I was going to call you to spend the night. I’ve been in between places, you see. And I’ve been staying with one particular friend a little too frequently, and I just don’t want to wear out my welcome, overly disturb her. So I went out to a bar, what else does one do? Generosity only goes so far in New York, surely you must understand. I mean, I know you haven’t been here half as long as I have, but you’re undoubtedly aware of the deal by now. Can’t get something for nothing. So when a seemingly eligible man starts chatting me up at the dive I find myself in, I let it happen, hoping it will lead to the inevitable: a place to stay for the night.
His name is Alan, and yes, he is white. With the greasy taupe hair, stubble, grayish vacant eyes and unfashionable wardrobe to match. I estimate him at somewhere around thirty-five. The new fifteen for men, they say. As he talks with a vague aura of nervousness, I notice him fiddle with the gold band on his ring finger. It is then that I ascertain what he is leading up to telling me.
“Listen Yaz, I want to be upfront with you, because I can tell I’m gonna like you.” He glances down at his hand and then pauses for dramatic effect before saying, “I’m in an ethically non-monogamous relationship.” It’s all I can do to hold in the sip of vodka soda I had just taken. What the fuck do men actually think they’re getting away with these days by labelling something “ethically non-monogamous”? I’d almost prefer the old-fashioned covertness of standard cheating. And as he awaits my reaction, for me to sanction his “lifestyle” and tell him I can get on board with being a part of his polyamorous rotation, it is then that I really want to call you more than ever. I’ve spent the night so many times at your apartment before, and we hadn’t “needed” to do anything. Mainly because you’re a combination of asexual and repressed homo but still… I never felt like I pressured you to bang me. Sometimes it just sort of happened. Which is why, I suppose, our friendship is presently compromised. Why you’ve been acting so cold toward me these past few weeks and therefore don’t even know about the perilous state of my living situation–or lack thereof.
I’m getting to the tipping point of drunkenness where I just might be bold enough to call you. I can foresee my hand reaching into my purse for the phone. But then Alan puts his own hand on mine and says, “I’d like to be with you tonight, would that be possible?” I shrug. “You tell me. You’re the one with the wife.” He sighs. “I admit I can’t take you home… we’ll have to go to a hotel.” I almost–almost–feel like a sophisticated call girl rather than an all-out whore when he suggests that. As I touch the screen of my phone, which is being slightly suffocated by my empty wallet, I am faced with two equally shitty options: call you and risk the rejection of you not answering (or worse, answering and flatly denying my request) or taking Alan up on his extremely gross offer. I choose Alan’s extremely gross offer. Probably because I care less about what he thinks of me than you might on this night of desperation.
In the car Alan gets us, he starts kissing and caressing me almost the second the door is shut. I don’t mind it, I suppose. Every now and again, it’s nice to be reminded of the healing powers of the human touch. So why does his skin against mine feel like it’s turning me to ash? After about three minutes of this “light play,” Alan calls the numbers of hotels starting with the ones in Downtown Brooklyn, which I guess he lives near. They all seem to inform him that they’re booked for the night and I question if this is some sort of sign, a last lifeline the universe is trying to throw me before I go through with this. Then, just as I think about calling you for help yet again, a front desk agent at the Lower East Side Holiday Inn Express responds that, yes, there is an affordably priced queen room available for $299 tonight. With the sordid hotel gods sneering upon us, the car detours to Delancey Street.
The entrance is discreet and the building looks like it was repurposed from a former project housing development, which, for all I know, maybe it was. New York is never one for shying away from sacrilege if it means profit. The automatic glass doors slide open to let us in. The fluorescent lights immediately feel like the searing sunlight intended to decimate a vampire. Alan is increasingly awkward as he goes through the process of checking in, suddenly insisting that I put my name and address on the form so that he doesn’t have to use his. And as I drag the pen across the paper, I have never wished harder to just be in your bed sexlessly beside you in spite of the bad anime you frequently subject me to as we fall asleep. Anime sounds like a bizarrely plotted paradise at this moment. Compared to serving as a sudden source of embarrassment for Alan when he was the one who took us here in the first place–Alan, who suddenly looks a lot older and sweatier in this light–anime would be a wet dream.
The room is spartan and purposefully “sleek.” This isn’t the sort of place where anyone “hangs their hat” for very long, unless what is meant by “hat” is condom. The beigeness of the room is somehow augmented in the dark. The dark that currently matches the emotional state I’ve sunken into as Alan takes me by the arm and foully declares, “We’re gonna have fun.”
And after he quickly has his fun, he leaves, confessing that he has to get back to his wife. “Ethically” non-monogamous my ass. Nonetheless, he seems to think that his purchase of the room for me has done me enough of a solid to compensate for the bad manners of absconding abruptly. He kisses my forehead and asks for my number, insisting that what time he does have to spare he’d like to share with me.
I nod. “Yeah, sure.” Meaning, “I wouldn’t fucking hang out with you again in a million years.”
I go to sleep with ease, the mental strain and stress of worrying about finding a place to stay for the night hitting me all at once. In the morning, I take advantage of the complimentary (though I paid for it in other ways) continental breakfast. The red booths and linoleum tables make the dining area look like a bad imitation of a diner. I am the only single among a mix of couples, lower middle class families enjoying their first trip to the city and otherwise seedy characters. Picking at the remains of a stale croissant and sipping from a mug of grainy coffee, I don’t think I can possibly feel lower until my phone rings and it’s you saying, “Hey, I’ve been thinking about you.”
Goddammit Sam. Why couldn’t you have been thinking about me just several hours sooner?