What We Would Do if You Came to Visit.

Hopefully I would get a phone call from you on a Wednesday afternoon.
"Hey," you'll say. "I'm on a train from Grand Central. They're saying it'll be in.."
"Poughkeepsie," I help you out.
"Yeah, around 5:30."
"Perfect. I'll pick you up at the train station."
Sadly, Poughkeepsie will be dark and cold by the time you arrive. I'll stand in front of you in the train station, surveying you with a somewhat noncommittal look, my hands stuffed in my pockets. But when you observe that it's good to see me, I'll break into a huge smile and bring you to the car. To you, my car will look nondescript; an old Nissan that had a disagreement with another car at one point. The passenger door is stiff and the power locks don't work, so I'll unlock the back door through the driver's window and then lean over the seats to unlock your side. We're putting your intimidatingly huge backpack in the backseat because my trunk will be stuffed with the detritus that usually floats in my car. People tend to think I live in it.
We'll go to my apartment and I'll point out the available amenities. "Do you mind sleeping on the couch?" I'll ask.
You'll cock an eyebrow at me in reply. "Where do you plan to sleep?" This is what you asked me the night of the phosphorescent skinny dipping in Turkey.
There may be some attempt, on my part, to play it cool and some short lived charade that we'll be sleeping apart.
You'll excuse yourself to the bathroom and I'll take this opportunity to nudge some things into my bedroom closet with my feet. My next task will be to try and arrange some ambient music for tonight. There is no one sound that seems to particularly fit this moment, except maybe Air. The ipod is surrendered to the Shuffle Gods.
When you emerge with the sound of my toilet flushing, you'll probably pause at my wall of framed photos, sneaking glances into my bedroom. There are no photos from Turkey, but a lot of Kirsty and a woman you assume must be Mum. And of a guy with long dark hair.
"Would you like anything to drink?" I'll ask. I cannot avoid asking my guests this question; I have been programmed to play the hostess. Beverages, alcoholic and non, are listed. You'll decide on a Brooklyn lager and I'll carefully pour it into a blue frosted glass that says "moose juice."
"Did you do the art work in here?" You'll ask.
"All of them," I'll nod, "except the nude sketch and the small car." There's a tightness in my voice that communicates an ounce of pride and a pint of wondering whether you think they're crap. You'll nod and sip your beer.
"So, tomorrow," I'll begin telling you, "I have to be at work at 8:30."
"OK," you'll look out my living room window into the kitchen of Baccio's pizzeria next door. A skinny girl with the worst taste in jeans is pulling out a pizza from the brick oven. Maybe she doesn't really want me here, you'll think.
Maybe he doesn't really want to be here, I'll think to myself. The thought is pushed to the side, ignored.
Relentlessly cheerful I'll continue. "But my Mum works across the street at Vassar Campus, in the library. If you take the path straight, you'll find it. It's a big Gothic castle-looking structure."
"Sure," you'll agree. "I'll find it."
"Then we can all have lunch together," the optimism in my voice is almost painful.
Lunch is the perfect segue for inquiries as to whether you are hungry. The numerous dining options are listed. Within me is a shimmering hope that you'll prove me right about how awesome you are and that you will choose Mole Mole or Saigon Cafe.
You'll choose the Beech Tree Bar and Grill, two doors down from me. Some part of my admiration for you flags a little and dies. I hate the Beech Tree. When the entrees are set before us, you yourself are less than impressed. Maybe the tiny Mexican place she described would have been better, you'll think, chewing the over-done steak (it would've).
Afterwards, feeling just this side of uncomfortably full, I'll suggest a walk around campus. The night is clear, crisp and wintry. We'll walk past the tennis courts bathed in cold moonshine and the fluorescent streetlights. Every step I take next to you contains a fervent wish that you'll stop and kiss me. I'll be damned if I make the first move. As far as I'm concerned, letting you stay with me is an immense carte blanche. My eyes are turned up to the sky silently wishing for a star to make it so.
When we return to my apartment I'll pour glasses of red wine, turn on Radiohead's In Rainbows and draw the shades. You'll be sitting on the couch, running your fingers over the cushion cover made by Uzbeki's, purchased in Turkey. You'll recognise its nuances. The blue striped Danish chair in front of the window is my chair and I'll sit in it with an unmistakable air of ownership. There is considerable closeness to us, but the arms of our seats creates a secure separation. As the night progresses, as we talk about Portland, Vancouver, Seattle, Phoenix, Amsterdam, London, Japan, my job; we'll lean closer and even closer. My heart will increase its pulse, the red wine softening my sharp insecurities, like wax softening around the edges.
Around 1:00AM, after I ask repeatedly "are you sure you're not tired?" you'll seize a firm handful of my hair and kiss me.
From your open mouth, softly covered with a sandy mustache, a deep moan vibrates. It makes all my internal organs shiver and collapse in surrender.
