Love, In Time by Robert E. Donohue

A self-assured woman seeks adventure in sex, despite the admonishment of her loyal best friend - but what happens when she wants to hold down a relationship? By Robert E. Donohue.

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It all changed the night I told Joey I'd slept with another man. I said that my cheating had occurred once, last Wednesday, when it took place often, over several months. Joey glared, then mumbled something about a cigarette. As he leapt from the couch like a startled cat, his leg swiped against my purse, knocking it from the coffee table. Two lipsticks and an eyeliner pencil clattered against the thickly painted living room baseboard as the purse hit the floor. He charged through the sliding door at the rear of the apartment onto the fire escape that we shared with the Yonkers Cineplex. When he was gone, the door closed without a sound. I drew a deep breath, deciding to let him stew, be, or leave.

I brewed a pot of coffee and flipped through an issue of Cosmopolitan I'd lifted from the dentist's office. I took a deep breath and released a measure of regret. Later, as I stood scouring our coffee carafe at the kitchen sink, I wondered if the price for what I'd admitted would prove too much for Joey, and for me. Was I prepared for the cost? I thought. I gazed at small nothings - bits of castoff food particles in the drain cover filter. A police car siren wailed in Getty Square, the business hub of my city, Yonkers, NY. A trickle of water dripped from the loose faucet handle into our cast iron sink as it had done since the day we moved in. I opened a casement window and glanced outside, in the half-hearted hope Joey would be on the fire escape, smoking a joint, and perhaps I'd caused no actual harm for him. The familiar sweet oil aromas of deep fried food from the burger and fries joints on the crowded car-lined street, full of bodegas and tattoo parlors, settled in my nostrils and for a moment I let them take me to thoughts of comfort that mindless eating has always promised me.

Years back, and three years out of Muhlenberg College with a Batchelor's degree in performance arts, I accepted a job offer in Coral Gables, Florida, stage-managing at the Beaux-Arts Theater Club, where I met Emile. He was two years younger than I was. Emile played Gordon Ralfe in A Patch of Blue at the club. Beaux-Arts filed for bankruptcy a month after I arrived. Emile and I spent the rest of the winter working bars along the Gold Coast. He mixed drinks and I waited tables. Sunny days, indigo nights, lightning storms in the Atlantic - thick offshore storm clouds, like distant mountains forming and dissipating as I watched. This was an ideal atmosphere for looking cool and living hot.

Emile's black skin, Haitian friends, and the way he navigated the stitched edges of the culture divides of south Florida made my head swim. Saturday nights we spent in South Beach at Delano and The Deuce. We dabbled in drugs. We often over-dabbled.

That winter was all about adventure, and we were inseparable. We spent more cash than we earned and never let up on partying or cocaine. Emile stopped bar tending in spring and took a job on his cousin's fishing boat, Facile à Vivre, trolling for monkfish and making money, feeding tourists what they believed to be lobster tail. He left our studio apartment at 2:30am and wasn't back until 4:00 in the afternoon. By then, I was at my job at The Puny Rooster, where I met Philippe and Alain. Quebecois sans work visas - they bussed tables, washed dishes, and swept up at closing.

Philippe was darl, and his skin glowed like milk chocolate under candle light. Alain was ABBA-blonde. We managed our affairs at the Palms Motel in North Hollywood after the Rooster stopped serving. Those nights with Emile gone thrilled me, as I sat behind one of my boys on a pink Kawasaki, and the neon framed tattoo parlors flew past on Federal Highway. My confidence in those moments made me believe that nothing mattered but my salt and pepper Canadians and their bikes.

As we coursed through the humid south Florida air, I pressed my chest at Philippe or Alain's back. My bare legs perspired staggeringly against my guys' leather chaps. My hair stood spiked straight from the wind and the opiate sense of the trade wind ocean breezes. I felt I had it all. I held fast to each of those boys, hoping one would prove the love of my life.

After a short time, it was just about Philippe. Alain was gentle-sweet, but I wasn't sure about sweet. Grip I understood. I wanted grip. Philippe gripped.

Emile didn't fish on weekends and I cheated on him mid-week. Time apart wore on us and the Emile adventure soon felt old. When he figured things out, he blew - he told me he knew former members of the Tontons Macoutes. I thought this wasn't true, but decided it might be best to forget Phillipe and return to Yonkers.

When my plane landed at LaGuardia Airport, my friend Ginny met me. We had been tight through school until I left for college and she had passed the civil service exam. I had taken care, during my Florida adventures, to stay in touch out of habit and to keep up to date on Yonkers' happenings.

Ginny worked at the North Bronx Emergency Dispatch Center answering 911 calls. I spotted her as I left the airline exit ramp. She stood near the Security station, wearing a green cable knit wool sweater. Her red hair was piled high and though I was a distance away, I could make out her broad smile and russet freckles.

