Manhattan Lovers / edited

November 4, 2008

Juliana lay awake in the dark, on a bed so heavenly, next to a man who she thought must be an angel sent directly to her from heaven, but her thoughts were keeping her awake.

She was in New York again, determined to “make it” – for the third time in her life. Only this time, she had found love. A love that made her believe that she and New York were meant to be after all.

Trevor was a writer who she had met at the Starbucks on the corner, between their two buildings.

He would go there to write, and watch people, and get inspired – inspiration which he was constantly lacking.

Juliana would go there for the free WiFi, since she couldn’t afford it after charging her new MAC Airbook to her sole Visa card. She would go to Starbucks and look at celeb gossip, checking out Gawker and what else there was to do in the seemingly busy city.

This time she had been in Manhattan for no more than two months, working as a shop girl at an independent clothing designer’s boutique. The city seemed to swirl like crazy all around her, but she had yet to be sucked in – instead she watched stolen cable on her 27″ flat screen, set up crazy outfits for work the following day, and went to Starbucks, which was, ironically, consistently packed with people, all who said not more than two words to each other – “Seat taken?” – and even that was sometimes drowned out by the incessant ‘klickey-klack’ of keyboards on laptops.

To be so entirely surrounded and yet feel so disturbingly displaced from it all made Juliana a little angry and a little hopeless.

When she finished reading the latest gossip, checking the latest fashion shows on Style.com, and even reading random blogs from old classmates on Facebook – she would people watch. Juliana often sat there, waiting for life to happen, and then it just did.

She saw Trevor. A dark-haired, blue-eyed man, who kept glimpsing over his laptop to look at her.

At first she was freaked out, imagining a stalker-like scenario, but then he lifted his head, smiling at her, showing off his perfect teeth and chiseled features. After a few minutes of stealing glances, he closed his computer and left when she wasn’t looking.

She considered jumping out of her seat and chasing after him, but didn’t want to appear desperate. A tap on her shoulder brought her back to reality and a ‘Seat taken?’ took her right back up to the heavens.

Trevor bought them another round of coffees – his a Tall Americano, her a Skinny Vanilla Latte – and she suddenly felt alive. She felt a connection with someone other than a computer screen and it was exhilirating.

He was 28, a published author working on his second book, raised in New York – Upper East Side, but needed to a find a more ‘real’ scene, so he moved down to Greenwich Village. He used to play piano, doesn’t watch much TV, and spends his weekends walking in the city, discovering places.

Juliana knew it was love at first sight. And although she didn’t confess her TV-obsessed, non-reading, hermit-like ways to this sexy artist, she did tell him about her job and her two previous apartments in New York. And when she started ranting about something irrelevant, which is what she did when she was nervous, he touched her hand ever so softly and asked if she wanted to go somewhere to eat.

They walked half a block with their cute messenger bags in tow – his a beaten up brown leather, hers was a pink Juicy Couture – and she thought they must have looked like a real couple to the strangers around them.

They arrived at a shabby chic Mexican place that Juliana passed on her way to work. During the day the noticeably peeling paint, mismatched colorful furniture and broken door looked downright gringy and ghetto. But at night, with colorful string lights, candles scattered on all the tables, and the smell of good cooking in the air, the Mexican place looked cute, romantic and cozy.

Sharing nachos, fajitas and a pitcher of sangria, Juliana swore to Trevor that she would read his book, her first in 3 years, and he swore he would start watching MTV – just to stay pop-culturally current, for his “material”.

The drunken sloppy kisses started when the check arrived, her Juicy bag felt so heavy she made him carry both their bags while he groped her walking down the sidewalk to his building. The building was two blocks away from hers, a five story walk-up of which they climbed to the fourth floor.

He fumbled with his keys while she kissed him as passionately as she could. When he finally got his door unlocked they fell into his apartment – dark, and smelling of coffee, chinese food and vanilla (thanks to Glade Plug-ins found throughout the place she would later discover).

