Sitting in that bar with Annie, terrified to move or speak, I was like a little kid in church on best behavior, sweating through the logistics of person-to-person interactions. The alcohol slipped through my system and began to take effect, but not the way it used to. Every drink just knocked me out. I became sedated.
I wasn’t sure if we’d spoken in twenty minutes. She was still there. I had stopped shivering with nerves and sat a little slouched over now. This was wild and fun for her. A girl going out with some guy, knowing he’s unpredictable. I was her new curiosity. Someone, or something she could blog about.
I hoped she was forming some kind of sympathy for me. Maybe some part of my awkwardness was sweet in a John Cusack rom-com sort of way. Maybe some part of it was honest and awkward enough to bring her around into thinking I’m just as lonely as she was. I hoped she was lonely. But how could a girl like that, with that face and laugh, ever be lonely?
I remember trying to relax my breathing. Trying to think clearly. Trying to calm myself. I kept smiling like a dipshit. Just to seem nice, instead of terrified and wounded. Sex was the furthest thing from my mind. I was trying to not to disappear inside myself, once and for all.
Some instinct in me caused me to put my hand on my jacket. I don’t know why. But my movement was sudden enough to grab Annie’s attention. She whipped her head down at my hand and then up to my face.
“Are we leaving?”
I hadn’t planned on leaving. Grabbing my jacket was an accident, completely void of intent, but the way she said it made me feel like I should explain that I was leaving. While I sat there over-examining the consequences of my movement, she grabbed her jacket.
“Good idea. Let’s go,” she said, sliding out from behind the table.
I stood up and started shivering. What was happening? She was in charge of whatever was going on. I walked out behind her and once we got onto the sidewalk, she turned around. “Okay, what’s next? Where do you live?” I didn’t answer. She pointed down the street in one direction. “This way?” She was right.
“Yep,” I said. “I keep a loft.” I smiled to myself.
“Do you have roommates?”
She perked up, asking a question that she thought would reveal my financial situation. ‘Keeping a loft’ is not something poor people do, and a loft without roommates meant money, or so she thought, I’m sure.
I shook my head. “Nope.” I didn’t have roommates. That wasn’t a lie. I didn’t believe the relationship would last long enough to walk the five-minute walk over to the Brooklyn Truck Wash where I was secretly living in a storage unit, so I didn’t mind lying.
We stopped at a bodega and bought some cheap vodka. We sat on a bench in the park for a while. She put my hand on her tit and I pulled it away in shock, but as soon as it was off her tit, I wanted to put it back on. It felt like a bra.
“Are you gay?” she asked.
“No.” Almost like it was a shame I wasn’t.
“Do you like my tits?”
“Yeah. Your tits are great.”
She kept slamming the vodka and every awkward pause I created caused her to slam a little more. I took it from her just to save her.
I pictured us having sex in the Truck Wash on my cardboard boxes. Wild, proper orgasmic sex with full body, leg-numbing orgasms I discovered back in my teenage masturbating years. There is a massive difference between ejaculating and orgasming. Orgasms involve more breathing, and work and focus and practice. Comparitively, ejaculating is just a really good piss. That’s something I think most women and even men don’t know. I feel exceptional that I know that. Maybe the government could provide some kind of sexual education and training at a certain age so everyone could achieve proper orgasms.
“I want to see your place.” She sat up all giddy on the edge of the bench. She pulled me to my feet. I was sobering up. She was not. I started in the direction of the truck wash. We walked through the park. The residential houses turned into unmarked buildings and then warehouses. It felt like I was taking her far, far away from anywhere she’d ever been before.
She was silent for a few steps before asking, “Where are we going?”
“You’ll see,” I said with a smirk. I still wasn’t sure if I was going to show her my stack of cardboard boxes. I got the impression she was prodding me like a science project because of how insecure I was, so that made me want to show her my cardboard mattress. If that’s what she really wanted, that’s what I’d show her.
We walked past a couple black guys who were standing by a line of parked cars. They stopped talking as we walked by. I had my arm around Annie and I felt like I was on the cover of that Bob Dylan album, the one where he’s got his arm around a girl. I noticed a woman in a parked car behind the wheel. The passenger seat was unoccupied and in the reclined position. She was probably sucking dick for money. The notion struck me like a lightning bolt. It just seemed so clear. Those guys were her pimps. Or her pimp and a guy who thought he was cool. The woman in the car looked at me as we passed and just by her look and the way the seat was down, I got the idea that was some street code. If the passenger seat is down you can pop in and get your dick sucked. I shook off the thought with Annie under my arm, but part of me felt proud to be learning the rules of the street.
