The phone vibrated in my hand.
I opened my eyes, startled.
The television was on. Some local news program on Channel Two. I must’ve fallen asleep during “Letterman.”
The phone vibrated in my hand.
I rubbed my eyes to bring the caller’s name into focus. What time was it? “Hello?”
“Hello, Jefferson. Did I wake you?”
“No, no,” I croaked. I coughed. “Okay, well, yeah. Where are you?”
“Downstairs. I think I found a space outside your building, but I can’t parallel park.”
“You need me to come down?” I sat up.
“Yes, I’m sorry, but I do.”
“No problem. I’ll be right down.” I closed the phone and checked the clock. Three twenty six.
I leaned to my chair to grab my jeans. The television was clicked off as I pulled on a sweater. I sat in the living room to lace up my snow boots.
I looked around as I tromped outside. Snowflakes caught in my eyelashes. Only one car on the street was not wedged into the banks created by snowplows. The brake light glowed red.
I stomped my way to the light. I rounded the car to the passenger side. I opened the door and bent forward.
A cloud of smoke wafted my way.
“Hello,” I smiled.
“Hello, yourself,” Nicole said. She draped an arm on the steering wheel. “Nice night for a drive.”
The storm began just as she left campus.
Nicole hadn’t bothered to check the weather before her second trip to visit me. The mildest winter in recorded history had left everyone a bit lazy in that regard—one either wore a sweater or a coat, but rarely both.
She was surprised by a freakish snowstorm that hit just as Spring was due.
She steered her car with Southern plates and thinning treads into the slow lane. She sang and chain-smoked her way to Manhattan, forty-five miles to the hour.
She looked well settled into her seat. Her legs were propped up casually, as if she were seated at a café waiting for a friend.
I looked over the car’s hood. She had evidently attempted a U-turn and wound up wedged in snow bank. “Well, this was a noble effort at parking. May I give it a go?”
“Please.” She exhaled and tossed a butt from a crack in her window. “Be my guest.”
She opened her door. We met in the glow of her taillights. I took her arms. “Pretty.”
“Pretty exhausted,” she smirked.
I adjusted her driver’s seat and rearview mirror as she settled into the passenger seat.
The wheels spun. I shifted gears, back and forth, turning the wheel clockwise and back. The car barely rocked.
We attracted the attention of two sanitation workers driving a garbage truck fitted with plows. They stopped to dig us out.
We called our thanks.
“Y’all think they knew we was Southern?” I drawled.
“Two years up here, and I just don’t get snow,” she said, reaching for her lighter.
I drove around the block. There were plenty of parking spaces, all blocked by piles of snow. The parking garages were full. I learned something about New Yorkers: the drivers follow the weather reports, and avoid digging out by garaging their cars.
I saw my chance. I looked to my right. She saw it in my eyes. “Nicole, I can’t resist. Hang tight.”
“It’s yours,” she said.
I shifted to a low gear, stepped on the gas, and plowed into a snow bank. The Dixie-bred compact complained as I wedged it into two feet of fresh snow.
The car was about a foot from the curb. “That’s just going to have to do,” I apologized.
As we trudged back to my apartment, I expressed my sympathies on the ordeal of Nicole’s travels.
“I did okay,” she said, tossing it off. “But I now realize I haven’t slept in sixty hours.”
“Yeah. Midterms, whatnot. I had a lot of reading.”
We undressed and got into bed. We fell into kisses and sex, our skin cold and damp from the snow. Her feet were still thawing as we drifted to asleep.
I woke around nine, made coffee and worked as she slept.
She grumped that I let her sleep until she woke. “Shh,” I kissed her. “This is a spa vacation. Rest up.”
She breakfasted on cigarettes and coffee.
We got back into bed.
We eventually decided that sushi and Zodiac were worth getting dressed.
I pulled on jeans and a shirt as she dug clothes from her backpack. I lay on the bed and watched as she pulled on panties and a light dress of cerulean blue.
“That color would really bring out your eyes,” I said, reaching for my camera. “That is, if anyone ever saw your eyes.”
“Ha!” She tossed the hair from her face. I snapped a few photos.
“Raise your dress,” I directed. “Let’s see the panties.”
She lifted her hem and extended a leg.
“Such a pretty femme,” I said, clicking.
I pulled on my snow boots as she laced her sneakers.
We walked half a block in silence.
“It’s funny you call me a femme,” she said, pulling her jacket close. “I mean, I’d never say that.”
“Really?” I put my arm in hers. “I didn’t mean much by saying that. But you do look feminine with your preference for dresses and skirts, and the Veronica Lake swoop . . .”
“That, well, that’s the result of growing out my crew cut.”
I looked at her. “It’s hard to imagine you with a crew cut.”
“The dresses are new too.” Her breath plumed in the cold. “It’s actually pretty controversial at school.”
“Well, remember, I go to a smart school in New England and I like girls. So with the crew cut and jeans and whatnot, I fit in pretty well with the queer kids. Now, with the way I look, it’s pretty controversial.”
“Identity politics and fashion, huh? Ne’er the twain shall meet.”
“It’s fashion, but of a different cut,” she nodded. She took her arm from mine to retrieve a cigarette. “All of which reminds me: you know I like what you wrote about my being here in January.”
“Good. I enjoyed writing it.”
“But, do you remember, you had that one comment? About how you said I had been with just a few men and more women?”
“Yes, I remember.” I offered my hand as she stepped away from a puddle at a street crossing.
“Thanks.” She took my hand, balancing her cigarette at the end of an extended arm. “Anyway, the commenter suggested that you discounted my experiences with women, as if they didn’t . . . well, count.”
“I recall. I didn’t mean that, not at all . . .”
“Oh, I know.”
“I mean, I intended to emphasize that you didn’t have much experience with men before, you know, meeting a man of some experience.”
“I know. But I could see what she meant. I assume she was a ‘she,’ I don’t recall the commenter’s gender, but . . . it’s a commonplace presumption that sex with girls isn’t as serious as sex with boys.”
“True. Same with straight boys. They regard their sex with other guys as independent aberrations even as they tally up the girls.”
“That’s not exactly what I meant.” She took a drag and exhaled. “I mean, in my case at least, perhaps it’s more accurate to say that the sex with men is the aberration. When it comes down to it, I really take sex with women more seriously. I know I would never connect that way with a man—not with the same emotional intensity or commitment, or whatever you want to call it. With a man, it’s mostly . . . well, sex.”
I took her arm back in mine. I appreciated her openness to me, a man with whom she mostly had . . . well, sex.
“We make up our sexuality as we go along, I suppose,” I said. “It’s not like you have to self-identify as lesbian or bisexual, or butch or femme, or anything at all, so long as you are comfortable with yourself.”
“Tell it to the campus dykes,” she grinned.
We rounded a corner. “Eh, they’re young yet,” I shrugged. “The sexual identity of peers can seem extremely critical when one’s own identity is still being formed.”
She pushed her hair from her face to look at me. “I suppose,” she said.
I stepped ahead to the restaurant entrance and held the door open.
She stopped to take a last drag. “I’m going to be twenty soon, you know," she exhaled, stepping out her smoke in the snow. "No more teenage sex for you—not from me, anyway.”
“Yeah, about that,” I patted her shoulder. “You’re getting a little long in the tooth for me. I’ll probably trade you in.”
“Ha!” she laughed.