The first time I kissed Paul was in California. We both had films in a festival there and I’d been eyeing him for days but couldn’t get up the nerve to make a move. I was too afraid he’d neg me, too afraid I’d be rebuked. Also, on my first night at the festival I’d made the mistake of going home with a swarthy local instead, who’d seduced me into servicing his needs. But the local turned out to be a dick, so the night before Paul was leaving I decided to make my move.
We’d both been invited to a party at a fancy restaurant in honor of Bruce Vilanch, the guy who writes the Oscars and the star of a documentary in the festival, Get Bruce. I arrived at the party with Jamie, my director, but as soon as Paul came in I plopped my ass next to his. As glamorous pseudo-celebrities, all Friends of Bruce, swirled around us, I gazed at Paul and prayed we were alone. But each time I started to sweet-talk, someone would come along to congratulate Paul on his film, which had screened earlier that day. “You’re the next Truffaut,” said a German scout. “It was the best movie in the festival,” said an L.A. director. “I can’t stop thinking about it,” said a San Francisco writer.
“I can’t stop thinking about you,” I wanted to add, but Paul blushes easily and I knew the only way to get him was to get him in private.
Finally the party thinned out, and Paul and I went to the bar to order our last beers. The only people left besides us were Keith, a festival-hopper, and a local couple I’d met earlier that nighta bespectacled journalist with long brown hair and his girlfriend, who was Barbie-licious. They were like Howard Stern and Kim Gordon, except unpretentious and granola.
“I have a secret,” I whispered to Kim, while Paul was chatting with Howard and Keith. “I have a crush on Paul but I’m scared to make a move.”
“Don’t be scared,” she said. “Go for it. I’m mildly psychic and I have a good feeling about this.”
She was airy and West Coastian but I wanted to believe her. I glanced toward Paul. “He’s talking to your boyfriend,” I said.
“Can you get me an inroad here?”
She whipped her head around and said, “Howard and Keith, can I buy you two some drinks?” As they turned toward the bartender to place their orders, I tapped Paul on the shoulder.
“Do you want to come outside with me for a second?” I said. “Sure,” he said.
I led him to an outdoor patio in the back and we sat down next to each other at a round table. I turned my chair to face his and said, “I’ve been wanting to kiss you since the beginning of the party.”
“I’ve been wanting to kiss you for the last three days,” he said.
“Why didn’t you?”
“I wasn’t sure how you felt,” he said.
I didn’t know if he knew about my night with the swarthy local but I didn’t think it was the time to bring it up. There was a long silent beat. We stared. We blinked. I gulped. And then I took Paul’s face in both my hands, pressed my mouth up against his, and slipped in some tongue. He pulled me close and my chair slid forward a few inches. It made a scraping noise on the patio floor. It was weird to be kissing him seated, at a table. It felt businesslike, as though I’d made a formal proposition and been accepted, but instead of signing the papers we’d decided to smooch.
I stroked his neck. He bit my tongue a little and I bit back. Which made me a backbiter. We pulled away and stared at each other. His cheeks were redtwo perfect, circular patches like the blushes painted on dolls. I’d never seen such red cheeks. I’m Semitic and dark and even after an orgasm I look olive and monochrome as ever.
I put my hand on his red cheek and pulled him in for another round. Just as it was getting frisky, Keith came out the door and walked over to our table. We pulled away quickly and looked up at him. Keith has wide, sad eyes, bushy hair and glasses. He wrote a book about film festivals and spends the entire year going from one festival to another. He’s a sweet and innocent guy but he’s like the Linda Tripp of the festival world: He takes far too much interest in other people’s business.
“What’s up, Keith?” said Paul.
“I just wanted to know where you two were.”
“We’re right here,” I said, glaring.
“That’s what I wanted to know,” he said, then walked back through the door.
I rolled my eyes at Paul. “I don’t know about Keith,” I said. “He means well, but he really gets on my nerves sometimes. He’s always hovering around, eavesdropping and butting into conversations he’s not a part of. He’s such a…such a…”
“Exactly!” I said. “But you’re no Yid. How’d you know that word?”
“I’ve always known it. I like it because it sounds like what it means.”
