(For Part One, click here – Suzanne)
Suzanne and I met for drinks a few nights later, at a pub at Times Square. The fact that it was a tourist-style pub smack in the middle of Mayor Giuliani’s grand vision of Disney by the Hudson escaped me. We could have met for burnt coffee at McDonald’s, for all I cared. We talked – about what we were reading, what albums were catching our attention, the films we loved as kids – and smoked cigarettes and drank. We talked more. We smoked more drags. We drank more.
I felt at ease with Suzanne. Women terrified me. I was desperate to know what women wanted, and whether or not I was capable of giving whatever that was to a woman. I didn’t feel this way around Suzanne. I didn’t feel the need to launch a charm offensive, or treat a date like a job interview. She was in to me. No, she was really into me. Every answers of mine to her questions were met with eye contact, her crystalline blue eyes warmly inviting me to let my guard down and just be me.
She invited me back to her apartment. To my amazement, she lived alone in a massive three-bedroom apartment, which actually belonged to her grandmother. Thanks to the magic of rent control, her rent was a measly $450 a month.
She excused herself, saying she wanted to make herself more comfortable. I floated around her apartment, looking at bookshelves. A box on her coffee table caught my attention. I recognized the shape; it was a cigar box. Dutch Masters. Lousy taste in cigars, I thought.
“Wouldn’t have pegged you for a cigar aficionado,” I said as Suzanne returned to the living room, wearing a man’s button-up shirt and nothing more.
“I don’t smoke cigars, you know what I mean?” she replied, her tone now tentative. Her face suddenly betrayed something she was hiding. Please don’t judge me.
I nodded, and winked. It’s cool, I was telling her. I made a mental note: if you need to score weed, you know who to call.
Suddenly she was alive again. Animated. We sat on the couch, and she pressed herself against my chest, resting her head on my shoulder. And we watched Rhoda. Seriously. I could get used to this, I thought. But it was getting late, and as much as I would have loved to stay up with her past the wee wee hours, tomorrow morning always came too quickly.
She walked me out to the hallway, and hugged me. “I’d like to see you again,” I whispered in her ear.
She smiled. “I’d love that. I really enjoyed tonight. I really like being with you. You’re cool. You don’t seem to have hang-ups.”
If only you knew, I thought.
And then we kissed.
I walked home from her apartment – I lived a short ten-minute walk from her – elated, beyond cloud nine. Yet there was that little (well, not really little) problem: I was in a relationship. Now I had to choose, and I was going to choose Suzanne, even if it meant breaking my girlfriend’s heart. Which I did, which she never saw coming, because I was too much of a coward to tell her that as much as I liked being with her, I couldn’t imagine a future with her.
“Is there someone else,” my girlfriend asked, in between burning-hot tears and a rage and confusion bursting at the seams. No, I lied. Whatever feeble excuses I could conjure, she simply wasn’t having it, so she tossed me out of her apartment. If I couldn’t appreciate the things she was doing for me, then I should go fuck myself.
I didn’t want my girlfriend anymore. I wanted Suzanne.
Not that I could imagine a future with Suzanne, either. It wasn’t love, it wasn’t even lust. It was – and this was a common thread in my life – a pursuit of a high I couldn’t control. This is a rebound relationship, something told me, some intuitive voice I should have listened more closely to, but I was too hopped up on whatever endorphins Suzanne had unleashed throughout my body like a flood devastating a lonely village deep in the valley.
What I found out about Suzanne both thrilled me, and terrified me. She could drink heavily, and for someone who was already a stone’s throw away from alcoholism, this was bad. She had way too many wild friends. She was impulsive, almost recklessly; it wasn’t anything for Suzanne to make some throwaway statement like, “I think I’m going to go to Jamaica next month,” and me simply shrug it off, and then, out of the blue, receive a postcard, stamped from Montego Bay, with her handwriting on it. Wish you were here. Whenever we were together, interesting things seemed to always happen.
She was the center of attention, whether she was in a room full of friends, or just the two of us, sitting in Central Park, smoking Marlboros and watching the world go by. Suzanne was the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, before such a thing even became a thing. She was like that Leonard Cohen song, the one with her name on it…
And you want to travel with her
And you want to travel blind
And you know that you can trust her
For she’s touched your perfect body with her mind.
I was too trusting of her, even though I knew this kind of relationship was going to flash across the sky and then plummet to the Earth like a comet. But I was willing, too willing, to follow her, and her manias, her impulsivity, her insatiable curiosity, wherever it would lead us, because I knew she would bring me back in one place. Not whole, but in one place.
I was even willing to let her hurt me.
Then, without warning, she was gone. She wouldn’t return my phone calls. She wasn’t even at her apartment. When I did finally track her down, almost three weeks later, Suzanne seemed distracted, even disoriented, over the phone.
“Umm…maybe we can meet for coffee or something, sometime, yeah. ‘Cause I’d like to talk to you, okay?” Her voice was jittery, like something inexplicable had happened, and she was at ends trying to sort things out.
We never did meet for coffee.