Zeke let me cry into his shoulder for awhile on the couch. Then, after I’d wiped my nose on his sleeve, he’d gotten up to find me some Advil. “So, what’s going on Trace?” he asked, as he rifled around in the medicine cabinet.
“He doesn’t love me anymore!” I wailed. I flopped into the couch and buried my face in a pillow.
“Well, yeah,” he replied. “That’s what happens with breakups.”
“You don’t understand,” I said. But he couldn’t really hear me.
He placed the Advil on the kitchen table and set about getting me some water. “Why do you love this guy so much?” He had gone to school with both My Ex and me but as we’d run in different circles, he didn’t know him at all. “Is it because he’s in a band? Girls love guys in bands.”
“No.” I pulled myself up and scowled at him. “It’s not because he’s in a band. I’m a little old to be groupie, don’t you think?” He moved to the couch and offered the water and Advil, which I took obediently.
“Well, what is it then?”
“I always have,” I said simply. “I can’t imagine not loving him.”
“That’s not a good enough reason, Trace.” He plugged in the air mattress to inflate it.
I took a sip of water and then took a deep breath. “I’ve dreamed about him every week for the past fourteen years. He’s the calm to my storm. And I am the lightness to his dark.”
“Trace. That doesn’t even make sense.”
“What do you want from me Zeke? I’m drunk.” I put my head in my hands. “I don’t know. I just love him.”
“Well. You shouldn’t.”
I lifted my head. “Can I sleep in your bed with you?”
“No!” he said adamantly. “You cannot sleep in my bed with me.”
Hmph. “I didn’t mean anything by it. I wasn’t going to try to make out with you or anything.” (And for the record, this is 100% true).
“That’s the least of my worries, Trace. I know you. You’re the worst sleeper. You’ll be up and down all night to smoke a million cigarettes and talking my ear off. You’ll sleep in your own bed.”
“I hate you right now.”
“Good. Maybe I’ll get some sleep then.”
Zeke was still asleep when I woke up the next morning. He had earplugs in because he said (erroneously) that the air purifier I ran at night to keep out the sounds of the city was too loud.
“It’s like sleeping in a freakin’ jet-engine,” he’d grumbled as I’d turned out the light the night before.
Okay, it’s totally not. It’s SOOTHING.
I tiptoed around him and picked up the beer cans and emptied the overflowing ashtray. I ran the dishwasher and cleaned the shower. By the time he woke up, I was feeling a bit more back to normal.
Zeke had an incredibly rigorous itinerary for us that day. We began at the 9/11 Memorial where Zeke took some remarkable pictures of the clouds reflected on One World Trade Center. We then moved to Battery Park where we tried to take photos of ourselves with the Statue of Liberty. The results were our humongous heads with what looked like a needle next to them. We then traveled up to Flatiron, cruised through Eataly, where we’d wanted to have lunch but the wait was too long so we ate at a Cajun dive bar where Zeke watched football and I checked us in on Facebook – as I had everywhere we’d gone. All the while, Zeke took action shots of me getting on and off the subway.
Then we went up to Central Park where, as per my usual, I got us lost and consistently mislabeled everything.
“This is the Great Lawn,” I said, grandly gesturing to the expanse of green. “Every year my friends and I come here to watch Philharmonic in The Park. We bring blankets and cheese and wine and listen to this incredible music. It’s seriously one of my favorite New York traditions,” I breathed.
We then rounded the corner and came upon a sign that clearly read, “Sheep’s Meadow.”
“Oh. I guess I’m turned around.”
We kept walking. I pointed to a building across the park. “That’s The Dakota where John Lennon was killed.”
“I’m pretty sure that’s not The Dakota, Trace,” Zeke said.
I furrowed my brow. “It’s not?”
“No. I’ve seen pictures and that isn’t it.”
“Oh. Well it’s somewhere over there.” I pointed weakly in the general direction.