We hugged and the first thing she said was, "So many men. You spend boat-loads of time on them and you don't seem to become any wiser. Wake up, or turn a few of them over to me."

Just like Ginny, I thought, generous with criticism, stingy with that's great. She grabbed my cosmetic bag, and we pushed our way through the travel crush waiting for arrivals.

"This place is like the Black Hole of Calcutta," she said. "You check your stuff?"

"What we're carrying; that's it. I shipped the rest."

In the rental car we talked, caught up on couples coupled and messy break-ups - the offbeat fodder of what fueled our friendship. I felt like the winter hadn't happened and that we'd been apart for a few hours. Driving up I-87, essentials disposed of, Ginny went quiet for a bit and then told me that there's a price every woman pays for her fun and that mine came at a price that I seemed too willing to pay. She said she wasn't sure she admired that. I bit at a loose cuticle on my pinky and stared at the passing gray of the south Bronx.

"You always dance close to the flame. One day you're gonna take it too far with one of these clowns and a flight out-of-town might not save your ass," she said.

I decided she was jealous. Ginny was dear, but she knew little about men and less about the thrill that the right ones delivered for me. Her faux concern was less mean than what about me, Ginny. I didn't want to talk about Florida.

"You'll save my ass," I said.

I met Dmitri at Santorini, a five-star Greek restaurant in the up-scale village of Larchmont, NY. He was the owner's son. He drove a maroon Cadillac and carried a 9 millimeter Glock in the waistband of his designer jeans. There was enough in the gun and the confident way he carried himself to win me. He had easy access to dust mountains of coke.

I slept with our cocaine dealer too, and my Adonis dumped me. He told me I was a screwed-up girl and said there was more to being with someone than bonking and always asking for cash to score some shit. I felt bad about that.

When Ginny told me that Dmitri had spoken to her, and said that his Goodfellas father advised him to let me go or he would do something himself, I felt fortunate - grateful for the intervention.

Kieran is an Irish Catholic cop from Hastings-on-Hudson. We screwed in his cruiser. I liked the slick feel of the vinyl seats and the look of Kieran's always fresh-pressed blue uniform with the tan piping along the epaulets and down the sides of his slacks, and all the cop crap hanging from his belt. He looked like he could handle anything - stop a prison riot at Rikers, maybe. In the beginning, Kieran gave me a sense that I was safe and that he'd protect me.

Each time we did it in the cop car, Kieran cried as he climaxed and then he withdrew; he'd shove me aside, grab a box of Kleenex from behind the front seat and, with his pants gathered taut at his shins, remove evidence from the patrol car. He worked like he boffed, with a frenzy and economy that left me feeling I was in the company of a hospital emergency room orderly. I worried his gun might discharge in the rush, but didn't have enough courage to speak as he wept and cleaned.

After these episodes - this happened twice - Kieran drove me home without speaking. The first time we rode in total silence; the second, I asked if we could talk before he dropped me off.

"Not happening; I have to be alone with what I've done," he said.

I met Charles at the Loews Grand Concourse where I'd gone to see a retro-showing of They Shoot Horses, Don't They? We needled each other. Charles poked my ribcage and my thighs; he poked my forehead and the small of my back. Charles poked me non-stop unless we were eating or making love. He was uncomplicated fun. I believed marriage was in the offing until I learned Charles had a wife and kids - several kids.

In fairness, we did very little talking. Ginny scolded me, saying all that needling and all that silence should have been telling.

"You give yourself with ease. You betta rein it in," she said. I give myself with ease? I thought. My Bestie here would trade anything for the chance at any of my guys.

When I told Charles it couldn't continue, he was not upset. He turned, poked my navel ring and said I was the nicest thing that had happened in a long time and if he was not married and didn't have to pick up his kids that afternoon at St. Benedict's School he'd chase me to the ends of the earth. He dropped me at a bus stop on Broadway near Van Cortlandt Park.

It was still summer and there was still Ginny and we both liked the beach and being seen. Ginny got a rent-a-wreck from Joy-Bound Auto down by the Hudson and we went out to The Island - Jones Beach. It's a long drive from Yonkers to Nassau County. We talked all the way; men, shopping at Cross County Mall, irregular periods and why one too many slips on a Krispy Kreme can fast track you to thunder thighs. Ginny made me promise that I'd swear off the food and the men and leave the rest to God.

Jones Beach looks like Oz as you approach from the causeway. The bath house and theater are stunning; the long driveways and parking lots are large enough to conduct papal masses - so unlike the cramped of everywhere else in New York. And the South Shore waves are nasty. It doesn't matter if you're on Breezy Point or out at Montauk - fierce, tow-you-away shit - fun.

On any summer day, the Brooklyn boys crown the entire beach like multi-colored sprinkles on cupcakes. Ginny spotted Joey first. He lay on a mammoth Oakland Raiders beach towel at the center of a circle of bikinis and baggy shorts.

