campkilkare: (zora/alice)
I woke up before her for once. She was sleeping the way I'd seen people sleep in hospitals, sometimes; the body simply shuts everything down in favor of S L E E P. Something just short of a coma.

I had time to think about what came next; I made a sandwich with tuna salad I had bought and ate it while I did, and while I watched her. At this point, any reasonable person would have questions to ask. I don't know if 'reasonable' is the word for twenty-two and halfway in love already, but still, I was curious. (Not frightened, although maybe I should have been. Only curious.) But if I really was--

It seemed to me then that if I wanted to know, the worst thing I could do was ask. Because she would not answer. A door would shut, and I would be on the wrong side of it. I could ask if I wanted--if I wanted to make a point of principle, that if she was going to ask me to be here she owed me an explanation--but if I did that I would kill all my answers. If I wanted to know, I needed to not ask, I decided. Just wait. Pay attention.

We're getting there, Alice had said. We were learning each other, not with questions, but bit by bit. I watched her sleep, and learned a little more.

I had never seen anyone wake up that way. There was no in-between. She was asleep, then she was awake, and there was no confusion over where she was or who was in her room, either. She was just awake, and smiling at me. As she sat up, The Lord, who was sleeping by her feet, darted off. They never really liked each other, but sleep was an undeclared peace.

"What time is it?"

"After four," I said. I was sitting on top of the covers, dressed, and I didn't even have a book or anything; it was obvious I'd been watching her sleep.

"I need a shower." She rolled out of the bed, and I could see things I hadn't been able to before. She was dirty, and battered--bruises like dark stains on her skin. She moved stiffly. There was a weal like a rope burn under one breast, and it looked like her wrist was burned, around the tattoo. Char-colored. When she came out of the shower, wearing one towel and carrying two I'd left on the floor, she already moved more fluidly, however, and the darkness on her wrist had washed away after all. She dropped the towels into a hamper, and picked up one of my sweaters off the floor with her toes. I tended to wear them baggy--still do--and it fit her well enough for the purpose. "Ahhh."

She beamed at me. "Hello." Whatever had brought her home wrapped in darkness had been slept away or washed away or maybe stroked away by my hands. "Are you starving? We can order something."

"I bought groceries," I said, and she nodded.

"I'll cook something." Spoken like a woman who had seen my kitchen.

I followed her into the kitchen, and perched on a chair to watch. She put two chicken cutlets in a saucepan with red wine, and began to cook them; she added things as she went to make a sauce. I don't think she was working from a recipe. She didn't know what I had bought. She was just making it up as she went along. She was humming a song, something I didn't know, and I was sure that was the first time I'd heard her do any such thing. Improbably, she seemed to be in a fantastic mood.

"Sorry I slept the day away," she said. "I have to work third watch tomorrow, too. So I won't be home until midnight." The way she said home manifestly included me.

"That's the dangerous one, isn't it?"

"Well, it's the busy one." She cut up a mushroom while we talked; her hands were a blur. I didn't understand how she didn't cut herself. "I have three days on that, then another two days off. Twenty-four in five, that's the rule. Overnights are long shifts, because the second half of the third watch is the busiest." My head swam.

"That's all right," I said. "I have to go back to my apartment tomorrow anyway." I watched her, and she didn't turn. If she had, to give me the puppy-dog eyes or say anything at all, I suppose everything would be different. But she just went on humming, and reached back to tug the hem of the sweater back down. It kept creeping up.

"To bring more clothes over, I mean," I added. "And my hairdryer. Yours is terrible. Some of The Lord's stuff."

It's funny how we get old. Some of the best decisions of my life would horrify me, if my children made them.

I crossed the kitchen floor and leaned my head against her arm. "I'm in a lot of trouble, aren't I?" I said. I don't remember how my voice sounded, but I wasn't frightened. Never frightened.

Alice spooned up some of the sauce. "Try this," she said. "It's delicious."

It was, too.
campkilkare: (zora/alice)
I waited for her at the diner Wednesday morning, but she didn't show up. Either whatever business she had took her straight from work, or she took me at my word that I wouldn't be there, even after I showed up that night. I don't know.

