She was the kind of pretty where you can’t help but feel “less than”. The kind where you make sure to point out all your flaws before she could ever notice them, just to soften the blow when it falls apart. It always does.
“I’m old,” I said.
She was twenty-two, a fit version of waiflike, with sand colored hair – I wasn’t sure if it was natural, but it looked like it on her.
“My hair is going grey. I’m going to look like a grandfather by the time I’m thirty-six and I won’t even be a dad.”
“But your face is young,” she said. “And besides, you’re only as old as the woman in your bed.” She smiled in a beautiful, dreadful way that left me uncertain. I didn’t know why.
“I like that philosophy.”
We ate at one of those hip sorts of restaurants with paper ‘tablecloths’ and crayons so that you could draw for fun or for a souvenier or in case you have nothing to talk about while you wait for your food to arrive, knowing that food signals the safety zone because it’s rude to talk with food in your mouth. She drew a clown. A colorful clown. It was good in a bad way. I took a black crayon and drew a Hangman and dashed out space for eight letters.
“S,” she guessed.
I drew an empty circle for a head.
“You have to draw a face for him.”
“Well, then you’d better win this round. Would be a shame to hang a guy we know based on letters.” I grinned. She ate it up. I drew two eyes and a nose.
“Where’s his mouth?”
“We have to find out whether you win or not. I can’t very well draw a smiley face on him if he hangs.”
I drew a stick body and a surprisingly realistic noose around George’s neck. He’s called George now. She doesn’t know it yet, but that’s his name. I assume she’s going to lose at this point, but I was making up the thing about not hanging a guy we know. He’s just some crayon wax on a sheet of paper that’ll soon be stained with a splash of wine as the waiter’s wrist twists the bottle too slowly to catch the drop that falls after he fills my glass – the one emptying faster than hers.
“The ribeye, medium rare,” as the food runner sets her plate in front of her. It tips and red meat juice cascades onto the clown’s eye, forming a strange sort of tear or sweat on his otherwise happy face.
“Your clown!” I laughed.
“He’s crying,” she says, exaggerating a frown.
“Or maybe he’s sweating. Or maybe he’s crying from laughter. He’s a clown. Or maybe he’s the original sad clown. Maybe this is exactly how the sad clown was invented.”
She stared at me. I didn’t really know what I meant either, I was just talking.
“The monkfish, sir. Can I bring you anything else?”
I twisted my hand in her direction, asking if she needed anything.
“I’m good. This looks amazing.”
I always love a girl who orders steak or whiskey. She might be insane, but at least she’s not high maintenance.
“Actually,” I stop the waiter in his tracks, “another bottle of wine would be great.” I turn to her. “You’ll have another glass, right?” She nodded. “Yeah, one more bottle.”
When I woke up, my mouth was dry and my head was all dubstep, pulsing and pulling and exploding in rhythm. Another day, wasted, I thought. No gym, no writing, no reading. Just reloading the timelines on social media, watching things on TV with the goal being “clearing off the DVR” rather than being entertained. Hey, you find your progress where you can on a day like today. Stay positive, everyone says.
She stirs but doesn’t wake. My white sheets have a slight orange tint from bronzer I didn’t realize she was wearing until now. I’ll have to wash those today. I made a mental note that I was sure would be erased. My dog whined from the floor. How did he get down there? Harsh summer light cracked through every space the blackout curtains didn’t cover, defeating the purpose. The packaging said they eliminated 110% of the light, which is impossible. I should’ve held it against them when I was making my decision to purchase but I figured instead that they must be really confident in how well their product performed. You can’t win them all.
I got out of bed and pissed with my head pressed on the cabinet above the toilet, helping me steady myself. It felt like rest. Cold water from the Brita to a cup to my mouth. It restored me momentarily.
Now what? How can I get her to leave? I think I really like her. The disparity of emotions on a morning like this can be daunting. I promised myself I wouldn’t fuck her, not tonight, but promises to yourself are the easiest to break. This has to stop.
I called my agent and canceled a general. Generals always feel pointless. Besides, I probably had to take her to breakfast before calling her an Uber.
I wondered if I’d get a nap in.
I wondered if I had a dehydration problem.
Atherosclerosis, I wondered.
Cigarette burn in the ottoman, I noticed.
Half empty bottle of whiskey, I registered.
I’m going to fall asleep during the movie with a different date tonight, I imagined.
This has to stop, I knew.
“You’re only as old as the woman in your bed,” she said.
And I understood why my first reaction was dread.