We came up to the gate of the truck wash. I fished out my key while she kept walking. She stopped after a few drunk steps.
“What’s this?” I opened the lock and looked over at her. “You live here?” She tilted her head up at the tall gate and the giant sign on the corner of the property. Brooklyn Truck Wash.
“What are you doing?” Her tone switched to serious. I pushed the gate open and gestured for her to walk in.
I spoke. “This is it.”
She snorted, smiled, and then followed me in. I closed the gate behind her and walked over to the storage hanger in the corner.
She knew this wasn’t normal, but she must have seen the value in it for that blog she was probably working on. She didn’t trust me, like I was just playing a trick. I think she mistook it for playful. I closed the gate behind us and by the way she changed her breathing I could tell she was having second thoughts. I unlocked the metal door to the storage unit while she slowly followed unsteady with her mouth open.
I turned on the light, revealing the columns of cardboard boxes, the unused generators, the fridges. The giant stack of bottled water cases. I took a box off the only chair in the place and put it down for her to sit on. She looked in from the doorway with a surprised and disgusted look on her face. I smiled and looked around like I was proud of my home.
She stepped in through the door.
“What the fuck is this?” She wasn’t ready to sit down, in fact, she was getting annoyed. Bitchy drunk. She had been hoping for some kind of Bruce Wayne, secret lair shit. This was not that.
“You live here?” She was afraid to ask.
I pointed up to the loft. “I sleep here.”
“I can’t tell if you’re kidding.” She looked me in the eye, waiting for me say I was kidding.
“I’m not.” She looked around. She hiccupped. She swallowed.
“I’m gonna be sick.” She touched her stomach.
“It’s probably the gas fumes. You’ll get used to it.”
I pointed over to the generators and while I was looking over at them she puked on the floor in front of her.
“Holy Shit!” I jumped back and checked my jeans to see if I was hit by any of the splash.
“Oh my God,” she said, her knees wobbling.
I kicked the chair over to her and placed a garbage bin in front of her. She was still gagging, and then a little more puke came up, but mostly she was dry heaving.
I tapped her arm with a bottle of water. “Here.” She puked again.
Finally, she took the water.
“I need to lay down.” I looked up to the loft. The ladder getting up to the loft was pretty steep, so I had to carry her up by the neck of her jacket. She moaned the whole way up, but it was the only place I was going to let her lay down. The ground floor probably had rat shit all over it.
I put her down gently. She was still clearing her teeth from puke. She rolled over onto her stomach and tried to put some water in her mouth. There wasn’t much room for the both of us, so I stacked a few boxes up to make the needed room beside her. I looked at her face. Her sweaty hair. Her drooling mouth. Her rolling eyes. She looked so sweet. So childish. She didn’t look like she was out to get me anymore. She wasn’t over confident. She wasn’t testing me anymore.
And then, her pleading words. “Don’t kill me.” She took a heavy breath and barely pushed out the word, “Please.”
The words hit me like a sonic boom. Is that what she was thinking? Sure, in the bar I was awkward, and couldn’t hold a conversation together but ever since leaving the bar, I thought we got along. I took the bottle away from her. I put my arm around her. I gave her a chair. I gave her the water. I even opened it for her. I lifted her up the ladder so she wouldn’t fall and crack her skull. I made a second trip down for more water to have beside her. I didn’t hold her forehead back like my mother used to while she puked because I thought it was too soon in our relationship for that kind of intimacy. How did all this add up for her to think I was going to kill her?
Not only did I not know how to function with a woman, I didn’t know how to project the image of a person who had his shit together. Worse than that, I was projecting the image of some kind of psychopath. All my mistakes, and social anxieties, all the cracks in my brain shattered when she said that.
Her breathing calmed and she slowly fell asleep. My heart could not stop pounding. I couldn’t shake her words. “Don’t kill me. Don’t kill me.” I played them over and over in my head, trying to find a hint of insincerity. I couldn’t.
I slowly pulled myself off my boxes and down the ladder. I sat out on the sidewalk and eventually stretched out onto the concrete curb by the big gate.
I opened my eyes a few hours later. The sunrise was a gorgeous pink and orange mess in the sky. I hadn’t seen as colorful a dawn since I had moved in.
The roar of garbage trucks woke me. They were all around, swarming the dump across the street. In and out; these giant trucks bounced into gear and took their turns backing in, to dump a load. The sun finally broke over the horizon. It came up massive.
Even a world of shit and noise and dirt and steel, if the light is right, can look more than beautiful. Sad. Lonely. Painful. But somehow, beautiful. The sun will come up tomorrow regardless of how much shit you get kicked out of you the night before. It also doesn’t care about you.