I’m going to tell you a story. I might have to break it into two parts in the interest of (my) time.
There are a few things I’d like to address before I tell you this story.
First, we’re fine. The explosion in Chelsea happened when I was in Park Slope. There were no fatalities, in Chelsea or in Park Slope. I know someone who was six blocks from the explosion. They only remarked that it was loud and strange. One friend thought it was an artist throwing away oily rags. Either way, no one panicked. The general vibe was, “things explode in New York all the time. There’s always a dumpster fire. We won’t know till we know more,” and people moved on. Which is interesting, and I’d like to ponder on, but later. Later.
Second, there are two more type of posts I’d like to do. I’ve been trying to cultivate one for weeks, but it is reliant on getting film developed, which has proven to be an enormous hassle. The second is a feature I’ll roll out tomorrow, that in part includes the beginning of this story I’m about to tell you.
Third, because I don’t intend to end with this today, you should know that I love you, I miss you, and I hope to see you soon.
So, my story. It exists at the intersection of being a Manic-Pixie-Dream-Girl, doing All-The-Things-Your-Mother-Warned-You-Against, and the Delicate Ecology of Scams that is New York City. It starts on Monday, at a bar called 61 Local, where I forced myself to go to a poetry workshop.
Monday is my day off. This trip allows me to practice great self-care, but sometimes that self-care veers into avoiding life, so I genuinely had to haul my ass out of the Bay Ridge apartment to do a Thing That Scared Me. I always want to take workshops. I always want to cultivate a better writing practice and put work out in front of people and get feed back. So I did it, after texting many friends for encouragement and a kick in the pants.
I’ll write about the workshop later.
This story is about after the workshop.
The workshop ended, and they asked us to go downstairs to the bar while they set up for the open mic. I had a strange, nerve-induced pain in my side, so I figured I’d order another beer to reach the minimum, charge my phone, then head home for the night, foregoing the open mic.
While my phone’s charging, I get in line for the bathroom. The line is next to a private event, peopled with humans so rich they chose to buy ugly things to cover their bodies and call it fashion. It’s some sort of art opening, with blasé projections of primary colored shapes on white paper and nervous energy. There’re multiple cheeseboards with food stuffs and free flowing wine. I notice a photographer, his lens aimed at me. It can’t possibly be, I think, I’m a narcissist. But no, I look dead at him and he is indeed taking my photo. I conjure up my ugliest face, he snaps a photo, then drops the camera to give me a smile. I smile back, and go into the restroom.
On my way out, I pass a table with a cheeseboard and the photographer, one knee on the bench of the table, taking photos of the party. I stop, lean in to him, and ask,
“Can I take a pickle?”
He looks at me, and laughs,
“You can do whatever you want, this isn’t my party.” He has an Italian accent, and his tall, slender, tanned visage completes an idea of him. The brightest part of him is his impish grin and complimentary lilt of voice. I take a bite of a pickle, and recommend he try one before going back to my bar stool.
I drink my beer and read Maggie Nelson’s The Art of Cruelty. Time passes, but not very much. The photographer appears next to me.
“You should come to this party.” He says.
“It isn’t your party, you can’t invite me.”
“That doesn’t matter. It’s a foolish party. I’m not really a photographer.”
“Can I take my beer?” I say, getting off my stool.
“Please do, the wine is so cheap.”
He walks me over and starts mocking the party to me in a lower tone from behind his camera. Two older women bound over,
“Giorgio! Who is this?” One of the women, the very thin one in peach pants, is more skeptical than the other.
“Oh, this is one of my former students! We haven’t seen each other in months, and here she is in Brooklyn for the night!” Giorgio says. The women light up as I hold my hand out and introduce myself by name. This is how Giorgio and I learned each other’s names.
“Yes, Giorgio was adjunct for a time at Ithaca, and although I was in their writing department, the study of the visual arts does feed a writer’s ability. His class changed my life.”
Giorgio and I exchange a look. The women are taken. Giorgio feeds them lines about a small crush he had on me, and how he’s so glad we’re friends now and not student-teacher. They ask what I’m doing there tonight, and I don’t lie. It fits perfectly. After some banter, with Giorgio snapping the entire time, they motion for me to have wine, cheese, whatever, and to enjoy myself. I step back, trying to repair to the bar, on a bit of a high, when a woman comes loudly down the stairs. She’s dressed casually. She grabs me by the shoulders and angles us towards Giorgio,
“You are so cute!” She shouts, “take our photo! Take our photo!”