I spent the rest of the week at her place; I brought a suitcase and the Lord. There were seven locks on her door, I realized, and the fridge was now completely empty except for the olive oil and the ketchup. I filled it up.

She did not have a lot of personal effects, I discovered. I read some books I'd never heard of before, although they claimed to be NYT best sellers. The author was Eddie Toren. They were pretty good. I slept in her bed. It was comfortable, for as tired as she seemed.

I found her shoes, which puzzled me. There were almost no dresses or skirts in her closet, next to no make-up in her bathroom or jewelry around, but there was a chest full of high heeled pumps and wedges and leather boots with stacked heels; hundred and thousands of dollars worth of shoes. I tried to remember; except for the party, I'd only ever seen her in sneakers and what looked like combat boots. I didn't know her that well, of course. But it was strange. Not in a disquieting way--I wasn't scared of her. I was never scared of her. But I was starting to draw a picture of a fairly sad person. Beautiful and strong, but sad.

She came back in the middle of the night on Friday. She didn't say anything, just stripped off and slid into the bed, almost silently. I only woke up because I heard the click of all seven locks opening, and then of all seven locks closing again. I put my arms around her; she was like a stone, cold to the bone and hard all over.

"Zora," she said, and she kissed me, and I remember she touched my neck. That was strange.

I said, "Alice," and I started to rub her back and her arms and legs, and there was nothing sexual about it. After three days of doing it every chance we could get, and three days apart, yes, I touched her everywhere and it wasn't about sex. Not at all. She was hard as a stone, every muscle wound tight, and she would not have slept. I know it. She would have lay in that bed and stared at a point on the wall until the sun came up and I woke up with it, and maybe by then she would be able to function, but she would stay hard, like this.

It was more than an hour until she relaxed. After four when she slept, the ridged muscles of her back finally slack under my hands, and I slept, too, exhausted, my cheek against her shoulder and the twist of scar there. I knew she wouldn't like it but I was too tired to do anything but fall forward.

We woke up around dawn and made love, and went back to sleep. She slept for a long time.
campkilkare: (zora/alice)
The address she gave me was a diner, back in Spanish Harlem. I asked them where the firehouse was, half-expecting some kind of smirk.

One of Miss Alice's girls, eh?

Paranoia. The counterman pointed me up the street without much interest. I stood out on the sidewalk for twenty-five minutes, chilly in a sundress that would be more appropriate when the sun got higher. Around eight men started coming out. One of them made a comment. Alice came out somewhere in the middle, and she smiled when she saw me, but when the firemen saw her heading towards me the catcalls started up in earnest. She put a possessive arm around my waist and steered me back up the street.

"They're just fucking with me." Wry.

"Next time I'll stay at the diner," I heard myself say, leaning into her arm. Like being on fire.

I expected her to get eggs, but she got a tower of French toast. I got a bacon omelet myself. What the hell. (Yes, I remember. I remember what she was wearing--a white tank top that made her skin darker than I knew it really was, and stiff new blue jeans and boots, and she carried that same butch black purse, and a battered leather jacket she still owns.)

She seemed quiet. Tired.

"Look," I said eventually. "I can't keep doing this. This--isn't this out of hand? We keep crashing into each other. This has to end. I'm not coming here tomorrow."

She nodded, as if she heard me, as if she was agreeing that we were behaving like a couple of crazed teenagers, and then she said, "See me tonight. Come by at six."

And I said, "Okay."

"Bring food, if you can," she said. "Pizza would be great."

I don't remember work that day at all. I must have gone, I got paid.

I showed up with pizza, feeling like I was staring in an illicit film. She let me in but seemed to be paying more attention to the pie than me, at first. She looked like she hadn't slept since I saw her this morning.

I decided to try again. "Look," I said. "You can't just... order me up like a pizza, okay? Double pepperoni and sex on the side." Although she had, and here I was, so...

