New York Stories
Christian tightened his scarf and shivered as he slogged through the end-of-February slush. He passed L’Artusi on West 10th Street, thinking back to a joyous dinner last weekend with two of his closest friends, a lesbian couple who had been like family to him for years.
“Eh hem,” a stunning woman in her mid-30’s leaned against the brick building a few feet ahead, smiling suggestively at him. Her long, toned legs were exposed and a faux-fur coat hugged her hourglass body.
How is she not freezing? Christian thought as he gave a tight-lipped smile and kept walking. He had enough going on in his life right now than to add a woman to the mix. They always seemed to want something from him, when all he wanted to do was explore the world and find some meaningful connections along the way.
He rounded the corner to his apartment. Two girls in their early 20’s passed him, giggling as they did double and triple takes.
“Hey, hottie!” one of them yelled before they bolted around the corner, screaming with laughter.
Christian sighed and shivered again—he really should have worn a heavier coat—and went to pull out his keys. A wave of panic flooded over him. Where were his keys? He must have left them at the office. He was interviewing for the position of CTO at a highly-respected Fortune 500 company, and the HR woman was currently blackmailing him to try and get a date. Naturally, his attention had been elsewhere for the last few days. After several minutes of searching, he accepted the truth: he had locked himself out.
“Ugh,” Christian groaned as he texted the super. His poor dog Beethoven would have to wait an extra half-hour before Christian would be able to take him out. He trudged back down the street, wondering what to do with his time. A strong gust of wind blew his hair into his eyes and a needling cold pricked at his skin. He dashed inside the outdoor vestibule of I Sodi, catching a glimpse of his reflection in the glass door. His chiseled jaw was set in a grim line of annoyance. Even so, he looked handsome. Somewhere between Brad Pitt and Jason Momoa, or so he had once been told by a date.
A server popped his head out. “Your table is ready!” He motioned to Christian and a woman in the corner whom Christian hadn’t noticed until just now. She was slender and her presence unassuming. Her cheeks pinkened.
“Oh, we’re not—” she started to say, but the server turned and the door closed behind him. The woman peeked up at Christian. “I don’t suppose you’d want to join me.”
Christian allowed himself to fully focus on the woman. She was attractive, he realized, and her smile was kind. She couldn’t be that bad, he thought. Well, at least not as bad as the HR woman. Hell, he didn’t have anything else to do, and getting a table at I Sodi wasn’t exactly the easiest reservation in town.
“Sure.” He smiled and her face brightened. “Why not?”
“What brings you joy?” Katherine asked him over their second glass of merlot. She swirled her wine as she spoke. Christian got a distinct feeling that she wanted this to look sexy.
“Well, definitely my dog. He’s an Australian shepherd and the first dog I’ve ever raised from a puppy.” Christian pulled out his phone to show her a picture. He had sworn he would never be the kind of dog dad that showed people pictures, but he couldn’t help it.
“Oooohhh! He’s so cute!” Katherine grabbed the phone and zoomed in on Beethoven’s face. In a baby voice she cooed, “Oh my goodness, I’ll be the best dog mommy to you! Yes, I will!”
Christian coughed and spit out a bit of his wine.
Katherine laughed. “Oh, I just love dogs.”
Good, her voice is back to normal, Christian thought as he dabbed at the white tablecloth with his equally white napkin, doing close to nothing to cover the red stain.
A vibration from his phone saved the day and alerted him that the super would be at his apartment any minute.
“I’ve got to get home to Beethoven,” Christian said.
Katherine’s thin pink lips quivered and her eyes darted toward the door. Had she thought he was going to invite her home? He wasn’t the guy to just sleep with a woman because he could. He had learned years ago that there was no lasting happiness in that when he had woken up, hungover, next to a gorgeous naked woman for the thousandth time, unable to remember her name and unable to feel anything.
“I had a great time,” he said, manners ever ingrained into him. He leaned over and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Thank you for letting me join you.”
He left a hundred on the table and hurried back to his apartment, already forgetting about Katherine and the strange dog mommy comment.
A week later, Christian followed Beethoven down the two flights of stairs for their morning walk but stopped when he saw a bright white poster tube sticking out of his mailbox.
He made a face at Beethoven. “Who could this be from, Bee?”
As Beethoven sniffed up and down Bleeker St, Christian unwrapped the poster. A note fell out, landing in the snow. He picked it up and read the running black ink: “This is the exact constellation from the date and time we met. These are our stars. -Kathy”
Who was Kathy? Christian wondered. Maybe he got his neighbor’s mail again. He would drop it back in the entryway of the apartment building on his way up.
Beethoven led him past Christopher street, swerving in front of I Sodi, and that’s when Christian remembered. “Oh! Katherine!” he said to Beethoven, who cocked his head.
Christian mulled the gift over in his head and grimaced. It was... a lot.
But still, he felt bad leaving the gesture ignored. He remembered Katherine had texted him twice during the week, but he had been too distracted to remember to text her back. He pulled out his phone. They did have a good time on their date; she had only made one weird comment. He could be kind and take her out again. After all, how did she even find a poster with that exact constellation? That must have taken some work.
Christian 9:43 AM: Hi, sorry I missed your texts. Busy week. Just got your poster-very nice gesture. Lunch today?
Katherine 9:45 AM: I thought you would like it. Yes!
Katherine sat next to him at the bar at Aria, a long blue and white dress flowing around her ankles. She sipped an orange-colored cocktail and peered up at him through her lashes. “It’s good to see you again.”
“It’s good to see you, too.” Christian wasn’t lying, she was pleasant to be around. And he had forgotten how pretty she was.
Katherine had a mischievous smile on her lips. “So I’ve been thinking...”
Christian leaned in, surprised to find himself intrigued by whatever was about to come out of Katherine’s mouth. “Mhmm?”
“I think for the sake of humanity we should have sex. I mean, your DNA needs to be used to repopulate the planet.”
Christian raised his hand for the check.
The following Monday morning Christian woke up and stepped out of the front door for his morning walk with Beethoven. His foot squished into a box on his doorstep and he pulled his shoe out, perplexed. It was a box of chocolate-covered cherries with a note.
Oh fuck, Christian thought.
He took a breath before he read: “We go together like cherries and chocolate. -Kathy”
“How did she even get in here!?” Christian yelled to no one.
Three weeks later Christian handed his keys over to the super and climbed into his new RV. He had known that his time in New York had been up for a while, but hadn’t wanted to face it just yet. Katherine had unexpectedly been the final nudge, and he was grateful to her for that, even though he was too afraid to text her again.
Beethoven sat in the passenger seat, his head hanging out of the window and his tongue lolling to one side. Christian had never seen him so excited. Or maybe it was he who had never been so excited. There would be no rent to pay, no boss to report to. Just him and Bee and the open road, and some rest stops at the homes of good friends along the way. Maybe he would end up in Alaska. Maybe Toronto. Who knew? What he did know though, is that signs don’t always come in the form of encouragement. Sometimes they come as a shock, as people or things getting in the way of what you think you want, only to discover there was a better path all along.
Photo by Mateusz Majewski on Unsplash