We continued on. In looking for the Shakespeare Garden, I’d taken us on some roundabout route which included trudging through some tightly-knit trees where there was no path. We finally emerged at the Bethesda Fountain, which yes, I’ve noted now, is nowhere near the Shakespeare Garden, thank you very much. We took a few pictures and then decided to have a lake-side drink at The Boathouse. I’d checked us in at the Fountain and had just been about to do the same for The Boathouse when a post from Wade came through, “How are you checking into ALL these places? It seems a metaphysical impossibility.” I realized I was probably becoming annoying with all the play by play.
I decided instead of publicly commenting on our location, to actually just enjoy it. As we sat there at the outside bar, with a glass of champagne for me and a beer for him, I watched as the sun sank behind the trees into the late afternoon. The rays lit up the surface of the lake and we were lulled by the faint sounds of the classical guitarist sitting near us. “This is an amazing city,” Zeke said. I nodded.
We’d had big plans for that night, going downtown and having an epic dinner and then strolling through Times Square. Instead, we decided to have a low-key Mexican dinner in my neighborhood. Afterwards Zeke said, “I could do one more drink. What’s your favorite place around here?”
If you live in New York City and have never been to Brandy’s Piano Bar, you are missing out. It’s a tiny place to be sure but the experience is like none other. It’s the happiest place on Earth in my opinion. There’s a small stage with a piano player who plays show-tunes and classic hits and everyone who works there from the cocktail waitress to the bartender to the barback will come up to perform and they have those kind of Broadway-bound voices that can electrify you.
I am immediately suspicious of anyone who doesn’t like Brandy’s.
But the other thing about Brandy’s is that it’s a black hole. You go there for one drink and then find yourself three hours later screaming out the lyrics to ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,’ while throwing your arm around strangers and toasting them with shots. By the time you leave, the sun is coming up.
Zeke and I were singing along to ‘Free Fallin’ when I looked at him. My mind started to circle into such beer-soaked thoughts as: Why couldn’t I be in love with Zeke? We got along so well, he’s so funny, we have so much fun together, the day was so easy, every suggestion one of us offered, the other replied with, ‘Yeah! Let’s do it!’ I had barely even thought about My Ex. I began to stare at him fiercely.
Zeke kept his eyes fastened on the performers. “Why are you staring at me, Trace?”
“I’m trying to make myself fall in love with you.”
“Is it working?”
“I’m not sure yet.”
I kept staring at him. He gave me a sideways glance. “Trace…”
“Do you want to kiss me right now?”
“Fuck. Me neither.”
“What time is it?” he asked.
I pulled out my phone. “3:22am.”
“Holy Shiza Minelli. We gotta get out of here.”
Zeke had another big day planned for us but as we got on the subway the next morning, we’d both felt the usual residual effects of Brandy’s. We were hungover and sketchy.
“It’s so freaking hot in here,” Zeke muttered.
“It’s so freaking bright,” I replied.
“It’s so freaking crowded!” he said, his voice beginning to rise.
I somehow was able to find a seat and Zeke took action shots of me dozing on and off, trying to pull myself together.
We emerged in Times Square and managed to take pictures of the New Years Eve ball, the buildings that had been turned into neon advertisements, and the Good Morning America Studios. Then we went to the Hard Rock Cafe to have a drink and get back to neutral. After that, we decided we needed to just get home. At Zeke’s insistence, we made a pit stop at Papaya King for hot dogs. After two minutes he declared, ‘Pink’s is better.’
We arrived back to my apartment and he packed his things. He moved to the door and I followed. He turned back to me and pulled me into a hug. I put my arms around him. “Thank you,” I whispered into his shoulder.
“You’re going to be fine, Trace,” he said. “You have a great life here.”
He leaned back then so we were looking at each other. I looked up at him. “Do you want to kiss me right now?”
“Not particularly,” he replied.
I sighed. “Me neither.”
He did kiss me on the forehead though. “See you at Christmas,” he said. And then he was gone.
After Zeke left, I sat on the couch and reconciled what I thought the weekend was to originally be with My Ex, and what it really had turned out to be. Which actually had been fantastic. Zeke was right. I did have a great life here.
I went to the fridge and pulled out my leftovers from Papaya King and fired up my laptop. I logged onto OkCupid. And there was a response. From that one guy. I nervously picked at a tater tot and responded. There was a bit of back and forth.
And then, I had a date.