"Hey, catch Guido over there, waiting for Daryl Hannah to come ashore," Ginny said.

When I first saw him, I told myself, this guy drives a stolen car. I noticed his mustache, goatee, black sleeveless T-shirt, glistening, bulging, baby-oiled biceps, triceps, quads, and calves, and his aqua-colored spandex shorts. Later, when I saw the tattoos on his back and torso - panthers on the run, interspersed with red-blue scimitars turning end-over-end across his shoulders - I knew he was it.

He lay, his eyes closed, not sleeping, his olive skin soaking sun. He rippled his muscles and scissor-flexed his thighs every minute. There was sweat on him somewhere and though I couldn't spot it, I sensed it. I imagined its warm wet, salty taste and musky odor. Joey made me nervous. Ginny didn't make a move, so I crossed the beach blanket moat and stood, blocking the rays that warmed him.

"Why is Joe Montana the icon when Kenny Stabler was the real stud?" I said.

His lids popped. He stared at my bikini bottom with a clear, practiced, lascivious look. Huge nostrils - Lincoln Tunnel from the Jersey side. There was no Daryl in the ocean and I had been correct in guessing that Joey loved Raiders lore more than anything other than sex and calzones. I convinced him to leave the circle, bring his towel, and join Ginny and me.

"Gin, this is Joey," I said.


She gave me that "You're gonna regret what you're about to do, dumb-ass" look, and turned onto her stomach to continue reading Motor Cyclist Monthly.

After Joey and I hooked up and moved in together, the exciting thoughts of him felt almost satisfying. However, the sex, well... What happened in our bed, on the floor, on my bureau, and twice in our industrial sized hamper made me think I must steal things from men's clothing and electronics stores and give all of it to Joey to celebrate what the feel of him on me meant.

I browsed retail stores for what I imagined would please him, waiting for clerks to turn from me, or disappear. As I picked up coins from newsstands or shoved shirts beneath my skirt at Macy's, I imagined Joey's hands on me. As I lifted cash from diner counters, tips from restaurant tables and loose change from our corner candy store, I expected the delight I'd feel when I turned my plunder over to my bad boy protector. Twice I took money from the collection plate during mass at St. Catherine's. I left piles of money on our kitchen table with red heart-shaped notes, saying, "All of this is for you. You're my killer guy!"

Stuffing his bureau drawers with stolen shirts, socks, and underwear, I sprinkled the ill-gotten loot with tiny plastic stars, half-moons, and hearts - shiny plastic blues, reds, and sunshine yellows, like Mardi Gras.

He mentioned none of it, the money, the confetti, the clothing, or loving me. Maybe he believed it was his reward for the sex and not me wanting to show him he meant everything. Maybe he was just thick.

"Yeah," Ginny said, "you're possessed. The stealing should stop; you betta bring it down a notch."

"What notch?" I said. "I'm loving this shit."

I assumed Ginny was jealous. I couldn't imagine it would stop even though I knew it had ended in messy partings with others before. And I wasn't a novice at obsessive acting out.

When summer ended, I took a house-cleaning job four days a week as Joey loafed. One evening Ginny called to say the Department of Parks needed attendants at the Van Cortlandt Mansion in the Bronx and was paying twenty-four dollars an hour - no experience necessary. She came over to our place. In the bedroom we shook Joey for fifteen minutes until he woke, cleaned him up, made him wear clean and ironed khakis, and a white button-down shirt with long sleeves to cover his tattoos.

We took the bus down Broadway. Joey sat between us, sleeping and bouncing in silence. I avoided looking at anyone, focusing instead on the ads over peoples' heads: Kandee's Asian Nails, Butler Manor Curios, Take A Bite Outta Crime.

Fumes lifted from the coach floor each time the bus shifted left, or right, or pulled to the curb. There must have been a broken exhaust pipe somewhere. The noxious air upset my stomach, and I felt eager to be done with our outing. At the corner of Broadway and West 259th, the driver stopped at a traffic light. The cars in front and beside us waited for the green. Ginny pressed her hip against Joey, who sat, eyes closed, and, I presumed, asleep. She rattled off the names of car models.


"Models. Cars' models. Up front," she said.

"You know their names? Who knows car model names?" I said.

Joey's eyes opened to slits. "Thieves do."

He smirked.

"Leave it to you to know that," Ginny said in a manner I thought exhibited more familiarity than I liked.

"You would know too, because I told you," he said.

He lifted a toothpick from his shirt pocket and pressed an end into the center gap of his very large and very white teeth. Joey shifted the toothpick left and right over his plump lips. He closed his eyes and resumed bouncing as the bus moved once again.

Ginny turned and stared somewhere behind us.

