“Neither of you have rings.” Philip says, a sort of ask.
Andrea and I are waiting for the cab, he still on the stoop, me leaning against the building’s wall. Giorgio is talking to Tiffany near 61 Local’s doorway.
“My fiancée is a critical theorist,” Andrea says, an offering from a conversation earlier in which I did explain to the two Italians what I write on. If you haven’t engaged with an Italian man about feminist theory and art, put it on your bucket list.
“I believe so strongly in feminism and futurism, I couldn’t stand a ring. But he wanted one,” I gesture to a plain gold band on Andrea’s right middle finger, “so we got one for him.”
“I have no excuse. I’m Italian, I love the symbolism.” He says, and we touch hands again. Philip beams,
“What a neat couple!”
The cab arrives. Andrea gets the door for me, I slide in to the far side, with Giorgio in the middle of us. Philip gives the driver the address, shouting back that it’s an Italian restaurant and the two will have to tell him what they think of it. They share a subtle disparaging glance before launching into rapid Italian. Both men break away occasionally to tell me what they’re talking about as I keep Philip occupied. He’s from Indianapolis originally, he’s been married for 13 years (mazel tov), and tours as a bassist while occasionally writing for art circles. The beautiful thing about New York, and this lie we’ve assumed for the night, is that no one is really who they say they are. Were to you call someone out for bullshitting, you’d risk popping the balloon of your own sweet designs. And no one likes the sound of a balloon popping.
A note here: the ring on Andrea’s finger, he told me earlier, was his grandfather’s. When his grandfather’s passed, his grandmother gave it to him. This dovetailed into a conversation about family and expectation, he an only male child and me the female middle of five. For as much as the things these two men told me were to be believed.
The cab goes on the highway, which to me always feels wild in New York City. To be on the highway? In a city festering with trains and buses? Strange. We arrive at a restaurant called Lea, which I have since looked up and is indeed real. Philip is the belle of the ball, a popular former employee. We are greeted warmly, taken to a table outside and offered appetizers immediately, “on the house”. I’m seated between Giorgio and Andrea. I’d like to note that for the bulk of the night, every chair is pulled out for me, every door opened, every cigarette lit and glass poured. I’m not certain if Italy has some sort of strange finishing school for their boys, but it was very nice to feel like I’d died and become the Princess of Cortelyou for the night. Andrea picks up the wine list and starts commiserating with Giorgio about the bottle to choose. A white comes to the table shortly there after, to which Andrea instructs I am to sample and if I don’t care for it, another bottle will be ordered. The wine is delicious. It stays.
They order four pizzas, and a slew of appetizers continue to arrive. We eat. And eat. And eat, stepping away occasionally to smoke with the two Italians, together and individually. Andrea orders a second bottle, a rosé this time because I mention to him I’m not partial to whites. I’m also not partial to rosé but I certainly have nothing to complain about. At this point, the night grows a touch hazy. There’s lots of food and wine. During dinner, Andrea leans over to me and says,
“It’s a bit much for a Monday night, no?”
I rummage through my bag for my lipstick to reapply. Giorgio teases me that I’m less interesting without the lipstick. I check in the bathroom. It’s artfully worn off—God bless MAC cosmetics. Giorgio invites me over to smoke, just outside the patio area.
He explains that he is indeed an artist, a sculptor and a freelancer. He was hired for this job by a friend, a true photographer, who couldn’t take it but knew he had an eye and a nice camera. We discuss art and the façade of the night. As I smoke, he leans in and kisses me.
Worst. Kiss. Ever.
Not to be gauche, but I’ve had some kisses in my 24 years. This one was appalling. Thin lips, fishy sucking motions, hands everywhere but where felt right. Atrocious. I break away with a giggle and repair to the table. Internally, I’m actively working out how I’m going to get Andrea alone, because I cannot end the night with this make out.
After a sip of my water and my wine, the Jesus special, I walk to the restroom. Who’s walking out of the one person restroom but Andrea. I stop him and ask where he’s going.
“To the table?” He says.
“Come here a minute,” I reply, taking his forearm in my hand and pulling him into the restroom.
We make out. Happily. Against a wall in a bathroom like fourteen year olds.
Best. Kiss. Ever.
He steps back,
“I haven’t done something like this since I was twenty two,” he says, eyes lit up.
He told me earlier, as part of Giorgio’s interrogation of me for my age, that he himself is thirty three. I laugh and tell him okay before asking him to leave so I can use the facilities.
I return to the table. It’s like a switch has gone off in this man’s head. Ostensibly unchanged to our company, he’s different to me, lightly touching my legs and arms, leaning over to say things exclusively into my ear. Call me the breeze, but I’m not mad.
Dessert is brought out. Everyone at the table is hand fed by Giorgio. The bill comes. Andrea takes it. Giorgio, who has been joking all night about me staying with him, announces that we will walk to his house, a mere matter of blocks from Lea. I’ve told him repeatedly I have to go back to Bay Ridge (an hour’s train from where we are, as evidence by a photo I took of a Google Maps search). I’ve also told him I have to work at 6:30am at the Borough Hall Farmer’s Market.
Giorgio and Philip walk ahead of us, Giorgio talking loudly and teasing me about just about whatever comes to his mind. Andrea is in step with me, occasionally grazing my arm while talking about work, or alternatively teasing me about my boots. We get to Giorgio’s, where he finally notices I’m not coming in with him. He protests, adamant that I can sleep on his sofa. I mention Bay Ridge and the Market again.
“Come now, Giorgio, she wants to sleep in her bed.” Andrea says. Giorgio asks one more time, I demure by saying I’ll walk to the R.
“It’s much too late for the train, let me call you a cab. I’ll pay.” Andrea says. I acquiesce. Giorgio takes Philip inside only to return with four beers and four cigarettes. He graciously invites us to the porch while we wait for the cab.
The cab arrives. Andrea walks me to it, opening the door as I slide in.
“My god,” he says, “I’ve been so rude talking about myself.” He holds the door open, leaning in, as an edge of alarm creeps into his voice, “I don’t know anything about you.”
“I know,” I reply, “and you’ve had all night to ask.” We share a look.
He closes the cab door. Or perhaps he gets in with me. I’ve already kissed and told, but a girl can have just one secret, can’t she?
You know I love you, I miss you, and I hope to see you soon.