"This isn't about sex," she said unhurriedly, still noshing through her half of the pizza. "Just free pizza. Mmm. Where did you get this?"

"DiCarlo's," I said. "We're really not going to do anything?"

She shook her head. "It's really good. No, I have to work tonight. I'm exhausted already, I can't be--no." She didn't eat her crusts. "I just wanted to see you."

"And do what?" Somehow I was coming off as the sex-obsessed one. It didn't seem fair to me.

"Look at you," she said.

Oh.

"Who are you?" I asked, finally, and she blinked at me.

"I'm Alice." As if I might have forgotten. "You're Zora."

"I don't know anything about you," I said.

"We're getting there," she said. She sounded hopeful.

I gripped her wrists. "Try words." She looked slightly panicky, so I lifted her right hand. "Tell me about this."

She looked at it, as if she hadn't seen her own right wrist or the tattoo there before. "That's Oriza. She's a goddess. Her name."

"You're pagan," I said, and she blinked at me again.

"Sometimes you just need something holy that you can't lose," she said. It sounded profound to me, at the time.

"I'm an atheist," I said. I was, at the time. "Tell me what you believe."

"Oh, jeez," she said.

At first I thought that was all I was going to get.

"I believe in roses," she said. "I believe in love. I guess I'm a romantic."

"Robert says you go through a lot of girls."

She started into another slice. "A lot of girls go through me."

"What about the last one? That blonde from the party?"

She shrugged. "I wasn't what she wanted." It seemed unbelievable to me, in the moment, that anyone would walk away from her. I couldn't do it after three days. I didn't know that a year from then, in the same apartment, I'd be walking away myself. I really didn't know her, not at all. What I was beginning to know was someone young and half-feral under her armor; someone who looked a little cornered by a direct question.

"We work, don't we?" she said, with the same plaintive voice.

"Did it work with the others?" I heard myself say, nastier than I meant.

"Not the same way," she said. "Not like you. I don't know what to do with you, Zora. And that is the truth."

"Don't you," I said, and my voice was soft, and okay, she went to work a little more tired out.

"I have to go away," she said, as we walked to the firehouse. "I had these days off coming and I thought we could do something, but something came up today. I have to go out of town and take care of it. It's complicated."

"Okay," I said. She kept throwing me off balance; I kept banging my shins on things I couldn't see. I started to feel used again.

"This is crazy," she said. "Can you wait for me? At my place? You can bring your cat."

"Wait for you?" I said.

"I'll be back before Sunday," she said. "You could be there, when I get home. It's hard to say when it would be."

"All right," I said.

"All right?"

"All right."

People don't understand why I said yes to that, I've found. Why I didn't tell her to come to me when she got back. I don't know what to say. If you can't understand it, then I can't explain it to you. You have to be me, I guess, and no one else is.
campkilkare: (zora/alice)
"Do you know how to make anything besides eggs?" She was up before my alarm; I found her at my stove. She was wearing pants. She had brought pants in the garment bag to wear while she cooked me eggs. Maddening.

"Sure," she says. "But I like eggs for breakfast. And you don't have any bacon."

"It's bad for you," I said, virtuously.

"This pan had a quarter inch of bacon grease in it," she pointed out.

"Oops." Housekeeping has never been something I enjoyed.

"Well, the eggs are gonna taste great," she said, bringing them to the table.

"Don't you have to work today?" I asked her, but she shook her head.

"I'm on an overnight rotation. Two nights eight to eight, then three off." It would be years before I understood FDNY scheduling.

"...so I won't see you tonight," I said. It was embarrassing to say it, but she didn't laugh.

"No. But we can have breakfast tomorrow if you want. I'll give you an address."

"Okay." I got ready for work--we showered together because I was running late, among other reasons. She walked me to the subway station.

It was a weird kind of day at work. For one thing, I had nothing about the gallery opening Friday that the cocktail party went along with; not a word. So I tried writing in the NVV offices, and found I didn't like it very much. I also had a couple dozen emails. I'd gone off the grid for two days, for the first time in maybe years. I'd finally sent a tweet from my phone Sunday in the bathroom at Alice's, embarrassed but feeling like people were expecting to hear from me.

