We were both trying not to stare.
We were finally meeting, our neglected breakfasts between us as we talked. She had been reading my blog for a couple of years; we had been corresponding for nearly that long. Now that we were finally meeting in person, we had an opportunity to match words to voices, nuances to faces. I didn’t want to make too big a deal about her beauty—I’d already been a bit effusive about the photos she had long ago sent to me—and I understood that she was understandably curious about matching me to “Jefferson.” Now and then, our eyes met and our easy conversation would still for a moment. Her expression seemed to ask, is that really you? I was sure mine replied, yours for the asking.
She had apologized for dressing like such a slob, in paint-splattered jeans and an oversized Ivy-league sweatshirt, but the cold snap had taken her by surprise. She had only packed summer clothes. I chided her for not having her hair done, at the very least, wondering if I had ever blogged about the effect that tomboys have forever had on my queer equilibrium.
Her eyes were a blue so clear that my own were like dull silver in bad need of burnishing. She is not peering into my bare soul, I reminded myself. That’s just what people think about eyes like those.
We fell to talking about conceptual art. Sex leaked into our discussion of identity without leading us to become too personal too soon. She asked how I first became interested in art. “As a kid,” I replied, dragging a fork through egg yolk. “I’m afraid I’ve fallen far from my true calling. I was destined to be a comic book artist for Marvel.”
“I don’t know much about superhero comics,” she averred. “Just the old stuff I read in my dad’s library, Marvel from the sixties and seventies.”
I looked up, wondering if my soul was buttoned a little too revealingly. “Like what?”
“Oh, the usual stuff. Fantastic Four, Spiderman, Avengers . . . I sort of lose track after a certain point. Like, I never read the new X-Men or anything.”
I put down my fork. “By ‘new X-Men,’ are you referring to the Chris Claremont days, like the early eighties?”
She nodded. “Totally lose track by then.”
“Yeah, me too. By then I was busier with life than with comics.” I was mindful that she would not yet have begun life when I put aside comic books. “I gather that most of the original characters have since had their powers so revamped that we’d hardly recognize them.” I sipped my coffee. “I guess that was necessary since, let’s face it, some of the original powers were kind of limited.”
“Like Warren Worthington III,” she agreed.
I risked her eyes. “You recall the name of the Angel, just like that?”
“Well, I had a bit of crush on the Angel. The blonde hair, the blue eyes, the naked chest and of course, the wings . . .” She gazed at me again, as if casting me in a new role. “He was so mixed up, though he always had girls chasing him and drove around in roadsters. A poor little rich boy.”
“Wasn’t it true that his role in the team was largely supportive? I seem to remember he generally just lifted the more powerful X-Men into the air so they could attack from above.”
“Well, there’s that, but he also had to hide his power,” she noted. “He always had to wear a harness over his wings and hide them under a suit. It seemed to me that must’ve hurt.”
I raised my coffee cup. “Sensitive reader.”
She grinned. “Yeah, but only to a point. He was also always getting captured and tied up. I really liked that.”
“Ha! That’s right. He had that whole ‘damsel in distress’ thing. He would get captured and the others would have to rescue him.”
“That’s right,” she nodded. She sat forward. “I used to imagine capturing Warren Worthington III and making him my bitch.”
I laughed. “So the truth comes out.”
“Warren Worthington III was my kinky fantasy,” she confessed. She put her hand across the table. I took it. She looked down at our hands and then back to my eyes. “I wanted that blonde angel.”
I held her gaze, gulping slowly. “I see,” I eventually managed.
The waitress interrupted us, offering more coffee. She released my hand and I placed it in my lap. We returned to talking about art and came back to sex, only this time, her Angel was unhindered.
She had an appointment to keep. We paid the bill and retrieved our umbrellas. I offered to walk her to the subway. We talked casually as we walked.
Our first goodbye was also our first kiss. She nibbled on my lower lip. We pushed back our umbrellas, feeling rain drizzle on our faces. I surrendered my mouth to her. “I’m getting wet,” she said, looking up. “In more ways than one.”
“You’ll send me away, walking crooked,” I smiled.
I emailed her later. “Wow.”
“Likewise,” she replied.
She left New York. A few days later, she sent me a cartoon. In place of the breakfast table between us, she now shared her Angel with me.