a bit of class, I thought, with a bitchy-edge. It had been a long while since I had 'dressed-up' for a 'night on the town.' Kinda fun, kinda painful, I thought. Still, I stood tall, alone on the sidewalk, my face an expressionless, moody sulk and my body, whispering something quite different. As usual, this prevalent dichotomy a constant bane of my existence.
I heard the same EXIT door swing open behind me. Uhgk, I had a feeling, I turned and saw a familiar figure, Darren. Playing it cool, I faked some politeness and rolled with it. Sure, he was nice, cordial, a lawyer, interesting… not really. I just couldn’t shake his approach to our group, this clownish, annoying jokester. Although that was all me, projecting my crabby state of mind. Shot for shot we shot the shit. I obliged his conversation and threw a few honest jabs. “No.. no, I’m fine.” I replied to his question, (bullshit) “I’m just not into tonight. I mean, I’m glad you’re hitting it off with Sara, that’s cool.”
“She’s awesome, yeah!” and he gestured a few jester-like swings with his arms and body. It was like he was filling the awkward spaceless void of small talk with movement and I was secretly up for a new job involving some scientific anthropological research. The detail behind his behavior was interesting. When is this going to end?, I kept asking myself. My icy-cold facade was pretty hard to break so, yes, I felt badly.
“You just seem like you’re not having a good time or something,” he said.
“No, I’m just rolling with it,” I replied quietly, “It's just hard to connect with a bunch of loud, drunken clowns right now.” I smiled, politely as possible and graced my head down a bit, trying to soften the cunt-like words coming out of my mouth.
As Darren went on he finally dropped his act in front of me, our smalltalk space finding a equal middle-ground of real, honest intention. Finally, some understanding connected us on this foreign island, even though he kept up with his weird, swinging, gorilla-like arms, his cigarette swirling around him like a fire-dancer. Again… the odd jester-like motions, completely fascinating to my observational mind.
And then, like a jump-cut from the movies my peripheral vision found solace. A tall, strange, dark figure emerged out from behind Darren's silhouette. Closer, he slowly moved toward us on the sidewalk, a vivid street-light above, faintly smoothing a light shadow over his face and shortly swept dark hair. Those dark eyes, I was remembering... His approach could be defined as compellingly graceful, the kind of grace which causes my overly-detailed and artistic mind to go blurry. Graceful, soooo, graceful, my mind kept repeating, inhaling this rousing moment. I started losing focus, completely devoid of the other human… what what his name again? Darren? It was so obvious. I could not look away from this new stranger, soon to be not, a stranger, I hoped. He closed in on us and landed softly on my right. His bold, quiet demeanor exuded a gentle intention without even saying a word. I was beyond curious how this was even possible, this draw, this visceral… pull. My personal space felt a soothing calm as his polite persuasive sway found itself close enough that our arms were touching. Looking down I saw his arm, my arm, and no space; an overwhelming, magnetic seduction. My mind and breath were distinctly less, the slow fade inside my head causing a quiver behind my eye-sight. This is what they call, Visceral Chemistry.
I looked up at his face and saw the sensation reflecting back at me. His dark eyes said everything. I stared. So much yes, I thought, so much yes. Wait, I was remembering, the eyes, the dark eyes from earlier… wait, that’s him… oh, Fuck.
At this point, reality steadily murmured itself back into focus …