Any illusion I had of pacing, of not giving away too much too soon, evaporates. You'll spend that night in my bed.
Thursday morning I'll rouse myself as late as I can without being late for work. You might stir, dimly reacting to my rushed preparations. When you get up, you'll find a hastily scribbled note on the kitchen table inviting you to such things as shower, coffee, food in the fridge, contact numbers, etc;. You'll look around, scratching your head, realising you're alone in my apartment.
At work people will know something is up. My heart is beating like a hummingbird, my body tingling and my skin carrying that tell-tale glow. I'll be jumping from my chair, exuberant and chatty. They might figure it out. Or I might make a confession. I wear my heart and my sleeve. It's a curse.
During various lulls in the day (few and far between) memories will shiver down my back. A warm glow will emanate from within and a secret smile will play on my lips.
For lunch Mum will suggest Lola's. I also put forth the idea of K&D deli in case Jayce is working and you can meet him. Mum wisely convinces me Lola's is a better decision. I'll be a little late coming back to work. But when you follow me into the office Kate and Ruth and Tara will all exclaim what a handsome catch I found a lunch. My face will flare beet red.
Before you walk out the door you'll awkwardly cup a hand around my shoulder and mumble, "see you later." This will make me over the moon with happiness. But now I will have to spill everything if I haven't already.
Squirming with excitement and impatience I'll leave five minutes early and tear home. Mum will have called, saying she told you about late nights at the gallery; perhaps a big exhibition is having a reception (I will inform you how I tragically missed the Durer reception). We'll go and discuss art. My comments are irreverent and, at the same time, convey a deep appreciation, a tragic love almost, of beauty. And there will also be comments that reveal just what an art geek I am. You'll laugh occasionally, the gallery resounding with your deep, booming laugh.
Our main event for the night, however, is 80's night. Holy Mother of God. I'll be buzzing and high as a kite with nerves and excitement. Fretting over my outfit, changing at least three times, making you nervous and asking me "do I look OK?" and fixating over a million things that could go wrong; I'll finally make the sign of the Cross, surrender myself to the party gods and drive you to Lagrange.
Jess lives in Lagrange. She is one of my closest friends (or so you'll surmise by the way I don't shut up about her) and after listening to my squeals of anticipation, she'll offer to drive to New Paltz. This is incredibly generous of her and how much I love her is occupying the right half of my cranium. Her driving means that I'll be doing my makeup and hair at her house, like we girls do.
You might be mystified by this ritual. You might completely get it.
Either way, you'll meet Jess, her parents and maybe her boyfriend, Jayce (of K&D deli). As much as I love them all, this worries me. You might realise we are all so eccentric as to being outright geeks. You're now trapped with us for, oh, five hours.
Or you might realise we are all so eccentric to the point of being the epitome of unique awesomeness. You'll perceive Jayce to be a riot, Z and Mark as impressive and you'll bask in the golden beauty that is my friendship with Jess. You have only five hours to spend with us tonight.
New Paltz itself will present a fresh new set of anxieties for me. You might find it really lame. You might find it really lame being there with me. You might find girls hotter than me. My friends might be there.
Loren, Ryan, Brandon, Annie, Dave, Evan, Chris. Plus assorted gay guys I vaguely know. Oh God.
Why did I think this would a good idea? I love my friends. That collection of names identifies some of the most integral, warm-hearted, and funnest people I've ever known. But they can be downright idiots. Especially when drunk. So can I, when it comes down it.
We park, adjust cleavage and waist bands on skinny jeans.
Jess will survey me appreciatively and say,"You look amazing by the way."
I'll blush. You'll give me a jab in the stomach. I'll grin and jab you in the shoulder with my elbow. When I begin walking through the parking lot, it will be with a stride that exudes an almost defiant confidence, all-too conscious of the guy walking next to me; you.
We'll wait in line, get carded and tagged. I'll try, as I always do, to make friends with the bouncer checking id's. He'll singularly not give a damn. I'll fork over $4.00 for your cover and make a beeline for the bar. Jess and Jayce exit to the patio to say hello to anyone else who might be here.
"Ill get this one," you'll yell over the remixed Abba (it'll get better, I swear). I'll salute the barmaid with my fist, displaying my bracelet and legal status to consume vast quantities of alcohol. She'll mix a whiskey sour for me and pour a generous breadth of neat whiskey for you. She'll hold up three fingers and mouth the number to you.
"She's my favourite," I'll tell you, as I navigate our way to the patio, holding your hand to make sure we don't get separated.
"She is pretty cute," you'll agree.
We'll find Jess and Jayce ensconced in cigarette smoke and conversation. Jayce will be holding forth to a man with tattoos and a grizzled beard while boys and girls wearing too much eyeliner soak up every word and laugh with too much enthusiasm.
