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Last Fuck of the Year photo

The Fashion Designer picks me up in front of my building. I’ve never seen her before. She wants to meet and spend New Year’s Eve in her house upstate somewhere, a gamble. She drives a Land Rover.

I open the door. If I don’t like what I see, I’ll say something polite and close the door.

She’s wild-looking. Long, long hair. Off-white leather pants with short shorts over them. A fluffy something on top, like several angoras were shaved, fur collected, sewn then thrown over her shoulders.

“You look like your picture,” she says.

The Fashion Designer does too, sort of, but older. I like adventures, even if they’re fake. She’ll drive me to her home upstate and here, standing on the curb in front of where I live, I don’t know what her home will look like or what stories she’ll tell on the drive or what sounds she’ll make when she comes.

I toss my bag and a bottle of Jameson on the back seat, and we’re off.

“We’re crazy,” she says. “This is crazy.”

“Crazy,” I say.

She fills in the basics. The clothes she designs are classic with enough trend to appeal to rich people looking for edge. Julia Roberts and Madonna have worn her clothes. She was once rich, then she wasn’t, now she’s moving toward rich and, she hopes, fame again. She was married to a man who turned out to be gay, so she was celibate for seven years. She was seeing another man for seven years, perfect on paper, handsome, Harvard MBA, a real estate developer, and she ignored the lipstick on his shirts and the condoms in his pockets until she couldn’t. She stopped drinking three years ago. She went to one AA meeting and everyone looked like a mess so she stopped on her own. Her hands, at 10 and 2 on the wheel, look worn, maybe age, maybe pulling needles through material, maybe cutting kindling for her fireplace she says heats her whole house, maybe from drinking too much once upon a time. We’re too far on the Taconic Parkway for me to jump. I sit back, watch the scenery, listen to her talk. She’s a terrible driver but if this is it, it’s it. It’s almost a new year.

It starts snowing. Heavy flakes. Traffic slows, stops. Two cruisers block two lanes ahead, reds and blues flashing like too-thick Christmas lights.

Traffic eases forward. There’s a car in a gulley, its front facing us. Traffic slows again. Two more cruisers, flashing lights lighting the way. Another car in a gulley also facing forward.


We finally get to Milbrook. She tells me everyone here is rich and owns horses and Tim Leary did his experiments with acid here and I blur my eyes. Without anything in front of us except dark, there aren’t colors I can turn to streaks.

“Now that you’re here I can tell you. My house is a mess,” she says.

There are two barns outside the house. There are two cats inside the house. It’s cold. It’s not that much of a mess. In the living room she opens an iron fireplace, throws in paper, kindling, it catches, and adds logs.

“You’ll see,” she says. “This will heat the whole house.”

I go upstairs, work boots banging hardwood, find a bathroom, pee. Her bathroom’s clean. A cat’s waiting outside the door. I put my finger in front of her face, let her sniff, take me in. She rubs against my leg. We make eyes, slow close, slow open.

“Je suis le loup,” I say.

The cat doesn’t speak French.

The Fashion Designer cooks dinner. I’m sitting on one side of her kitchen counter and she’s standing on the other and it’s like a cooking demonstration on the Food Network. I pour a Jameson, offer her the glass, but she doesn’t want. I drink some. Offer again. She takes the glass, smells inside, tilts to her lips without taking any in, not a drop, gives back the glass.

She puts oil in an iron skillet, turns on the burner. She prepares the salmon, spreading mustard, coating with a mixture of breadcrumbs and parsley.

“First I put it skin-side down to make it crispy,” she says. “When the skin’s crispy I bake it, so the topping becomes a crust.”

I pour myself another Jameson. I haven’t eaten much today, can feel that hint of thickness, how I’ll need to work through my words to keep them sober-sounding. She places the salmon into the skillet and the fish swells like it’s taken a full breath, then settles.

“It’s alive,” she says. “I made the pan too hot.”

