Twenty-Something​


Dominica Montoya

​​​ I cried naked on top of you and told you everything I didn’t like about you;

and then added that I lived with my ex.

I drank too much at your job on the weekends,

and became pitifully infatuated in my need for validation.

You once tried to put a pillow over my face during sex

 then spooned it over me for twelve hours.

 

Later you took a taxi to Brooklyn

to watch a rom-com

 and play Battleship with me  

knowing we wouldn’t hook up.

 

1.

 

I met him wearing a barely breathable gold-and-black sequined dress, 5 ½ inch heels, and reindeer antlers. It was my company’s holiday shit-show, hosted by a swanky lounge on the Lower East Side. High ceilings and a trendy DJ booth.  Dimly lit with black velvet curtains. Mountains of employee belongings piled high in red leather booths; lingering all too close to flickering candles, whose golden shadows danced along the dark walls.

           

After a few classy rounds of cheap pregame shots prior to our group’s arrival, I settled on white wine. I playfully sipped my Riesling and laughed while my best friend Parker smeared saliva and red lipstick all over the face of the one straight guy who worked with us. As she was clearly preoccupied, I turned back to the bar in search of someone else to gossip and giggle with.

           

A nameless boy from another department came up beside me and tried to spark up flirty small-talk.

 

“Oh you’re in grad school? How interesting! …You study finance? Wow, I’m so glad someone does…”

 

Blah, blah, blah. Despite an odd resemblance to a past love, I was uninterested. My thoughts and eyes began to wander. After some strained minutes of half-hearted conversation I ordered another drink. On tiptoes, leaning over the bar, I attempted to catch the attention of the closest bartender. I hate being ignored. Frustrated, I turned to flag down his faceless coworker at the other end.

           

Six-four and with disgusting blue eyes, bartender #2 stood from his casual lean and smirked in my direction. Good God. I don’t know how the fuck I missed him before. He wore a sleek black tie, clipped between the second and third buttons of a tailored black Oxford.  He was tall and slender, with messy brown hair and perfect stubble.

 

“What can I get for you?” he asked.

 

Shit. For the first time that night, the antlers seemed like a questionable decision. Bashfully, I slid my over empty glass and requested another. As he poured, Other Guy attempted to pick things back up.

 

“I think you’re just lovely…but you are clearly infatuated with that bartender.”

 

Embarrassed, I averted my eyes to try and dismiss him softly. Well, discretion never was my forte.

 

“Sorry.” I whispered, as I barred my lower teeth in a sheepish frown. Taking the hint, he walked away as Dirty Blues returned with my drink.

 

“What’s your last name chica?” he asked.

 

“Cruz.”

 

“Katie Jane?” he said, looking over the stacks of patron tabs. “You wanna keep it open?”

 

“It’s KJ, and yes please.” I don’t know why I introduced myself that way. Only my close friends and family called me KJ. It just sort of fell out of my mouth. I guess everything was thrown from the start.

 

“Alright KJ.” He stood straight with a silly smile and lifted his hand to offer an awkward high five. “I’m Adam,” he continued.

 

Returning a stupid smirk, I shot back my five. His eye contact was so intense. He stepped back and introduced me to his college buddies at the end of the bar. In suits and loosened ties, they seemed amused by their outlier status in the midst of my underage and overdressed coworkers.

 

When Parker finally came up for air, I introduced her to Adam and my new found friends. Drunk and ready to depart, she slurred her approval too loudly in my ear.

 

“Heee’s hot, K. And we’re not leaving until you get his number.”

 

I laughed and asked to close my tab. Adam insisted on another round – whiskey, on him.

 

“Only if you text me later.”

 

2.

 

It was an intense, slam-me-against-the-wall makeout,

with hot hands felt all over,

while still respecting my disallowance of zippers coming undone

or my pants coming off.

Kisses descending down my neck

rising back up my stomach.

 

The scent of fresh laundry and Irish Spring,

You cleaned up a bit for the occasion.

Wisps of my dark hair tangled in your long eyelashes,

and you told me I was gorgeous.

 

Adam was the antithesis of everything I was used to. He was tall and sharp. He was artistic and charming. I was on the cusp of a messy breakup with my hyper-controlling roommate/boyfriend-of-three-years who was still attempting to reconcile. We had already nursed that train wreck for far too long and I was over his fleeting pleas and promises.  

           

It was like one of those cheesy chick-flick moments for me: I’d just escaped this terrible fate, when I met a devilishly handsome gentleman who did in fact text me later, asking curious questions and sending witty answers; the butterfly-inducing get-to-know-you game that I’d hardly played since high school. He was going to eat my brain and I knew it.

 

On our first date, we got pizza at an underrated shop with wobbly tables and ceramic tiled floors. According to Adam, they had the best slice in the neighborhood.