You may notice that I'll be inhaling my large whiskey sour. You may feel me relax, lowering my shoulders, bringing my elbows in, my smile spreading a little more genuinely. I don't attempt to deny that alcohol is a social lubricant for me. It opens up my jaw, allowing comments and observations to flow like a river. You'll think back to that night on the Gulet in Turkey; how I didn't really start to talk until I started to drink.
Hands shaking from equal part nerves and the chill in the air, I'll introduce you to my friends. They'll nod, shake hands, give an off-colour remark, a cavaliers bow or otherwise indicate that they think of themselves as socially misunderstood. You're not expected to understand them. In fact they don't want you to. They want you to get the impression that they could give two pins for what society might think of them; they're having too much fun reveling in their uniqueness.
You'll recognise Ryan as looking similar to the guy on my wall with the long black hair. Then you'll actually see that guy. I'll introduce him as Brandon. "They're twins," I explain. You'll nod.
Cigarette smoke motivates you to produce a pack of your own Marlboros, offering me one. Such an accessory, in my addled mind, adds another layer of defense. I'll accept.
"Please don't tell my mother," I'll mutter out the corner of my mouth.
"OK," you'll grin and poke me again in the stomach. I'll take a chance and kiss you, savouring how soft the blond hair on your cheek is. Within that kiss you'll feel a prayer of thanks that, so far, this night has been successful.
Every so often I will move to the beat of song. Or my eyes might widen. Or I might seize your hand and beg you to dance to this song. Or Jess might seize me and pull me to the door, leaving you to follow. Jess and I will thread our way through the bouncing crowd, slipping into an empty pocket of dance floor with sinuous grace.
Dancing with me will bring back memories of the Gulet and our last night there. Music seems to move me and a good beat will make me fling my hair and twist my hips with abandon. Good music makes me not give a God damn.
In between songs, drenched with sweat, on the patio I'll discreetly point out various boys. "I made out with that one and didn't remember it until he called me two days later."
"Really?" you'll smirk. "I thought you said NY girls weren't as crazy as all that."
"And I slept with you anyways," I'll take a drag on the cigarette you gave me. "Once again, I would like to point out; butterflies did not overtake the boat."
"I still think that makes you a liar," you'll say, weaving your fingers into my hair.
"No," I'll shake my head and lean against you. "It makes me very generous." Another puff. "That one..." I'll blush. "Oh man, I asked him what in God's name possessed him to grow that mustache." I'll groan into your shoulder with embarrassment.
You'll chuckle as I lift up my beet red face. Then you'll feel me tense and smolder.
"That one," I'll growl and jerk my head in the guy's direction. "Is an asshole." I'll turn my back on him. My movements will be fluid with whiskey, vodka and even a little tequila. I'll grin goofily at you and you won't be able to do anything but smile back at me. You'll feel warm.
I'll dance with you and with Jess, giving you both looks of pure love. At 4:00AM they'll make their last call and we'll leave. Grime, booze, smoke, smudged eyeliner and mascara coat us, lacquered to our bodies with a thin sheen of sweat. In the backseat of Jess' car I'll lean heavily against you. One of your hands surreptitiously cups my right breast and your tongue will slide around my mouth as my teeth gently close down on your lower lip.
Having been dropped off and hugged by Jess and Jayce (who will say "it was an honour meeting so fine a gentleman," or something to that effect) I'll drag you up the stairs. Tripping over the steps I'll laugh and grin like a fool, trying to scamper out of your reach.
Fumbling with my key in the lock I'll sigh and shiver as you press yourself against my body and kiss my neck. Finally, the door gives way and we will literally fall into my apartment.
My hallway will be dark, as will my bedroom. But we'll practically glow, parts of anatomy are picked out by the streetlights that spill through the windows. Our luminescence will burn as you peel my few thin articles of clothing from my body.
Sleep will come to us with the dawn of Friday, illuminating our bodies linked together. As you drift asleep, you'll kiss my forehead (I am such a sucker for things like that), and express relief that I have nowhere to disappear to. I'll cringe at that, remembering how, on the Gulet, I scampered from your room like I couldn't get away fast enough.
An hour after dawn I'll wake to my alarm. My eyes will be open long enough to locate my phone and dial the number for work. I'll inform the voicemail that I'm too sick to come into work that day, end the phone call and drop the phone on the floor. I'll roll over in the bed, pressing my jaw against your shoulder.
Noon chimes before you and I will fully wake. I might kiss you, testing the waters. If you respond in kind I'll have a tough time deciding between getting up and showering or staying in bed with you all day.
Better to shower, I'll think. Better to brush and wash away the sensation of being a dying decaying animal. An unspoken invitation for you to join me in the shower will be conveyed by the washroom door opened a crack. If you do, I'll finally be brave enough to look on your naked body. Probably.
