BECAUSE I FORGOT I EVEN HAD A DATE BY HANI KHALIL
Because we shouldn't have kissed. Because I didn't want to. I mean I did want to, but we didn't have to. And we kissed because we were drunk. But we weren't drunk: I was drunk. Because I wasn't even drunk, I was only buzzed. Because he kept to a blackberry soda and water for the table, while I ordered a pickled carrot martini in a plastic cup. Because that was the only thing on the menu I liked when I scanned the QR code on my phone. Because print menus are no longer a thing. Because I didn't pick the place. He did.
Because he said he wanted to get a drink first. Because he didn't actually say this. Because when he first messaged me, he asked me what I was up to. Because he said he was looking for now. Because he never really said that much either. Because all we did was exchange pics and needs and wants and fetishes. Because he went silent for a week and when he messaged me again it somehow became a date. Because time is at a premium these days, the world in a frenzy of re-emergence. Because I try to be flexible, I try to say yes.
Because he picked a socially distanced patio on Franklin Ave, that a year prior had been a rash-strewn lot. Because he wanted to know how my class went. Because I forgot we'd even talked about this much. Because I didn't know if he meant the class I was teaching or the one I was taking. Because he told me he was also writing a book, and I pointedly didn't ask him what about. Because everybody knows you're not supposed to. Because I didn't want to jinx him. Because I was being considerate.
Because the martini was smooth
but not voluminous.
Because a Montepulciano
seemed like a good idea.
Because now I'd ordered two drinks
and he'd yet to order one.
Because I'd forgotten his age, or more likely had never clocked it. Because twentysomethings are easy. Because they'd become less and less of a novelty this side of forty. Because his legs kept drawing closer to mine. Because he wasn't unattractive. Because even hearing myself I must've sounded hypo-manic to him. Because my therapist says I often sound like this when there's a lot on my mind. Because I was still drowsy from my 7 mile run that morning. Because I was overextended lately. Because I forgot I even had a date until an hour before.
Because he said he doesn't listen to public radio. Because he wondered who even still does. Because I never asked what his job was. Because he mentioned something about advertising and Hudson Yards. Because we wrapped it up after an hour. Because he offered to walk me home.
And as we did, he drew closer
And we got into a disagreement
over which direction we were walking
Because he said Grand Army Plaza
is West, when actually it is North
(Because it can be argued it is both
but only to the slightest degree)
Because we made it to my block. Because it was dark and quiet. Because, when I first moved in, I'd wake to the sound of birds chirping but. a year on, the dawn chorus had turned shrill, and I would now be jostled awake by it at 4:30 A.M. every morning. Because I had woken up groggy for the better part of a month. Because I napped through half my WFH days. Because I slept with my work phone in my arm like a teddy bear now. Because my sleep schedule was off. And I was always tired. And I forgot I even had a date until an hour before. And had privately hoped he would cancel.
Because we had arrived upon the shadows. Because the elms would be our cover. Because, while I sensed the gentleman emerging from my blind spot, I didn't suspect anything at first. Because I was part of this block, too, its incongruities, its stressors. Because I owned. Because I paid maintenance. Because I suffered the Section 8 neighbors, suffered many a late-night block party outside my bedroom window. Because I never bothered anyone about it. Because I made my peace with
it, learned to love Luther Vandross and all the lyrics to Juicy. Because I had equity, and believed that equity could, and should, always protect me. Because what good was a thirty year mortgage-80% of my life to date- if it couldn't even do this much for me.
And so we moved in and we kissed, and only for long enough to keep on moving. Because we were in public. Because I was being considerate. And as we moved closer to my front stoop, the gentleman drew closer to us, turned his head- masked up, and wizened- and muttered something about "fuckers who do anal."
Because he kept repeating this as he kept his eyes locked on us. Because he grew louder and louder as he continued up the street, like he alone held title to it. Because it seemed funny to us at first, pathetic in a way. Because if we were on a Subway car, I would've just ignored him, like every preacher, every panhandler, every showtime pole dancer on my morning commute.
Because this was not my first kiss on this block. Because this was where I kissed Danny from Upstate, who insisted Kamala Harris wasn't really Black. Because here I kissed Kevin from Ohio, who was raised Nazarene and terribly sad about it. Because nobody ever said anything about it before now.
Because this shouldn't have been a thing, shouldn't be happening in whatever year this is. Because the gentleman had easily 25 years on me. Because the tiniest part of me believed I could take him down. Because I've never taken down anybody. Not even anyone my own age.
Because in the moment my instinct was to come down on him like the immovable force that I was. The same force that patrols this block, arrests selectively, enforces noise complaints, disciplines, punishes, displaces. Because I called out to him, calmly, "come at me if you want." Because I knew he wouldn't. Because I had no other privilege to retreat to. Because even that privilege couldn't protect me.
Because I will tell myself,
in less generous moments,
that he wouldn't have dared
say anything to us
if we were both white.
Because the front vestibule doors to my co-op don't lock. Because we had to move quickly to get inside.
And once inside we shed a few layers and pretended it never happened until suddenly we couldn't. And a switch went off in his eyes and he said, "this is moving too fast for me." And he lowered his shirt, buttoned his fly. And I gave it two seconds before asking, "do you want to talk about it?" But I had run out of becauses, and he just wanted to go home.
And he said it wasn't my fault. And this had never happened to him before either. And I offered to call an Uber but he couldn't get away quick enough. And when he left, my feeling was less anger than relief, that the night had closed at a reasonable hour. That I might wake up rested for a change. And when that feeling had turned to trespass, I shadow boxed for a bit, landed on the wrong ankle. And I txted my best friend about it but he was working past midnight. And when I call my Dad instead he rushed me off the phone as soon as he heard me yawning.
you're tired, he tells me
And we never talk about it.
And I fell asleep quickly and woke back up within an hour. And I fell back asleep and had dreams of infestation and intrusion. And I woke again groggy, logged into work a little past nine. And I had too much to drink the night before to write about any of it then, and now I was too hungover to do anything about it now. And I went back to sleep instead. Slept most of the day in fact, Blackberry in hand. And I forgot I even had a date, because this was all that was left of any of it.