We were hanging out one night in the upper west side of Manhattan after a big storm had just hit the northeast. I’d been in New York for a week, teaching some classes for a Massachusetts-based company I worked for at the time. I had only recently acquired the confidence and ease of those who travel frequently for work, and to have New York be the place where I’d get to show off my new road-warrior powers to an old friend was a priviledge.
The company had paid for dinner and the cabs and we’d enjoyed ourselves on the dime of others, as is the pleasure of those who travel for a living. I was chilling at her place before deciding it was too late to go across town to the lower east side, where my Best Western was situated next to all of those fish markets under the Brooklyn Bridge. We’d watched some stupid movie we’d both seen before, sharing the couch with each other’s feet on our laps.
“I have a question,” she said.
“Abraham Lincoln, 1861.”
“Never mind,” I said. “It was a long shot anyway.”
“Oh, Ok…” she said, confounded. “Hey, why have we never hooked up?”
The question caught me by total surprise. Scarlet* was the kind of girl that you loved because there was no way to NOT love her – every boy in the world loved her, had always loved her, and knew no moment in their lives when they had not loved her. But I’m just cool like that.
“Because,” I told her, “you’re taller than me and you have a complex about shorter boys, even though I’m 6 feet even on a good hair day.”
“C’mon. Seriously,” she insisted. “Why have we never hooked up?”
“Since when would want to hook up with me?”
“Now, why should I answer your question when you haven’t seriously considered mine?”
“Fair enough,” I told her. “I guess you’re right. The logic’s all there: we’re perfect hook-ups for each other. We’re friends, we know each other well enough to know that we could never date, so a relationship is out of the question. I mean, frankly, Scarlet, I’m not sure who would kill who but one of us would be put underground.” She curled her lip at this and squinted her eyes just slightly.
“I’d end you so fast.”
“Baby, please,” I brushed her off. “I laugh at kittens like you. You can’t handle me.” She tossed her hair and laughed a beautiful laugh that made boys around the world cry at not being the cause of said laughter.
“But as far as approaching you from THAT angle…why have we not hooked up, indeed… well, let’s see. You’re so beautiful your name often comes up on star charts. Your sexiness and your swagger require more adjectives than I have in my lexicon and you’re so popular you beat boys away with a stick or else put them in the ground. You have to bury your phone under 4 sweaters in order for us to have a conversation.
“In contrast, I’m a bumbling traveler who can’t commit to either side of the extremes who wishes he could write like you and admires your zazz and creative drive to the point of fan-dom and if we weren’t friends I’d consider asking you for your autograph. And I hate asking for autographs.”
“Yeah. Really. Now my question.”
She sat up on the couch, leaned over to the coffee table and grabbed the remote control. She turned off the TV as the credits were ending, and then backhanded the remote onto the other couch as if it were her last hookup, disposable and now used. It was buried by other pillows only to be remembered and found the next Wednesday. Then she turned her shoulders to face me. My eyes dropped to her breasts behind that soft and thin-strapped stay-at-home top of hers; obviously no bra. My gaze floated back up to her pale blue eyes.
I’d always thought they lacked a depth I’d seen in other blue eyes. But right then, in that light, it occurred to me that it wasn’t that the depth wasn’t there; it’s that her eyes, windows into her soul, were closed off from the world and only showed the blue on the surface. And she controlled that.
“Yeah, I’d hook-up with you if we didn’t have anything better to do.”
“Scarlet, that’s the nicest mean-thing you’ve ever said to me.”
“What do you have to do tonight?” She said to me, slightly biting her lower lip. My lips curled too, and I was speechless.
She pulled herself down onto me by the shirt collar. As she gripped my shirt a button went flying somewhere by her brick wall under the tension she was releasing. The cold bricks of her apartment softened, their edges blurred as if by industrial sandpaper. The friction filled the apartment with a new kind of heat and inside it there was no telling who was in control of this situation.
After she finished with me, I only got one more glimpse of her eyes before she shoo-ed me out into the snow to fetch a cab.
Her eyes were a deep blue.