He got the mansion job on the dayshift, watching school kids and tourists roam the estate, making sure people knew where the toilets were. He checked that priceless glass vases and porcelain antiques remained in the mansion, and that people didn't steal the Dutch Colonial paintings.

The Parks Department gave him an army green uniform, a thick brown belt, and a field cap with a NYC Parks logo embroidered on its side. The outfit looked a bit worn, and I thought he would lose it when the warm months arrived and Joey wished to remove any cover that hid his physique. He never wore the belt or the cap. They issued him a double pocket wide-collar shirt, green wool pants, and shiny black shoes. The uniform was crisp and starchy the first day he left for work. Items dropped off his regular outfit each day and from the first he left for work until he stopped living with me, he was the worst dressed Parkman I'd ever seen.

By his second week, he'd lost the shiny shoes, somewhere, and wore his Scotty Pippins from there on. His pants and shirts were never regulation and remained un-pressed and almost never laundered.

At night we'd sit and eat, drink bottles of beer and I'd talk of the gorgeous homes I got to check out on the days I cleaned. I spoke of my work, years earlier, in theater and the hope I held I might re-connect with the Arts in Westchester. My man didn't listen, and he never asked questions. Ginny told me he spent most of his afternoons on the mansion veranda smoking pot and watching Dominican kids play soccer as their parents and others stood on the sidelines screaming at the referees. I felt sure that Joey loved his job.

Covering the rent, our weekend dinners out, traveling to midtown to the movies, demanded more money than I was making. Feeling the pressure that I believed was mine alone to relieve, I went to the New York State job placement agency and interviewed for a steady position as an administrative assistant on the Concordia Hospital Psych Ward - A Lock-Up Gatekeeper.

I signed staff and visitors in and out and filed a few patient records on the graveyard shift. There were no visitors during my hours unless something dire occurred. I enjoyed a lot of free time during which I read trash novels and watched Letterman. Sometimes I found an empty room, forced a chair against an inside door handle, and slept.

On weeknights, Joey and I saw each other between 7:00pm and 10:00pm. Time enough for supper, mediocre sex and a fire-escape joint. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Ginny often brought over a casserole of something for dinner. Joey was animated, happy-like, whenever she arrived and always pleased by the dishes she prepared. We ate and drank Chianti, passing hours at the kitchen table. Ginny told stories from her EMS work about ambulance drivers who became lost in the county - guys who arrived after their patients died - and the always-stoned medical specialists among the EMS staff and in the hospital Emergency Room.

Joey spoke little except to ask Ginny what was in the food. He'd sit and stare at the casserole as she explained, his mouth wide at first as though he were a sous chef examining the meal for exotic ingredients or worried she might poison him. Then he nodded and smiled as Ginny went on about what she had cooked and he shoveled pasta, gravy, meat, and garlic bread in his mouth.

I looked forward to those times. It was fun having Ginny around. She broke the routine of just Joey and provided relief that he wouldn't be jumping my bones, at least on those nights. After clean-up, she and I would leave together and ride the bus for a few stops before I left her to catch the Saw Mill local to Concordia and watch her as she disappeared into the night.

Over the months, my relationship with my man ebbed. The exotic tattoos weren't doing it for me any longer. I wanted more, or I wanted different. I missed the excitement of feeling wanted and of me wanting. Everyone who cheats says that, I know. My ardor became a sullen ache and then apathy. I didn't know if it was our conflicting schedules, the numbing hours of his pot-smoking, or the absence of talk. I felt sure something was gone.

The stealing stopped. We had routine rolls in bed and afterward I'd turn to my pillow and stare at the lavender shade atop the lamp on my vanity shelf. The sleeveless Ts took on a look of silliness. He'd wear them to places like Stack's or Perrillo's Café and though he'd sometimes wear an open nylon shirt, or a loose fit cotton jacket over the T's, people continued to stare. I felt foolish being with him and our distance fattened.

When we had sex, I'd imagine that he was the building superintendent or that guy at Starbucks with the blond curls and the blue scar on his chin and the shoes that look like spats. I even imagined I was making love to Ginny's brother Danny. I don't like Danny. His belt rests low on his waist, the top of his rear-end is always exposed - plumber crack. Ginny told me he owned a large beer can collection, and he lives in their mother's basement.

I felt unconnected to Joey. Maybe I wasn't connecting to myself and blaming him. The lying - the thinking about other men during sex. Rather, the not thinking about Joey during sex troubled me, but I hesitated to talk to him about any of it.

Time passed in low-level quarrels and boredom. We spoke of Jones Beach, but we did not return. I'd have dinner ready when he came in from the bus. We'd watch TV, then sit on the fire escape in silence until I went to work. Friday and Saturday nights, we went out. On Fridays, when we ate at Stacks or on Saturdays when we went to a movie on Fordham Road in the Bronx, little conversation passed between us.

