Two months after my trip to New York City, I drove to Buffalo for a writers' conference. I was not participating on any panels or doing any readings and I decided at the last minute to go mainly to see other writers I knew who were friends of mine and to get out of the house, and consequently, away from myself. He and I had not spoken or had any communication with one another in almost a month and I was feeling overwhelmingly lonely and isolated because of this. Before I left I had asked another writer to go with me. Most of the writers I knew who were going were male and this writer was female and I thought it would be nice to have another female writer there and offered her my room to share. I had never met this female writer in person and had not even so much as exchanged an email with her until a couple of weeks before the Buffalo trip when she emailed me to say she liked a particular story of mine. Prior to her emailing me I knew very little about her except that she was a good friend of his and that she had been the person he had spent the day with the night he hurt his ankle and did not see me the day following. At the time I had blamed her for his not seeing me and believed there to be some sort of romantic interest on her part or both of their parts, though he had sworn she was like a sister to him and that nothing had happened between them. In the months between the day they spent together and the trip to Buffalo she had published a story I read about a day she had spent with a male friend of hers and I had wrongly attributed the male character to him and had torn up the story upon reading it as it had inferred a romantic interest in the male character. Later she told me it was not about him but about another male writer I knew and I laughed and felt silly for my instinct to think everything was about him and my assumption that because I felt so strongly about him, every other female must as well.
I do not like to admit so, but a large part of the reason I invited this woman to Buffalo was because of my knowledge that she was a close friend of his, though I felt conflicted about inviting her for the same reason. I was worried I would drink and become loose lipped and divulge information I did not want to divulge or ask questions I did not want to ask and that the particular questions I chose to ask would divulge as much about me and him and about my feelings for him as any answers I could give. Also, I still felt deeply loyal to him and did not want him to think I was betraying him by telling her things we had talked about and done or not talked about and not done.
At the time I invited this woman it was very late at night and I had been drinking, and she had been drinking as well. I asked her to come to Buffalo with me on a whim and on a whim she said yes and before either of us could change our minds I had bought her a plane ticket and reserved us a room. Even though he and I were not speaking, I emailed him to tell him she was going to be joining me in Buffalo and he did not respond and I had not expected him to but I seemed to want him to know all the same.
On the drive to Buffalo a few days later I began to have reservations about having asked her but also I was excited to meet her and hopeful we would get along and become friends. I knew that she drank and smoked and I figured we had that much in common and that that much would be enough to bond us in a way that would see us through the weekend. When I had told my daughter about my reservations with regard to meeting this woman, my daughter had said, "If she's a friend of his, she must be okay," and I had laughed when she said this but at the same time felt somewhat melancholy in the face of my daughter's continued admiration for him, knowing she might never see him again, and that I might never see him again either.
Once in Buffalo my nervousness with regard to meeting this woman became amplified to the point that I changed our reservation from one room to two adjoining rooms. I was aware of the fact that the woman would likely view the adjoining rooms as an unnecessary expense and I did not want her to think me spoiled or careless with money, but at the same time I did not want to put myself in a situation in which I might feel claustrophobic and uncomfortable for an entire weekend. I wanted my own bed and my own bathroom and I did not want to be aware of when she used the bathroom or for how long, just as I did not want her to be aware of the same things with regard to me.I only had an hour between the time I checked into the hotel room and the time in which I had to pick up the woman from the airport and I wanted to have a drink, to calm my nerves, but I did not want to drive after having even one drink because I was unfamiliar with the area and unaccustomed to driving after drinking. The woman had texted me from the airport before she got on the plane to say she had already had two Bloody Mary's and would probably have two more in the air and therefore would likely be drunk already when I picked her up. I did not mind her being drunk. Generally, when meeting someone for the first time or meeting someone alone for the first time, I am grateful to them for drinking or being drunk because I rarely drink more than one drink when out and only truly feel comfortable drinking in my own house, most often, when alone. I prefer other people, however, when they are drinking or drunk, as it makes me feel they are paying slightly less attention to me and therefore I feel more comfortable being myself and do not feel as much of a need to censor what I say.