With the Amazon all weekend!! Details to come.

But what were the details? That I was infatuated and delirious over a woman I barely knew, who could completely take me apart in the bedroom (and the kitchen and the living room floor and the shower and...) and who seemed to need me in the same out of control way. That I knew next to nothing about her but had still spent forty-eight hours locked in her apartment like a harem girl, and had let her spend the night in my place without a word discussed between us about it--just her decision to take me.

Put like that it sounded either horrible or horribly exciting.

Added to that people kept stopping to tell me how good I looked today, did I change something? My hair? New outfit? I looked in a pocket mirror. Was there some kind of radiation I couldn't see? If so, well.... I couldn't see it. I felt like a mess, nervy and distracted. A man from the advertising department who I'd spoken to half a dozen times asked me my name and if I'd like to go to lunch, was I new to the magazine?

I banged out the piece on the new show Robert was sponsoring, an even quicker blog post promising all the scandalous details of my lost weekend when I had more time, and I left work early. I went to the park and I decided it had to stop. This wasn't a relationship, or even the beginning of a relationship. This was like being on fire, and I couldn't see it ending well.

I made up my mind. Right.
campkilkare: (zora/alice)
Waking up in someone else's bed is never easy, and it helps if they're there. She wasn't. I thought about the room I was in, which was spare. The whole apartment was a little crackerbox over a bodega. The walls were sort of silver, and tired. She had good furniture, though, and a big closet, which was open. It seemed like an invitation. I smelled cooking.

I put on a shirt that fit me like a tent and said I DRINK NOZZ-A-LA, which meant nothing to me. It struck me that this was all a little practiced. Gobbling up arty girls with pencils in their hair, I thought, even as I was trying to wind my hair up. I gave up.

She was cooking eggs, in a t-shirt and pajama pants. The pants offended me. She didn't understand that, then or now, and maybe you don't either. I don't know what to tell you. It seems obvious to me. It was ridiculous. I told her that: "You're wearing pants."

"I'm cooking eggs," she says. "Are you hungry?" I looked at a clock; it was six am. On a Saturday. She was some kind of monster.

"I guess so," I said. "Why the pants?" She looked at me like I was a crazy person. I told her: "You get up in the morning, putter around, make eggs. You don't want to get splattered with grease. Fine. You put on a shirt. But pants?" The t-shirt hung easily past her hips. "Who does that?"

She shrugged at me, and turned back to her eggs. I wasn't having any of that. It was a problem easily solved; I grabbed the baggy seat of the pants and yanked, and they dropped around her ankles. She didn't even have them cinched up properly.

Look, it makes sense to me. I'm sorry if you can't follow it, but it was ridiculous to me. I liked how she dealt with it, though; she kicked them into a corner. I like someone who knows how to concede gracefully.

I sat at her table and wondered how many other arty girls with pencils in their hair had sat her and eaten their eggs and then been shown the door. She brought me the eggs, still in just the shirt. Good legs.

"Eat fast," she said, and it was so bald it was like a slap in the face. "What?"

She was already eating, salting her eggs while she chewed. "In about five minutes I'm going to jump you," she said. "Ready or not. So you better eat those. You're going to need your strength."

I did finish them. We didn't make it out of the kitchen, but I did finish them.

Well, it went on like that. If you're someone who doesn't want to read about it--my children, for instance, poking through Mama's files for cute stories of how they met--you may want to stop. We had a lot of sex, is what it comes down to. That first weekend we had a perfect storm of sex. We talked a little bit--I grew up in California, she was a New Yorker from the start, she had some college but didn't finish, I went to UC Berkeley--but none of it seemed to mean anything, the way the things she said on the train did. I didn't know her any better that way. I learned more about her from the way she moved and the way she touched me.

We started and didn't finish two or three movies. At a point we ordered Chinese food and devoured it; it may have been dark out by then. Sooner or later she looked at me and said, why do we keep putting clothes back on?

