Something New | A short story
This is part of a story I wrote a few weeks ago. Like many good stories, Its real, but none of it happened. I'd love to hear your thoughts on it. You can download the rest for free as a spiffy, designed pdf when you sign up for my newsletter. Already signed up? Just email me and I'll send you the rest.
Like most romantic relationships, Michael was first attracted to Kari based purely on the way she looked. He was at a friend’s housewarming party and, along with all the other twenty-something transplants to Brooklyn who filled up the cramped space, Michael was enjoying a craft beer by a brand he had heard of, but had never seen in stores. A sort of phantom brewery, the new tenant had managed to fill his refrigerator with six-packs of their elusive summer ale.
Michael had just recently ended a fling with a woman he knew from college, but had reconnected with online. A post “like” turned into a direct message, and eventually, a date in the real world. Whatever they choose to call what they had, it lasted about two months until Michael began to feel the trappings of a relationship. When the text messages became more frequent, and the conversations more emotionally charged, he told her that he wasn’t looking for anything serious. He understood that it could have seemed like a hurtful rejection, or that he was somewhat callous, but he didn’t want to lead her on. The weight on his heart lifted after he hung up the phone and got ready to see a movie with a friend.
Though that break up happened only the week before, Michael was in good spirits as he clutched his beer, joking with people he had met only an hour before. He scanned the room between laughs. He liked the folks he was talking to, but he also liked to mingle.
Michael soon caught sight of Kari. She was strikingly beautiful, with long, bone straight black hair and dark pupils that looked like polished onyx hidden behind her slight eyes. He looked at her creamy, blemish-free skin and wonderfully symmetrical face from across the room and instantly thought about sucking on her neck.
As Michael lost himself a little in the daydream, the host walked over to him. With a grin that insinuated he knew exactly what was on Michael’s mind, James put an arm around Michael’s shoulder and excused him from a couple whom he was debating the nutritional merits of quinoa with.
“Didn’t get much of a chance to catch up.” James said, “doing my hostess-with-the-mostest thing. How are you doing?”
“Doing all right. Great beer by the way. You can’t find these anywhere though, so how’d you get them?”
Walking them slowly towards Kari, who was standing by herself after separating from an upbeat blond, James said, “One word. Magic.”
James began to work his magic again as he introduced Michael to Kari. With slow and deliberate words that smelled of weed and wine, James said to Kari, “Kari, I think I found you the perfect man.”
Kari’s eyes opened wide and Michael’s freckled cheeks flushed red, though his generally unassuming countenance changed little.
“I didn’t know I was looking.”
“We’re all looking, so don’t lie to me.” Both James and her chuckled, then he continued, “Unlike Marcus, who needed two hours to get ready, Michael here needs very little grooming. I work across from him and I haven’t seen him so much as comb that fiery hair of his. You should talk to him.”
James gave Michael a peck on the cheek and slowly walked away to another corner of the room to mix beer with the Cabernet Sauvignon already in his stomach.
Cheeks still red, Michael extended his right hand and said, “Hi. I’m Michael.”
“I gathered.” She shook his hand.
“Sorry about that. I didn’t ask James to say any of those things. He just… he’s spontaneous like that.”
“No need to apologize. I know him too. That’s why I’m here.”
“So how do you know James? He already gave away our backstory.”
"We met in college. James dated an ex-boyfriend of mine.”
“Yeah. The guy was always a little awkward. Because of James, I discovered why. You know. College stuff. People trying to figure themselves out."
“Do you think that stops in college? The figuring yourself out?”
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“That’s a deep question. I would say that personal growth and self-exploration doesn’t end until you’re dead. But by twenty-four I think a man should know whether or not he wants another man in his asshole.”
Michael took a swig of his beer and looked at Kari with a wry smile. “I would have to agree. I realized where I stood on that debate much younger that twenty-four. By the way, James was wrong about my grooming habits, though it does only takes me a half hour to get ready.”
“That’s nice. But I think he was spot on about the hair thing.”
“I do comb. I just comb it to look like a bit of a mess.”
“I like it. It’s got a kind of Jimmy Page look with a red overlay."
"Thanks. Was that a photoshop reference? Also, we're talking young Jimmy, right?"
"Yes, and yes.”
