She threw up in the bathroom after every bite of sushi. We were at Nobu, a relatively expensive sushi place in NYC. Earlier that day she had gone to the doctor and had her stomach stapled. Actually, that’s not quite correct. It was a newer technology. There was a band surgically placed inside of her stomach. When she wanted to prevent herself from eating, she would go to the doctor and he would tighten the band. And then later, she would get him to loosen it.
She was going on a trip through all the great food countries of Europe. All the rich, buttery places: Paris, Rome, etc. She was going with her brand new fiancé, a high-priced patent attorney. So she knew she would be eating a lot and she wanted to avoid eating in the week before going.
So why, then, go to Nobu? Because my new girlfriend had insisted to her that Nobu was the perfect place. She wanted to show off her new boyfriend, me. Or, if not show off, then at least get her girlfrend’s approval of me. And I was nervous. Just thirty minutes earlier I had thrown out my favorite coat. It was filled with holes. I bought a coat that I never wore again. I didn’t want to look cheap. I was insecure. My new girlfriend was a psychiatrist. Her friend’s fiancé was a fancy lawyer. And her friend, the girl with the stomach band was, and still is, the admissions officer at a high-priced private school for the children of actors and hedge fund managers. I was nothing.
She had the tiniest sliver of raw tuna tartar. She got up, “Excuse me” and went to the bathroom. It was her fifth trip to the bathroom. Her fifth slice of the thinnest slice of tuna. Her fiancé smiled and shrugged his shoulders at us. My new girlfriend, the psychiatrist, leaned over at him and pointed her finger, “Listen,” she said and her voice was firm like a teacher’s, “My patients are all anorexic teenage girls. She has a problem and YOU have to tell her.”
“I don’t know what to do?” he said, “she just does what she does.”
“Sweetheart,” my girlfriend said to him, “you’re going to marry her. She’s going to be around your kids. You are condoning this behavior by not putting a stop to it. Do you want your kids observing this behavior every night?” And he shrugged his shoulders and smiled. He said, “you’re right but that’s who she is.”
And then stomach girl came back.
I was silent throughout. I was nervous and wanted to create a good impression. Creating a good impression was a complicated concoction of not saying anything, saying things that were funny, saying things about patent law that I had no clue about, saying things about food that made stomach girl laugh, saying pseudo-romantic things that made my psychiatrist girlfriend say, “oh, isn’t he so sweet?” and finally constantly reaffirming that I was definitely getting a divorce and the paperwork was in the mail, which was a lie.
Plus I had my new coat.
Two or three days later I was late for a date with psychiatrist. I also knew roughly where I was going to take her but I wasn’t totally sure. I called her. She said, “You’re five minutes late and you still don’t even know where we are going to eat?” I agreed with her.
“You are so close, honey. You are so close to landing on the landing strip but you’re going to crash and burn. You are totally crashing and burning right now. You are really crashing and burning.” I started to panic.I said, “Ok, I’m at the restaurant waiting for you.” AndI just walked into the closest restaurant I could find and told her the directions.
When she got there she started crying. “Did I blow it already?”she said. “Did I blow it by telling you you had crashed and burned?” I told her no. I told her I thought it was endearing. She went to the bathroom to wash her tears.
A few days later we watched a movie at my place. I told her I lived at the Chelsea Hotel but she didn’t realize that was like saying I lived in a shithole with potential rats, condoms in the elevator, drug dealers in the room next door, prostitutes in the lobby, and horrible art all over the walls. Not to mention bad carpeting. I don’t know what she thought when I said I lived in a hotel but the reality turned out to be below her expectations.
We just watched the movie and she didn’t stay the night. The next day she told me, “I had to talk to my therapist about you. You live in hell. I can’t go there anymore. I thought you would have more respect for yourself and live in a nicer place. My therapist thinks that you living in a hotel means you’re not really capable of committing to anything.”
I tried to explain to her that I was staying in the exact same room I stayed in for three years BEFORE I had gotten married. That, if anything, this room was the most committed to any one location that I had ever been before. That returning to the Chelsea was my way of reestablishing my life, of building roots into what I was familiar with. “No,” she said, “You need an apartment”.
So I got an apartment. Right across from the New York Stock Exchange downtown. “Don’t expect me to come visit you that much,” she said. “It’s too far away.”
But she visited anyway. She didn’t want to fool around though. We went to dinner instead. I was feeling insecure. It was the first time she had seen my place. Aren’t you supposed to consummate things like this? “Oh no,” she said, “not this conversation already. Forget it. Just forget it.” I didn’t talk for the rest of the dinner but I felt like crying. I didn’t understand anything that was happening.
I walked her to a cab and paid for the cab to take her home. She wrote me a long email the next day saying I had a lot of problems and she was an expert and that I should seek help. I didn’t respond. Nor did I ever see her again.
A few weeks later she wrote to me and said,”hey, what happened to you? Where are you? Why haven’t I heard from you? This is such a drag because I finally cancelled my membership to match.com because of you.” But I didn’t respond. She has since unfriended me on facebook.
Psychiatrists, lawyers, admissions officers throwing up in the bathroom. I was the only one at that initial dinner that hadn’t finished a degree higher than a Bachelors (I was thrown out of graduate school. The actual letter throwing me out 20 years earlier cited my lack of maturity.) When your kid applies to an exclusive private school in Manhattan, I might actually know the admissions officer who decides if your kid is good enough.
I hope this doesn’t sound bitter. I’m really not. And I’ve changed some details so any lawyers involved can’t sue me. It wasn’t Nobu, for instance. It was another sushi restaurant. And she wasn’t a psychiatrist but a psychologist. And it wasn’t match.com but another dating site. And she hadn’t allowed me to actually use the word “girlfriend” yet. “Too soon,” she said. And I actually did cry at the final dinner instead of just feeling like it.
After that last dinner and I put her in a cab I was feeling lonely. I called a friend of mine who lived in the area and we went for a walk. I was happy because it was around midnight. “What happened to X?” she asked.
“It doesn’t look like it’s working out,” I said
“How come? I thought you really liked her.” We crossed the bridge that connected Battery Park City with the rest of Manhattan. I tried to think of why it wasn’t working out. All I could think was that New York City had too many people in it. Maybe too many people with advanced degrees.
“To be honest, I have no idea why it’s not going to work out with her. I did really like her. But sometimes things just work out for the best instead.”
And they did.