Odors from Joey's unclean laundry bothered me. He left his socks and underwear behind the bedroom door and hung his dirty shirts on the hook in my closet. The apartment took on the smell of a men's locker room. When I got home, each morning the sight of his skanky clothes, in mounds everywhere, made me cringe. Once I spoke to him about pitching in with chores.

"Pitch in with chores... open mail, wash some dishes, use the laundry hamper for your skanky clothes, instead of my closet and the floors, do something. I'm drowning here," I said.

Joey saluted. "OK, Sarge!" he said.

And for a moment I believed, but faith fled, and unless I stood over him, nothing meaningful happened.

One morning I was home before he got on the bus, the mail untouched again, and the apartment was a mess. Although I thought I was wasting my breath, I asked why.

"What are we fucking married or something?" he said.

"That's the point! We're not married, so how come I get to deal with all the bills and late notices from the landlord or the city and you're fine ignoring everything that has to do with maintaining this place?"

"Are you trying to get me to marry you?" he said.

"What does asking for help with a few chores have to do with getting married? I'm not talking about marriage. I'm saying you check none of the mail unless it's from Victoria's Secret or Pep Boys. You leave all the laundry and the cooking for me to do. We've got to share some of this shit. I need help."

"I'm not getting married, and I'm not opening no goddamn mail. My cousin Aldo told me that if I moved in with you, it would be a short time before I was sweeping floors, getting the groceries, and cleaning the bathroom. And when you had me shackled into all that crap you'd start the, we gotta get married, campaign and it would be a short walk to us getting hitched. So forget your freakin' chores; I ain't doin any. I'm telling you, you need a hobby, girl. You sitting around, waiting for me to come home from work with all those plans banging around in your head - it's some scary shit."

"What? Wait a minute! You're telling me Aldo from Howard Beach - that Aldo?"

As the last few words spilled from me, and I stood shaking, I realized Joey could not reach beyond his fear. I held up saying what I had intended.

I took several deep breaths and let them out slowly. I touched Joey on his Grateful Dead sleeveless T-shirt, just above Jerry Garcia's head.

"You're right, sweetheart. I need a hobby. What this girl needs is a hobby."


"You know what? I think that what we both need is a vacation. How 'bout we go on a nice vacation?"

"Yeah. That's it!" he said, "Jones Beach?"

"Paris. It will be so romantic."

I thought, no way Joey's getting on an airplane.

"Paris? What? Where we gonna get the money for Paris? And how are we getting time off from work? Who takes care of this place when we're gone?"

"We take a long weekend - Labor Day. We could leave early Wednesday and a late flight home Monday night. And when the apartment's empty, it requires very little attention."

Joey stared toward the fire escape. His brow furrowed, he held onto the sides of the kitchen chair he sat in as though it were an Olympic luge sled and he was about to drop into the icy abyss. He seemed to recover from this concern and, staring at me, his hands gesticulating as though he was already speaking, he stood. What's with him? I thought.

"That's ridiculous," he said. "What the hell do you expect me to do in France? I ain't even comfortable all the way up here in Yonkers and away from Brooklyn. Took me forever to relax here and I still ain't okay. You know that! Remember when you made me go to Vermont last spring? Remember how I freaked out with all them mountains, trees, and the warning signs about mooses everywhere? I couldn't leave the motel room and you had to bring in pizza for me to eat. Vermont was in the middle of fuckin' nowhere. And now you want me to cross a damn ocean and hang out with people who don't even talk English? What the fuck, girl? Those people eat frogs and snails and stuff like that. Aldo tells me they don't even like Americans in places like France. Fuck Paris!"

I knew from experience that Paris was out of the question for Joey, but I wanted to back him into a corner and force him to see the lesser evil as insisting that if I had to go I'd better do it on my own. The bait is set, I thought.

The following morning, I told Ginny about the argument, but nothing of my true intent. The next Tuesday night, Joey went to the fire escape to smoke before Ginny arrived. I knew she belonged to the Jewish Community Center even though she was Baha'i, and had asked her earlier if the Center had information on artsy programs for me to peruse while I waited for him to come home in the evening. When the apartment door popped open, and she came in, she set her umbrella on a clothes hook and approached. She pulled several brochures from her bag and handed them to me before joining Joey.

One brochure touted weaving circles, another one had the title Afternoon Swims with Molly Stegman, a third described weekday bus outings to Jai Alai in Connecticut, and the last read, "Vous parlerez couramment le français en 10 semaines! Learn to converse and impress your friends. Speak French in Ten Weeks with Luč Samois, Adjunct Professor, Bronx Community College, and Noted Linguist."

The tweedy appearance of this Luč fellow interested me. I read his bio several times. Ginny came in from her joint break. She removed plates from the table and emptied leftovers into the trash bin. She cast several looks at me as she moved about.

"How many times are you going to read that thing?" she said.

"I guess I have French on my mind," I replied.