And I said: "She gets it! Ye gods and little fishes, at last she gets it."

She had scars. Has. More now than then. She wasn't comfortable with them. Other than that she was completely unself-conscious about her body, no more than a cat, and she had nothing to be ashamed of, but the scars bothered her. As if they took something away from her as a woman. Her back was muscled amazingly, like something from Grey's Anatomy, and when we slept (was it night? or a nap? I forget) I picked them out one by one, making patterns in the web of sinews, and felt her falling asleep under my hand. I was sure she was asleep when I reached her shoulder, grazing over the knot of scar there. It was worse in the back than the front, something that had blown straight through her, and it made me feel--I don't know. Shivery. She was solid, a rock, but something had gone through her like that. When I touched the scar what I knew was that she had healed. She was still solid; the wound had been beaten. She didn't see it that way I guess. I felt her stiffen the moment I touched it. She didn't wake up--I don't think so, anyway--but she reacted just the same.

I moved back down her back, doing everything in reverse, until she relaxed again. It was the best moment in a weekend of bests, I think; she was mine, then, when the last knot let go. She belonged to me. Had any of the other arty little girls--damn Robert anyway--felt the same way, watching her sleep? Maybe they did. But I had doubts. She seemed unwound in a way that was basically alien to her; that seemed obvious at the time and was borne out later. She could let go. She was with me, after all, and she was mine.

Sunday morning there was a late brunch. Omelets. There was nothing in her refrigerator but eggs and ketchup and olive oil and three heirloom tomatoes; she had some onions in a basket. She had me run down to the bodega wearing one of her sweaters like a dress to buy peppers and shredded cheese and more cheap Puerto Rican wine.

In the evening I told her I had to work Monday, I needed to go home. She said all right, and she put my dress in a garment bag. I didn't have a bra and nothing she had would possibly fit me, so I rode on the train in her sweater with my arms crossed over my chest and she stood behind me with the bag. She put a hand on my hip and her chin on the top of my head, and I closed my eyes and the train rocked us together, back and forth, and I felt the other half. It was the beginning of loving her. The Lord help us both.

In my apartment I fed the Lord first, and then I went into my bedroom to change, so I could give her her sweater back. I was saying something inane, thank you for a wonderful weekend, and then she came in. It wasn't far to the bed. She didn't have to carry me.
campkilkare: (zora/alice)
The next time I saw her was another of Robert's parties. Maybe it was a month later. Now despite everything I said, I can clean up okay, and it was easier back then, when everything was still where Mother Nature put it. I was in a sort of floaty green dress. There were no pencils in my hair. And she was there, in the littlest little black dress in human history. It was brutally short, and cut in a way that emphasized all the muscles in her shoulders and hips. It looked like if she flexed hard the whole thing would shred off. It was basically obscene. Obviously, I loved it.

And yet, I wasn't trying to meet her. I'd swear to that. It's not that I didn't want to, because at this point the wanting was obvious even to me. It was--I don't know. Like not scratching an itch or--here's a metaphor that will surely get all the Freudians buzzing. Like driving past a rest stop on the highway and thinking, oh, I can make it to the next one. I did that one too many times, on my great drive from California to New York, and ended up squatting in a ditch along the Interstate, trying not to pee on my shoes. I know, charming. But it was like that. I wanted to talk to her, maybe knew I was going to talk to her, but I was deliberately denying it.

But a cocktail party has its own currents--it's something I've always hated about them, really--and in time I found myself turning around and brushing right up against her. She seemed about a foot taller than me. It was only seven or eight inches, depending on our heels, which I haven't memorized, but that's how it seemed. I flushed again, which did not give me the upper hand in the conversation, I felt. I almost began an apologetic remark about my bosom preceding me, then I wondered if it sounded too forward, then I wondered if that was a pun, and while my mind was still spinning its wheels, she said, "Hello. Didn't I see you at another one of these parties?"

"That's right," I said. "I remember you." Well, she'd admitted it first. "Weren't you with someone?"

"That's right." Then she paused and said, "I'm not, tonight."

Naturally I went home with her.

