“This was a bad idea,” I tell him.
I’m at Whynot Coffee in the West Village, and Francesco jumps up from his side of the table and cozies up on the bench next to me.
“We have a connection. What’s so wrong with that?”
He grabs my hand, and suddenly I have no bones.
“Maybe that you have a wife?”
How do you know when it’s the real thing or just a spark, a genetic match that sets your loins afire while turning your life upside down? I suppose that’s where intuition comes in, but in lust’s brutal wake, it is not always easy to follow.
I met my soon-to-be-obsession after yoga, in the corner by the crystals. The teacher had singled him out as an example of “what not to do,” but I was late for class and missed the message. Intrigued by his bohemian good looks, I approached.
“Hey,” I said, jumping on one foot while attempting to put my sneaker on. “What did Siri Sat Singh say about you?
“He said I’m juggling too many balls,” he replied in a sing-song Italian accent.
Instead of really hearing him, I blurted, “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having multiple interests. Look at Leonardo da Vinci. Or James Franco.”
“You have a point,” he laughed. “But me, I’m a filmmaker, a painter, in real estate, and have too many businesses. I can’t seem to focus on one thing.”
“That is a lot,” I smiled.
He ran his fingers through his stringy brown curls and sized me up.
“I’m Francesco,” he said.
We met at the Mercer Kitchen several days later. That’s when I spotted it on his finger, shining and silver and inexplicably there. And even though he wore a Euro leather jacket, and a brown strand of yoga beads hung from his neck, I couldn’t stop leaning in. Neither could he.
I have a knack for singling out emotionally unavailable men, but a married one took things to a new level. (I feel guilty if I change my hairstylist.) For a while, I tried to keep our encounters quick, civil and limited to yoga. But when I saw him after class by the complimentary tea, I couldn’t stop giggling. Maybe it was because his eyes were wide and innocent or the playful way he had looked up at me as he methodically laced his black boots.
He never missed a class. I’d feel his eyes on me during downward dog, and I’d try to impress him with my cobra, even though I had to use my knees. Just feet away from me, I’d hear him panting during Breath of Fire, and when the gong would vibrate in shavasana, it would pulsate in my vagina chakra. It would take all my willpower not too roll over on top of him.
Francesco badgered me with texts and phone calls to rendezvous, insisting we could just be friends. Acquiescing, I decided to meet him at Whynot Coffee.
“You’re so nice,” he whispers over his espresso. “You feel like you could fall in love?”
I pump my right palm, grabbing hold of empty air.
He makes a heart with the gold chain of my blue clutch on the table, a heart that will lose its shape with the slightest touch.
“It’s weird how I feel like I know you. Maybe we had a past life together.” I joke.
“Maybe we have a future life together,” he teases.
“Oh, stop.” But I so want to believe him.
“Have you been thinking about me?” he asks.
“I don’t think about you,” I lie.
“I like you.” He cups my cheek like I belong to him.
Looking out the window across Gay Street, I whisper, “It’s like we’re in a tragic black-and-white film. I’m waiting for you at the train station with my suitcase, but you never come, because that is what is right.”
“No, that’s not how the movie will end. I’ll rewrite it.”
He traces the inside of my sweaty palm with cool fingers. I feel the hard-edged reality of his wedding band and pull my hand back.
“Don’t touch me like that,” I scold.
He laughs. “I’m sorry. It’s just that I want you more than anything.”
“You can’t just do whatever you want in life. You can’t just disregard other people’s feelings. You’re being selfish.” I get heated and realize I’m talking to myself.
“We should run away together to India and meditate,” he replies.
He doesn’t seem to understand that I’ve already been running. I’ve been so carried away by my Chekhovian bullshit story, I’ve forgotten his heart belongs to someone else who trusts him, while I drag mine carelessly by my ankles.
I compose myself.
“I said I’d meet you for coffee, not an affair.”
Could I ever look at myself in the mirror and brush the knots out of my hair without thinking of her?
“Who said anything about an affair?”
“Are you just bored? Acting out? Escaping responsibility?” I press him, creating distance.
“I don’t think I’m in love with her.” He leans back into the mirrored wall to rest his head, closing his eyes. “But I’ve never cheated on her.”
“You want an award?”
“I’m a saint compared to my friends. They all cheat on their wives, and not just the Europeans.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“Then you don’t know men.”
Finally, I resort to the mantra I’ve been trying to get myself to believe. “I’m incapable of being your friend, Francesco, because I want and deserve more.”
I start to gather my coat, but he pulls me down.
“I’m the one in the shitty situation. You’re free.”
He’s right, I am free. So free I have no one to go home to, except my parents. So free I’m married to illusion and fantasy without the warm—albeit boring at times—arms of a partner. So free I may fly away like a red balloon, a forgotten dot in the sky.
“I have to go,” I tell him.
“You’re breaking my heart. Let’s go to dinner, somewhere where we can really talk, or we can go see the Balthus show at the Metropolitan. It’s on girls and cats.”
“I don’t like cats, but you seem to like girls.” I smile, and I’m spent.
I wait for Francesco while he goes to the bathroom. As I contemplate the impossibility of our union, the man at the table next to me chuckles.
“Don’t go for it.”
“It’s really none of my business, but I couldn’t help overhear your conversation.”
I’m beyond mortified. “What did you hear?” I ask.
“Enough. He’s a douche.”
“I wasn’t going to do anything,” I insist feebly.
“He’ll break your heart.”
This man must be in his mid-thirties, and his fingers are miraculously bare.
“I just have strong feelings about cheating,” he tells me. “My father really fucked over my mother.”
Francesco must have fallen into the toilet, but I’m grateful because now I know this man’s name is Adam. He’s a New Yorker and went to Columbia Prep and Princeton. He’s Jewish, works at a hedge fund and lives in the West Village with his dog named Sally. Did I mention he does yoga?
“It feels sort of shady while the married guy’s in the bathroom, but I’d love to get your number. That is, if you’re into single men.”
“Yeah,” I laugh. “I think I could expand my repertoire.”