Me and Camilla walk uptown from the East Village, where we spent the afternoon, to Camilla’s friend Emma’s parents’ apartment on the Upper West Side because Emma is visiting from college in Pennsylvania, and her parents aren’t home.
It’s 2008 and I’m twenty.
As we’re walking, Camilla looks down at her legs and says, “I think my legs will never be skinny. Like, I think if I starved to death, I would look like a skeleton except with fat legs, you know?”
“I don’t think that’s true,” I say, but I know what she means.
Camilla has been trying to set me up with someone for the last few months and she thinks I’ll like Emma. We walk through the East 20s, and Camilla says Emma is hot and that when they were in high school, Emma got way more attention from boys than she did. We walk up to the discount liquor store on 29th Street and Third, and Camilla says I should get the liquor because my fake ID is better than hers. She gives me a twenty and smokes while I buy vodka. I come out, and as we walk, she tells me about how when she and Emma went to boarding school in the mountains in Colorado, they both liked a boy who was two years younger than they were, and who once asked them to kiss each other and how they did it, and then the three of them all kissed simultaneously. Camilla giggles and says, “He was a city kid, so it seemed like he was older.”
I tell Camilla I hope that someday I can be involved in a three-way kiss, and she shrugs and says that it doesn’t seem like it’s out of the realm of possibility. I say, “I’ve mostly only had long-term girlfriends, and those are the people who it’s hardest to propose three-way kisses to, you know?” Camilla shrugs again and says that it depends on the girlfriend. Then we pass an ad for a new flavor of Doritos, and Camilla takes a picture of it with her BlackBerry and sends it to Mike, my roommate, who Camilla started dating after I introduced them. They’re both enthusiastic about processed food, I think. Her BlackBerry background is the Doritos logo, but it says “Don’tEatThose” inside the logo where it usually says “Doritos.”
On the way, I wash my face in a Starbucks bathroom. It’s humid and I’ve been sweating and I don’t want to appear greasy. We get to Emma’s building, and the doorman calls up to her apartment and lets us through. Camilla fixes her hair in the elevator, using the two-way mirror that covers the security camera. Mike texts her back and she smiles.
Emma opens the door, hugs Camilla, and says, really tenderly, “How are you doing?” She draws out the word “doing” until the “ooh” sounds like a musical note. Camilla tells her how she’s doing, which is pretty good. Then Emma shakes my hand, and she and Camilla talk as I mostly stay quiet and stand behind Camilla. There are some other kids drinking and talking in the living room. Emma has big boobs and long brown hair. Her face is perfectly shaped. She offers me a beer from her fridge. I take it and then excuse myself to go to the bathroom and wash my face again, and when I come back, I sit down on the couch in the living room next to some kid wearing cargo shorts who’s sitting with his legs splayed out, so there’s not much room for me to sit. He doesn’t move, and so I squeeze in next to him and introduce myself, and he looks exactly like Emma so I’m sure he’s Emma’s brother. He looks older than me and looks unfriendly, but this is the best open seat in the apartment with respect to the TV.
I ask him where his parents are and he says, “On vacation,” and then I try to talk to him about Seinfeld, both because it’s on and because it’s my favorite show. “Did you know Jerry’s apartment is actually like five blocks from where we are right now?” I ask. “It’s on 81st between Amsterdam and Columbus. And people all over the country and the world are watching Seinfeld right now, but we’re among the closest people to where his apartment actually is. I mean closest among people who are currently watching the show. That’s kind of cool to think about, I think.”
“That’s not true.”
“What do you mean?”
“Jerry Seinfeld’s apartment is on 81st Street and Central Park West.”
“No, but I meant his fictional apartment in the show, not his real apartment in life . . .”
Emma’s brother doesn’t look at me or respond so I excuse myself to go to the bathroom to get away from him, and as I’m getting up he says, “Didn’t you just come from the bathroom?” I tell him that I just washed my face and he goes, “Did you use our family’s hand towels on your face?” I tell him I used toilet paper to dry my face, and he looks at me like he doesn’t believe me.
I find Camilla again, and she says that she and Emma are going up to the roof to smoke and that I should come. I whisper, “Her brother was really weird to me for no reason,” and Camilla says, “Really? He’s always nice to me . . . ?” I say, “You’re a girl. Obviously he’s nice to you.” Camilla thinks about this and nods.
Ten minutes later, me and Camilla and Emma and an disinterested-seeming blond girl sit at a picnic table and smoke and pour the liquor that I bought into glasses of Diet Coke. The picnic table has benches welded to it, and me and Camilla sit opposite Emma and the disinterested blond girl. Emma thanks us for the liquor and I say, “Yeah, of course,” and then she points to the bottle, which is a bottle of vodka called Cîroc, and says, “Why’d you get this one though? Isn’t this like the P. Diddy vodka?” I’d kind of hoped she’d ask me something like this because I have some good canned conversation about Cîroc.
I say, “Yeah, it is the P. Diddy vodka, but also it’s actually the only vodka made of grapes, and you can sort of taste the grapes a little. It’s hard to taste distinctions among vodkas but this one is really distinct. Can you taste the grapes?”
Emma takes a sip and thinks for a second and nods hesitantly and says, “Sort of.” The blond girl lights another cigarette and doesn’t take a sip of her vodka.
I say, “And also there’s an ad campaign for this vodka with a black-and-white picture of Diddy sitting at a very formal-seeming dinner table, wearing a tuxedo and surrounded by people wearing tuxedos and formal gowns, and he’s holding a Cîrocbased drink in one hand, like a martini, but Diddy’s wearing a huge pair of sunglasses, which look out of place. Because he’s at a formal dinner party, surrounded by people in tuxedos. At the dinner table.”
Emma and Camilla look at me quizzically. I go, “Nobody who’s actually attending a really formal dinner party would wear huge glasses with dark lenses like that indoors, you know? It’s impolite, like wearing a hat at the table. And it would be hard for him to see.”
Nobody says anything. Maybe they’d have to see the ad to understand. Or maybe I just should never hav...