           

We talked about our hometowns and how long we had been in the city. He complimented my education and we laughed about the fact that we both had shitty old brick phones instead of shiny new iPhones. We were not conformists.

           

Post food, we went back to his place and made out for four hours while watching Heathers. We felt sixteen – the movie choice hardly mattered and blue balls were imminent. He invited me to spend the night. I politely declined, but stayed another hour.

           

My phone would not stop buzzing. My ex, alarmed by my absence and lack of communication had called eight times in the last thirty minutes. Well, that will be fun to deal with. Reluctantly, I gathered my things, knowing that nothing honorable happens past 2 AM in New York City anyway.

 

“I better see you again.”

 

I smiled over my shoulder and shrugged playfully. He leaned against the doorframe and shook his head as I pranced down the stairs.

 

3.

 

I tried to keep cool and hide my school-girl excitement.

I played the waiting game terribly.

Your innocent ignorance of how to craft a prompt response drove me crazy,

and made minutes seem like centuries.

A necessary tension for any proper crush,

I daydreamed too much and counted time too often.

 

I wanted to encapsulate those talks of our youths,

our shared suburban experiences;

and freeze the walks around my neighborhood, fingers interlaced.

We were completely unfazed by the laughable 4 year, 15 inch height difference.

 

A week and a half after pizza, the holidays were fast approaching. Adam and I had planned a tentative coffee date a few days prior that had fallen through. I was leaving the next day to spend a month at home in Chicago. Though excited to be free of my ex and full of Christmas cookies, my infatuation was getting the best of me. I was eager to see Adam again before I left; I needed something to solidify my place in his thoughts for the next four weeks.

 

He called around noon and asked how far I lived from the courthouse.  

 

“About five blocks. Why, what’s up?”

 

“What’s your building number? I’ll be there in ten.”

 

Frantically, I shoved my half-packed suitcase and color-sorted mountains of laundry into my bedroom. I cleared off the table and put away the single picture of my ex and I that remained in the apartment. I closed the bedroom door as my phone buzzed.

 

“Hey! Which apt # are you?”

 

“5L, but I can come down.”

 

The speaker next to the swinging lock on the front door rang loud over my embarrassing pop songs. Fuck. I slid across the wood floors in my socks and pressed talk.

 

“There is an Adam here to see you.” I could hear the judgment in my doorman’s voice. Oh well.

 

“Yeah, you can send him up.”

 

I quickly took a last look around before the ding of the elevator confirmed his arrival. I opened the door with a nervous smile. He stood tall, his hands in his front pockets, wearing faded black jeans and an unbuttoned pea coat. I invited him in as I tied the laces on my dirty chucks and zipped the front of my coat.

           

He scanned the apartment, impressed with the sleek décor and new stainless appliances. Void of photos and knickknacks, there was little evidence of what kind of people lived there. It was an abode torn from the pages of an IKEA catalogue – impersonal, with minimalist furnishings; all courtesy of my uncompromising ex, a fact I did not care to share. 

           

To most, it just looked like a clean apartment, with sprinklings of unexceptional art to break up the large white walls. The presence of the Xbox almost certainly confirmed that this was not a same-sex-room-share; but he didn’t ask and I offered no further details. I grabbed my bag from the coffee table and turned towards the door.

 

“Ready?” he asked.

 

Yessssir. Are you? ”

 

4.

 

Weeks later, we had crude and limit pushing sex,

tangled in sheets on the floor.

We explored your odd fantasies, which were never really my thing.

You called me “good girl” on more than one occasion -  

a habit I eventually told you was highly unattractive;

I was not your child or your dog.

 

Such scenes mingled with intermittent pancakes and Mimosas, 

with late night phone calls just to chat.

Bad behavior dissolved in intellectual film debates,

and washed away completely with discussions of Lincoln and his Gettysburg Address.

 

At first we conversed about Scorsese, because he was the only respectable director that I knew anything about. This was in large part due to the fact that most of his films involved Leonardo DiCaprio. We talked about history because he liked that I was smart and he had watched a lot of Ken Burns growing up. Still, more often than anything else, we had sex and we disagreed.

           

We weren’t dating and we certainly weren’t in love. For a time we actually seemed like mutually pleased fuck-buddies. In this sadistic way, sort of liked each other’s broken honesty. But somewhere in between, I had a vulnerability crisis and became a black hole, fed by male reaffirmation.

           

I would make drunken embarrassing confessions and he would be mean, but still want sex and forgiveness. Time shared sober became more and more infrequent, and we both lied to friends about our continued communication. I was still too tangled to let go.

           

I held tight to our brief reprieves of confused friendship – those times when I woke up early for class and made breakfast for myself while Adam slept quietly in my room. He would emerge dazed with sleepy eyes, and would awkwardly stretch his too-long limbs.