Giorgio does not stop grinning as he obliges. This woman introduces herself to me as the sudo-owner/operator of the bar. She’s just come from a meeting and wants to have a glass of wine. More than likely it’s her second or third.
“Are you from around here? You’re not? You must tell me what you think. Give me your review. How do you like the atmosphere? Do you drink shiraz?”
I’m back at the bar with this woman, Tiffany, chatting away. Tiffany and I drink as I meet all the staff and a few of the patrons in the radius of our voices. Giorgio walks by on his way to smoke, introduces himself and a touch of “our” backstory. Tiffany lights up and chats for a time before Giorgio goes outside. She then turns away to talk to her staff, and I sip on my wine. This time, Giorgio is returning to the party, but as he walks by he stops and there is another man with him. This man is his opposite of sorts. He’s shorter, stocky in a sturdy way, pale complexion, soft freckles, and steel gray blue eyes. He could also be Andy Serkis’ younger, more attractive brother.
“This is my assistant, Andrea*,” Giorgio tells me. Tiffany is occupied, unawares of our conversation. Andrea smiles and shakes his head,
“I’m not really his assistant.” He says, also with an accent, although where the lilt is in Giorgio’s voice, Andrea’s is more spacious, thoughtful.
“I know,” I say, “you’re not an assistant, he’s not a photographer, and I’m not even from here.” We talk briefly, Giorgio explains how he got this job (for as much as he is to be believed) and that he must get back to the party, but not before asking for my number. I give it to him. At this point, I’ve started to say I’m going to leave, only because the night seemed to be getting away from me. However, Tiffany orders me another glass of wine and I find myself accepting. She’s talking to a man named Bryan, engulfed in the conversation. I notice Andrea sitting at a table reading a book. I walk over,
“May I sit? I don’t want to interrupt your book.”
“Oh, this is my subway book, I’m never actually reading it. Please, sit,” he says as he pulls out a chair for me.
We talk, and by that I mean, I ask him a series of questions about Giorgio and the veracity of this situation. He tells me he’s known Giorgio for a year, and so far everything checks out, but who’s to really know. Then, I start to ask about him. We talk about his work—kitchen manager some place in Mahattan. We talk the Classics—namely their purpose in the modern world. We talk language—proficiency and survival and empathy through miscommunication. I’m struck by how eloquent he is, and how completely unintimidated. Too often men tell me how smart I am, in tones equal parts surprised and patronizing. Too often they tell me I’m aggressive, as a negative, as a thing to be subdued. Too often my mind is a source of intrigue, but also hostility. To have a man not shrink back, but laugh and respond. To speak, to engage back with thoughtful, beautiful responses…well. I think you could guess where this is headed.
He tells me where he is from. He’s Northern Italian, Giorgio is Southern. This is as important as the fact that though he’s from a predominately German town, he is adamantly not German. I ask about his career, I ask how he lost his virginity, I ask about his book and if he and Giorgio are in love or are just Italian. The answers are, abridged, this is the career he wants in the city he wants, he was 13, the book is fine, and no they aren’t in love they’re just Italian.
I cannot account for the exact amount of time that we spoke, but at length Tiffany and Giorgio walk by and asks us outside to smoke. Giorgio has a man with him from the party, Philip. Philip has a Brian Eno-in-a-checked-scarf look and is staying with Giorgio for the night. Philip keeps asking how he can thank Giorgio as Giorgio lights a cigarette for me. André is sitting on a stoop to my left, and as Giorgio lights the cigarette, he looks at the two of us and tells Philip,
“Don’t do so on my account, but if you’d like, please buy these two dinner as they were recently engaged!” He breaks into an enormous grin behind Philip as Philip turns to us. I look at Andrea out of the side of my eye, acquiesce in my face, and he makes the smallest smile as he lightly brushes the back of my hand. Philip is sold. He begins to call a cab.
I realize we will be leaving 61 Local. I will be leaving 61 Local with a man who, while incredibly fun, has built an elaborate improv lie we’re both playing in. The other man might also be in on the scam. Philip seems unwitting. The cab arrives.
*this post has been edited for stylistic purposes, but also because a friend who is fluent in Italian pointed out that based on the pronunciation, it’s definitely spelled Andrea and is a cognate to Andrew. The more you know.