"That's nice, but you said you weren't doing France."

"I never said that I wasn't doing France," I said.

Out on the fire escape, Joey coughed in scary spasms and I wondered if we might have to rescue him, haul him inside and give him CPR, or rush him to Concordia. He might lose his balance and fall from the fire escape - break a limb, or his neck, I thought. Then a small measure of Irish-Catholic guilt swept over me.

The cough spasms became hacks and stopped. I smiled and asked Ginny if she wanted rhubarb pie from Grand Union.

Determined to break free from the shackles of Joey's needy dependence, I lied to her, "Maybe when he hears me speaking French, he might think it's sexy over there and I could whisper things in his ear - French him up. I'll tell him about those places - Moulin Rouge, Crazy Horse Tavern. Tell him about the whores along the Seine and the kinky things that happen in the dark under those lighted bridges. Ménage à trois," I said.

Ginny said, "You know he's scared shitless that you're going to force him to go to France, but you do what's best for you, girlfriend."

I signed up for the lessons at the Community Center and met Luč the next Wednesday evening; three weeks of learning and the following four in lust. I didn't pay attention to vocabulary, language declensions, or tourist chat. "Où est la tour Eiffel, monsieur?"

During classes, I pretended I wasn't obsessed with his looks or the silk of his accent. We had coffee twice, a brief meal at Pascal's in Larchmont once, and we were in bed in the Tuckahoe Motel on our fourth Wednesday. I dropped French classes, and Luč thought Paris was an excellent idea.

Joey walked out on me. For the first few evenings, the air in the apartment felt breathable. When I wasn't adrift in guilt, I luxuriated in bubble-baths and read, ate meals, and called family members I hadn't spoken to in months. I also worried Joey might not be doing well. One Friday evening after he left, I heard someone fumbling with my apartment door lock.


Ginny had a key. Paper rustling, the sound of aluminum scraping, she arrived carrying shopping bags in both hands and two bottles of wine tucked at her armpits.

"I'm just checking. You okay? Have you eaten?"

"I thought it was Joey," I said.

"Stop worrying about him. He'll show, eventually. Eat! Get the plates. I'll heat this. You getting any sleep?" she said.

"Erm, yeah. What's that got to..."

"Let me feed you," she said.

She turned the oven on and un-wrapped a pasta dish. She searched for something in the freezer bin. I set the table for two. The empty chair snickered at me.

"I'm surprised at how soon after I began classes he cut out. I never said that I'd slept with Luč. Never told Joey his name. I told him the guy was a friend; that's all he knew. I lied."

"Don't kid yourself. Men know when a friend means sex. Joey's not the brightest guy, but his brain's not a bag of kitty litter either. He's a big boy. He'll come back, and you'll find out if there's anything worth talking about."

"I'm not sure of that. But I am sure of one thing."

"What's that?"

"I'm sure of you," I said.

She tightened her lips, and they widened. She furrowed her brow and tilted her head.

"Erm, what?" she said.

"You're always there for me. Whether it's taking me to, or picking me up at, the airport; letting me know when my behavior is getting dangerous, or even making me eat properly. When I'm struggling with one of my guys, I know you'll have my back," I said.

She smiled and bowed her head so her chin rested on her clavicle.

After dinner, I mentioned that I'd better get ready for work. Ginny said she was tired and was going home. I felt worn out from the encounter with Joey and the dilemma that Professor Luč presented me. I called in sick and by nine I was in bed, tossing and turning - Joey on my mind.

Around midnight, I left my place and searched the pubs for him. I walked six blocks to Carny's Coach N Four, then walked farther on to Stacks Tavern he wasn't at either. I wasn't sure I wanted to run into him as much as I needed to know that he was okay. I wanted him to know that I needed to know. Was I looking for permission to move on, to allow Luč in? Was I looking for Joey to stop me from getting it on further with Luč? Was I holding onto a vain hope that Joey might even change and offer me the love that I wanted?

It was nearing 1:30 when I arrived at Keenan's. Piano bar, pool table, cache of lonely wine-drinking women - Joey terrain. The best part of Keenan's was that everything inside was visible from the outside. I had had enough that night of dust-paneled, nicotine coated ceilings, the smell of beer from barroom floors, plastic seats and horny looks from losers. I stood to the left of Keenan's Kelly-green door. Through the window I spied everything from the piano player jamming keys to the brightly lit jukebox, to the bar, and pool table tucked at the right front corner of the pub.

A small group of men and women stood beneath the television, shouting at one another. Their epithets and taunts sounded loud, the language distinct. One man held a woman from behind, at her shoulders, as she lunged toward the other couple, her face twisted in rage, her mouth spitting, and spouting obscenities.

