That’s the time my clock read as I crawled into bed Sunday morning. I think it’s the latest I’ve ever been out in my entire life. It’s also the first time I haven’t cared in the slightest what time I went to bed.
Saturday night, time became decidedly unimportant. Obsolete even. Maybe suspended is the best word.
It was a night straight out of an independent movie: the colors, the lighting, the subway rides, the glances. Sofia Coppola could have directed it.
It’s eerie and yet magical how quiet and deserted Manhattan is between the hours of 4 am and 6 am. There is no traffic. Hardly a soul on the sidewalk. Just the lights of the concrete jungle around you, blending in with the stars of the night sky. It’s as though the whole world belongs to you. I never thought I’d see a Manhattan so dormant and dreamy, but here I was, engulfed in its presence as I drifted through its streets all night with my Saturday evening companion…
The evening began at a bar in the East Village where a friend of mine was having a birthday party. As I clacked down Essex St in my high heels, I started pulling out my I.D. to be checked at the door. Right as I was about to go in, I noticed a familiar face arriving at the door at the precise moment I was. I quickly turned around to block myself from view. “This can’t be happening,” I thought in a panic, “he can’t be here. You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. Of all the bars in Manhattan, he shows up to this one the exact same night and at the exact same moment I am?!” The guy in question was one I had some previous history with, and things didn’t end well.
By “didn’t end well,” I mean the asshole never called me back.
It was an unreal coincidence. Stuff like that doesn’t just HAPPEN in New York, unless you’re Carrie Bradshaw from Sex & the City. But here he was, in the flesh, surrounded by his group of friends and a few girls about to go into the same bar I was. I pulled out my cell phone and called my best friend, Hassan, “You’ll never believe what just happened. _____ is here.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“No. He was just walking up to the door at the same time I was. I don’t think he saw me.”
“Oh Christ. Well, this would ONLY happen to you.”
“I don’t know how to handle this. I have to go in, and I CAN’T go in.”
“Give him five minutes to settle a bar location, and then just go find our friends. He should feel like the embarrassed asshole, not you.”
“What if he sees me?”
“What if he does? Just go in, boo. I’ll be there soon to pretend to make out with you in front of him.”
“Ha. Thanks. Love you.”
“Love you too, slut.”
I ducked into the bar and found my friends; hastily explaining my situation and scanning the room so I could make sure my back was to him at all times. Luckily, neither he nor his friends ever saw me, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that if I stayed too long, he would somehow sense my presence and see me. After about twenty minutes, I couldn’t stand it any longer, so I told Hassan and my other friends goodbye and departed for the West Village to try to sing at a cabaret and meet up with a guy I’d worked with the week before.
I was spooked by this sudden reappearance in my life (Seriously, how did Carrie Bradshaw do it every time she ran into some guy she slept with or dated?), and the guy I was meeting could tell. “Are you okay?” he asked as I walked up to the Duplex. “I will be, I just ran into someone I never thought I’d see again and don’t want to see again, and I’m processing that.”
“Let’s just say a guy I…let’s just say a Ghost of Christmas Past.”
“Fair enough. No more questions asked.”
I was going to sing at a birthday party for another friend, a sort of open mic night, but the evening started running long, and at 1:15, New Guy asked, “There’s a party I need to go to for a bit, do you want to come? Is it okay if we head out of here?” I knew singing was a lost cause for the night (bummer), so I agreed. Also, he was giving me a chance to spend more of the evening with him, and I sensed this was my opportunity to solidify my theories about our mutual attraction. Plus, he’s just a genuinely nice guy.
So we boarded the 1 train and headed for the Upper West Side. Despite being a local train with way too many stops, the trip seemed to fly by. We talked about everything: favorite movies, career aspirations, money troubles, growing up. Before we knew it, we were at the 86th street stop. We left the subway and walked down to 84th St.
After being buzzed into the building, we walked up to the fifth floor (Got to love buildings without elevators). We were greeted by riotous talking and laughing once we reached the door. He used to be an NBC Page, and it turned out this was an NBC Page party. You can imagine how I felt as I entered the apartment knowing I was literally the only person there who has never worked for NBC. Knowing I was going to feel uncomfortable, he led me inside and immediately started introducing me to people. As I settled in to talking to one of his page friends, he smiled, “I’m going to make some rounds, but I’ll be back in a few. You okay?”
“Yes. Go talk with your friends. I’m a Midwesterner; we’ll talk to anything.”
After chatting with the most glamorously dressed page at the party, Crystal, for several minutes (I could NOT stop staring at her saucer-sized gold-plated earrings.), he came back and asked, “Can I get you a drink?” and led me into the kitchen.
“What do you want?” he asked once we were in front of the libations.
I replied, “Typically, I’m a vodka person, but for the sake of expediency, let’s just go with beer, shall we?”
He immediately popped the lid off a bottle of beer (some boutique-y ale I’d never heard of; granted I haven’t heard of a lot of beers since I hardly ever drink it), and handed it to me before choosing one for himself. As I took a swig, he said, “Open your hand.” I placed my palm in front of him, and he filled it with peanut M&M’s.
“Here,” he said, “M&M’s make everything better.” With that, I couldn’t disagree.
“Peanut is my second favorite type of M&M,” I said in between bites.
He munched on a handful of his own, “Let me guess…you like peanut butter the best.”
I asked with a grin, “How did you know?”
“I just know,” he answered mischievously as he left my side to go talk to a friend who’d just arrived.