Washed, dressed, feeling vaguely more human, I'll take you to Babycakes. Once inside, coffee and breakfast ordered, I'll tell you the story of speaking Russian to the Polish baker here. My goal is to make you laugh. Your laugh is a surround-sound laugh; deep, booming, thunderous, completely pervasive. It demands everyone's attention. I love it.
Conversation might be a bit more relaxed, affectionate even. Or it could be really awkward with me sitting across from you wondering what the fuck is going on.
Feeling considerably restored I'll drive you to Hyde Park for the Vanderbilt mansion, the Roosevelt mansion and then to Storm King sculpture garden. Jayce will have told you last night that I am the only woman he knows who drives as though I have a destination. You'll perceive this to be accurate.
Perplexed, however, by my music choices, you'll eye me warily as I rap along to Jay-z. Anxiety and self-consciousness make me nervous that you are nervous about my driving.
"Sorry if my driving scared you," I'll apologize in the Vanderbilt parking lot.
"It's all good," you'll reply and awkwardly sling an arm around my neck. I'll submit, blushing, feeling happy and warm.
You'll take pictures, we'll comment on the Vanderbilt's garish lack of taste. At Storm King we'll meander around large strips of metal artfully arranged, up rolling hills, perch on smoothed rocks. You'll be absorbed by the amount of good photo ops present, coming back to reality when I reveal to you that even the landscape has been sculpted. I'll drive a short easy distance to Woody's explaining to you that this is possibly the best place for burgers in the Hudson Valley. When you bite into your cheeseburger you instantly know that I'm right. You'll encourage me to get a chocolate milkshake.
"You can share it with me," you'll say, tipping the scales. Then you'll lean over, point your camera lens at me, and lean further so you'll be included in the frame. It will be a really awkward picture.
Driving home will be just as confusing. You were prepared for the hip-hop. Instead I'll be belting out songs with Led Zeppelin and Journey. You'll have a flashback to me hamming it up to Don't Stop (Believing) last night.
For dinner I'll invite Mum over and cook an amazingly good ground lamb meat sauce served over penne.
"When you come to Portland I'll make you a soft-shell crab you won't believe," you'll promise.
After dinner I'll wash the dishes, politely refusing all offers of help (I don't trust anyone to do it right). You'll pack. Those chores done we'll walk Mum back home and maybe indulge in a digestive of Ste. Germaine in her apartment.
"Your mom's really cool," you'll observe as we walk back. I'll be delighted with you and wrap my arms around you, beaming with all the friendliness of sunshine. You'll get the odd feeling that you passed the test (there is no test. I swear).
Saturday morning we'll get up reasonably early (8:00AM or so). We'll catch the Metro North to Grand Central station. I'll fall asleep on the train, but Kirsty will have told you about how beautiful the Hudson river is and how magical the train ride is. So you'll look out the window the whole time, determined not to miss anything.
My plan will be coffee, MOMA, lunch at MOMA, Staten Island Ferry, goodbyes. My navigation of NYC's subways will have an air of clumsiness about it, as though I am all too aware that I am not really a New Yorker. We meander the museum in silence, though every once in a while you'll poke me in the ribs. Over lunch we'll discuss art, photography, architecture. I'll air my art history degree, wondering if I'm boring you.
On the ferry I'll leave alone to fill up a memory card. Part of me will wish that you'd take pictures of me. The rest of me will really wish that I didn't want that.
Back in Manhattan we'll stop for another coffee in Dean and Delucca. You'll ask me when I next get time off. I'll smile and nudge you with my knees under the table.
I'll take you to the bus depot for the airports, across the street from the train station. I'll watch you buy your ticket, trying very hard not to be affected by the thought of you leaving.
When you turn around you'll have a funny smile. My suspicion is that this is you also trying hard not to be affected, or to at least play it cool. You'll spread your arms for a hug and I'll let myself be folded within them, wondering why I'm so sad to see you go.
My breathing will be a bit laboured. My body a little tense. Stubble will brush my cheek, it's odd how nice I find it, and you'll growl in my ear, "are you OK?"
I'll nod my head, but we both know I'm not. I'm smitten, which happens often to me and I find it a very frightening state of being. I'll give you an impulsive smooch on the cheek.
"Come visit me in Portland," you'll say. I'll nod and watch you get on the bus. I won't watch it pull away because I'm close enough to crying as it is. I'll cross the street, having waved one last goodbye to your shadow in the tinted windows. You might be worried that this was all for nothing, that I don't actually care.
I'll check the platform for my train and settle myself in a seat with my ipod.
Radiohead is playing while I replay key moments of your visit. Suprisingly, I'll discover I'm not as emotionally entangled as I thought. At Beacon I'll call Jess and ask if she and Jayce want to hang out.
You should definitely come visit.

This musical moment brought to you by: "Cousins" By Vampire Weekend on Contra.


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