I’ve been to Philadelphia’s Union League a grand total of two times. The first time was when I was working in Development at the Walnut Street Theater. The second time was when Date #4 and I got back together for a brief and ill-fated second go round.
To be honest, this post makes me blush. But I like it. I hope you will like it too.
You ask me to me to meet you for a drink, so I do. You ask me not to write about it, so I don’t. You remind me that there’s a dress code so I don my grandmother’s pearls and a teal dress borrowed from my mother. You tell me to meet you at seven o’clock so I walk to Christian Street and hail a cab. You instruct me to give my name at the entrance (“They’ll escort you”) so I do, and there I see your name scribbled on a sticky tab next to mine.
I’m told to head straight back; that I’ll find you at the bar, second door to my right, but I don’t see you just yet. In my high heels and belted raincoat, I’m an anomaly amongst the dozens of men in their business suits, and I can’t quite believe that I’m here of all places, meeting you of all people, but I keep walking.
And there you are. In a gray suit. Your hair has grown longer since I’ve last seen you— not that I care. (It’s just a drink, after all.) You tell me I’m a sight for sore eyes but I don’t pay you any mind because you always say these things— so often that I don’t know whether or not to believe you anymore. Besides, I’m still wearing my coat; how can you possibly tell what I look like underneath?
You make your excuses for last summer and because I don’t care anymore, I accept your apologies. I tell you about my new job, my new column, and I’m feeling terribly pleased with myself because it all sounds so good—these “accomplishments” of mine— suspended between us at the bar until my words disappear into the velvet drapes.
I have suspected for some time that ours is a relationship born not of respect but of reflection. We’re both narcissists, you and I. Your regard for me stems not from any specific admiration—you barely believe me when I tell you I’ve backpacked through Europe; you think I’m “incongruous” rather than two-dimensional—but rather from the pride you take in strolling through your private, member’s only club with me on your arm.
I’m no better as far as you’re concerned. I like you for your fancy clubs, your fancy suits, your fancy turns of phrase and the affable way you conduct yourself amongst people you later profess to despise. I know that I’m little more than arm candy to you, but I accept this role, and relish it at times because above all else, I am ambitious. And you are too.
(This, in fact, is one of the few things for which I genuinely respect you.)
You’re oh-so-charming during dinner. You ask the hostess to seat us at a different table (I’m too far away from you at the first) and you make your usual recommendations on the menu. We talk of Europe, of your upcoming trip to such-and-such a city, and you seem somewhat surprised to learn that I’ve already been. I wax poetic about the architecture (of course I’ve already been) and ask, in jest, if you’d like me to send you the name of youth hostel where I stayed. I know, of course, that you’d never stoop to such bohemianism, and I take great delight in further destabilizing your opinion of me.
And yet, even as I tease you, I realize that I still want you. Or that I want you to want me. I can’t even tell the difference any more as far as you and I are concerned—not when we’re drinking cabernet by the bottle.
I try to snap a picture with my phone in the ladies room (I know it’s gauche of me, but I still can’t quite believe that I’m here). When we adjourn to the bar for a round of after-dinner drinks, I touch your shoulder when I say “You really must visit the museum when you go” and you touch my leg when you tell me “You absolutely have to try this tiramisu” (as if galleries and desserts have suddenly become matters of life and death).
Every fiber of my being wants to kiss you and before I can discern whether or not the feeling is mutual (or perhaps merely the work of the wine?), you press your lips to mine.
“Let me get our coats,” you whisper. When you proffer your arm and guide me down the steps, I’m surprised to find the city is still the same as it was a few hours ago—that the same taxis whiz up and down the street, that the same banners advertising the same ballet and the same theatre flap above the same storefronts— because surely you and I have changed. Surely we are not the same as we were last summer.
“Come with me,” I whisper as a cab pulls up to the curb. The words escape my lips before I’ve fully considered their implications—I don’t say them so much as I hear myself say them— but I know you’ll not refuse my invitation, not this time, not when you’re looking at me like that.
(The good thing about this being a re-post of something I wrote three years ago is that you don’t have to wait until tomorrow morning to find out what happens next.)