Home > The Lost Night(15)

The Lost Night(15)
Author: Andrea Bartz

We tromped around the reservoir for an hour, hands in our pockets, smiling at each other as we talked. That aura was there again, that weird magnetic pull. Finally she veered off the circular path and sat on a bench. I sat down next to her and allowed myself an unabashed stare—this time, I vowed, I’d remember those high cheekbones and that heart-shaped mouth.

“I have to tell you something,” she said finally, staring out at the water. A row of ducks was lined up on what must’ve been a beam just under the water. It looked like two dozen birds had arbitrarily formed a straight line.

“Go for it.” I slung my arm over the bench’s back.

“It’s…Okay, it’s weird now because I haven’t told you before. I’m actually—when you and I first met, or ran into each other or whatever, I was just kind of casually starting to see someone, but now we’re…exclusive.” She mumbled the last word, but it still came out sounding heavy. Ex-clooo-sive. No matter how you mean it, it forms pretension in the mouth.

It hit me like a force, like a big wave of energy shot off of her and struck me in the side, but I just nodded and stared out at the reservoir. “Got it,” I said.

“But I really do care about you,” she said urgently, turning to me. “I really hope we can still hang out and talk and everything.”

I nodded slowly and shot her a smile. “Of course.” I withdrew my arm from the back of the bench and fished my phone out of my pocket to check the time. “I should think about heading back, though.”

I really didn’t mean to sound sullen, I didn’t, but neither of us was any good for conversation as we trudged back to the subway. We should have ridden the same line, but I made up some dinner plans so that I could drop her at the stop.

“At least she was honest with you,” Lexy texted back.

“I guess,” I responded.

* * *

The emails with Edie petered out; I can’t remember who finally didn’t write back, which probably means it was me. Spring slipped straight into a hot and muggy summer, and my work started to take on that nihilistic pall. I kept on thinking about Edie, the playful smirk, the warm hug through the coat. I still couldn’t conjure up her image and I kept her in the back of my mind whenever I turned a corner in the city, hoping she’d appear.

Then right at the most merciless blast of summer, when a third of my coworkers had been quietly let go, when my 401(k) had shriveled to a few curls of bills, when it was so hot I just sat and sweated and thought hazy hateful thoughts about nothing and no one in particular, she texted. She wanted to get drinks. And could I meet her at nine.

The week after that is foggy, no clear chronology, just a set of moments, a real-life movie montage. Her lowering her chin and looking up at me through those eyelashes, saying exactly the words I’d been longing for like autumn: “broke up,” “single,” “another round.” Kissing in the street while a parade of drunks and late-night revelers ambled by. Her sinewy back as I unclasped her bra. Eggs Benedict. Watching someone make enormous bubbles in McCarren Park. The pillows with the zigzag stripes on her little lofted bed.

We were a We. And we had to last, we just had to, because how many fucking stars had aligned to bring us together in the first place? She delighted in telling people the story of how we met, pausing for effect in the same places, raising both hands to recount how she’d never, never posted anything on Craigslist before, not even for furniture or anything. I took so many photos of her with my Mark II—at the beach, over dinner, at the park, on my love seat—and put a few of the best onto my phone, an iPhone back before everyone had them. Sometimes I’d pull up an image I’d shot of her and just stare, taking in the details like I was sizing up an especially impressive building.

I discovered I wasn’t the only one enchanted by her; her little roommates, thin and sparkly eyed, worshipped her as well, including the creepy brunette Edie counted as her closest confidante. Men of all ages went googly-eyed when she let out her laugh. She had her own gravitational pull, the calm black hole at the center of a swirling galaxy. I’m not sure if she knew it. She floated through life, the air bending toward her in her wake.

Four months became five, then six. I kept snapping photos of her, trying to capture what I’d lose when I couldn’t see her. I had dinner with her odd, unbalanced mother and her spooked, distant father in their Upper West Side apartment. We took our first big trip together, a week in Berlin coinciding with an architecture conference I was invited to attend, right in that last aching stretch of winter when you stare at the skeletons of trees and just long for them to be leafy already. The city delighted her, with its white asparagus and crisp museums and citizens who were just like us Brooklynites only they stayed out later and spoke multiple languages. On the flight home, she slept in my lap while I stared at the TV screen in front of me, a head cold gathering in my skull like storm clouds. By the time we landed, the congestion had commandeered my lungs. We collapsed into bed that afternoon, and I woke up the next morning with a ridiculous combination cold/flu.