When I picked her up she did not, however, appear to be inebriated. She was smoking a cigarette and threw it on the sidewalk and got in the car and immediately she began to talk, and I was comforted by her chatter, as I would have been by her inebriation, and I knew that everything would be all right and that I had not needed to book two rooms, but the rooms were booked, and this is how we would live for two nights.
There are people you meet in life whom you know for years but never really feel you know and people you feel you know right away, the first night you speak with them, and she belonged wholly to the latter category and I was mesmerized by her and quite taken with her because of this. Weeks later, after the conference had ended and people were talking about it and the people they had met while there, I realized I had met no one new, despite there having been people present I wanted to meet and I attributed this to my inability to focus on anyone but her while in her presence. Partially this was due to the person she is and partially this was due to my strong need to feel belonged to by someone after so long feeling not belonged to by him. For the majority of both nights we sat close together so that the sides of our bodies met and often she had her arm draped over the back of my chair or my shoulder and I liked the way it felt to be so close to someone and was reluctant to move away from her toward someone else, and consequently I remained still beside her, listening to her talk, to me or another person, it didn't matter which. And halfway through the first night, after I'd had two drinks, which was more than I was used to having when out, she began questioning me about the man I had alluded to being in love with. Part of me wanted to tell her everything, because I had told only one or two people anything and because the one or two people I had told did not know him and therefore had an impression of him that was based only on my side of the story, which was admittedly unfavorable, and I wanted someone who knew him and had a good impression of him to listen to my account and offer me a less biased opinion of what had happened and of him. At the time I did not think she knew who it was and I was torn between giving her the information she needed to figure it out and not giving her this information and leaving it a mystery. But she was persistent and I found her persistence and interest in what I was saying and, consequently, her interest in me, flattering and I found myself telling her more and more until finally she guessed his name and I let out a long sigh and looked at her with guilty eyes and she knew that she had guessed correctly. Later, after I had returned home and had a chance to replay our conversation over in my head many times, I was more confident that she had known all along, or at the very least had guessed, based on things he had told her. She told me he had confessed the day he hurt his ankle to being torn up about a particular woman, and though he did not tell her my name, he described the woman as tall and thin and blonde, and said she was a woman she knew of but did not know personally, and of the female writers in our circle, I was the only one I knew of who fit this description.
Before she guessed his name I had felt myself almost bursting with wanting her to know and immediately after I was overcome with regret and felt I had told her too much and been disloyal to him. It was at this time that the party moved from the bar where we had been sitting for many hours back to the hotel where we were staying. Most of the people in our group were going to a hotel room on a different floor from ours and I said I was going up to the room for a minute and then would be back down but once I was in the room, I no longer felt like being around people and changed out of my clothes and into my pajamas and got in bed. A half an hour or so later she returned to the room also and came and sat on the bed next to me. I had been crying but I wasn't sure she was able to tell because she was so intoxicated and I was appreciative of the fact that she was too intoxicated to tell or that she would not remember in the morning even if she were aware of it then. She sat only for a few minutes and then she said she was tired and was going to bed and we did not speak of him in the morning or again that weekend and I was relieved not to be speaking of him. I did not like feeling that the only reason I had asked her to come was to garner information about him and did not want her to think this either. I had come to like her independent of her friendship with him and found over the course of the next day and a half that we had much more in common than him and that I was desirous of continuing this friendship after we had each returned home. Most of my friends had moved out of the town in which I lived in the past year or two and I missed the easy conversations I had had with my female friends over coffee or drinks and was thus hungry for and all the more appreciative of any time I spent in the company of women.
The morning of our departure we sat in the hotel restaurant and had brunch and she ordered two Bloody Mary's and afterward, as we stood close together on the sidewalk in front of the hotel and had a final cigarette, I was conscious of the tomato juice on her breath and emanating from her skin, and already I was sad for a time in which that smell would not be available to me and she would be gone.