At the same moment, we both began telling the same story: when we’d initiated a confrontation we knew would end a relationship, which we’d each done in the same spot where we were now getting to know one another. We were just confessing it, like it was the table that raised the question and not our curiosity, our first exposure.
I remember, I said, after the confrontation I started, I was out front here with him waiting for a cab, wishing he would kiss me, and then he did. Passionately, he asked? That’s what I wanted, I said. So maybe it was the last time I’d see him. I thought, we may as well.
He took my leg in his hands under the table, and kept talking like it wasn’t what he was doing. At one, we noticed the downpour. As we left, he was holding my umbrella over us both, and in the same spot, he kissed me for the first time, and kept kissing me until I turned to the street and put my hand up for a cab, and he kissed me again before I closed the door.
The rain was back the next night, threatening the overnight my friends were debating spending at Liberty, and as I took a seat at the bar we called everyone to, I saw B. and he told me this was his bar and for the first time in years, we embraced. He put his cheek on mine. It was warm until I went outside. I hadn’t been that near to him since the morning in a hotel room five years ago, when I told him I loved him and he said nothing. Congratulations, I whispered, in the quick moment I had in the bar when no one else would hear. He just had a daughter.
The next big downpour delayed D., who, for the first time since we were kids, was staying within a 15 minute walk of me. He’d been in Tahrir Square for a few days of the occupation, and now he was going to join us in Liberty. He used to call me his sister. He edited the school paper like the paper of record. He was my first editor. He was the first person I let read my diary. He wrote me a well-wishing note in the back of it, to assure me of our bond after we went to bed for the first and only time, in a 2-star hotel in Paris, when we were 17 and 18. We knew we were ridiculous. He quoted Rilke and called me Victor Laszlo. We stayed up all night again, on the stone benches in Liberty. We didn’t know what we were waiting for, but we waited as long as we could.
When I finally got to bed early Friday morning I had a dream about a tornado, hiding from it in a river. I can still see what the horizon looked like, feel the water under my cheekbones.
It was after midnight on Friday when I was standing on Fifth Avenue with someone else, crying down my neckline. We’d just been to Sophie Calle’s Room. When I’d thought of taking him, I wasn’t sure if it would mean the beginning or the end of something between us. I was delirious. I was drunk and sat on the floor of her room and held her shoe. I asked him to take a photo of the shoe.
On the sidewalk after, I pulled him against a building and I asked him if he was scared to be with me because he’d feel too much. He said it was because he was scared he’d feel nothing at all.
I put my face in the sleeve of his coat because my whole face was wet. I took his hand and squeezed it, because it didn’t matter that this was his fault. After a bit he wanted to walk me to the train. I didn’t want to be in front of strangers. I can’t do this in front of strangers, I said. I turned to the curb and called a cab.
It’s strange now to stand on the street with just one person. I told the story to a friend in Liberty last night, welcoming in the occupiers after the march from Times Square, to Washington Square Park, then back to what the guy who called mic check to ask us to greet them called “home.” We clapped and chanted and smiled as they poured in, watched the stream of strangers’ faces in the dark. Welcoming some of them, there was that wet-eyed moment, where you look a little too long, and you could be cruising them, you could be starting something, and you’re too far and there’s too many bodies between you to embrace them, so you soften your mouth and your brow, you whisper “thank you” even though there’s no time for them to tell you what they’ve been through. You trust because the trust only had about 15 seconds to build. They brush past you, to eat, to plug in their phones, to get warm. You did the right thing and it’s time to go home. You can get on the train and feel everything. You’ll see them again, in five years, in fifteen years. You had this.