The game of dirty Jenga over near the couches was being more amplified by the minute as was the stench of pot. I ducked into the bedroom where the coats were to check my phone; typical nervous party behavior. He sensed my absence and found me inside a few minutes later.
“Are you okay? Having fun?” he queried, hoping to ease my nerves.
I looked up from my phone, “I’m great. Just texting a friend.”
“Okay, well, I just got an email from another NBC friend, and the after after party for SNL is happening downtown at 4:00. I’ve got the location and password. Do you want to come with me?”
It took about .5 seconds for me to debate this in my head. It went something like this:
It’s 3:30 in the morning. You should go to bed.
But it’s an after after party for SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. And he’s cute.
SNL. Cute guy. Invite. Secret passwords. What the fuck is wrong with you?! GO!!!
“Yes. Absolutely. Let’s go.”
“Great,” he grinned from ear to ear, “get your coat. Let’s go.”
Into the night we fled again; my heels clacking on the pavement, sounding noisier than usual on the deserted sidewalks. He seemed to notice this.
“How are your feet doing?”
“Surprisingly well, considering we’ve been traipsing about New York all night.”
“I’m impressed you’ve made it around all night in those.”
“It’s a special skill. I might just put it on my resume. Might get me hired on Broadway.”
He laughed, “Well even if no one else thinks it’s impressive, I do.”
While waiting for the train, we sat in semi-silence, the late hour of the night starting to hit our bodies, making us sleepy. I leaned against him, our legs and arms touching without either of us wanting to move away. A train on the express tracks roared past just as he was about to ask me a question. I looked toward him expectantly, but the question never came. He just stared at me silently, smiled, and then looked back at the tracks, hoping to will our train into coming. I didn’t care about whatever he was going to ask me; all I needed to know was already happening.
Just as we were about to close our eyes, our train appeared in the station. We sprang to our feet and sat down inside. That’s the one good thing about late night trains: there are always open seats.
We crossed our legs toward each other. He started to nod off, so I gently placed my hand on his arm to keep him from falling over.
“Thanks,” he said quietly. I left my hand on his arm. As we rolled into station after station, his energy seemed to be returning, but he never shied away from my touch; instead accepting it warmly.
Breaking the spell, I quipped as we finally exited the train and made our way back above ground, “Secret passwords. What is SNL? A fraternity? Is there some secret handshake I should know about too?”
He laughed, “No secret handshakes, but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone made one up.”
We walked down 26th street and stopped in front of a large, nondescript black door. I would never have known what was hidden inside were it not for the imposing body-builder of a bouncer guarding the door. We were here: La Pomme. I felt like I was Sydney Bristow in ALIAS or something as we sauntered up to the bouncer and gave the password (Sorry, I just won’t tell. Some secrets need to remain secrets.). A wall of loud techno music, flashing lights, and go-go dancers greeted us as we walked inside. I had never seen anything like this before.
I asked, “This is pretty standard, huh?” He nodded and leaned in close to me so his mouth was right by my ear, “It’s okay, but I don’t like loud parties too much. I’d rather be able to have a conversation.” As he withdrew his face from next to my ear, I immediately wished to have it back. There’s something sexy about whispering into ears; also the feeling of his slight stubble brushing against my cheek.
We found a place on the dance floor and let the music pull us into a hypnotic state. I felt like Natalie Portman in Black Swan: just a few minutes of these strobe lights and beats and I could go home with Mila Kunis too. As he said hi to some friends around the club, I found myself dancing with some guy named James, who upon finding out I’d come with another guy, immediately departed upon my companion’s return.
Sorry to deny you a belt notch, James, but I ain’t going home with you tonight, kiddo. Mazel Tov!
Anyway, just as my companion returned, a weird couple in matching afro wigs entered the club. Taking that (and the fact it was now 5 am) as our cue to leave, we gathered our coats and headed out of La Pomme. The cold air was a welcome relief from the hot club, and though I shivered, I was happy to have fresh air. Five a.m. Manhattan is so quiet then. Not wanting to disturb the magic, he and I stayed mostly silent on our walk to the subway, taking in the peacefulness of the abandoned streets and perhaps ruminating on everything that had occurred in the hours before.
We sat in the 34th St station, dozing slightly, waiting for the train. I kept one eye open, so as not to miss the train and also to let him sleep a bit; he’d been so much of a gentleman, I figured he deserved it. Finally around 5:20, the train pulled into the station, and we trudged inside, fighting sleep with all our might. It took all my effort to not pass out on the ride home, but I let him rest, leaning against me, my hand holding his arm to keep him steady. When we reached his stop to transfer trains, I gently patted his leg and whispered, “This is you.”
He smiled and stood up. “I had fun tonight,” he said making his way through the open train doors, “we should get together again soon.” He waved goodbye.
The doors shut, and I was alone, save for a few Hispanic workers and three hipster guys returning from a long night of ironic partying. The rest of the ride to my stop was uneventful. Though I couldn’t wait to get into my bed, I also didn’t want the night to end. I hated goodbyes. I hated when the magic ends. I hated that he was gone so fast.
That’s the time my clock read as I crawled into bed Sunday morning. I shut my eyes and drifted off into a far dreamier world than the Manhattan I’d just spent all night in.
When I finally awoke at one in the afternoon, I found a text waiting for me in my phone. It was sent at 6:14 am and said just this:
“Good morning! Sleep well!”
Maybe the magic didn’t end. Maybe it’s just beginning…