They eventually made it to his bed, which was surprisingly comfortable, with a mountain of pillows and a cozy duvet which landed on the floor. Their lovemaking was passionate, lengthy, and very satisfying. Liliana hadn’t made love in ages, and this made the wait worthwhile. Trevor was attentive, intuitive, and made her orgasm four times.

They fell asleep all over each other, literally a tangle of limbs, sweaty and exhausted.

When she awoke she felt enlightened. This only happens in the movies, she thought to herself with a smile. Meeting in a coffee shop, a lovers tryst, one that you could only dream about in Paris, a city full of romance, and not in New York, a city full of cynicism, failed idealism, and those drifting, like herself, waiting to be found.

Now awake, she heard the shower running and she was alone in bed. She suddenly felt shy – she was nude, and the large windows all through his apartment let in so much daylight she felt exposed, as if people could be watching from the outside.

She scrambled around his apartment trying to find her clothes, her bra was hanging gleefully off of a lamp in the corner, her pants were found scrunched up on the sofa, and she mistook her sweater for a sweet little area rug by the doorway. When she gathered up her clothes and quickly threw them on, she noticed there was a sudden quiet in the apartment, and she realised that the shower had stopped running.

And then there he was. Trevor was in the doorway, his hair wet, a towel wrapped around his waist and a smirk on his face.

“Did you find your clothes alright?”

Juliana nodded, and noticed a weird feeling creeping up behind her, an uneasy feeling that she attempted to shake off, even just temporarily. Trevor made her coffee, he actually used a coffee grinder and the glossy high-tech machine and made her the best tasting latte she’d ever had. And then she realized what that feeling was.

She suddenly felt like this was all too good to be true. She’d been in New York twice before this, her last sexual encounter was with a busboy at an Italian restaurant in Brooklyn, and she heard so many stories about love in New York – most specifically that it doesn’t exist. In one single night she had fallen for a man so amazing, so romantic, so sexy, but what if it was all fluff? A dream? What if when she goes back to her apartment and her heart gets broken again and she’s left alone, again?

She shrugged away the feeling yet again and put down her latte. Trevor walked her two and a half blocks to her apartment, and she was surprisingly calm. They held hands, he even kissed her before she went up to her place.

She wasn’t sure what this would lead to. She wasn’t sure about Trevor or the future or love. She looked in the mirror with happiness, and walked to work with a kick in her step. All she knew was that she didn’t feel alone anymore. Someone had found her.

And that was the only sure thing that mattered.

The Fine Line

June 7, 2008

I joined my friend Blair for a late brunch today, and I noticed she was definitely wearing her walk of shame outfit to brunch – her hair was slicked back, she was wearing a purple cocktail dress with a light pashmina thrown over the top, those gorgeous new Dior shoes, and her makeup didn’t exactly look fresh. She looked hot, but as any good friend would know, she was doing the walk of shame at brunch, with me.

She started telling me about the guy, some rich Italian man with lots of money, those guys at the club who pull out a money clip full of hundreds, gold jewelry, everything Armani or Boss or D & G, and continue to get bottle after bottle of booze in a reserved booth. Blair was there for some MAC party, and was quickly invited into the Italian’s booth where she drank a vintage Dom Perignon Rose until they closed the club.

All night Italian was telling Blair how gorgeous she was, his job had something to do with fashion, and he kept telling her he would take her back to Italy and dress her in the very latest – evidently there was a Cavalli maxi dress with her name on it back home.

Blair went back to the Italian’s penthouse suite at the Pantages hotel downtown, and she definitely enjoyed herself there. That is, until she work up. She turned over in the luxurious sheets to give her Italian a squeeze, but all she was left with was a piece of paper. The note indicated that he had to catch his flight back to Italy, there was a phone number and a date next week when he was coming back.

