Heart of Glass
“I don’t know what to tell you.” James said to me, as we sat on the steps of Bryant Park. It was 10 PM, and the park was closed.
“Just tell me you’ll see me until I go off to college. Please don’t break up with me.”
He smiled weakly. Just an hour ago we were at the Westway diner, his attention half on the baseball game on the monitor overhead, half on his chicken parmigiana that looked really good. I had a BLT wrap with avocado.
“You might get upset when I say this,” he said, as we were waiting for our food. “But I don’t think we should go back to my place tonight. I have a meeting early tomorrow morning.”
I was kind of relieved. “I was expecting the worst. I’m afraid you’ve lost interest in me.” I said. And suddenly we were talking about his ex.
“I’m still in love with my ex-wife.” James said. “I dream about her all the time.”
Yes, I know you love your ex-wife. You talk about her all the time. But I don’t mind that. I like hearing about her because it makes you seem more human to me.
“I don’t know what love is anymore,” he said. We were out of the diner now, walking toward the park, or toward wherever. “And I don’t think there really is such thing as closure. I think it was all made up.”
“Is she still seeing that guy?” I asked, referring to the guy that she had cheated on him with. He said he didn’t know, but that she was in Florida. He said he’d just spoken to her and she mentioned nothing of Florida. He said that when he found out she was in Florida, it made him crazy. He really does love her.
When I look at pictures of her I can only imagine how much he loves her, and how much she loved him. I saw their wedding album. She looked beautiful and he looked happy. Maybe I wish he loved me like he loves her, because I can convince myself, easily, that I love him back.
“Please just don’t break up with me” I pleaded, as we weaved in and out of Times Square pedestrian traffic. “Just continue seeing me until I go to college.”
“I just don’t want to hurt you.” He offered. “I feel like I just got out of prison. I can’t be exclusive. I’m interested in a lot of women, and suddenly, maybe it’s because I’m on the market again, they’re interested in me. Maybe you should avoid coming by St. Marks on Tuesday. I’m going to be there with someone. When you see us together and when you see me leave with her, it’s going to hurt you. I don’t want to hurt you.”
I was silent for a long time, I think I had my knee against his, and I was just staring at the couple across the street doing something cuddly to show the posterized balance of a well-adjusted relationship.
“You’re not one to throw scenes, are you?” he asked cautiously.
“No, but I feel sick thinking about scenarios in which the answer to that question could apply.”
He told me that in the past month, he has had sex. He told me that his options in other women are limitless. He told me that he hasn’t lost interest in me, but he just really doesn’t want to hurt me, but he fears that the longer we continue, the more he will. He’s right, but there are so many red flags that I just barely care. I just want to continue being with him until it’s physically impossible because I’m young and impetuous and if I try hard enough The Cure will make everything better.
I’m beautiful, smart, funny, and don’t deserve to be hurt by him, he said. He told me to never stop painting or writing because it will inform everything I do. We talked about life and about dread and he suggested I try to go after someone closer to my age. I agree with him. If I started dating other people like he’s been doing, my feelings would not be as concentrated.
I told him how much I was attracted to him, and how I like everything about him. I begged again, “Please just don’t break up with me please,” and he said he felt like a jerk. I could still taste my BLT avocado wrap. I wish I hadn’t eaten anything at all.
We sat at the steps of Bryant Park tying up loose ends for over an hour. It seemed to progress nicely until we got to the point that he could not bear to be exclusive, not so soon after his divorce, not with anyone, especially me. I bet this other woman is beautiful and smart and funny and I bet she’s really interested in him. A lot of women are.
If he’s had sex in the past month then it’s no big deal. I was able to have fun with him when he was having fun with others. But now I’m aware. I’m afraid to be affectionate toward him in public, afraid to inadvertently cockblock him. “Oh look there’s Chloe, I can’t flirt with that girl because Chloe’s here. And she already greeted me affectionately.”
We walked from Times Square to the Flatiron district. We kissed goodbye prematurely at the doors of the Gershwin Hotel. He was going to drop me off there so that my friends could distract me, but they’d already left. I downed a seltzer and we waited for the train together.
And even though he was sweating and the lighting was fluorescent and green and he had just hurt me, he still looked fucking great.
On the train, it was the W, he sat in the corner seat and I sat facing him, with my knees inside his legs. I told him I wanted to get a picture of him but he said this wouldn’t be the last time we’d see each other. He said he travels a lot, and I believe him. I don’t know when, but we will. After all, he said I’m totally beautiful and doesn’t understand why guys in school didn’t go wild for me. Maybe it was the whole, gets attached too easily to guys thing. Whatever.
“Give me a call sometime.” I said as the train approached 59th and Lex.
“Yeah, call me.” He said.
“Don’t leave me hanging on the telephone. Two Blondie lyrics!” Then I left the train.
He always teased me about liking Blondie.