Joey leaned against a bolstered ledge of unfinished wainscoting, wearing a clean, pressed linen shirt. He stood with a Michelob in one hand and pool cue in the other. A woman lay with her right leg braced against one end of the table and her stomach pressed to the green felt. Her rear-end raised, it faced me. She extended the cue across the bridge of her thick fingers, pointing it at the cue ball. Her left leg lifted from the floor and her thigh hugged the table rim. Her skirt rose high on her legs. I wanted to question Joey. I needed to talk.

Placing the blue chalked tip of the cue stick at the woman's hem, Joey lifted her skirt. His licentious stare lingered. Ginny turned and stuck her tongue at him. He smirked, his lips twisted like the Joker in Batman.

A melody from the piano sounded clear - I Don't Wanna Go Home.

I felt an icy drizzle on my head and against the back of my neck. I placed the palm of my hand against the window to reach through. My thought was to grab a hunk of Joey's hair. I imagined ripping Ginny's tongue from her head and serving it, sliced thin, to them both.

Grabbing hold of Keenan's door handle, I realized there was nothing I could say once inside that would make sense. I felt I'd cry or scream - lose it - if I went further, or I'd become part of just one more bar corner brawl. Instead, I released the door handle and headed up Broadway toward my home.

The drizzle continued and grew to a steady downfall. It stained my new suede pumps and soaked the bottoms of my jeans. Stores along Broadway were closed. A few bars showed signs of life.

A Checker cab raced by, sending spray from the black tar toward the sidewalk. I knew the new pumps would be history by the time I reached home. As I neared the Spuyten Duyvil Cut - the boat canal break between the island of Manhattan and the mainland - the Tenth Avenue Elevated train passed overhead. Electric sparks flew from beneath subway cars and cascaded in small clusters toward the traffic and the wet blacktop of Broadway. The pressure of metal wheels against rails that ran through the steel into the street and the deafening clacking noises felt familiar and welcome.

As I passed an apartment complex in the upper Bronx, I looked up at a wrought iron entrance sign. "Nethercliffe Apartments," it read. Four young Latin men stood by the lobby door, facing Broadway. Dim light from the building lobby caught highlights of their cut and groomed dark hair, along with uniforms of tight stovepipe jeans, black leather jackets and pointed shoes. Two of the men wore thick gold chains bearing crosses that hung on their chests. I couldn't make out much of what they said other than recognizing comments in mixed English and Spanish. Their collars turned up to the wet night, backs against a brick wall. They smoked cigarillos, and gesticulated, like doo-wop singers, as they kicked shapeless small things into the gutter. They reminded me of characters in West Side Story. At first, the young men paid no attention to me, or so it seemed.

What was it about these men in the dark, about how they appeared, how they looked at me - how they stared at me - and the subtleties of their smallest movements that once had excited me, then left me feeling hollow? There was no thrill in the fear that these guys in this late-night setting would have stirred a few hours earlier.

An awareness grew of what they were thinking and I summoned an agency I'd not known. Behind my eyes, as though tethered to the core of my mind - my being - and beyond, I understood I had been here, in this identical place, countless times before, and I knew what the intersection meant for these men, and perhaps for me.

Whether they acted on their desires, they considered me prey.

The knowledge enabled me to remain calm, to settle whatever fear might have risen otherwise. That power nullified the threat; I stood for a moment and confronted the looming menace with the special understanding, I've learned, that many women have possessed for eons, and a strength that sometimes accompanies it - I gazed at them.

The shortest of the men, standing off from the others, dipped his head, and pounded his chest with his fisted hand, and before turning away, he addressed them. I swear I heard him say, "She knows!"

For a moment, the air stilled. I watched each man dip his head and resume kicking at small unrecognizable objects on the wet cement before them. Pausing for what seemed forever, I continued walking without incident.

The rain felt like wind-whipped nettles on my skin, cold with dark anticipation, and warm with confidence.

I crossed the Yonkers border and wondered, how did I miss Ginny's designs? Was it her cleverness? Was it my ignorance of her? Of myself? As I pressed on toward my apartment, these thoughts, along with those of the men I'd just encountered, weighed on me. I tried distraction, considering other men, but there was something in the gravity of what had just occurred and of how and why I got myself into these messes that kept returning, like the timed irrigation flow of an orchid hot house. A pained awareness of the wretched consequences of my reckless choices, on myself and others, increased. Slowing my gait, I shook my shoulders free of the night's downfall.

When I arrived home, I removed my wet clothes, tossed them onto my bathroom floor, retrieved a terrycloth robe, and prepared a pot of coffee. Waiting for it to brew, I walked, shoeless, to the fire escape, listening to the sounds of the sanitation trucks in Getty Square devouring the prior day's tourist trash. Pigeons cooed in the fire-escape rafters above the movie theater marquee. I felt the damp of the fresh morning dew and smelled a foul odor from the river nearby.