She says she’s going to add some wood to the fireplace. I sit and wait, already knowing the way I already knew when I got in the car I shouldn’t have left the city where I can walk when I want, walk out, run out, but I’m here.

The Fashion Designer returns. There’s a streak of ash across her white pants. She takes the skillet off the burner, puts it in the oven. She cuts and sautés broccoli rabe with garlic and oil. She’s very efficient. The way she demonstrated the salmon prep, I could make it too, which would raise my number of recipes to five. I never cook elaborately, never do much more than make pasta, sometimes rice and beans, sometimes just a sandwich, usually tuna salad. I cook for myself. I eat quickly by myself.

The salmon’s delicious. So is the broccoli. So is the yam she made, cooked in the ashes of her fireplace.

“This was a long day,” she says. “It’s not such a bad drive though, is it?”

“I like driving.”

“I’m not a very good driver, but I like it too.”

“I like driving in the city. I like out-taxiing the taxis and catching as many green lights as I can. It’s like a chase scene in a movie, except I pretend all the cars are chasing me and not just one or two.”

“Do you always get away?”

“So far so good.”

She feeds her two cats chicken livers.

I follow her to the living room, which is really a room with two couches and a large table with a sewing machine and pieces of fabric and different-sized scissors. On the walls, pencil sketches of figures drawn in sure, quick lines. Their clothes look simple and striking, She lies on the couch next to the fireplace and closes her eyes. I’m stuck until she drives me back to the city. I sit on the other couch. I check my texts and write some texts back. It’s the last day of the year.

“Did I snore?” she says. Her eyes are open. She’s looking at the fire.


“We can nap together upstairs,” she says.

Last night the woman, also from online, also older than her picture, came to my place. She had two kids at home. She worked in the city. She lived in Westchester. She walked in, said she needed a drink. I poured us whiskeys. She told me about her father who’d just had a stroke. She told me about her genius sons who were great kids but, when I questioned her, sounded mediocre. We went into my bedroom. I took off her jeans and her panties. I stayed on her eyes.

“Is that your power?” she said. “I have power too.”

She moved her eyes. She knew.

“What happened?” she said. “What happened just then that made you not want to.”

“I hustle,” I said. “But sometimes I just don’t want to.”

“I was always curious about that.”

“I can only speak for me.”

“I hate winter,” she said and put her panties back on, her jeans, her socks, zipped her boots.

“Lucky me,” she said. “I’m saving two-hundred bucks. I think I’ll buy myself something that works.”

I follow The Fashion Designer up her stairs.

“We’re here,” she says. “This is why we’re here.”

She takes off her clothes and gets into bed. I do what I always do. Take off everything. Shirt first. Belt in case she wants me to use it. Pants. Underwear. Slow. Revealing my body, part by part. She’s watching. They always watch. Sometimes they touch themselves. Sometimes they open their legs a little wider.

I get in bed, move my mouth over her nipple.

“Do you mind if I moan?” she says.

“I want you to do what you want to do.”

I take a condom from my wallet, put it on, put my cock in. Her mouth is open, almost a pout but not.

“No one can hear us so I can scream as loud as I want,” she says.

She’s right. There’s no one around except her two cats downstairs somewhere. When we entered Milbrook, I only saw outlines of snow-covered fields along the road, and the sky so dark stars looked planetarium bright.

She starts to scream, a moaning scream, like a kind of pain, like a cat in heat, but not.

“Can I get on top?” she says.

“You can.”

“You’re so hard. All of you is so hard.”

I don’t even raise my arm, don’t even flex my muscle.

She gets on top, eases onto me, not my favorite position, I like to look down not up, and their rhythm’s usually clumsy and they usually get tired too fast. Their sounds and their words, the contortions of their mouths, the ways their eyes go, moving or still, open or closed, focused or someplace else, it’s always different. She’s grinding into me, more side to side than up and down, and she’s screaming her different scream, her mouth pouting her not-pout, her eyes looking straight like she looked at the fire downstairs, and she comes hard, a burst of scream, and she slows and holds me. I let her hold me.