“It sure does,” I said. I smiled at him and he smiled back. “I want to see you in the city,” I said.
“I want to see you too.”
“I don’t think we should rush things tonight. We’ll have lots of time when we get back.”
“Here’s my phone number,” I said, writing it down on a napkin. “I won’t call you. You call me.”
He touched my face and we leaned in for round three. I opened my eyes for a second a few minutes later and out of the corner of my eye I spotted Keith standing in the doorway, staring at us. I had no idea how long he’d been there.
“Jesus, Keith,” I said, jerking away. “What is it this time?”
“I just wanted you two to know we’re leaving,” he said.
“We’ll be out in a minute,” said Paul.
After a little more foreplay, we followed Keith back into the restaurant. I sidled up next to Kim with a shit-eating grin and she raised her glass and clinked it with mine. A few minutes later we all headed out. I kissed Paul on the cheek goodbye, and went back to my hotel. As I closed my eyes I thought of his pink shaygets lips forming the word noodge and I fell asleep smiling.
As soon as we got back to the city we started going out a lot. One night we saw Pushing Tin which sucked my left tit and afterward we went to the Cedar Tavern to talk. We were sitting at the bar and he had his hand on my back so I was feeling confident. I put my face next to his and said, “I like you so much, Paul.”
“I like you too, baby doll.” (I loved when he called me that. Something about the retro nature of the expression always sent a zing from my heart to my hole.)
“The reason I like you so much,” I said, “is because you’re really solid. You have both feet planted on the ground and also, you’re good people. What I’m trying to say is, you’re a mensch.”
“What’s a mensch?”
“A just and noble person. But it sounds better in Yiddish.”
“I like that,” he said, nodding. “Mensch. You’re a mensch too.”
“I don’t know about that,” I said. “I have trouble listening, I’m very self-centered and I like to talk about people behind their backs, which is against Jewish law.”
“Don’t deny it,” he said. “You’re very menschy.” I squealed with glee and bit his lower lip affectionately. I never knew going out with a goy could be so much fun.
A few nights later, he came over to my apartment for the first time. We were going to hang out for a while and then meet our friend Dutch Mike at a bar in my neighborhood. It was a humid night and Paul was sweating a little when he came in, so immediately I wanted to pounce on him. I get very turned on by male perspiration. I love sniffing men’s armpits and I love it when they drip on me while we’re going at it. I used to smell Novel Lover’s armpits all the time and ask if he wanted to smell mine, but for some reason he always declined.
So I pulled Paul to the bed and we began rolling around on top of the covers, and before we knew it two things had happened. We lay there sighing, side by side, and then he went to the bathroom and threw some water on his face. I stood up and as I was dressing I noticed that my covers had gotten a little marred by our activity.
“Uh-oh!” I shouted into the bathroom. “My bed is Monica!”
“What?” he said, over the water.
“My bed is Monica!”
He shut off the water and came out of the bathroom. “What does ‘Monica’ mean?” he said. “Is that Yiddish?”
I pointed to the bed and said, “No. Monica.” He looked down at it and started laughing. So did I. I laughed so hard my eyes started tearing and then I said, “I think I’m gonna plotz.”
“Who?” he said.
“It means ‘to faint from excitement or exhaustion.’ To shit your pants. But ‘I’m plotzed’ means ‘I’m drunk.’”
“So ‘plotzed’ is ‘boxed.’”
“‘Boxed’ is ‘lit.’”
“‘Lit’ is ‘drunk.’ But it can also mean tired.”
I looked at him and grinned lasciviously. He spoke a language all his own. Thuggish.
“You know what?” I said. “All this slang is making me horny.”
He looked at me and I looked back and then we got on the bed and romped enthusiastically.
“You get me so excited,” I said.
“You get me excited too. You’re such a good shtup.”
“Shtup?” I screamed. “Where’d you learn that one?”
“I was in a play about World War II soldiers, and there was a Jewish character in it and a line about shtupping.”
“Who knew?” I said incredulously. “Who knew you could Yid so well?”
He shrugged and blushed. I turned to face him, rested my head on his shoulder, and said, “You’re my Yiddishe papa.”
“Thanks, baby,” he said. And then we stood up, went to meet Dutch Mike and all got totally shikker.