Wake abruptly to the sound of my alarm. My head’s heavy from last night’s vodka. One of my friends from college had won an hour’s worth of open bar at a hotel rooftop on the UWS, which was nearly the amount of time it took me to get up there from Brooklyn. A guy hit on me with the line “you look so innocent,” which is not one I can say I’d heard before. I drank my free drinks as fast as I could.
I untangle myself from my girlfriend’s sweet, sleeping body and get dressed. My room is New York small, so I have a sad little twin bed that Jess and I barely fit on when she’s over. But she’s a good sport. I bend down to kiss her newly shaved head, just behind the ear, and she frowns a little in her sleep. She’s probably still feeling sour, if unconsciously, because I refused out of bone-tiredness to get out of bed in the middle of the night and find her a pair of sweatpants to wear. She was cold. It’s still a little too early in the season to be sleeping naked.
Pee. Wipe away the dried drool crusting the right side of my mouth. It’s day three of my new blunt bob, and my morning-after sex hair has ballooned into an almost perfectly spherical nest.
Back in bed. I’ve shoved Jess over to one side and rest my computer on her shoulders. I start line edits on an essay for work that needs to run this afternoon.
Jess is up. She shifts to lie between my legs as I edit, asking me how long til I’m finished. I tell her before noon, hopefully, and ask if she’s still interested in going to the park later. She suggests staying in bed all day and eating bacon instead.
Jess wakes after falling asleep again. She says she just had a dream that she and I were having sex in her last apartment in Nashville, where she used to live with her girlfriend at the time, but dream-us were interrupted when dream-ex walked in.
I wonder, briefly, if I should worry that this sort of dream might Mean Something, but then I remember dreams are just dreams, and I need to get this essay done.
The essay still isn’t done. I’m gchatting with the writer, strategizing a particularly controversial angle she wants to take. Jess takes frequent breaks from reading a copy of Bastard out of Carolina to talk about her new obsession with watching Foley videos on Youtube. She says something about lightsaber sound design and discrimination against women. She’s getting restless. She almost leaves to go home and shower, change her clothes, but she ends up staying in the next room to watch TV with my roommate. Alone in bed with the 25 open tabs on my laptop, I feel anxiety like static humming in my ribs as I think my way through this essay, how it wasn’t done and published by the time I planned.
I’m annoyed with myself for getting anxious — it’s a beautiful, clear day, my white sheets alight in the sun from my uncurtained windows. I’m hammering away, despite wayward stressors, at a task I enjoy. Jess and my roommate are laughing behind a half-closed door. The weekend is still ahead of me.
As always, being annoyed at my anxiety only manages to amplify it.
Glare at my unusable desk, piled with jean jackets and beanies and sticks of deodorant. I tell myself I need to buy containers to more neatly accommodate the sloppy chaos into which I occasionally let my life devolve.
I send the finished (!) essay to the weekend copy desk and stand up for the first time in hours. My legs feel like tenderized meat. My hair is still an orb-nest. Jess bumbles back into my room, pushes me on the bed. We do gross couple play-fighting. When I think she’s about to kiss me, she licks me from my chin to the base of my nose, which is the most disgusting thing a person can do to another person, and which she knows I despise. Play-fighting gets messy and in a grab for my leg, Jess accidentally clamps onto my vagina (labia, technically, I know, I know) and we decide it’s time to get out of this goddamn apartment.
My friend Ashton texts me that he’s on his way to pick us up for the park. I’ve just hit publish on the essay, reading over the live version again and again to make sure the pictures don’t look wonky and no paragraphs have gone mysteriously missing. I haven’t showered and look like a nightmare. I pull on a pair of jeans, a button-up, oxfords, an old men’s denim jacket with a leather collar. I haven’t consumed anything all day besides a large coffee and Dunkin Donuts hash browns. I’m slightly high from the coffee on an empty stomach; I can feel the tic of manic energy in my fingers.
Ashton isn’t outside my building, but I find him buying Limearitas in the bodega on the corner. While he pays for them I watch Jess wander confusedly on the sidewalk across the street. I experience the warm, quiet happiness of seeing someone you love looking for you in the moments before they see you back.
It’s impossible to find anyone in Prospect Park. We finally spot Ashton’s boyfriend, John, and the little group he’s with on a Magnolia-tree-lined corner of Long Meadow. We may have been wandering in search of them for far longer, but, like true Power Gays, they are picnicking on a very reflective sheet of gold lamé.