I didn’t want her getting sick, too, so we spent the week in our own beds, her stopping by late at night to bring me Sudafed or soup. But something changed that week. It was the same dimming of intimacy that’d begun in our email exchange so many months before. She had less to say at dinner and interesting new reasons to crash alone in her own apartment. I observed it helplessly, like a passenger watching his boat recede into the distance.

She came over one night with the sole intention of breaking things off; I knew it the second she walked through the door. I was washing out a bowl lined with vinaigrette and thinking that the little flecks of spices looked like undigested food. We’d made vague plans to rent a documentary, but when she walked in and closed the door and draped herself over a chair at the kitchen table, I thought, Well, fuck. I don’t remember anything she said, just the tunnel-like feeling of multiple gunshot wounds as she fired off lines about stagnancy and not growing and something being different and just not right. I actually teared up and she hugged me close, letting the drops gather on her sleeve. When it was all over, she picked up her purse and walked miserably out the door.

* * *

About three weeks later I figured out that she was dating Alex, a friend from her building whom I’d never liked. The fact was painfully easy to gather from a little Facebook stalking. I was shocked and then totally alarmed that I was so shocked. And then I just felt really stupid.

“God, so she’s one of those girls who’s always seeing someone,” Lexy said. “That makes so much sense. You didn’t pick that up from talking about exes at all?” We’d both ordered whiskey neat in a dim new bar in Lexy’s neighborhood. Sometimes I appreciated her refreshing lack of sympathy—from everyone else it was bordering on pity.

“I mean, I have a lot of ex-girlfriends, too.”

“But you’re a guy. There are about fourteen eligible men in this city, and it’s totally normal for any of them with their girlfriend light on to get snatched up like that.” She actually snapped her fingers, and I admired the theatrics. “For a woman, it’s a mind-set. Do or die. That’s why some women always have a boyfriend when others haven’t had one in, like, six years. You just think to yourself, ‘Okay, you’ll do’ and keep lining ’em up.”

She saw my eyes drop and knew she’d gone too far.

“Greg, you’re a catch. The point I’m trying to make here is that you could go on Nerve and have five hot girls clamoring to date you in all of thirty seconds.”

“It’s just—it’s weird that I was so wrong about her. Apparently I’m really fucking terrible at reading people.”

She put down her glass and asked the bartender for more water. I could see her assembling her thoughts. “There’s just no such thing as absolute reality. There’s no such thing as ever reading anything quote-unquote right.” She pressed a napkin on the small puddle around her glass. “You and I could be standing together and both see, I don’t know, a guy bump into an old lady on the subway, but our experience of it would be totally different. And that’s just a douchebag and an old lady, action, reaction. Dating’s probably the most subjective experience there is. You’re experiencing another person. A fucked-up, complicated, enigmatic human being.”

We sipped our drinks.

“So you’re saying…what? That I’m wrong and she’s not kind of a bitch?” I let out a half-laugh.

“I just mean that it’s not weird to look back on someone or something and realize that your read on it at the time was completely different from how you’d interpret it now.” Lexy nodded to herself. “I met a guy at this party, that one Mandy had while you were out of town? He’d just published a memoir, and I asked him how his friends felt about him exposing all their shit. He told me, ‘You’d be amazed at how bad people are at recognizing themselves in print.’ ”

“So basically I’m not delusional, we just had different versions of each other in our heads.”

“I’m saying we’re all delusional. And we’re all just trying to find someone whose delusions line up with our own.”

Hot Series
» Unfinished Hero series
» Colorado Mountain series
» Chaos series
» The Young Elites series
» Billionaires and Bridesmaids series
» Just One Day series
» Sinners on Tour series
» Manwhore series
» This Man series
» One Night series
Most Popular
» The Lost Night
» Pride (The Elite Seven #2)
» Watch Me Follow
» Meet Cute
» Don't You Forget About Me
» Daisy Jones & The Six
» California Girls
» I Owe You One