Wednesday, August 12, 2009

HP is 27 and lives in a high-rise condo he bought about three years ago in midtown Atlanta. It is sparse and perched on the 19th floor, right near the very top of the building. He has a midsize kitchen, in which he most likely uses just the fridge, the dishwasher and the microwave. Yet he insists that he makes "a mean curry." He's told me this time and time again, and even though I don't quite think it's an invitation to dinner, I can tell it's meant to impress me.

The living area is sort of small, with one end of the L-shaped room designated as a dining area that seats four. The table's glass top rests on slender steel legs, as do the chairs, mere vinyl straps tautly stretched over the shiny tubes. A huge floor-to-ceiling window takes up one wall and through it I can see a neon-lit skyline with jutting spires here, conspicuous gaps there - a growing city, Atlanta still has some time to go before it's all filled out. Below, a maze of shadowed streets cross over each other in oblique angles.

I recognize the BOA Plaza from an article I had read on pomo architecture. Something about it being a pastiche of the art-deco greats, the Chrysler building, the Empire State. HP sees my eyes rest on the skyscraper and walks towards the window to point at it. "My friends and I call that the blunt building," he says, his finger rolling up and down the tower's length. "See how it's smoldering at the top," he explains and I am a little surprised, computer engineers aren't supposed to say things like that.

Behind us there is a wall covered in mirrors which is a little comical and I catch a glimpse of myself holding back a laugh in it. It would've been an uncomfortable space were it not for the luxurious persian rug beneath us. From the right angle, it looks almost as if the spindly furniture is floating atop this carpet, high up in the sky, tetherless.

The other end of the room is his tv lounge. Even more surprises here. The leather couch and wide screen TV are ordinary, even expected, but then there is a turn table, hooked up to what looks like an extensive sound system, and next to it, three or four carts of records. I drop to my knees to look through the labels, Curtis Mayfield, James Brown, The Coasters, and so many other soul/funk records I don't recognize. HP gets giddy and flops down next to me to show off his favorites, some of which are as pristine as they were on their debut dates decades ago, gelled and permed coifs tucked away in protective nylon sleeves. He tells me how they came into his possesion, the hours he spent poring through collections at nondesript record stores in Valdosta where he grew up. I think of his parents, Indian immigrants whose tastes are probably more inclined towards Asha Bhonsle than Aretha Franklin. And I think of my parents, my dad's rock records, my mother's funk collection.

So he has some Sly on and we are on his red leather couch, our feet stretched out before us on an ottoman, and I feel like I am 12 again. His toes brush against mine and he winces, "you're cold," he says. I shrug and before I say anything, explain that I have bad circulation, he rubs each one between his hands. I am a little embarrassed by this gesture, and I try to change the subject.

"Does your plant need a lot of attention?" I ask, and he falls back in his seat, understanding my question as a cue to stop.

"No, I water it every few days and I have to clean the leaves but that's it really," he explains and I nod, but something in me wants to be argumentative so I press on.

"It must be a hassle when you go out of town," I say, not sure where I am going with this. It is a rather large plant, lush and green and almost out of place in this modern apartment.

He flinches and then almost immediately smiles, "I have my brother come by and make sure everything is ok but I don't think he minds." It obviously takes a lot more effort to get under his skin.

"But it's a chore, a responsibility," I say. He sighs and moves closer, he has his own ways of changing the subject.

I've seen HP a few times since then. Most memorably on June 25, when Michael Jackson's death was announced - I remember because HP is a big fan and kept his records playing through out the night. And then again just last night.

I suppose we should be comfortable with our arrangement at this point. And I suppose we are to a certain extent: not only did he snore for most of the night, but he also did not waste any time on the polite exchanges we usually participate in to distract ourselves from the fact that our relationship is turning out to be a purely carnal one.

Both of these things were something of a turn off for me but then there is also the good side to this easiness we seem to have adopted: on his trip to the grocery store earlier in the day, without any prompting from me, he had picked up some contact solution since I had complained about having to keep my contacts on all night. And later in the night, when I went to get a glass of water, I saw a bottle of my favorite wine in his fridge - a dry Spanish white I had introduced him to a few weeks ago.

Yet there is still nothing concrete between us. I read somewhere that once you sleep with a person, you ought to make plans for your next meeting right then & there. This is not the case with HP & I. Meetings are usually scheduled just hours or even minutes before they actually happen and this is done mostly via text messaging. When I left his place this morning, it was in such a rush and I had barely said a couple of words to him before I was out the door. And when I think about it, I know I don't want anything serious/long-term - just the other day I cut a date short with some kid when he started talking about meeting his mother for lunch.

I mentioned this to my bartender at lunch today (No judgement. First off, I am on vacation, so frequenting a watering hole at all hours of the day/night is perfectly acceptable. Also, since I stopped going to therapy, my bartender is all I've got. That or developing some self-injurious habit which would not be good). He seems to think that this instability comes from my being 23. I took some comfort in this opinion, it offers the possibility of outgrowing this insanity/inanity. Or at least it did until said bartender told me about his wife and five year old son - keep in mind that he is only 3 years older than I am.

"Don't worry about it," he said when he saw my face fall. "I still don't watch the 10 o'clock news."

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