Last night, while I was taking a bath and eating a popsicle (I just figured out you could do such a thing as an adult), Carla Bruni’s song “Un grand amour” came on, and I drifted to another time when I lived in NYC and sat on the balcony in my Upper West Side apartment.
I lived there with a series of German roommates (they kept leaving and sending their beautiful German friends to replace them), and then a guy roommate from Brazil who seemed to live off tuna.
Sitting on my balcony, pretending to smoke cigarettes while listening to Carla Bruni, I pined mercilessly after a guy who was too busy studying at Columbia University to pay me much attention. As an aspiring actress with very little on my plate, minus a few acting classes where we honed our “repetition skills” and tremored on the floor for hours on end, I had way too much free time for the self-indulgent, extra-curricular activity of pining.
He was a dark-haired boy with a sexy South African accent, and his effortless pick-up line, “Yo,” to this day has never been outmatched.
I miss daydreaming. Pining. Sitting on a windowsill thinking about a boy who’s thinking about economics. Now you can log in and see exactly what he’s thinking about. The mystery is gone.
NYC was a nice time in my life. I like to romanticize it, though now I’d more likely move to Montana than NYC. But one night, in particular, floated back to me as I sat in the bathtub eating my popsicle.
I miss daydreaming. Pining. Sitting on a windowsill thinking about a boy who’s thinking about economics.
It was an autumn eve, when the air was crisp with that cool, NYC promise of exciting things to come, and I was sitting in my usual spot on the fire escape, bored and lonely.
My pseudo boyfriend was studying for an exam, but my dear friend, Gemma, also studying at Columbia (I was like a surrogate Columbia student without the degree or the intellectual prowess, but somehow still attending the parties and hanging out on campus), invited me to a birthday party downtown.
I excitedly put on my gray, woolen peacoat, brushed my long blonde hair, and bounced downtown (22-year-olds bounce. As you get older, it’s more of a stride). The second I arrived, I made it my mission to meet a boy. I needed to think about anyone other than the one I couldn’t stop thinking about.
I didn’t see any cute ones until I was fake-smoking outside (I really don’t think I ever actually inhaled, but loved using it as a prop), plotting my exit strategy when three punk-rocker dudes waltzed over and immediately asked me for a cigarette. I was floored. It was as if my prayer had been answered and I had manifested OASIS.
One guy, in particular, caught my attention. He had long blonde hair, a chiseled jawline, a leather jacket, and an arrogance that just screamed lead singer.
The bar was winding down, and to my elation, the boy band invited me to chill at their place. I of course said, “Okay… sure,” left the party without saying bye, and followed them home like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite the rocker palace I had envisioned.
Instead, it resembled a dorm room with eight bunk beds, some of which were occupied by other smelly rocker dudes puffing on joints. Disgusted, but still determined to make my crush jealous, I clung to the blonde guy and invited him to my place.
We took the train all the way from the East Village to the Upper West Side. On the way, he confessed he wasn’t actually in a band, but rather, he taught Native American studies at NYU. I thought, Well that’s still pretty cool, I guess.
We arrived at my apartment, but the intoxication was winding down, and the intrigue and excitement had also dissipated. By now it was 3 a.m., and he was an hour away from his youth hostel so I didn’t have the heart to ask him to leave.
We kissed for a second, but he reeked of cigarettes and he was so gangly I felt like I was kissing a girl. I just wanted to be with my stoic pseudo boyfriend and not this weird stranger. So, in a moment of panic, I did what any smart girl would do: I pretended to fall asleep. I can fake smoking and sleeping pretty convincingly, and eventually, he fell asleep too, thank God.
A few hours later, sunlight was streaming in through my window. I opened my eyes and the stranger in my apartment was putting on his pants, making his way to the front door. Not sure what to say, I awkwardly blurted out, “Wow, you’re so tall and skinny.”
“Thanks.” (I didn’t really mean it as a compliment.)
“What are you doing today?” he feigned interest.
“I think I’ll go to yoga and then maybe do some writing.”
“Scrawny, cigarette-smelling, not-a-rockstar!” I thought, but didn’t say.
Finally, he left.
I don’t think either of us even pretended we wanted to see each other again, which was kind of a relief. That’s one thing I’m not as good at pretending — though I’ve tried a few times.
I got up, had some tea, checked my phone.
Still no text. Dammit.
That’s one thing I’m not as good at pretending — though I’ve tried a few times.
Tired and emotionally drained, I decided to nix yoga in exchange for some emergency thera-shopping. I rode the C train downtown to 34th street. As I approached H&M, as if God had been making billboards just to mess with me, a giant — and I mean giant — billboard overlooking the entire store depicted a blonde, skinny guy modeling a pair of tight boxer briefs.
The same guy I’d woken up next to a few hours ago who said, “Thank you,” when I said, “You’re so tall and skinny.” The same guy who lied and claimed he taught Native American studies at NYU.
The same guy who was putting on his pants in front of me was taking them off for all of NYC.
I stood there dumbfounded for a good, long minute, staring at him in his underwear, laughing at him and myself, and the whole damn joke that is life.
Then, I brushed aside my ego, went in, bought myself a very, very dorky jean jacket, rode the C back uptown, put on my new jacket, nothing else, sat on my balcony, pretended to smoke as I listened to Carla Bruni, and waited patiently for my intellectual, business-major, pseudo boyfriend to text.
Eventually, after hours and hours of sad Carla Bruni songs, in the middle of one of my favorites, “Quelqu’un m’a dit,” after the verse “On me dit que le destin se moque bien de nous, Qu’il ne nous donne rien et qu’il nous promet tout” (I’m told that destiny mocks us well and good, That it gives us nothing and yet promises all), my phone finally went bing.
I looked down and smiled.