 

“Wow, you look so nice,” he said groggily. “Why are you up so early?”

 

I cleared my plate and he kissed my head. I gave him a towel and told him to make himself at home. I left for work while he was in the shower. He lounged and ate. He left his dishes in the sink and picked out movies from my collection that he’d never seen. He stayed past noon and watched The Truman Show on my ex-boyfriend’s HDTV.

           

In moments like that our relationship felt so tangible. Reconciliation between the two poles of experience seemed impossible. They were worlds so disparate that their coexistence was beyond my comprehension. I could not keep up.

 

5.

 

I blacked out on a Wednesday night,

And skipped an entire week of class.

You told your classmate that I was crazy,

And then I found out because the world is really fucking small.

You got really mad ‘cause one of your coworkers asked me to dinner-

We were the poster-children for 20-something self-destruction.

 

Then I went back to church

And deleted your number for a few weeks

You finished filming your movie.

Maybe we were functional human beings after all.

 

When I gave up sex and booze for lent that spring, that’s when the dynamic shifted. Adam and I no longer had intercourse, but would watch movies on the couch or discuss theater over coffee. We played board games, and occasionally fooled around. I no longer invited him to spend the night and I rarely went to his place. Distance and introspection made it clear that too often I had let infatuation and insecurity drive my decision-making with Adam. I was determined to make changes, to complete my spring cleaning from the inside out. I was finally ready to purge myself of the last four months of crazy and lay to rest the attention whore inside. Still, I wanted Adam to see these changes, for him to see me as more than just the wreckage I was attempting to leave behind.

           

One of the last times I slept over, he turned to me in the morning and asked me how old I wanted to be when I had kids.

 

“Late 20s, early 30s…no later than 35,” I answered.

 

At the time, I thought he was testing my eagerness to swindle him (or any other man) into hasty nuptials and start popping out babies.

 

“I don’t want to be an old mom…”

 

He nonchalantly brought up the topic of a woman’s inevitable biological countdown. Still ill at ease with the conversation, I let his words sit in silence.

 

“I think you’d be a really good mom. You just understand what’s important where a lot of other people don’t.” 

 

The night before, he had opened up to me for the first time about a four-year relationship he had been in a while back. Prior to that, I was under the impression that he’d never had a serious girlfriend and that he was just one more never-been-in-love, commitment-phoebe in New York City. He said that things would be “different” between us in a month when he wasn’t so busy with school and work.

 

“If I’m still a flake then, then you can judge me…Seriously though, I’m really glad you’re here…”

 

I had come to dread comments like that - things that I wanted to hear that I knew would eventually just flood the pages of my angst filled journal and send my confusion spiraling into overdrive again. He meant what he said, but we both knew it was a lie. We were immune to figuring out “different.”

 

“It’s just nice to have you here…”

 

I over-thought those moments for so long. They felt so full of knotted intentions and unanswered questions that I had a hard time letting them go. Months later, when I finally talked to him about it, I was so pleased with my own audacity that I forgot his response; and the memory has again regressed to a hazy guess as to why he asked and what was meant.

           

After that night, we slept together once. I was on the verge of emotional self-sufficiency, having finally accepted the fact that Adam and I couldn’t exist without the chaos we created. On a drunken bachelorette-esque whim, we gave in to old habits one last time.

 

“You’re so cute,” he said, holding my hips.

 

“I want you so bad,” I whispered back.

 

“I love your little body,” he continued.

 

There was something so intense about the way we devoured one another. And yet, an odd appreciation of sentimentality and exclusivity within that strange dynamic as well.

 

“You gonna clean up that scruff anytime soon?”

 

“You’re the only one who kisses it.”

 

“And I’m asking nicely, so I’ll take that as a yes?”

 

We both laughed.

 

6.

 

Despite the pleasantries

that accompanied our final soiree,

I knew that conversations about motherhood,

promises of change, and all of the pretty little moments

that strung our world together,

were but a tapestry of pipe dreams.

           

I had to find and build my own happiness.

Eventually I would see other people,

but I was finally figuring out who I was

and how to love that person on my own.

 

Since then, Adam and I have stayed in touch and been friends. Personal growth and other interests have helped us learn to navigate such friendship with caution. We value one another skeptically and from a distance.

 

Looking back, it’s funny how little we actually knew about each other at the time. We accumulated this multitude of raw collective memories that either said everything or told us nothing at all. We tried to grow up with two feet in the 90s and hands barely brushing the edge of adulthood. We were young and dumb. We were careless and unforgiving. We were works in progress; but who could blame us for that?

 

About The Writer

​​Dominica Montoya is a freelance writer and recent NYU alum. Born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, she loves good barbeque and bad baseball. Dominica currently lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn and can be found on twitter @minilikesmall.