She was more than a little stunned – not by the one-night stand – but by the one-night stand who took off before she woke up. A knock on the door twenty minutes later signified that her breakfast had arrived, which the Italian had ordered before he left. And on the tray, next to a bowl of strawberries was an envelope addressed to ‘The Most Beautiful Woman’.

The envelope contained four thousand dollars.

Blair was dumbfounded. A man who couldn’t even remember her name (she didn’t remember his either) had left her enough cash to pay for almost three months rent. There was another note, a simple ‘Buy yourself something nice’.

This one night in Blair’s life reminded me of a SATC episode where Carrie hangs out with the fabulous European friend who hooks her up with another European hottie who also leaves her some cash the next morning. I don’t exactly remember what she did with the cash (I *think* she took it but I’m not sure), but I remember her freaking out over the aspect that this European hottie thought she was a prostitute.

And that also got me thinking.

Where do you draw the line between one-night stand and blatant prostitution?

Women always have the opportunity to get free drinks, free meals, and sometimes free clothing courtesy of a man they meet. Sometimes they know the man for a while, sometimes a day or two, but as women we usually feel that we’re worth it and, why shouldn’t a man spend some of his money on us?

We will resist at first – Oh no, that’s too much, I can get it myself – but men will try and try again and we will give in most of the time. I am all for that. I am no golddigger, I am also not a woman who has ever had a man buy her an extravagant bag for no reason or left her four thousand dollars by the bedside as a thank you for having sex with them. My bf has purchased me a couple of extravagant gifts in the five years we’ve been dating – a Michael Kors winter coat with fur trim, a Bebe fur coat, and, most recently, a John Galliano cocktail dress. But they were always for Christmas, or birthdays, or some sort of occassion – and we are dating, so obviously gifts are something to be expected of.

But when you’re not even dating the guy, and he bestows you with a large sum of cash, wouldn’t you be a little worried? I mean, the practical mom voice in me comes out and thinks – is he some kind of bad business guy who’s laundering money or something? Which really makes no sense and really doesn’t matter as she will probably never see him again.

Does he see her as a prostitute?

What man in his right mind does something like this?

Is it a power game? But who really has the power? The one giving or the one taking?

My thoughts were interrupted by Blair’s cell phone blasting the Kanye/Coldplay song.

Her conversation was short and sweet, something about new shoes, and she ended it with a perky ‘Ciao!’.

“That was Andre.” She told me. She looked guiltily up at me, and then she said something so quietly I almost didn’t hear her in the clatter of the bistro around us.

“I took the money.”

Blair went on to tell me how she sat there for almost an hour staring at the money. She thought of all the pros and cons. Pros being: new shoes, rent paid, new clothes, and maybe another rendevous with the Italian (whose name she learned after calling his cell and hearing his message when it went to voicemail). Cons being: prostitution, does he think she’s poor?, and what would happen to the money if she didn’t take it?.

She was throroughly confused. But then she thought, at the end of the day, what does it matter?

She had a one-night stand, and it wasn’t her first one, this is a man she will most likely not see again, but if there’s an opportunity she would like to, and who cares what he thought of her? She made herself believe that she almost found this money, and when an opportunity of four thousand dollars falls in your lap (or next to your strawberries), who wouldn’t take it?

Before she met up with me she stopped by Holt’s and bought herself the Dior Extreme Gladiators in the Pewter shade, and she wore them out of the store, to brunch, and told Andre about them on the phone.

We spent the rest of the afternoon shopping – and to my surprise, Blair bought me a pair of Manolo Blahniks I’ve been eyeing, the zebra-print D’Orsay pumps, which were not only on sale, but there was one left and in my size!

There may be a razor-thin line between one-night stands and prostitution, but it’s one that is a little blurry, one that is all about what you believe in yourself to be. And if you are an independent woman, who has sex with hot Italians who enjoy showering women with gifts, why not accept them?

And when someone offers to buy you a pair of beautiful shoes, who am I to say no to that?

I just thanked her and spent the rest of the day admiring my beautiful feet.