Slovakia is the place where he is headed. He is a doctoral candidate, he needs to do research. Most importantly, he wants to leave.
Like Slovakia, he split amicably from his wife. He needs the distance.
He'll arrive in Bratislava on his birthday.
He did not see me coming. I was not one to make waves. I tiptoed across the room and coerced a walk home and silently inched my lips toward his and crept upstairs onto his inflatable air mattress. He shut the door behind us.
"I'm sorry about the whole ... bachelor scene. My wife took the bed," he confessed. He looked ashamed.
He spoke fluent Czech but was from the Northwest. He attended an Ivy but his father worked blue-collar. He had scars from his days out at sea, working the commercial fishing boats. He liked The Clash, and was deaf in one ear when a high-school friend lit a firework near his head.
I could not say much to him when his eyes met mine. I could not, in those moments, think of anything worth breaking the silent stare.
We had sandwiches in the park and commented on the weather. He cleared his throat. "I'm sorry, but this can't go anywhere. I'm in a really confusing place." He told me about his divorce process. He told me about another woman he loved, a woman he was to start dating when he returned from Slovakia.
I smiled. I nodded. I understood. I didn't hesitate.
We kissed on street corners, drunk and stumbling. We were told we were beautiful. We were told to get a room. At night, I could feel his rough fingers stroke gently the tattoo on my upper back, tracing the black hearts. As we dozed off, I asked him to tell me funny phrases in Slovak, but not to translate them. Random, gutteral sounds and a smile told me they were good, and I laughed. As he slept, I quietly cursed him in Gaelic with the few words I'd learned as a child.
Mornings he would make coffee, strong and good. He had a French press and a lot of Kona he was willing to share. I browsed through his books, lined on his walls, down his halls, acting as tablelegs.
"Someone is going to get hurt," he told me one morning as I said good-bye. I shrugged.
I've been all over Europe, but I've never been there. I've never seen the rolling green hills, never experienced the moderate climate or the scenic views. "It's an oasis," he said.
It was time for him to go. New York is a ghost town in August as everyone flees for somewhere other than here. I booked a job in Los Angeles. He's to read historic documents on a green hill. We went for drinks.
"I shouldn't be with you tonight," he said after the third round. I nodded, expecting this. "I shouldn't be with you because I'm confused. And I didn't expect ... ", but I missed the rest. I caught a glimpse of his eyes, and his voice mingled with the giddy laughs and groans of tipsy patrons. All I heard was white noise.