I was alone. I was a single woman with all the options and consequences accompanying that truth. But for all my thinking, I could not recall how, or when, reasons other than lust had drawn me to significant others. Fighting hard to stay with the thought - its importance - I let it settle without distraction.

Resting my elbows on the rusted iron rail, I looked down four flights to the street and across West 279th to the Corazon Café and considered the scene at Keenan's - the rage-filled argument of the couples, and my long walk home - the dark men on Broadway and my lack of fear. What had I been searching for in all that?

What was it about men? I thought. Why my constant investment in the edgy ones and the ones way over the edge? What about my concern for me - for Julia, that hadn't progressed beyond adolescence, past the thrill of potential danger and the comfortable familiarity of sex? I'm twenty-seven years old, I thought, and haven't had a true caring relationship with anyone other than the safe affection I felt from my father - Dad - on the day in late adolescence when he died. True intimacy was unknown to me; I wasn't close to understanding myself well enough to love another authentically.

The Tuckahoe bus appeared. It stopped, and I stared, waiting for it to move, hoping Joey wouldn't be there when it passed. It rolled on.

I pushed back from the railing, returned to the living room, and phoned Luč, telling him I'd like to see him again and perhaps, if he was willing, we might take this friendship with more care, a lot more attention, than we'd done in the past.

"That works for me," he said.

I promised I'd meet him the next evening near the marble wood-nymphs in the park, when the sun set on the far side of the Hudson and above the Palisades, after the blue lights beneath the fountain waters had turned on, and the children had finished their frolics in the city playgrounds.


  1. I was transported! Donahue's writing is poetic and soulful. This is a beautiful story: A tribute to a woman (to many women) who struggle to find themselves, learn through pain to make better choices, and at last, to open up to healthy intimacy. Bravo to this author - a man, no less, who "gets it"!

  2. Wow! This was a tutorial on character development, evolution and awakening. I recognized the young woman in this story; I lived with her for four years about a century ago. Her ultimate, rueful realization, that it was basically unthinking, dispassionate lust, as well as a nebulous attraction to danger, and not mutual concern and affection that motivated her relationships, is a valuable lesson for us all. I was very glad to read your story, Robert!

  3. Fantastic story. Evocative and intimate tale.

  4. The author's attention to the details of what is happening around the main character ("A trickle of water dripped from the loose faucet handle") as well as the character descriptions drew me into the story. It made the settings and the people real. A wonderful story!

  5. Excellent, descriptive writing, evocative of place. The dialogue was very natural and realistic. Sentence structure well balanced and flowing. A video played in my head as I visualized the real places, sounds and sights with which I have a familiarity. Thanks, Bob!

  6. What a captivating story. I was unable to pause while reading it. The author is a winner especially in the details he provides at every turn.

  7. Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant! I was immediately drawn in & couldn’t turn away. The visual imagery created by the perfectly put together word buffet was an absolute feast for me! I loved this piece! More from this author please.

  8. Absolutely loved this. Especially the attention to detail.

  9. An incredible story that any woman can relate to. So much delicious detail in feelings, places & thoughts! Excellent writing and understanding of life, lust & relationships that come & go. More please!

  10. A truly engaging story! I found the characters and narrative very relatable, making the story very easy to sink into.

  11. Excellent and engaging story!

  12. Bravo. The writer kept me interested until the last line.

  13. Great writing. Loved it. Captivating.

  14. I could feel Julia's coldness throughout this story and loved learning toward the end of the story just what was causing it.

  15. Robert Donohue's 'Love, In Time' creates strong and powerful evocations of true-to-life places. And his characters!!!.....honest, raw, physical, and compelling. Kudos to the author.

  16. This author’s attention to details in his character building is amazing. What a complex and beautiful story!!

  17. You hop on this ride with the narrator, no idea where she begins or where she'll end up. That's not the point; at some point you realize you're getting towards something that will define her. This is how you do slice of life.

  18. Super engaging for a short piece. Nuanced character development and wonderful descriptions of some familiar places. Congratulations Robert on this piece. From the reaction, it seems there will be many like myself anticipating future publications.

  19. As others have said this is absolutely superb writing - compelling, excellent character development and right from the first line packs a punch. A narrative masterclass.

  20. Fabulous! I concur with all the other positive comments. Great slice of life. Let's have more from this writer!

  21. Excellent writing. A pleasure to read and enjoy.

  22. A lovely coming of age, without a false moment. A commenter was especially impressed that a man had written such a fully developed female protagonist. Mr. Donohue has clearly been a careful and thoughtful observer, one of the most powerful tools a writer has. I’ll happily join the chorus in requesting more of his work.

  23. An intimate, soulful look at a young women’s journey for completeness. Just as the women yearns to find what eludes her, I was captivated to learn what in her past had created her. The story ends on a positive note with her reach out to Luc. One hopes she finds what she seeks. But, just as likely not. Brilliant end to a well crafted story.