None Of This Was Intentional by Marie Sabatino
Yes. It was an online posting. And, yes I responded to the ad. But technically, I rationalized to myself, it was not that kind of posting. You see, it was one of those ads on Craigslist posted in the community forum section. I reminded myself that I wanted to meet more writers. That was it.
Anyway, I agreed to meet this Nick. He was visiting from San Francisco. Leaving on an early morning flight. It was a mid-January night. A group of authors. It was McNally’s book shop. The talk was nothing but moving lips. I was there, but not really there. When it was over, I noticed the guy in the photo of Nick’s facebook page materialize from the corner of the room among the mega-hip, lit crowd. I walked over to the man I had never met before and asked if he was Nick. He said yes, but in a way as if he wasn’t sure. We shook hands the way people shook hands when they were meeting someone at a job interview. Awkward and forced. Like most first times.
There was some talk about the panel discussion downstairs, then about whether we should stay there for a coffee in the shop just a few feet away, then about whether we should go somewhere else for a drink.
A drink. I was sure that I would like him much much more. If only for a drink. The words piled neatly one over the other like warm winter blankets: A drink. Not far. On Spring Street. Near the Bowery.
I tried not to think about my ex just a few blocks away. And found myself beginning to have second thoughts and so I reminded him: “It is cold out. I don’t know if you want to…”
He stopped me—“Yes.” He wanted to. I sized him up one last time. And looked down at the thing that could make me either completely loathe a man or adore him to pieces: the hands. His were not delicate little flowers, the fingers not small or thin. They were prominent and ample and bold. I began to picture one of his hands spread out flat over my collarbone, moving toward the back of my neck. I was certain these hands could do lovely and terrible things.
We headed to the front of the bookstore. And walked outside. The cold air was rabid and penetrating. Like it just lost its fucking mind and didn’t care one single bit.
The streets were no longer the familiar streets that I had always known. Every step I took, and every corner I turned, I wondered, Do I even know where I’m going? A part of me thought that when we’d arrive at our destination, the place would no longer exist.
And in that moment, I would open my eyes and wake up in my old bed on 49 East 1st Street. Apartment 4W. There would be the sound of water running, of teeth being brushed, and there would be a dog not dead, but warm and panting and slinking out from under the covers, licking my face with eager, furious kisses.
But there was none of that. Instead, there was a light suspended over two large doors, just before the Bowery. The place was still there. It even said so, painted on the door, in neon pink letters: Sweet and Vicious.
So there we were. Me. And Nick. And a dark, narrow room that seemed to push us closer and closer to one another. As if there was not a soul around and nothing but the walls beside us, closing us in.
Then there was the bar. A long, lovely road that went on forever. I walked over to the middle of that road, near the only two empty seats alongside it. I sat on one of them, he sat on the other. I waited for him to say something about us moving elsewhere, maybe to an area more quiet or private. But he didn’t. And I liked that about him. So I ordered a wine and he ordered a pint and we clinked glasses and I think one of us muttered something about the new year, or new meetings, was it?
I wasn’t sure what one would call whatever this Nick and I were doing. I thought about the last guy I went out with from my new neighborhood. He asked me if I had started dating again. I laughed. Do people really go out on dates anymore? No, I told him. I wasn’t dating. He seemed a little puzzled. Or maybe disappointed. That story didn’t end so well. I had to wonder if there would be more like it.
But now there was here and there was this and there was Nick. And I was liking this. I was liking him. I was liking the wine-by-the-glass, which was much better than most. It was a Sauvignon Blanc. And it went down happily, easily. And that seemed to be the sense of how things felt. Of how things felt with Nick. It all went down as easy as a game of hopscotch.
We skipped the dumb questions that people usually asked when they first met and moved on to the stuff that meant something. Like the people who have come and gone, the places that have been home, the ones that we’ve loved the most, and the ones that weren’t very good to us, where a part of us were stuck or still remained, despite having loved these times the least.
Then there was the writing. As if this was some magical pill that pulled us nearer and nearer to one another. There were times that I even found parts of my body accidentally bumping into him. Especially our knees, which would softly tap, then withdraw. Kissing knees just tap-tap-tapping.
None of this was intentional, as it often was with people. Or even with bitty children. I remember when I was in Mrs. Zappantas’ class in sixth-grade. We had to arrange our desks in blocks of four so that each desk faced another desk, one was to the left or right, and the other was diagonal to one’s seat. Matthew was right across from me. Tall, lanky, dark-haired Matthew. When our desks were first arranged this way, our twelve-year-old knees would accidentally bump. Then over time, Matthew’s knees would really push into mine, and I would push a little back. Mrs. Zappantas would carry on about what was nineteen times thirty or one quarter of twenty-five hundred, or some other such irrelevance, while Matthew and I would grind our ferocious, little knees against one another for hours. It was nothing short of heaven for a sixth-grade girl. Matthew and I completely ignored one another otherwise. We never even looked at each other while the push and grind was happening. Till this day, I could describe in great, vivid detail exactly what Mrs. Zappantas looked like. Just don’t ask me one single thing about math.
