We had texted and emailed several times over the past year but very little information had been exchanged. The truth is that our “friendship” was more of an acquaintance, and one that helped us pass the time more than anything else. But these 12 words explained it all.
“I am in a hotel room–alone–I cannot stay like this.”
The Italian loved anyone and everyone because he hated to be alone.
We met walking through a park in the West Village around this time last year. I was on my way to have burgers and pie for my grandfather and he was gallivanting around town, in search of his next conquest. Our eyes met, smiles were exchanged and I blurted out that he looked like a Musketeer. After a quick introduction, we exchanged numbers, had coffee and became friendly. For three weeks, I played tour guide in-between his liaisons. I showed him my New York and he shared tales of Italy, spoke in Italian and enjoyed my relentless teasing. He was a “Casanova”, here to lie, cheat and flirt his way into the lofts and studio apartments inhabited by the many beautiful women who occupied this city. I was a writer, in love with someone else, who dreamed of living in Italy. It worked.
At the time, we both needed something and were able to provide it over brunch, lunch and cocktails. This something: A new perspective. We talked, laughed, ate and argued. We met at bars for drinks where he would excuse himself to go to the bathroom, and I later found out, accept numbers from women who were eager to play his game (he boastfully confessed this to me over drinks in a failed attempt to make me jealous).
I laughed as eventually tried to convince me that I was really the one for him. I assured him that I was not. I was in love, and even if I were as single as Jennifer Aniston post-Brad, I preferred a different kind of romance. Still, I enjoyed his chaos and boldness and he told me how much he appreciated my advice and company. We sat in parks and I took him to church where we both lit candles and he confessed that he was once an altar boy.
When the day came for him to leave, I was surprised to find that he wanted to spend his last night with me, walking around the city and sitting in a park. We had dinner and I did my best to console him. He was devastated to have to leave the new love of his life: New York City. He asked me if I would like to accompany him home. I declined. He understood. “Can’t fault me for trying,” he said. I didn’t.
We said goodnight in person, in text, and then on the phone, only to say it once again when he asked me to meet him once more before he headed to the airport. I gave him a book about New York and he gave me a black and white photo of himself posing in front of a mirror in a blazer and no shirt. “To the most precious thing I found in New York.” I knew I was one of many women to receive this photo, but I appreciated the gesture.
I left for work and he walked down the subway platform to catch the A train out to the airport. His plane took off on-schedule but not before he left me several messages in which he confused his desire to stay in New York with his desire to stay with me. For the first month, we emailed, but time passed and the truth is that we didn’t have much to say. We were “Facebook” friends. We liked a song here and there and messaged a hello when we had the time and desire. There was an attempt at having a skype conversation but it didn’t go over well.
This wasn’t a romance. Nor was it really a friendship. It was something else, an exchange. A nice way to kill time when there was rain hitting the window or too little funds to go out to Gemma.
Then, it happened.
He informed me that he was planning to return the States to pay a visit to California and his favorite city, I wished him well. Days passed and I only heard from him when he needed something. Could I ask a friend to let him stay with them? No. Could I suggest a place to stay? Sure. Could I leave work to meet him at the airport during his first layover? Not possible. Was there a good place to eat in Los Angeles? Yes.
When he arrived to NY, we decided to meet for a quick drink. I saw him standing on Broadway, texting a woman. I snuck behind him and yelled, “Hello!” intending to give him a scare. “Bella! Do not do that!” he exclaimed, tossing his phone into his pocket. We spoke about nothing and walked towards the restaurant, all the while trying to fill the moments with something meaningful. We sat down for drinks at Sanctuary T (go there and enjoy it, East (The host) is amazing). I sat with my back to the window so that he could enjoy the view. His eyes darted around the room, taking in the sights of each woman and I sat there, wondering where the fun, exciting and fascinating person I had met the year before had gone. We spoke about his liaisons in California, his girlfriend in Italy, and I listened to him explain that “all men” cheat and that makes him feel OK about what he does. I told him my thoughts about it and he reminded me not to judge him. “Women are the same, everyone is cheating and lying to everyone.” I told him that I was not like that. “I know you are not, but baby, it’s only you who is like this. The rest of us are not.” I told him that I knew this was not true. He offered me the last piece of pita to scoop into the humus we were sharing. By the time the second glass of sangria had been served, there was a woman on his lap.
I looked at the time and asked for the check. He picked up the tab. We shared a cab to Queens. He was staying at the house of a male friend, he said, not realizing he had referred to this friend as “she” earlier in the conversation. I spoke of my special someone and he looked bored. As I got out of the cab, he leaned in for a kiss and I turned away. “You have a girlfriend and I have someone in my life, remember?” I said.
A blank stare came across his face. “Then it’s a draw, no?”
I said goodnight and shut the door. He texted me that I was something special.
I knew this to be true, but not to him.