I couldn’t sleep so after a bit I got up and found my tights on the floor and went to go wash them in the sink. On the way to the kitchen I started to untangle them – they were old tights and a gift from an ex, nude with a black seam up the back. My mother told me they were too sexy because they drew up the eyes to the ass. They were all full of runs anyway and for a minute I hesitated by the trashcan with one bare foot resting on the lever ready to throw them out, but it was cold outside and if I was going to take the subway home in the morning I didn’t want to walk back to my apartment without tights. Normally I wouldn’t have washed them but there was a little blotch of blood from when I’d cut my ankle shaving and adjusted the scab when I fixed the tights to hide a run under my skirt. It was about the size of my thumbnail, the color of a bruise or a dead flower, and it had been driving me crazy all night. It spread quickly and without stopping over the expanse of pale fabric around my ankle. At dinner I tried to surreptitiously put my foot on my knee and press on the cut until it stopped, and when it finally did there was blood on my fingers and palm, not much but a telltale, sticky layer. The last word I heard him say before I excused myself was “Nantucket.” I had vowed once never to date boys obviously wealthier than myself, but with this resurgence of thrift-store fashion and beat-up oxfords I couldn’t tell anymore. Thus – I’d known since minute one that this was a bad idea but I have a libido. What does this say about me?
I moved all the dirty dishes to one side of the sink then filled up the empty side and put my tights in with a squirt of dishwashing soap. I went back out to the bedroom to get my dress – as quietly as I could because I didn’t want to risk waking him up, but I didn’t want to keep standing in his kitchen in my bra. His name was Keith Lane; his friends called him by his last name but this was too Franny and Zooey even for me. We’d met not two weeks before and this was our second date. He wasn’t a good kisser but the sex was alright. Beginning of junior year I started to have time for boyfriends and embraced this, but there were a lot of things I felt I had a moral obligation to do by myself. I lived alone four stops up the subway in Washington Heights by the hospital, and sometimes at night I’d wake up to breaking glass or shouting. My neighbors were quiet and invited me to Christmas parties and it was a short three blocks to the subway which had once seemed to get longer the later and darker it got. It had been about two and a half years since I moved there and now on the walk home I would look up into the sky as it darkened – it would go from blue to purple to red, and usually it was purple when I was coming home, this dusky pale color, I suppose you might say ashen. I would get to the apartment and I would clean my tights and I would write my papers and then if someone asked me I would go back out the subway and take it down wherever, back to the campus or down to the village or to some museum in Midtown those nights they stay open until nine.
I used to go up when I had time to Fort Tryon to the garden – I had to write stories for a class I was taking then and I would go up to there to think a bit and walk around, across the bridge or around the park or the Cloisters, and you could hear like thunder the West Side Highway rumble from below. When you walk over the bridge sometimes you can feel it shake at its joints, this smooth vibration when cars go by, a sound like something falling.
At dinner with Keith with blood on my hands I thought about how much blood might be in me. I’d just told him about my only experience on Cape Cod as a child, in a motel three miles from the beach, and I pretended to listen as he described Nantucket in excruciating detail. Blood meant I was living and blood meant I could die. I watched it spread over the fabric of my tights and tried to contain it. I wanted to tell him I didn’t care. I was seized with the momentary desire to tell him I just wanted to fuck him and be done. The blood on my tights was like the defeated red-brown of a wilted rose petal, and I thought of the gardens at Fort Tryon. In the fall there would be very few people, some walking dogs or with covered strollers, all with posture slumped, hands in pockets, all walking down some path to a funeral.
I looked at Keith over the table; in candlelight he was quite handsome, angles of his face lit flatteringly. I knew he lived off campus and down on Central Park West, and I knew I would go there. I knew I would never take him to Washington Heights, I knew he would never walk up in Fort Tryon, around in the Cloisters and through the courtyards there in the winter and understand what I understood. Everything fragile and disintegrating. You get to realize how living you are then, when most of everything around you is dead. I did not listen to what Keith was saying but I watched his mouth move as though it would tell me something, as though the shapes his lips made would tell me more than the sounds they produced. I would never be him or be with him in the lasting, emotional sense, but it was never my intention to be either of those things, as we were too different and I knew impossibility. I wondered if we would take the subway to his apartment or if he would try to feel me up in a cab he would call out on the street. I realized I had stopped bleeding, and I asked him to excuse me. Whilst washing my hands I started to realize it, I started to think about the implications of all this, and it was very apparent to me then as I stood washing my tights in his sink: if we were all walking hunched to our funerals at Fort Tryon then death was possible, and if I was here in Keith Lane’s apartment then sex was possible, and if sex and death were possible and there I was washing my tights in the dark in the kitchen sink on the West Side by the park and I couldn’t sleep for the quiet, what does that say about me?
i wrote this my senior year of high school in the middle of what has been, to date, the worst period of writers block i have ever had, which lasted from maybe september 2008 until june 2009. i wrote this in january and it was the only thing i wrote during that time. it isn’t really even a story, it’s more like existential theorizing on sex and death - HEAVY SHIT. i was eighteen. i had just read “franny and zooey” obviously. then i watched this video and realized for the first time that the lyrics are “i look up at the buildings / i imagine who might live there / imagining your wolfords in a ball upon the sink there” which i thought was so sexy and which utterly blew my mind. so then the next day i wrote this, and then it went away again until i wrote TWENTY-TEN in june.
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