Monday, December 14, 2009

First Date

It was 9:53 when we hit the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and my boat was leaving at 10:00. 10:02 if I'm lucky or 10:05 if I have to make the phone call I don't want to make. It's not easy when your younger brother is your supervisor at work, and even worse when he's already put you on notice. So I made a Mafia joke on the boat and a group of Italian-American Senior Citizens got in a huff about it. Who cares? Ba Fangu. But lateness is a serious no-no. The boat's gotta set sail at 10am. It's 9:57 when we get out of the tunnel. I make the call.
"Yeah?" Little Brother Jonah yawns in muted sleep-tones.
"Yeah, it's Leon. I need you to call the boat and ask them to wait. I'm gonna be just a couple minutes late."
"Yeah." He downshifts, and hangs up. All right. I just bought five more minutes. I turn to Noodles, who's driving. She gives me a nod of utmost mock-seriousness, and I feel a little bit more at ease. 8 hours of tour-guiding on a boat with 2.5 hours of sleep behind me, and I'm still trying to comprehend everything that happened in the past 12 hours.

She went by "Noodles." which was kind of silly, but it was a tag that an old lover had slapped on her, and I wasn't going to challenge that, especially on a first date. I can't stop thinking about the movie "Once Upon a Time in America", one of the few films out there to really dig into the culture of the Jewish Mafia. The lead character played by Robert DeNiro is a remorseful thug who goes by Noodles. They never explained his moniker either.
"Noodles" in this circumstance was a Jersey Girl who started to come into the city more often to get into the scene. She had first started experimenting a couple years ago, but start to go to events until only a couple of months ago. A bartender with two associates degrees. She had a brain on her shoulders no doubt, one that could hold it's own outside of the sticks, but a crisis of ambition kept her slinging cocktails at an Applebees where the tips were good and the stress was low.
She was all black and violet. Every note, every accent.
She wanted to get to know the city. I figured she could handle the Burlesque-and-Bridge Combo, few first dates that I had offered that hand to in the past could actually stand tall when when we made it to the gate and the cards were on the table. Even so, I take the risk with Noodles, she seems like she can handle it. The Red and Gray monstrosity on the Brooklyn waterfront was built in 1903 and for a century has been nicknamed The Jewish Promenade for the populations of the neighborhoods that anchor each side. It's easy access. Climbing the fence is one of the easier ones to navigate amongst New York City's major bridges. Her pointed leather books fit right into the fence's links and with lithe limbs to guide her, she follows me over with a steady hand and shallow breath. We secure her purse by tying it through the handrail.
One flight above the Brooklyn-bound lanes of traffic which are whipping past us at a steady 40mph, she grips the locked steel door. There's just a narrow slatted staircase below us and two thin handrails on our sides as I crack my palm against her. She has with the thinnest layer of satin I'd ever felt before providing the only cushion between my palms and her rear. She barks out a stressed, static grunt from her diaphragm with every slap, and I glance over my shoulder just often enough to see if it's loud enough for any of the occasional pedestrians to stop and inquire. I pull down the satin just enough to give her thirty more, skin-to-skin. Her barks become howls and her legs wobble and fold after every five, but she's been a good girl and I lovingly lift them back into place before continuing.
"We're coming back here. Sunrise. And I'm taking pictures of you." I tell her. She nods.
The Burlesque show was okay. I'd seen better.

Sleep, from what I've learned, occurs in 20 minute and 2 hour cycles, in REM levels ranging from 1 to 4. It's better to get two hours of sleep and drift out naturally than to get three and then get yanked out of a 3 or 4 stage REM. So when Noodles and I settle into bed at a little after 2 in the morning, I figure to make our sunrise shoot, a 4:45am alarm would do us well to stagger up, get dressed over coffee and drive back to our destination to meet "Stark".
"Stark" is a 6' 3", 220lb Dom, rigger, and fetish photographer. He was the feature interview in Time Out NY's Sex Issue as the premier bondage photographer of NYC. A friend of a former lover, I met him at a ropes class where he came mostly just to meet new models. We hit it off, and I'd been nagging him to tutor me ever since. But for a busy man not necessarily looking for a protege, I had to bring something to the table to make it worth his time. A fresh crop of lovely models and knowledge of New York's more clandestine locations for photoshoots seemed a fair trade. After my date with Noodles was locked down, I told him: 5:30am, Brooklyn side of the bridge. This was before I had actually told the young lady about my plans for the evening, but confidence can accomplish some pretty outrageous ideas.
We're both on time, cementing our reputations as men of our word and I bring him a bagel, securing my rep as a gentleman. When we get to the gate, Noodles and I pass over with ease the second time around. For Stark, it's not so easy.
"Shit guys. I...Shit, you know... If this was a year or two ago, I might, I... Shit. Um... Fuck, I'm pussying out guys, I'm sorry. My girlfriend's pregnant, I really can't drop into traffic and leave my kid fatherless, I mean I... Oh shit, I gotta sit down." So much for the most badass bondage photographer in town. I get to work on making lemonade.
"It's all right, listen. I'll tie her up, you can photo her through the gate. It'll be like a caged-animal type thing. How's that sound?" I spent a week planning this little excursion, I'm not going to let some mid-life father-to-be anxiety fuck up my adventure. This is when Stark realizes that he left his memory cards at home. We climb back over the fence and return to the cars.
"I'm really sorry guys. We'll do it next time, I swear."
"The fuck we will. We're taking photos today. You ever been to Red Hook?"
"Yeah, why?" A good Tour Guide always has a back-up itinerary.
"Clinton and Bay streets. 1 hour. Get your damn memory cards."