“Can we rest?” she says. “It’s too much.”

I pull out. Take off the condom. Drop it on the floor.

Last fuck of the year.

“I want to watch you,” she says.

She goes to her top drawer. It’s almost always the top drawer. Takes out lube.

She rubs, frenetically, like she wants to rip the come from my cock. Then she finds her rhythm and I watch.

I come. I don’t make a sound. I never do.

“Your body is too hard,” she says.

She falls asleep.

It’s not midnight. I stay awake, check my phone every few minutes, wait for the year to become official.

I go downstairs. The steps are cold. I’m barefoot so don’t make noise. The fire’s still going. I could put on more wood but don’t.

I text The Woman I Thought I Loved Most.

Me: Try to hate me less in the New Year.

I wait.

Her: Do you remember what we did last year?

Me: Ate as always.

Her: No idiot. We were in the park. It was cold. We sat on a bench and looked at the sky and it wasn’t so cold.

Me: Happy New Year. I’m going to sleep. Good night.

Her: That’s a code word.

Her: The first New Year we aren’t together in three years. Be proud of yourself.

Her: You’re with a woman. Don’t write me.

Me: Good night.

Her: Say good night to your penis.

I text The Woman I Thought I Loved Last.

Me: Happy New Year. Okay. That’s all.

The message fails. I’m erased. Men always told her she was beautiful. She was a great lawyer, an attentive mom, fun to drink with, she knew the bartenders at Smith and Wollensky’s, martinis big and cold, three to get blackout drunk, and the last time she called she was drunk and forgave me, but I didn’t take her back in, not her voice, not when she gave me the opening, and her voice went quiet and she said I was dead to her.

I walk up the stairs. I get into bed. The Fashion Designer shifts. Her feet touch mine. She snores, stops.


I wake and she’s not in bed. The condom is on the floor. I don’t want to be here where last night was too dark and too quiet and great for sleep and not like the city, lights from cars moving across my ceiling, down my walls in diagonals. I don’t want to be with her.

I pick up the condom and wrapper and throw them away and pee and brush my teeth with her toothpaste and dress and go down. She says she has a lot to do and I probably want to get back to the city. She knows.

She makes pancakes with bananas and blueberries.

“You’re a great cook.”

“They came out very good,” she says. “I have to remember this combination of ingredients.”

She checks the train schedule. We have two hours to kill.

She drives me around on the small roads, through snow-covered fields that stretch into woods, through small towns each with a post office, past horse farms and mansions, showing me the sights like I’m a real guest visiting. She stops at a farm to buy raw milk. I get out of the car and walk into the barn where cows sit in ordered rows, their udders ready to burst. In the back of the barn calves peek their heads between the rails, hoping to get pet. I rub the back of their heads and behind their ears. It smells like shit but it’s too cold for flies. The back of the barn is open and the sunlight washes out the color of the hay.

She drives me to the train station. A red-tailed hawk leaves a tree and flies, wide-winged, slow-motion flaps, to another tree.

She parks and waits with me. She looks at her phone, shows me photos of some of her designs. Cars come in. At first it looked like a train would never stop here. I take my bag, Jameson inside, from the back seat and tell her Happy New Year.

I stand on the platform and wait. No one knows I’m here. It’s freezing. I go into the small enclosure on the platform. There’s a Press For Heat button. The benches inside are filled. A few people stand. I put my bag down and look at the tracks. I was in Munich alone, traveling. I had just slept with a girl in Freiburg, a fifteen-year-old who picked me up on the street, started talking German until I told her I was American. The sign in the station said München and I felt beyond time and place, trains arriving from and departing to all over Europe, Ankunft and Abfahrt, and it was one of those moments, alone and alive, alive because no one knew where I was, alive because the moment was stopped and everything around me was now, and I could see through everything.

The train comes. The station is Dover Plains. Black Letters on a white sign. I was in Dover too on that trip, the English Dover, white cliffs like chalk, getting on the ferry to Calais like an adventure.