It’s way warmer than the morning’s chill suggested. The park is packed. We commentate about every dog that passes by our setup, which is a lot of dogs. Ashton lies down with his head on on my knee as he reads the essay I just published. We pour our beer into blue plastic cups. We try to convince John to watch Velvet Goldmine. I remember why I love spending so much time around other queer people.
I lean against Jess and tilt my face to the sun.
My phone is dying. Good fucking riddance.
My anxiety fades to a faint hum; a default good.
While eating a bunch of cured meats, Jess and I talk about opening a meat-centric lesbian restaurant that basically no one would come to. Through group brainstorm, we decide on the name “Butch-hers.”
We have to leave. I don’t want to, but our friend Rachel is in a modern dance show that’s closing its run tonight. Jess and I say our goodbyes. I head back to my apartment to charge my phone for a pathetic few minutes (can’t stay away) while Jess goes on a food run.
She meets me at home with three $2.50 cheeseburgers from a hole-in-the-wall grill place on Franklin Ave. I have never eaten worse in my life before dating her. Her love of junk food — particularly cheap, messy burgers — is one of her defining characteristics. It makes me vaguely afraid for her arteries and her heart. But she’s young. And so am I.
We walk down Eastern Parkway, eating our delicious cheap-ass cheeseburgers, giggly and stupid from the processed food and the sun.
Jess is cranky when we get to the theater because I’ve made her run to catch lights after getting off the train. I dreaded being relegated to the standing section. We had to hustle.
It paid off — we get seats.
I spot Rachel milling with the audience and wish her a quick good luck. While Jess saves our seats, I go to the bar to get drinks before the show. I realize too late that Jess has most of my cash because of the cheeseburgers, so I have to tip the poor bartender in quarters.
Like every time I watch modern dance, I don’t really understand what’s going on. But Rachel, as always, looks beautiful.
Trying not to fall asleep. My tiredness is washing over me with the lurid colors of the stage lights.
I think I don’t like modern dance because it tends to make me uncomfortable. At least all the shows I’ve seen have involved jerky, shuffling movements and discordant music. It creeps me out. But maybe liking it — whatever that really means — isn’t really the point.
We tell Rachel how wonderfully she did after the show. She looks sweaty and happy. The bar attached to the theater is bursting. We hug her and her girlfriend, my friend Parinda, goodbye.
Jess and I wander around, looking for a diner. The night is cool, but not cold. As we walk, we talk about New York. She grew up in Wyoming, spending days at a time alone in the mountains; I grew up in Connecticut, visiting my grandparents in Manhattan for long weekends. Even though our relationships with this city were vastly different before we moved here last summer, we both have similar feelings about it now that we’ve arrived. Namely — it’s not as great as everyone keeps telling us it is.
I say maybe we’ll feel happier here when our leases are up this summer and we both get out of apartment situations that are less than ideal. Maybe we’ll be happier when we start making more money. I feel hopeful.
I do like New York, but I don’t love it. I don’t think of it as The Only City In The World Worth Living In. I wonder, often, about what else is out there.
Diner coffee and chicken fingers.
We walk down Stuyvesant Street to a friend’s birthday party. I had strongly considered bailing early and taking the long, lonely F train down to deep South brooklyn, where Jess lives. But I couldn’t go without Jess, and she wanted to stay out. She’s a night owl; I’m not. But I make an effort.
We walk up four flights to one of the most beautiful Manhattan 1BRs I’ve ever seen. White brick walls, a huge kitchen island. I give my friend a birthday hug and kiss. She’s still with the company I used to work for, where we met. I recently started a new job, so it’s really nice to see her. I miss her, and a lot of my old work friends. Back in college, I had never thought about this aspect of growing up — getting new jobs and leaving old work friends behind.
After Jess and I spent a few minutes being the two weird queers alone in the corner of a party (a speciality of ours), another old coworker shows up with her roommate, and they become our people for the rest of the evening.
A girl in a green neon tank top tells Jess that the punch she’s mixing on the kitchen table is called “Date Grape.” I feel like I’m at a frat party.
Everyone moves, temporarily, up to the roof. We sit on nice outdoor furniture and look out at the Empire State building, drinking red solo cups of whiskey sodas. We try to guess who else at the party is gay, which is a timeless game. I wonder, as I always do when in these kinds of places, what it’s like to live a life like this.
Everyone is headed to a club, which is our cue to go home.
More goodbye hugs and kisses.
Nap on Jess’s shoulder on the F train.
Flop onto Jess’s bed, elated to be lying down. She pulls me back up to dance like a lunatic around her room with her.
Drift off immediately after sex, and sleep without dreams.