While he and Kari talked about their jobs, their neighborhoods, and their favorite spots in the city, Michael imagined stuffing his face between her slim legs. As the night progressed, though, and they continued talking, he realized that he was attracted to more than just Kari’s looks.
They stood and chatted for the rest of the night until Kari looked at her phone and said, “I think I’ve stayed up a little past my bedtime.”
“Sorry for holding you up.”
“Stop apologizing. I’m a grown-up.” She placed her empty wine glass on the table next to her and said, “It was great meeting you.”
“Same here. Hey, I’d love to get your number. Maybe we can meet over drinks and talk a little more past your bedtime.”
Michael could see the wheels in Kari’s mind turning for a moment as she looked over his face. Eventually, she said, “Sure” and sent him a text message with her name and a smile emoji.
After a few dates, the two ended up at Michael’s apartment. They were having the sex that he had fantasied about that first night and it was everything he had hoped for. They took their time to enjoy the rawness of the experience—the wonder of being intimate with someone who would touch you in ways no one else could because no one else was them. When he kissed her neck he tasted the unique salinity of her sweat. When he held her, Michael’s fingertips discovered the softness of her skin and the way it shifted with the pressure of his grip. They looked each other in the eyes almost the entire time until the image of Kari moaning, or smiling, or just looking calmed was grafted onto his mind’s eye in a way that pushed their closeness beyond the mechanical, into the truly rapturous.
They continued this way for weeks. They traded graphic design tips over bourbon, joked about politics over sushi, and walked to the bodega below Michael’s apartment—both wearing his sweatpants—just to get chicken cutlet sandwiches and debate over an article in The Economist. They saw indie films at the nearby theaters, discussed personal philosophies, and explored each other’s bodies with a focus and intent that lasted for hours.
When the seasons changed, and the New York City air turned frigid, they would bar hop through Williamsburg and get stinking drunk together. On a full moon night they walked out of a biergarten and onto a crowded sidewalk filled with young people and ironically kitschy storefronts. They turned the corner to a darker, quieter side street and Michael slowed down. He kept his arms around Kari’s shoulders and just looked at her as she looked at him. He took in all the things until he was satisfied that his vodka soaked brain would never forget the sensations of that night. He then looked up to admire the few wispy clouds that were moving slowly across the black sky, barely blocking the light of the large moon. Kari’s eyes followed his and grinned as the moonlight became brighter with the disappearance of each cloud.
She then looked at him and said, “I have to piss. Can you cover me?”
Michael nodded his head and walked Kari over to the curb where he used his body to block her from public view as she squatted near some tall grass sprouting through a crack and urinated a couple of cars away from a popular Mexican food truck. He kissed her afterward, softly on the lips, and held onto her slightly moist hands as they went to her apartment without a care.
In the full swing of winter at one of the many Williamsburg coffee shops, during a not-terribly-crowded Sunday morning, the two exchanged secrets. They sat across from each other and huddled around a small, circular, barnyard wood table that matched the polished rustic decor of the establishment. They occasionally leaned left or right to let others pass by. After blowing the steam off his triple, large, half sweet, non-fat, caramel macchiato Michael told Kari that he wasn't generally good in relationships.
“We were all jerks when we were younger,” she said.
“Yeah, but this was different. Me and the girl were together for like a year. I really cared about her. Then one day she tells me that she loves me. Man. I… I was scared.” He took a sip from his cup and continued, “All of a sudden I started feeling this sort of claustrophobia. Like my life choices were disappearing every second that she looked at me. I realized that I kind of loved her too.”
“Why ‘kind of’?”
“Because I wanted to be with her, but I didn’t at the same time. I wanted to keep enjoying her company, to be there for her, but I knew it wasn’t enough for me. I couldn’t see it ever being enough. I don’t think that’s real love.” He paused then said, “I told her something like that and she was really hurt. I thought about it for a while afterward and I’m not terribly happy about what that moment may say about me.”
“And what’s that?”
“That I’m selfish. That I won’t want to share my life with anybody.”
Kari puckered her lips, and with a chuckle Michael responded, “Not the best advertisement for keeping me as a boyfriend is it?”
This is about 1,700 words of a 5,000 word story. You can download the rest for free as a pdf when you sign up for my newsletter. Already signed up? Just email me at Alex@AlexClermontWrites.com and I'll send you the rest.
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