Marie didn’t have many one-night stands these days. She was getting too old for that. Plus, she wasn’t on Tinder. And every time you walked into a bar nowadays, everyone in it was waiting for someone from Tinder, thereby vastly diminishing a girl’s trolling potential. A man barely looked up from his phone anymore–how was he supposed to notice any of one’s immediately visible winsome qualities.
But the one-night stands she did have tended to be memorable. Like a month ago, when she locked eyes with a guy who looked familiar, but that she couldn’t quite place until he told her that he worked at the movie theater bar down the street. She would often sit there alone on a Monday and read. Mondays were the best time to do anything in this town. It was like having the entire city to yourself. She didn’t engage too much with him while trying to finish The Life and Loves of a She-Devil (the eventual source material for She-Devil starring Meryl Streep and Roseanne), a title, she imagined, that didn’t do much to allure Quintus (that was his name, she later found out). He was your average amount of good-looking: symmetrical face, ample brown hair and stubble that only vaguely covered a chiseled face. As such, Marie tried not to look directly at him–it might only further encourage his undoubted vanity.
About two hours later, when she finally decided to close her tab, she noticed him looking at her and quickly glanced away. She was too sober for such an eyeballing, and quickly scuttled off the premises. But now, here she was, experiencing the same eyeballing weeks later. It wasn’t unfathomable, she supposed, to see the same person so soon in such a small neighborhood, and yet, a part of her wanted to believe it was kismet as he approached her and wordlessly bought her another vodka soda.
“Haven’t I seen you before?” was the corny, Brandy and Monica-inspired line he chose to open with.
Marie shrugged. “Maybe.” But yes, she knew. It was him.
After a few more drinks, she mentioned needing to leave, that there had been something stuck in her tooth all day and she desperately needed to buy some floss. Quintus, who still hadn’t told her his name, offered to walk with her. When they got to the nearest bodega, he insisted, “Let me buy this floss for you. I have to get a snack anyway.” Before she could feign wanting to decline the offer, he popped inside with the speed of a DeLorean.
She took her moment of standing solitude to intuit what was going to happen next. Yes, she was going to go home with him–invariably. Because in addition to needing to be touched by someone, she really didn’t want to go back to her own dingy, dungeon-like abode. She’d much prefer to see how some other half lived. Even if it ended up being worse than her own apartment.
Soon, Quintus emerged with a black plastic bag and a smirk on his face. “So…you going home?” he proffered.
Marie shook her head. “I could keep hanging out.” It was all so shameful, having to roundaboutly admit that you wanted to get fucked. It didn’t used to be this way. Whether the times had changed or her age had, Marie couldn’t be sure. All she knew was, there was a level of abashedness now to desiring no frills passion for a night.
Nonetheless, she found herself at Quintus’ apartment, which reeked of an uncleaned litter box. “It’s my roommate’s cat,” he defended. “He’s out of town.” Marie smiled. “It’s fine.” The phrase one always says whenever it’s really not.
Marie was the first to get into his bed, trying her best to look natural as opposed to stiff and uncomfortable. Maybe she hadn’t had as much to drink as she had previously thought. Quintus, meanwhile, stripped down to his briefs–a faded gray that took away from any sex appeal–and plopped down next to her. At first, they looked at each other shyly, Marie the first to make the move toward kissing. She came easily because it had been so long, and when it was over, she felt emboldened enough to demand his arm, which she used as a pillow.
When they awoke the next morning, it soon became apparent that neither one knew the other’s name, Quintus being the first to call attention to it. “So…I don’t think I actually told you my name last night, did I?”
“No. I guess I didn’t tell you mine either.”
“Well, um, it’s Quintus. Nice to officially meet you.”
Marie simpered as they shook hands. But once this was over, it became glaringly obvious that she needed to leave immediately. In the light of day, everything is always so much less glamorous. And it was also apparent that Quintus didn’t own a single book–something Marie took to heart based on that quintessential John Waters aphorism.
“I suppose I better get going–busy day!” Marie said, raising her voice an octave at the end of the sentence to prove just how unbusy her day truly was. Quintus didn’t question it, though, himself probably all too ready to get rid of the stranger in his bed.
“All right, let me walk you out.”
As he did so, Marie dreaded the moment of discomfiture that comes from a man waffling between asking for your number and not. It was bad when they did and bad when they didn’t. On the one hand, a girl doesn’t really expect to hear from a one-night stand again, but on the other, it’s almost insulting if the guy doesn’t at least make the attempt to pretend to want to see a girl once more. Quintus didn’t ask Marie for her number, even though she slightly lingered to give him the opportunity to do so. I must be a cold fish in bed, she thought for an instant before departing.
A few weeks later, she was starting to let the details of that night fade–although one element she couldn’t forget about it were the accoutrements of femininity she had noticed on the windowsill (mascara, hair ties, things of that nature). It occurred to her at that time that perhaps Quintus was cheating on his girlfriend. Or maybe they were on a break in that Ross and Rachel sort of way where she wasn’t fully cognizant of it. Thoughts of being a homewrecker, however, gave way to thoughts of her grandmother’s impending visit. Grandma Lucretia, as she was called, had played an integral role in raising Marie, allowing her to live with her in San Francisco during her high school years while she pursued a specialized arts curriculum. The two had bonded closely over those four years, and Marie felt she owed much of her maturity to Lucretia. This, however, would mark the first time she had visited Marie in New York, and, accordingly Marie wanted to show her an extra memorable side of the city.
The day she arrived didn’t do much to secure this wish, unfortunately, as rain and gusty winds came in with her flight. Nevertheless, Lucretia was her usual naturally elated self, assuring Marie that whatever they did that evening would be enjoyable. While it was undeniably embarrassing to walk around Marie’s particular youthcentric neighborhood with an old person, she decided to take her to one of the restaurants nearest to her apartment, a Japanese fusion place with small portions and overpriced fare.
It was on the way there that the sight of Quintus stopped her cold. Naturally, he wasn’t alone, but with the girl she presumed to be the owner of the mascara, hair ties, things of that nature. She was a quintessential waif, which always makes things harder for the “other woman.” Yet, to her surprise, Quintus didn’t clam up at the sight of her, instead beaming with warmth at their run-in.
“Marie. How are you?” he started as they got within earshot of one another.
Marie shifted awkwardly from left to right as she put her arm around her grandma reflexively. “Um, good. Really great. This is my grandma, Lucretia,” she offered as a diversion.
Quintus smiled at Lucretia. “Nice to meet you.”
Lucretia only faintly sneered, indicating the sort of common disapproval of any family member when she comes into contact with someone her kin has been intimate with. “Yes, you too. Who’s your companion?” Lucretia demanded.
Quintus unrepentingly introduced his waif, stating, “This is Allison, she’s my girlfriend.”
Allison barely moved her lips as she practically whispered disaffectedly, “Hi.”
Marie felt almost sick to her stomach. It wasn’t so much that she cared about Quintus enough to let him get to her in this way, but that he could be so nonchalant about his behavior–exhibiting no humiliation whatsoever. She, conversely, felt wretched on multiple levels. Wanting desperately to remove herself and Lucretia from the situation, she shook herself from her trance and said, “We better get going, I made us a dinner reservation.”
Quintus nodded comprehendingly. “Okay, it was great seeing you again. Let’s get together soon.”
Marie glared at him. “You don’t have my number.”
And with that, she performed a delayed walk of non-shame down the street with her grandma in tow. Because, sometimes, it takes the dynastic force of a matriarch’s presence to empower a girl.