I WAS ON the Brooklyn-bound F, when I realized I was sitting across from the same guy again. We had sat across from each other the day before and the day before that, and this time we were both carrying bags of art supplies. I looked from my bag to his and then met his eyes again, as if to say, “Well, would you look at us!” I grinned. My subway boyfriend grinned back.
Three days later, my best friend told me we couldn’t go to our local coffee shop anymore. Something about an evil sister taking over the company and her favorite barista being fired. Abby had lived in Park Slope for ages, and when she walked into the Indian restaurant on her corner, the staff would break into applause. I moved to New York over two years before, but I was constantly studying the subway map.
“Sure,” I said, as she led the way to our new hangout.
Six blocks later, we swung ourselves into a new room of familiar smells, and there, behind the counter, was my subway boyfriend. I played cool.
“I know him,” I told Abby. “He’s got a show tomorrow night,” she said. She lowered her sunglasses, even though the day was flat and freezing. “We’ll go.”
The next night, the show led to drinks led to more drinks led to a sexually charged snowball throwing competition. Before I could say “ridiculous,” my subway boyfriend and I were making out in a phone booth on Fifth Avenue.
The following week ripped into a glorious spring. The snow dissolved, and I packed up my floor-length coat. The guy and I went to a movie. The movie was great—the half we saw, anyway—and I called him for another date. He didn’t call back. The weather snapped, and winter returned.
There are the standard mistakes of new New Yorkers: forgetting to verify your sublet’s kitchen is not just a hot plate, dismissing Brooklyn as a dangerous wilderness, being curt with strangers because you think it will make you blend in. And then there are the small slips of almost New Yorkers: forgetting streetwise kids are still just kids, assuming one good date will lead to another, mistaking spring’s false start for the real thing.
Shocked, I watched another foot of snow fall. I put on the fat pants. I wasn’t hiding from the subway boyfriend or the winter, but all the inconsistencies. I was tired of feeling like I got the city only to be tricked. I had a feeling people on the subway looked at me and shook their heads in pitying laughter. A week later I was sporting the same sweatsuit when Abby called.
“Meet me for coffee,” she said. “I can’t,” I said. “I just brewed a pot.” “You and I both know your coffee maker is broken,” she said.
The following week ripped into a glorious spring. The snow dissolved, and I packed up my floor-length coat. The guy and I went to a movie. The movie was great—the half we saw, anyway—and I called him for another date.
“I made out with him in a phone booth.” “Ten minutes,” she said. I swapped the sweatpants for an equally baggy pair of jeans. I zipped on a down vest to comfort my top half. At the last minute, in a spurt of motivation, I opted out of the oversized winter cap. I pulled my hair into a ponytail and smacked my cheeks to give them some color.
The kids were making their ways home from school and as I moved through the bleach fumes and cigarette smoke of my building’s lower hall, I saw two of them, the 6th grader from the second floor and his best friend, a younger, smaller kid with a sagging backpack. The 6th grader was always forgetting his keys.
“Hey,” I said, as I tumbled down the steps. I swung the door wide so he could catch it behind me. The street was empty except for the three of us.
Just as I was passing them, the 6th grader leaned toward his friend. I was close enough to hear perfectly as the older boy whispered to the younger, “Yo, that’s the hottest bitch on this block, son.”
The kid was probably about to go upstairs and start algebra homework. His mom had probably left him a juice box on the counter. But I let his superlative sail straight to my heart. If I am still new and silly enough to be duped by New York’s inconsistencies, then I can allow myself to be buoyed by some of them, too.