I looked at my watch. It was almost midnight. Nick would be getting on a plane to go back to his real life in San Francisco in less than seven hours. So I said what any woman, four glasses of wine later, would say: “I think I have some Coronas at my apartment.”
We got out of the cab on York Avenue and I had the same thought that I always had when I arrived on 85th Street, when I opened the wide, glass doors at #534: This was someone else’s home.
Nick and I walked to the elevator and I pressed the button to the side because that was what people did on this part of town. In my old building, you walked up four flights and you walked down four flights because that was what you did on that part of town. Of course, you complained with all your might about the fourth floor walk-up, and then down-and-up you carried a thirty-five pound dog that couldn’t walk for several months before the thing had to die, and while the dangling dog was in your arms, you swung your shoulder bag and sometimes you even clasped a half-empty coffee cup with two shaky fingers, while clutching onto a full set of keys waiting to relieve you of all this. You did this three or four times a day. If you were my ex, you did all of this with finesse, and without complaint, and occasionally smoked a cigarette at the same time.
Now. I took the elevator downstairs just to pick up the mail or to go for a walk. And even though I did this every single day, I hated it. I almost hated it as much as the awkward small talk in the awkward space with even more awkward neighbors who were always afraid to look me in the eyes or to get too close. Quickly in, and quickly out.
For fuck’s sake, I never thought I’d miss the goddamned stairs.
While I was standing there with Nick in the cramped fluorescent space, I looked above the large, metal doors and watched a round, plastic, number one key light up, then number two, then three, and wondered if this Nick ordinarily took an elevator or if he took the stairs. I hated that I didn’t know this about him. I suppose I could have asked him right then and there. But what difference would it make?
Number four lit up, doors swooshed to the side. I walked out first and turned at the corner. Nick followed me without really following me; it was as if he had been here already. Like he walked through these hallways a hundred times before.
I took out my keys at the door with 4D marked on it. For a moment, the key and the lock weren’t cooperating with one another. I held my breath, my wrist turned and twisted, manipulated a little more. Then there was a clicking sound. A door opened. And we went inside of it.
So there we were. Nick was in the bathroom. I was in the only other room. It was silent as dirt. So I did what I always did when the silence felt as if it was going to drag me into its quicksand, pulling me under until I could no longer feel myself breathing. I put music on.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs was programmed on Pandora radio.Karen O was screaming Down Boy from the speakers in my laptop. Nick came out of the other room and stood behind me. He didn’t say anything. But I could feel the length of his chest behind me like a parenthesis or maybe it was more like an exclamation point. A critical punctuation that held the words together, gave them greater meaning.
I turned around and asked Nick if he wanted a Corona. He didn’t answer, and instead, took his hand and twisted his fingers through the back of my hair while he forced my face toward his lips. I opened my mouth into his. And felt myself slip further and further away. Disappear somewhere dark and unknown and warm.
I didn’t care about what we would do, but I knew that I wanted to feel his bare skin against mine, another heart beating against my own. Anything to make me feel alive—the wordless hysterical kind of alive.
Nick still had his jeans on. Me, my blouse and skirt. I climbed on top of him. And liked the way the thick, tough jeans felt against my panties. There was something about the tease of denim. It reminded me of the passenger seat of somebody’s parent’s car in high school. Windows clouding. Denim grinding and burning. Making out for hours. Stopping at second or third base. Wondering when you’d allow yourself to go completely all the way.
Now here I was again, twenty years later, a little less denim. I peeled my blouse off. The room was rude and cold but it didn’t seem to matter. I moved carefully over Nick, as if he might break, and moved the palms of my hands over his shoulders, along his arms, across his chest, and down toward his lower belly. As if this simple act would help me know him more, make him less strange. His skin was soft and his body was hard, like it wasn’t sure what it wanted to be. Each line and edge and curve took me somewhere new, someplace where I could forget what I was doing or who I was.
I suppose there was safety in all this because it would be gone tomorrow. He would be gone tomorrow. Multiple time zones, scores of different climates, about a dozen states across, and nearly three thousand miles of distance, would sever our lives in half. Cut us in two.
Soon there would be a small, dark world of twisted sheets, the stale odor of a burned-out cigarette, his acrid scent lingering in the air. There would be the intrusive thoughts of WATER WATER WATER and the familiar words returning to me: Just-get-out-of-bed-just-get-out-of-bed-just-get-out-of-bed-just-get-out-of-bed. The same words from the same mornings and the same goddamned life would be there, badgering me like a hungry dog on the streets, without a home.
And before I could think about it any further, I realized that Nick was exactly where I expected him to be, where all the others before him had ended up. Like fleeting thoughts:GONE.
© Marie Sabatino 2013
Marie Sabatino has been writing stories since she was a little girl. She has been telling stories all over NYC for the last ten years.... at venues like The National Arts Club, Galapagos Art Space, The Telephone Bar and Happy Ending Lounge. This is the second time her story has been performed in the cozy warmth of KGB Bar. You can find some of her stories in publications like Mr. Beller's Neighborhood, Word Riot, andFLUENCE magazine, among other places.
None of this Was Intentional was read by Katherine Barron for the Secrets & Lies Show on 6th March 2013