27. She still does, if she feels like it.

And Z. is in love with the owner of the deli next door, gives him hand jobs every once in a while, has managed to make it clear that she is not after free groceries. He is 47, has a form of Parkinson’s, she thinks; she massaged his feet and he fell asleep, right there in his swivel chair. He looked so peaceful, she says, these are the moments I give my morning away for, I’m in love, what can I say? He’s got five kids. He’s an Aquarius Dragon. They’ve been hugging and flirting and drinking for the two years she’s been living there. She’s always having dreams that he loves her. Just the other day he chased a crackhead away for her; he keeps an eye out for her, acts protectively towards her. And she finds him hot. Really, really, really hot. She says she can smell him. She says they respect each other, that she respects his actions and way of being in the world. She doesn’t know if he’s in love. She thinks he tries not to be. But he’s always hard when she’s around.

I tell Z. about V. I don’t yet know that it will end soon, I still have hopes, but have grown wary, suspicious that V. was mainly after sex: something better than suburban sex, pajama sex, something more exciting, more passionate than toothpaste-breath sex. Whiskey-breath sex? Artist sex, maybe, writer sex? I am a stand-in for an idea, a fantasy, and this unsettles me, makes me question everything else about V. But Z. says we’re all motivated through the filter of our own experience. It’s never about you or me, she says. No one is ever really known by another. Or very rarely. She says she was feeling very sad about this one time as she thought about her current boyfriend. She realized he had no idea who she was; he downplayed her, doubted her ambitions. It wasn’t that he didn’t think she could do it, she says, but he was always offering more sane, stable, ultimately misery-making alternatives to her desires. This is a man who will always have sex the same way, Z. says, and although she loves having sex with him his way, she’d like to try other things sometimes. She’s tried other boys. She still does, if she feels like it. Z. says she grabbed her married deli man’s cock in the back office, and then ran away laughing. Occasionally she’ll open up her black book and call up her 28-year-old Nigerian hottie. The point she is trying to make is that perfect communion, the idea of knowing another perfectly, is a myth. No matter who we are, how close we get, we are alone at birth and at death and throughout most of our lives. But it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. I think we should try, she says. It’s awesome to get that close. But just keep in mind your man may not know you perfectly. He may just want the awesomest sex of his life. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Because he has to project his idea of you onto you, there’s no other way. How would he truly know?

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