Home > The Lost Night(14)

The Lost Night(14)
Author: Andrea Bartz

Then the lens swept up one more time, long enough for two symbols on a door to come into focus: 4G. SAKE. Edie’s apartment.

A little lean forward and my hand on the knob, the click of the door opening.

My voice, surprised, an inaudible warble. Projected like it was meant for someone—a greeting, not to myself.

A quick flash of the hardwood floor inside. And then, with a jumble of fingers, I’d turned the camera off.

Chapter 4


I had just bought a little tub of Greek yogurt and was thinking inane thoughts about how it always comes in a wider container than regular yogurt and why is a man eating yogurt sort of fey and effeminate, anyway? I sat down at the counter along the window and peeled back the top and noticed four peaks in the white, vaguely creepy remnants of the electric udder employed in the factory, when She walked in.

She had freckled skin and a halo of soft red curls. A sunbeam struck her, movie perfect, as if she traveled with her own light source, a perpetual spotlight. She slid her eyes around the little deli, pausing on me, holding my stare for just a moment before sauntering up to the register.

I put my eyes on my book and read nothing as she ordered a strawberry chicken salad. Then she scraped back a stool at the other end of the counter. Only a few seats away. Jesus, that air. She felt me looking at her and glanced over just enough, just as I feared I’d never get a glimpse of the eyes again, as she ate and read a book of her own, a near-smile on her lips.

I knew I should say something, something polite and unimposing and easy to back away from should she not, you know, want strangers bothering her during lunch. Which, of course, she probably did not. The man with the yogurt leering and blathering and treating the place like a despicable Murray Hill hookup bar.

So, frozen by the stupid stalemate I’d created for myself, I continued to study a page of the Murakami novel in front of me. And right as I was working up the nerve to get up and say hello, she checked the time on her phone, snapped her book into her purse, and headed for the exit.

As she yanked the glass door open, she glanced back—at me, definitely right at me—and I grinned, a full-toothed hapless grin that was the closest thing to communication I could toss toward her exiting body. She smiled—just long enough to make sure I saw it—and was gone.

When I got home from work that night, I opened my laptop, embarrassed for myself, and went to Craigslist’s Missed Connections section, that graveyard of hypothetical relationships for introverts and pussies everywhere. The words This is fucking dumb cobbled themselves into a mantra, complete with a monomaniac theme song, as I scanned the day’s sad pleas.

Location: Café Green on 57th St.

Subject: To the guy at the other end of the counter…

Body: …Thanks for the smile. It made my day.

My chest and dick distended in unison. This was her, this was fucking her. This was insane. I clicked respond. I stared at the cursor and realized I had no idea what to say. I couldn’t even remember what she looked like, just an impression of glinting eyes and a ludicrous certainty that this woman was interesting, full of captivating ideas, opinions, and stories.

I stood up and got a beer out of the fridge. I sat down and messed around on Facebook, on blogs. Finally, I returned to the Craigslist email and wrote something that would, I hoped, be complimentary without freaking her out.

Subject: that guy at the other end of the counter…

Body: …had nearly finished his yogurt so that he could nonchalantly peek at you while you ate your salad. (okay, maybe it was a stare. sorry.) before you left, i wanted to tell you with neither presumption nor agenda that you’re beautiful. maybe you’ll give me another shot, or maybe we’ll bump into each other again. anyway, thank you for giving me the unlikely opening to do a deed left undone…you definitely made my day.


I read it through a couple of times and deleted the second-to-last sentence—there, now I’d done everything I could to distance myself from the drooling ogre bro vibes I didn’t want to emit. The response came two days later, days mercifully packed at the firm—I was developing a set of construction drawings for what eventually became a facade in Park Slope. So the mystery woman wasn’t even humming in my subconscious when a reply showed up in my inbox.


I’ve never posted on Craigslist before, not even to sell a couch or anything. And I did it on a whim the other day, not expecting a response, let alone one so kind. So thank you. I keep rereading it and smiling. Hmm, so many things I could say next, but I’ll start with a question: What were you reading?


