I met M downtown just after sunset. She was studying in a coffee shop and I saw her through the window while I was still talking to her on the phone. We walked up to Chinatown to a bar I'd gone by lots but never been inside.
It was bright and empty when we got inside. We sat in a booth in the back, lined with red vinyl. It was a Friday night and it had been a long week for me. I was tired and felt my whole body relax happily after the first few sips of my drink. I was drinking bourbon and soda. I inherited this habit from my ex-girlfriend. I used to drink Old Fashioned's, Manhattan's, or Harvey Wallbanger's. After she left I started ordering bourbon and soda's as if it were some kind of psychic howl, a broken show of solidarity to no one but myself.
We made small talk for an hour. I explained my job and my time in Peace Corps, the two conversational constants of almost every date I've ever been on in the last several years. She talked about grad school, some time spent in Japan, disappointment in having traded New York for suburban California. A loud group sat in the booth next to ours and we made fun of them for a while, we took turns exploring the basement on bathroom runs where a disco was lying dormant, waiting for more people to arrive.
I couldn't tell if M was attracted to me. We were talking comfortably but it wasn't flirtatious. I remember her casually dropping the term "normative" into our conversation, and that was enough for me. I was smitten, at least momentarily. I left my arm up on the edge of the booth when she went to the bathroom. I told her she was pretty when she came back. "Thank you," she said, and looked into her lap.
After a couple of hours of conversation, M had to leave to catch her train out of the city. It was a mile and a half walk back to the train station. While we were walking through the backend of Union Square it started raining. I tried to hail a cab for us, but there only seemed to be one or two and they sped right past us in the rain.
We kept walking. I put my arm around her and pulled her closer to me. I wanted to kiss her. We kept missing red lights at every intersection so there was no natural excuse to stop walking. I thought about stopping mid-block and kissing her against the glass wall of a department store. It made me feel self-conscious, we were still talking fast enough and it would have felt abrupt. It made me nervous.
Somewhere south of Market I saw the light ahead of us change to yellow as we were approaching. We came to a stop in front of the red light. I waited for her to finish what she was saying, forcing myself to not respond. When the pause came, I put my hand on her check and tilted her head towards mine. We kissed for a minute or so, our clothes wet, my glasses beading with rain. We caught another red light at the next block and kissed again.
After another minute she pulled away. This was the last train of the night, and she was getting closer and closer to missing it.
When we got to the station it looked empty and the glass doors were closed. There was a janitor inside mopping the floor. He told us the last train had just left for the night. She called a friend from school and arranged to stay with him for the night. We took one of the cab's waiting in front of the station to his neighborhood and said goodnight.
Then the loud music kicked in and the credits rolled up the screen.