Noodles casts a long shadow against the graffitied wall of the abandoned Red Hook factory. No fences to climb, no authorities to avoid. We crossed paths with another much larger film shoot who may or may not have had a permit of their own. My rope work is sloppy, but if she arches her back and we cheat the knots behind her, it looks like a better tie than it actually is. But it's my tie. My plans, my save-the-day backup plans, and my date being shot in the sunrise. We have time for one set with my rope work and two sets with his as the sun creeps it's way up the sky. At 8:45am, we realize that we can't find Noodles' car keys. 40 manic, frantic minutes later, Stark finds them in his pocket.
"Untie her. Noodles, get your clothes on. I need to be at the South Street Seaport for work in thirty minutes."
"It's 10:01am when I burst out of her passenger-side door with a kiss mashed against her cheek. A first date as monumental as this one deserved more: A clever one-liner, a deep look in the eyes and a touch of wisdom, maybe just a gentle cuff on the cheek and a "you're a sweet dame". The sundae needed a cherry, but the jar was empty.
The boat is still there at the dock and the boys are lifting up the gangway. I sprint to the pier, waving my hands desperately. I catch their hands in time to be hoisted on to the deck giving me just enough time to drop my stuff on the bench and plug in the microphone before we pass under the Brooklyn Bridge.
She texts me halfway through the day, after my second round of delerious caffeinated energy has reverted back to blinded exhaustion. I work my way through the bleary vision to read: "Yeah. Best first date ever. :)"
Well then. How am I gonna top that? I glance at the third bridge in the distance and indulge myself in a grin.
I'll figure out something.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Making peace with the prey

I deleted her phone number. Eliminated her from my Facebook. I even deleted her from my gmail contacts so she wouldn't show up on the chat list. She told me never to contact her again. That was the easiest out I could have asked for, all the reason I needed to ensure that she wasn't worth the time, the patience, or the rage. She was one less distraction in my life.

But it's a lot harder to never speak to someone ever again than it used to be.

Everything had taken on a clearer shape since I'd given a name to the hunger. I'd revealed justifications for actions that had scared beautiful things away, and also come to accept the times that the hunger wasn't controlled properly. Sometimes the sweet flesh ran off for her own safety, and thus, was owed an apology by the man who was supposed to keep the hunger on a leash.

I called Emily, who had introduced me to Karen in the first place, but only got voicemail. Instead I found her on Facebook once again. I despise the website and avoid it strictly, until it provides me what I need. I found her after a quick name search, and offered her a chance to talk. A rainy Sunday found us the time, and a lunch-date in Park Slope offered the venue.

She walked into the Taqueria on 7th and Union in a mish-mash of colorful tank-top and cardigan with the tight jeans that always revealed her less-than curvaceous ass. I remember sinking my teeth into it and wishing there were more to the bite. I chased the thought away, it would offer me nothing but distraction during this farce of romantic diplomacy and we sloughed through the small talk of which I don't remember a single word.

"I wanted to talk to you about our... brief relationship... It started fast and intense. It ended the same way, and I'm happy that it did..."


"Karen... There's a hunger that lives inside me. I know you saw it. You pulled at it. You dared me to show you more." Claw marks on my lower back. Teeth marks in my right shoulder. And a raging stampede of horses inside my head urging me to wrap my hands around her throat an choke the regret out of her for opening that door with reckless abandon, not knowing where it lead.

"I know that if it continued at that pace, it was going to go to a dark and violent place. It's a place that I need to visit, but I need to keep It under control too. I've learned a lot about myself recently. About what I want, and about how to let it out. It takes time, and it takes trust. I don't think you realize where it was leading. You came at me with lust. This is a very different creature than lust."

I got to the Taqueria early and my burrito was already mostly eaten. Hers sat on her plate, picked at and nibbled, but not explored. I've been hungry recently, all the time, day and night, and food doesn't really seem to help.

"You scared me. Do you realize that? And I think... I know that I wanted it and I pulled at you for it... but when we were there... it wasn't a good place. So I guess it's a good thing you ended it. Even if you were an asshole about it."

"I think 'asshole' is very generous."

I will eat you alive.

We both nodded, and tried to find where the words were supposed to go next.

"I'm looking for something." I ventured. "Something that lets me let myself out. Something that I love-" I gulped after voicing the dangerous word "And that trusts me and cares for me enough to release myself without the danger of causing harm. And I don't know how to find it. The way you pulled at me for more, it made me think that maybe-" She stopped the wander through the woods while the path back to the cottage was still in sight.

"This thing you're looking for? It's not me Leon. I'm in a very awkward place right now. I hate my job, I'm scared about money, and I can't put that sort of trust in anyone right now. Let alone someone who wants to... hurt me."

"Hurt but not harm" I wanted to say to her. Some people can understand that, but some can't, and trying to talk about it in a Brooklyn Taqueria was simply foolish. We nodded again. We talked about work, we talked about living spaces. She promised to pick up my recently published story, and I promised to come see her play electric violin with her band. We ended it in peace and some semblance of post-lover NYC 'friendship.'

I got back on my bicycle and let the hunger lead me to the next beaten path.