I wrote back that night, answering and returning the question. She wrote the evening after that. We asked the typical questions. Senior at NYU. (So much younger than I’d thought.) Living in Bushwick in one of those insufferable dormlike self-contained hipster havens. Born and raised in New York, which explained that phlegmatic expression earned from a lifetime of discovering things before everyone else. I learned her verbal tics, the lilt of her sentences and the subtlety of her wit. I found her on Facebook and stared and stared and stared at the tiny blurry profile photo I could access, too stubborn to send her a friend request. I couldn’t mentally call up an image of her, just a sharp sense of attraction. Which almost never happens to me. What good is a photographic memory if the cap’s on right when you need it most?

I told my friend Lexy the story, leaving out the bit about the woman being an undergrad. I knew she’d react with the appropriate amount of awe and delight and excited clapping. I’ve known Lexy since college, one of those truly platonic friendships that way too many women insist can’t exist. Sitting at a picnic table on the back porch of a barbecue joint, wearing a coat and pretending it was a warmer spring day than the thermometer indicated, she actually flung a rib down at one point to throw her hands over her mouth. I knew she’d just love it.

“You guys are gonna get maaaried,” she sang when I’d finished.

“Dude, she hasn’t made any mention of actually meeting up in person, and it’s been over a month. I’m beginning to think she’s in a full body cast or something.”

“Or that you’re writing back and forth with someone who just happened to be in the deli and observed the whole thing and is doing this to fill a certain emptiness in his or her life.”

Jesus, that hadn’t even occurred to me. That’s the thing about Lexy. She’s getting her Ph.D. in American history and will just extrapolate the shit out of something you thought you had figured out.

“You think I should ask her out?”

“Uh, yeah. She’s probably wondering why you haven’t tried to see her yet. Actually, if she was smart, she’d think you were the fat, lonely impersonator.”

One end of Lexy’s chartreuse scarf kept sliding off her neck and down across her boobs. I was waiting for it to land in her pile of sauce.

Lexy was right—it was weird. The intimacy was fading from the email exchange, and now I had no choice but to ask her out, which of course would sound creepy or awkward no matter how I phrased it because I’d already waited so damn long. I asked Edie to call me. She wrote back with her number instead. I dialed it right after work one day, settling into a bench in Central Park among a row of peacoat-swaddled locals.

It rang once. Twice. Someone with a clipboard was making his way down the line, asking for money for some kind of project.

She picked up on the third ring.


It was nice to hear a real hello, the way we used to answer the phone before we always knew who was calling. Her voice was huskier than I’d imagined.

“Hi! It’s Greg.”

She said “Oh, hi!” just as I continued to speak, and then I stopped, and then we both listened to silence for a second.

“How are you?” I lumbered on.

“I’m good! Just got off the subway. Sorry if I sound out of breath. How are you?”

“I’m fine! Thanks. I’m…sitting in the park, actually.”

“Oh, nice. Central Park?”

“That’s the one!”

“Ahh, jealous! Do the trees have buds on them yet? I love buds and those little puff things at the end of pine trees. I always promise myself I’m going to make it into the park before they open up and then I forget and remember in, like, June.”

“The trees are still looking pretty dead from here. But actually…” My god. A freebie. “Actually, I was calling to see if you’d like to get together this weekend. Like for a walk. In the park.”

“Oh! Umm…” It was either deliberation or thinking hard, trying to work out her schedule.

“The buds are gonna be here and gone before you know it. Honest to god, I can see, like, six big leaves just from here.”

She laughed. I loved it—a kind of throaty ha ha.

“I have brunch plans on Saturday, but…after that? Like at three?”

I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been excited for a date. I got Lexy’s good-luck text as I climbed out of the subway at Eighty-sixth and headed west, motoring around tourists. Edie was standing outside the entrance, pecking at her phone. Prettier than I remembered, another little punch of damn. She smiled and waved and waited awkwardly for me to cross the street as the light lingered on DON’T WALK, and then she pulled me into a hug, all wool to wool and warmth to warmth.

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