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George was holding my umbrella and monologuing about Notes From The Underground. We were standing on St. Marks. I had just finished another cigarette I didn’t want. I could tell he was panicking, trying to plan some sort of Hail Mary attempt to get me to go home with him.

“Dostoevsky is great. Anyways, we should watch Andrei Rublev together.”

“Oh yeah, I’ve always wanted to-”


He struck me, suddenly, as boyish. I put my cigarette out on the railing. Inside my head were screeching notes and the feeling of stuck fingers.

I had watched him drink five or six whiskeys at Clandestino earlier. I chewed on some ice and listened to him tell me a story about his grandfather. It was the same story he told me a few months ago. He also told me a story about doing coke on the street outside Kind Regards. This too I’d heard before.

As I listened to his stories, I rehearsed my reactions in my head. “Oh damn…wow.” “That’s crazy.” “Whoa, really? No way…” I was thinking of mentioning that he’d told me these stories before, but I couldn’t think of a way to say this without sounding rude. Also, I didn’t want to bring his attention to the past. We had hooked up in the past.

I was drinking bitters and soda with lemon, my new signature drink. It has .03% alcohol, less than a bottle of kombucha. I was drinking this because I’m flirting with the idea of sobriety. Every few minutes, we’d walk out to the back patio for a cigarette. George would finish two as I nursed one. We’d go back inside, I’d unzip my jacket and wonder how much longer I had to stay.

He asked me about the AA meeting I attended recently. He wanted to know details. He wanted to know if everyone really sat in a circle. I told him it was really just a meeting. Whatever he envisioned in his head was probably correct. He asked if I liked the meeting and I told him I cried after, which wasn’t really an answer.

“Hearing you talk about this makes me wonder whether I’m an alcoholic…” He said. He ordered another whiskey.

“Well, you know. Everyone’s different.” I sipped my bitters.

What I wasn’t telling him was all the pain. I wasn’t telling anyone about the pain. I was thinking about the pain, though. I watched George sip his whiskey. I knew I had to leave. “We should get dessert.” I said.

You know when things suddenly aren’t funny anymore? I watched The Piano Teacher recently, and I was laughing so hard until I wasn’t. This whole month has felt like that. This whole month has felt like that final scene, when she takes the knife out of her purse and stabs herself. I was bleeding out in Clandestino, let me tell you. For the first time in a long time I’ve been feeling like I’m really there, really here, in whatever moment I find myself in, experiencing it as it is meant to be experienced. Or, as I told a friend I bumped into at the bar, who I later found out was on shrooms, “being sober is the new high…it’s exhilarating.”

We took an Uber to the dessert place. It was on St. Marks and underground. George slipped on the stairs. I pretended not to notice. The lights were blindingly bright, the stereo was too loud, and every dessert looked like it belonged in a video game. George said he had to use the bathroom. “If anyone comes up, order me this.” He pointed at some soju. “Okay.” I said.

We picked through some video game desserts. I said “Oh wow…” a lot. I hadn’t eaten a real dessert since giving up added sugar a few months ago, with a few exceptions. The sugar burned my tongue. I made my bites imperceptibly small and focused on the strawberries, which also looked like they belonged in a video game. I listened to George wax poetic about the pros and cons of open relationships. I didn’t mention the time I tried one. He couldn’t get over how a man could let his girlfriend sleep with other people. I empathized silently. He paid and handed me a cigarette. We walked out.

I knew he was trying to figure out a way to kiss me. He kept using the umbrella as a conduit, scooting closer so I wouldn’t get wet. The cigarette was making me nauseous. But I wanted something to do with my mouth besides kiss him. I smoked it slowly and called an Uber, even though I was close enough to walk. I didn’t want him to walk with me. I was glad I wasn’t drunk, otherwise I would have invited him home to avoid an awkward moment.

But the moment was excruciating. I hate not giving people what they want, especially when it’s obvious. And what’s it to me?

“Dostoevsky is great. Anyways, we should watch Andrei Rublev together.”

“Oh yeah, I’ve always wanted to-”


“Oh god, no I can’t. I’m sorry. I’ve got work tomorrow.”

“Another time, then.”

George walked me to my Uber, holding the umbrella over my head. He opened the door for me. We hugged, and suddenly his lips were on mine, I couldn’t avoid it. My stomach dropped. I got into the car quickly and said goodbye and then hello, looking out the window, looking down at my hands. I knew I smelled like smoke. It was filling up the whole car.