Not right then. We actually hung around, fighting inevitability again, and while I was aware of it in a prickly way, up and down my spine and everywhere her eyes touched me--it was a low-cut dress, and Alice wasn't crude but she wasn't particularly shy--she didn't seem to be. She asked me question, she was surprisingly good at small talk back then, before she had me and got lazy, and somehow or another she got me talking about writing.

I found myself telling her I didn't care who I wrote for or what I wrote about, really. I was a hired gun, and that was fine. All I wanted was a platform. A megaphone. I wanted to make my voice heard, that's all. For people to see my name and say, let's see what she's got to say. For people to argue and laugh and cry over my words.

Vanity, I said, and she said, no, not at all. I told her a quote I had read somewhere, an author:

"I want your heart, this guy said. That's all. If you want to learn something, go to school."

She nodded, and said it reminded her of a song, but she didn't say what song. I told her when I was a girl I sang, I was good, but when I got older my voice changed, which I thought only happened to boys. My voice got low and growly. It was an insecure thing to say, and it had an obvious rejoinder, and I've surely had men and women hit on me about my voice before.

All she said was, "Well, I'm sorry to hear you stopped singing, but I like your voice. I think it has a quality."

It has a quality. That's all. "Look," I said. "Let's get out of here." It wasn't like something I could help, although the Lord knows I don't need to apologize for taking home a gorgeous woman if I could net one. I was all of twenty-two, and everything was still where Mother Nature put it. I'm just saying that I led her out on the street like I was drunk, which I was not, and she followed me. She didn't seem surprised.

She was hailing a cab and I said, look, can we walk from here?

She did look surprised then. "We can take a train," she said. "I live in Spanish Harlem."

Somehow it was decided between us we were going to her place.

"Let's do that," I said. "I want to talk to you." I didn't have anything but my apartment keys and a fifty dollar bill in a tiny clutch, but she was carrying a big black purse, like a messenger bag, and she swiped her Metrocard for both of us.

"I want to know you," I told her on the train. "At least a little. I don't want to sleep with a woman I don't know and we don't have very long." Because when we got off this train, it was going to happen. I was admitting that. I was surrendering.

She surrendered, too. "I'm Alice," she said, and I realized we didn't know each other's names.

"I'm Zora."

She nodded, as if she'd always known my name. "You're a writer. So's my father. He writes novels. I'm a firefighter. I'm good at it."

"Do you like it?"

She look puzzled, as if why would she do it if she didn't like it? Or maybe why wouldn't she like it, if she was good at it? "Sure. It's good work. If I do everything right and get really lucky, sometimes nobody dies." She sounded wistful then, almost plaintative. She seemed like a woman who had things under control--certainly I felt that way then, comparing her to myself and how out of control I felt--but life and death was still out of her control, and it made it her wistful.

"All right," I said, and she said, "All right?" and I said "All right" again.

When we got on the other side of her apartment door, she picked me up and carried me to bed. That had never happened to me before, and I found I liked it. I liked it a lot.
campkilkare: (zora/alice)
We met at a cocktail party--one of those loft parties Robert Maggio was always throwing his various ingenues in those days. I guess we both moved in the same circles; I was right out of college and a junior art critic for the New Village Voice in those days, and I don't know how Alice ended up there. She and Robert were friends already, I know that. I think she had just dated her way in, a series of artsy girls who took her to the same rounds of parties and art shows and poetry readings and one woman shows and plays. There are lots of lesbian scenes in a city like Manhattan and for better or worse that was hers.

She stuck out. For better or worse. She had a tendency to prowl around the edges, looking faintly predatory and completely out of place. As out of place as a tiger would be at a cocktail party. She was dressed all right--a little butch, but that was fine. Even good. That's a heavily divided scene, one of the reasons it wore me out, and she was sending the right signals. The first time I saw her she was in a sleeveless top, like a vest worn as a shirt, and I don't think there was a straight man or a queer woman who wasn't stealing peeks at her arms. It was in her eyes, and the way she moved. The tilt of her head. Watching. Listening.

