Emotional Nights in a Penthouse

I told myself I’m done apologizing for being myself, but I shouldn’t have gotten so upset after the show – it’s just not you or anybody else sees where I’m coming from. I rewrote Labor Day Weekend twenty four times before submitting to my acting teacher, who connected me with some Albanian who rented me space for pretty much everything I make at the hotel. Yeah fucker… I wrote, directed and acted in some heroic attempt to save myself from the person I dreaded of becoming. Nobody. You could have at least stayed for the part where Brianna started a fire at two in the morning.

But fuck it, right? It’s not like praise from some third tier agent is going to change my life. I hung around the bar afterwards with the intention of finishing all the booze I ordered in case we had a full house. My co-star Leslie and her girlfriend invited me to dinner and I made up some excuse about needing to meet the Albanian. The place emptied and I cracked open a bottle of whisky. This girl came over to congratulate me and I offered her some, mulling over the fact I’ve been writing for five years and a thirty-person show is the highlight of my career. She threw herself on me and we hopped in a cab.

I don’t live that far uptown, but my place is tiny. Like really tiny. Like never have I ever walked into someone else’s place and said: wow, this place is smaller than mine. For all the gimmicks and tortured artist bullshit I spew, there’s no hiding in my two hundred square foot square apartment. We hooked up for all of six minutes and even my neighbors could’ve sensed her disappointment.

“You’re not done, are you?”

Fuck you, I wanted to say. I’ve been up almost twenty hours and haven’t slept more than five in weeks. Do you think the crummy theater floors cleaned themselves… that I had someone who magically knew how to design playbills, manage actors and chose costumes? Motherfucker, I did all that shit myself. And I would’ve happily come home ALONE had she not grabbed me in front of coat check.

“You could go down on me,” she said.

“FUCK THAT,” I wanted to yell. Who do you think you are!? I not only entertained you, but now I have to service you because my average-sized dick couldn’t get you off?

“That’s pretty intimate,” I stared upward.

“It is intimate,” she replied. “But it’s also what I need.”

I rolled on my back, fighting whether to scream at her to leave, risking her saying something awful about my play, but she started getting dressed. I walked her downstairs, completely naked, critiquing my lower-stomach flab in the stairwell mirrors. I messaged Leslie, who invited me to her place the following afternoon.

“Could you dress any more ostentatiously?” she kissed my cheek as I strolled inside with polkadots.

“Nice shirt,” Meredith, Leslie’s girlfriend, said sarcastically.

She worked at a bank, enabling a view of the water.

“What? None of your clients dress like this?”

“No,” Meredith handed me a glass of sparking wine.

“But don’t they say you should dress for the job you want to have?”

“So you want to be a gigolo, Kid?”

I smiled, collapsing next to Leslie on their couch, located in front of a massive television and their German Shepherd Stringer Bell. 

“Babe, can you find the game?” Meredith strung a bowl of pasta.

I couldn’t give a shit about sports, but she loved college basketball. Leslie invited me to smoke on their balcony, so it wouldn’t annoy their neighbors. I waited for Meredith’s approval before agreeing and we locked ourselves outside.

“You were great last night,” I said.

“You, too.”

“Nah…” I admired one of those tourist boats circling the island. “All I can think of is how it could’ve been better.”

“Well Stringer Bell loved you, didn’t he?” she petted his belly. “Didn’t he?”

I liked Stringer, which was rare for me. I generally don’t care for animals because of the way people use them to replace humans. I can’t deal with so-and-so, so I’ll get a dog. But he gave them purpose, so who the hell was I to judge? Meredith’s team won and we went for a stroll.

“Let’s do it,” I said, eager to escape the view I’ll never have.

We headed to the end of the pier and I half-listened to them talk, mostly about their plans later that day. Mostly, I just wanted to kick back in front of the Statue of Liberty. Stringer Bell ran ahead and I heard someone crying – a high school girl wearing a necklace with the letters Kinky.

