February 28, 2024 | Rome, Italy

Company men

By |2018-03-21T18:48:47+01:00April 8th, 2012|Lifestyle Archive|
Not together, not alone.

he had met both men within days of each other. It was during that joyful week between Christmas and New Years Eve when magic seemed to exist for real, maybe because more people believed in it, or wanted to at least.

Kyle was a friend of friends, a face without a name she had known for years. Once they realized their paths had been crossing, they made a point to cross them more often — at his place or hers — cooking, playing music and telling stories late into the night.

Jack entered her life in the most ordinary way, via the Internet, only that he had no intention of dating (or so he wrote). He was simply curious about how it all worked, for a sociology dissertation — at Columbia no less. Having no shortage of stories and opinions Audrey agreed to meet and share them over coffee. Coffee turned cold in their cups while their conversation bloomed in all directions. An hour into it she noticed he was touching her forearms. When they rose to say goodbye his lips met hers as if it were the most natural salutation. Hours later, when they said goodbye again, buttons askew and hair rumpled, she marveled at what could possibly be happening. Three months later she was still wondering.

Both men lived within walking distance, Kyle so close they could see each other from their respective fire escapes. He would sometimes shout up to her from the window or send her a message in the late afternoon to see if she wanted to spend the evening together, and ask what he should pick up from the market. While in the kitchen they would sip white wine and take turns at the stovetop. He would reach top shelves for her, make some joke about how little she was, and then cup the back of her neck in his hand, an endearing gesture, and seemingly platonic — except for the way his finger tips burned into the underside of her jaw and rested there just long enough to send tremors down her spine. They would talk into the night, their knees and shoulders touching, their glances lingering. But he never kissed her. Not even once. Many times she could swear he was about to — in the alcove of her apartment at 3 a.m., or on his rooftop, as they squinted into a telescope at the moon and sometimes Saturn — but instead he would cluck his tongue and hug her tightly, or maybe peck her forehead goodbye.

Jack never planned anything. They would exchange emails and text messages over the course of two weeks, until absence became unbearable. At which point he would turn up at her doorstep. Between banal hellos and how are yous they would cling and kiss, stepping toward and away from one another in some awkward tango until there was no more sense in pretending to care. He would make love to her carefully, incredulously — all nerves and kisses and compliments. Sometimes she’d laugh, other times her moans would catch in her throat through wide smiles and she would shiver with happiness in his long warm arms. They would kiss the whole time until climax required too many deep breaths. Afterward she would lean her head on his chest and tuck her knees inward. His arm would cover the whole length of her body, his hand curled over her curves. Neither of them ever wanted to move, but eventually they always did. He never stayed the night. Nor did she. Ten or so days later they would repeat the process with equal or greater fervor.

In the beginning the interim confused and frustrated her, until Kyle came along to keep her company in his equally confusing if cozy way.

Occasionally she would run into one of them while with the other and something always felt off balance. In some strange way she felt a singular affection toward them both, although neither one of them had declared any semblance of alliance.

On one occasion, Jack invited her vaguely for an afternoon. She asked him what time and he never replied. Kyle called her for brunch and she accepted. They lingered in the spring sun, inching their table across the crowded courtyard until the last patch of sunlight disappeared behind the nearby wall.

As they were paying, Jack texted her. She responded, and found an excuse to steal away, feeling all the time that she was cheating.

And yet, when Kyle hugged her goodbye and Jack kissed her hello, her doubts vanished for a while. Until she left Jack’s house, damp and shivering with no plans for a next time. She had everything and nothing, everyone and no one.

They were good company. And for now, she wasn’t exactly alone.

About the Author:

Annie Gold is the pen name of an American author who wrote the "L-Word" column between 2007 and mid-2016.