Broadway: “He would have never got on that train if he knew you would’ve blown him. And I hurt for him for not knowing.”
Wise: “I would have. Unequivocally. But he would have left still, albeit fully aroused. Undoubtedly. And that’s why I am absolutely smitten.”
It reminded me immediately of this spot on Greene Street that I used to go to all the time when I first moved to the City. Except on this night in 2011 the city was London, not New York circa ‘99, though I was quickly drawing a convincing comparative analysis between the metropoli. Located in the Trans-Atlantic analogous neighborhood of Soho, my company usurped my rapt attention.
If I was a younger me, still beholden to the imagined shackles of what-ifery, I would have taken solid and copious mental notes. I’d remember not only the name of the drink that made us both pause in pure delight, but the pleasing ingredients. Instead, I blocked access to the left lane of my brain, the one leading to mindless infatuation, and instead focused on the components that helped us settle into a comfortably relaxed and disciplined conversation: equal parts liquor, laughs, and lust.
Back in the Greene St. days, conversations with a handsome young man would veer ultimately toward career: How long you been in NY? Where did you go to school? Where do you work? Tell me about the company you just started. But fast forward a decade and these convos almost always take the scenic route through a discussion about relationships: Do you date? Is marriage on your radar? I thought everyone wanted kids. Though the talk has shifted, the Vaseline effect of whatever liquor is flowing hasn’t changed.
Have you ever met a famous person and been dumb confused about what the fuck just happened? Like, when you discover that dude from TV who is mad fine is also mad midgety.
Better yet, what about how making real-life introductions with old internet buddies is NEVER, ever what you imagined. They’re not as funny or sexy, the conversation not as fluid when spoken words replace LOLs and #weirdcatchphrasesyallthinkyallmadeup, and they have a nervous tick that was impossible to detect even via Skype. This was not that. The evening began in the hotel lobby when he stood up and was not, as I had
expected feared, eye-level to Gary Coleman (RIP).
On the short ride on the subway that makes NY’s look like an underground shithole, we sat close enough to nudge flirtatious elbows, but didn't; a simple statement established boundaries like a pull-down arm rest.
“I started seeing this woman recently, and it was interesting trying to explain how I ‘know’ you.”
[Begin Chapter I of "The Story of My Life: A Tragedy" by So Wise]
The following progression was appropriate: first, a noisy British pub, pretending I couldn’t handle a whole pint of Stella and accepting a half, taking sips of his gin. Struggling to protect the sinking secret that I’m not as awesome when there’s no typing involved.
The crawl then progressed to the Soho spot. It was down this slightly dodgy alley (with cobblestones that didn't quite agree with my heels) and beyond the unassuming façade, in the center of a foyer that felt warmed by an open fire, that we took off our jackets for the first time that evening.
There’s really nothing better than a good drink with someone good-looking.
Even if you can’t have them.
The truth is, I didn’t even allow myself to imagine my face rubbing against the inside of his strong thighs. That would have tainted the pleasure of the improbability. Instead, I relished in the fulfillment of my long-suffering wanderlust and a great drink matched with even greater convo.
There was another bar and another drink afterward, but I choose to end my recollection here, in Soho--UK not NY. Seated, loose, unencumbered finally by the anxiety of whatever conclusions he’d drawn of the me sitting across the table and not across a computer screen. I traveled across an ocean and spent an evening drinking with a man I had had a crush on for five years or so. And he exceeded every expectation, whether real or digital.
Isn’t that what travel is? What it does? Lets you stare into the eyes, study the surface of the lips, examine the intellect and humor, ogle the
crotch landmarks—without guilt of covetousness—of a space that is not your own, but is yours to explore.
A decade ago, in the Greene St. days, I would have lost my way in his confident eye contact, stopped his lips mid-sip and pressed them to mine, completely defenseless against his acute observations and effortless sense of humor and sturdy frame and manly ass and familiar Caribbean accent and alarmingly rugged handsomeness. Today, my boundaries and respect wouldn’t even allow me to take a picture with, literally, the man of my damn dreams. A lesser bitch would have been happy to swallow.
London is a lot like NYC, and I immediately felt like I had been there before…yet had no idea where I was going. Still, I was utterly smitten.