“Are you okay?” I asked, welcoming absurdity.

“That depends,” she said. “I’m not going to kill myself, if that’s what you’re asking.”

Stringer barked at another dog, which occupied the girls’ attention.

“Do you want me to call somebody?” I said calmly, unsure how to react.

She wiped her eyes with a purple sweatshirt.

“No, you twat. Why the fuck would I come out here by myself, if I wanted attention?”

I shrugged.

“Want to hear a story?” I asked.

“Sure.”

I retold my saga from the night before, how I stalked the girl online and she still didn’t respond.

“Wow,” Angela nodded. “You sound like a real winner.”

“She liked the play though, right?”

“Yeah…” she said sarcastically. “Or maybe she just wanted to fuck you.”

She licked her lips; they played fetch with Stringer.

“So what’s his name?” I said wryly. “Or her name.”

The girl laughed, touching her neck.

“Brad,” she hesitated.

“Liar,” I said. “You think I don’t know Lichtenstein?”

She smiled; wind made it easy to ignore Leslie calling me.

“You want to get out of here?” Angela spread her legs, revealing she wasn’t wearing anything underneath.

“Go where?”

“Public bathroom,” she nodded casually down the boardwalk. “You can bend me over in that stall.”

I rushed off without looking over my shoulder.

“Who was that?” Meredith said suspiciously.

“I don’t know,” I said. “And I don’t want to know.”

We passed a recently constructed high-rise on the water.

“How much are one of these places?” I asked Meredith.

Leslie had run ahead with the dog.

“Cheapest ones are listed at ten million.”

Ten million? I felt so deflated. Mick Jagger apparently owned the penthouse.

“Don’t worry,” she patted my shoulder. “I feel your pain.”

“You earn a great living,” I said.

Meredith nodded to Leslie.

“Tell your friend that,” she smiled wearily.

I walked them to their place, but didn’t follow them inside.

“I have to go,” I said.

“Where?” Leslie replied, a little sad.

“I have a date.”

“Okay,” she hugged me. “See you next week.”

I sometimes wonder about the person I’ll wake up next to, especially if this works out even close to how I imagine. And it’s not even that she’ll be beautiful. Or smart. But love all the horrible things I think on a daily basis. The inner critic I’ve learned to accept because of what he’ll do for us.

“So what’s your biggest fear?” Lydia asked.

I tuned out the pretentious crowd. Zonked out of my skull, I rocked my barstool and felt my empty glass, one of a half dozen I’d had that night with a girl who looked like a mix of the only person I’ve said I love you to and her evil twin. It was as if I needed to try pushing her away before owning the way her smile, equally weighted with innocence and skepticism, made me believe I’d met someone.

“Being a joke,” I shrugged.

“I don’t believe you,” Lydia kissed my cheek. “I don’t believe you for a second.”

I noted the piercing above her Hermes belt.

“You’re right. I’m not a joke. What I’m afraid of is no one else admitting it.”

She flashed her dark eyes, which saw me for the kid I was.

“Has anyone ever told you that you’re unsafe?” she arched her manicured eyebrows.

What a fucking day, I thought. YES, actually. It’s probably a toss up between that and the number of times I’ve been told I’m fascinating.

“No,” I acted surprised. “What makes you say that?”

Lydia leaned forward.

“It’s okay,” she said knowingly. “I understand.”

I leaned in to kiss her; Lydia hesitated before reciprocating. Our tongues massaged each other and she bit my lip. I felt her thigh and she reminded me about having to leave.

“Goodnight,” I kissed her cheek, pretending not to care.

But I did. She knew. Everyone knew. The entire street saw me pouting, wallowing with my headphones. She should’ve skipped whatever she had going on and stayed with me. Unsafe, she called me. I outlined my next play on the subway home. It opens with a guy acting like he can afford a penthouse in Tribeca.

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