I like him so much, and I’m pretty sure he likes me. But how can he be 35 years old and not have a girlfriend, a wife, children? There’s gotta be something wrong with him. God, I hope not. Maybe he’s desperate like me, and I just can’t see it. He seems lonely, so that’s good.
Dave Killian has a lot going for him. A serious computer job, a nice place to live in Manhattan. He wears dress shirts and suits that he takes to the dry cleaner. He does the same with his laundry. They wash and fold his clothes there, which must cost a fortune. He owns a bicycle and furniture. He buys paper towels in bulk, an extra tube of toothpaste for when the first one runs out. He carries an umbrella on days it might rain. Who does that? He held it over our heads when we left the bar the other night.
Did I mention he likes to drink? Which is awesome. I like to drink. Shit, I love to drink, and I’m good at it, too.
Goodbye, nagging guilt about all the problems people say I’ve caused. So long, persistent fear of being alone for the rest of my life. I don’t have to worry about that anymore. I have a new boyfriend. I’m not a total reject, after all. This guy is proof that anything is possible.
It feels good having someone to confide in, not that I can tell him everything. I don’t want to scare him off. But he didn’t even flinch when I told him I had a kid. I make like I see him a whole lot more than I do. I gloss over the particulars of his care, so Dave doesn’t think I’m a shitty mother. But am I? I want to say ‘no.’ Instead, I change the subject in my head. I keep drinking and doing what I’m doing.
Over pints of cold draught beer in the pubs along Second Avenue, we take turns trading personal adventures. My stories are always better. I love being the winner. It doesn’t happen that often.
I think about Dave while I’m at work. Is he thinking of me? He is so handsome. And smart. And good. I want to be good. At least, I want him to think I’m good. I wish I could call and see if he can get together later, but I have no extra money for hanging out in the city. He is generous, but I can’t just assume he’s gonna pay my way.
I start making a mental list of who I can borrow from and how much I can get. I do this all the time. Thirty here, forty there. The people I work with are easy. They believe what I tell them. It’s really not that big a deal. I always pay it back. Basically, so I can ask again, but still. I leave a note on my boss’s desk explaining why I had to leave early. Kirin threw up in his classroom, and I’ve gotta go get him. I’ve never picked my son up from school a day in his life. I only wish these lies could be the truth. I gather my things, walk across town and look for the guys I usually buy dope from. After that, I stop into the bathroom at the Burger King, hold the door shut with my foot and do a little.
I find a pay phone right outside and call Dave. We make plans to meet.
“Where do you want to grab some food?” he asks. “We can go wherever you like.”
“I’ve got a better idea,” I say. “Let’s get fucked up,”
I don’t tell Dave about the drugs I do. We can drink. Drinking’s cool. All the other stuff is my business. I just get the feeling he won’t like me if he knows. And it’s not like I’m doing this shit every day, even though I kinda am. Maybe I just notice it more now that I’m not by myself as much. A new relationship definitely makes some things a little harder to get done, but falling in love is worth the extra effort.
Being with Dave is so much fun. His apartment is nothing fancy, but it’s more than what I’ve got. I’m still on a twin bed in my sister’s basement on Long Island. I fixed the space up real nice, though. Judy let me borrow some of their old wicker patio furniture. I wiped down two chairs and a little table, put my stereo in the middle. I have a bunch of books I wish I could read, and I draped some Christmas lights around. They make everything look prettier.
I drink the same way I did when I lived in Queens and get just as high, but I try to keep a low profile around my family. I don’t want my sister to worry or her husband to give me shit, so I pee in a paint can in my room once I get going. This way, I don’t have to make as many trips upstairs. I pour the contents out the little half window that faces the backyard.
I know I can’t stay here forever, and all of a sudden, I feel like I need to leave. I want to be with Dave.
He keeps his wallet on a nightstand near the bed. This morning, I waited until I heard the shower running before I took twenty three dollars. I left some cash, two tens and a five, so he doesn’t get suspicious. Let him think we spent it last night. We drank enough, that’s for sure. I also stole nearly all the quarters from a bowl filled with change on his bureau.
“I’m going in late,” I tell him. I’ve already started thinking of how I’m gonna spend my new money. He hands me his key so I can lock the door when I leave. We make arrangements to have lunch in the afternoon. Now I definitely need to show up at work, if only so we can meet.
On my way to the subway, there’s a definite spring in my step. I can’t believe my good fortune. Somebody wonderful likes me. I still worry about the questions that might come up, though, the more time Dave and I spend together. How can I explain not having a driver’s license? Or a bank account? Why my teeth keep falling out of my head? What’s really going on with my son? I care about these things, I do. I just can’t seem to figure out how to fix them.
My mood shifts from joy to panic. I transfer seven or eight little pills from my pants pocket to just inside my lips. I try to make some spit to help move them past my tongue.
As I pass the bodega on the corner, I pause to admire the fresh bouquets of cut flowers lining the front of the store. I do some quick math and make a decision to purchase a large bunch of tulips. I return to the apartment, filling two glasses with water and arranging them in a pair of Dave’s boots. I step back and admire my work.