She was there with a short blonde woman who I instantly disliked. There are obvious reasons for that, but I think I can be fair in saying it. What Alice was worked for her in that scene, because hell, who would be able to resist the idea of taking home a tiger? And if you got hurt, then it was your own fault. You knew what she was. But there's a certain power, isn't there, in holding onto a tiger? Not tame--never that--but docile. Captivated.

(Alice wouldn't like it, the comparison to a tiger. She hates cat. A wolf, maybe, would make her happier. But I thought of Blake that night, and later, too.

What immortal hand or eye could frame thy fearful symmetry?)

Anyway, the blond, whose name I forgot and I'm sure Alice has too, she fluttered around and tried to introduce her to people and then to separate them. She tried to manage. She wanted a housecat, and even a housecat won't let you manage them. Now, after all this time I will admit Alice takes a lot of managing. But you can't just drag her around. She's not tame. She never has been. And I could see they were going nowhere, as Alice was towed around the room, introduced, moved on, clung to. Her eyes kept searching, restless, and when they touched on me, yes, I flushed. She did that to me from the start. There was a look in her eyes that said Now what am I going to do with you? She looked at everything that way, but when she looked at you that way, it was disturbing, in only the best way.

Well, we never even talked.

Later, I asked Robert about her. "Oh, my Amazon?" Robert laughed. "Little Zora, do you think you're the first one asking?"

I shook my head. "Just curious."

"She does make people curious," he said. Robert always had a way of making everything sound dirty. He was a good man, though, and it's a shame what happened to him. "You're her type," he added, cruelly, and then, "But of course she's with Camille."

"But who is she?" I asked, ignoring that.

"Oh, she's a firefighter," he said. "I think she has some money, but she's veddy veddy vague about it. About a lot of things, really." This, I would find out, was not true; Alice was never vague about anything. What she was, was limited. On certain topics she had no depth. Conversations just died.

"What is she doing here?" I said. By here I meant not Robert's loft but the art world, the galleries, the horrible little bars we spent so much time in back then.

"Gobbling up little arty girls with pencils in their hair," he said, with his nasty grin. "She makes them curious."

So in those days, as I said, I wrote a column for the NVV. They're doing fine now without me but for a while they tried me out. They were new, they didn't know what they were doing. I had a staff blog that was the forerunner to what would become the Ladyblog, along with a Myspace and a Facebook and a Twitter and God knows what else people were doing back then. It all got folded together later. But back then I thought I could still make a living for someone else. The problem was that the NVV had an editorial voice, and it didn't include extensive digressions about my obsession with Fergie when I was twelve. My columns would come back half or as third as long as I turned them in.

This doesn't have anything to do with Alice particularly, it's just who I was back then.

I wrote things between three and four in the morning in those days, so I would come into work and blog. About coffee and about dating and about traffic in the city. And I posted about this woman I saw at a cocktail party, how completely out of place she was and how gorgeous, and the commenters all said, oh girl, you've got it bad.

Which I thought was ridiculous.

They were worried about me, I guess. At that time most people reading it were friends, from college or back West, or just acquaintances I'd made in the city since I came out there. It wasn't going that well. I was dating a lot, in very short spurts. I don't know. I would date these tough chicks who seemed like they needed me to be weak so they could take care of me, and I'd get sick of that and go after femme-y types who seemed to have made a virtue of being helpless. Like I said, maybe it was the scene I moved in, but I got sick of it. I was condescended to a lot, and worse, I found myself condescending to people. I was dating men, too, or trying to, but New York is like a war, and I wasn't prepared. I went around in flats and big loose sweaters, or maybe a nice suit with a white collared shirt. I thought I looked professional. I felt comfortable. But business wear for women in those days included three inch heels, sheer hose and probably a garter belt. I don't know if it's changed any; I work mostly from home now, and I wear sweatpants. It's a good deal.

Anyway, men thought I looked like a lesbian, and lesbians thought I needed to pick a box to sit in, and I was sick of the whole thing.

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T. Oso

March 2016

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