A few months before I moved to New York, I stumbled into a New Year’s Eve party with some friends of mine from high school, where our parents lived in suburban Pennsylvania. I’m not sure whose party it was; I was already drunk when we arrived. I’m pretty sure the host was my friend Vicky’s manager at TGI Friday’s. To a bunch of wide-eyed suburban girls who had recently graduated from high school, having your own apartment is a pretty big deal.
I remember sitting with the resident of the dingy one- bedroom walkup, letting him fill my almost-empty Smirnoff Ice with glugs of Grey Goose as he bragged loudly about the new Blackened Chicken Alfredo dish at Friday’s. A few of his friends walked over to inform me that the alfredo dish also came with seasoned parmesan bread. “It’s, like, the best bread we’ve ever had,” a curly- haired waiter insisted. Apartment Guy high-fived him before topping off my Smirnoff Ice again.
An alluring figure stood next to the curly-haired waiter, stoic and silent. He was wearing sunglasses indoors, at night, in the middle of winter. Even in my drunken haze, it was clear at that moment that I had to remove them. Nothing irked me more than unnecessary accessories.
I stood up, wobbling, and tried to grab the sunglasses. He batted my hand away but the glasses dropped to the floor. I saw his eyes flash ice-blue, like an evil cartoon wolf. “Watch it, those are titanium,” he said, as he shielded his eyes like I had just exposed some shocking, Phantom of the Opera-type disfigurement.
“Sorry,” I said. I tried to compose myself. He was wildly attractive to my drunken eyes, a suit-wearing Ryan Gosling with black, severe hair hanging over his ears and just down the nape of his neck. Even though I was too tipsy for good judgment, I didn’t want to look like an idiot in front of this guy. After bumbling around on the floor for a few long seconds, I retrieved the sunglasses, which were, thankfully, not broken. He put them on greedily, then immediately resumed his cool.
“Wanna go out on the patio?” he asked, waving a pack of Marlboro Lights. It was freezing, but I was wasted, so I said, “Okay.” I made a mental note to see if he took the sunglasses off when we went outside. He didn’t.
“I’m sorry, but I have to ask,” I said, after a few seconds of smoking in silence. “What’s with the sunglasses?”
“I have 15/20 vision,” he said. “My eyes get sensitive when they’re exposed to light.”
“Oh,” I said, thinking about how my eyes tear when I emerge from a dark room on a summer day, but I never make some huge damn deal about it. “Don’t your eyes eventually adjust?”
“Not really,” he said, taking a deep drag of his cigarette. A few flecks of ash blew onto my hand. He was a boy of few words, so I kissed him to break the silence.
We kissed on the balcony for a while, pawing at each other. Then, stumbling, he led me into a small closet off the deck for the hot water heater. Safe inside, he pushed me against the concrete wall, and unbuttoned my shirt with coarse, sensual hands. As I took off his suit jacket, I couldn’t help but feel like I was undressing some undercover police officer or a cast member fresh from the set of Men in Black III. I tried to lift the sunglasses, but he held them steadily over his face with his hand. “My eyes,” he reminded me. I shut mine, trying to forget about the titanium frames jamming into my nose as we kissed.
Soon we were on the floor with the closet door shut, and I was unzipping his pants. When he groaned and shivered, I knew it was time: I slipped the sunglasses off and lay them on the ground. He didn’t try to reach for them. His eyelashes were long and beautiful.
I woke up with my drool-encrusted face jammed against the floor. An unfamiliar, hairy arm touched the small of my back. As stiff as my neck felt from spending a night on concrete, I wriggled back and forth as fast as I could to loosen the arm. Crouching like cat, I turned to face my sleeping partner. A pair of sunglasses stared back at me. He must have slipped them back on in the middle of the night without me noticing.
“Did you sleep well?” asked Sunglasses Man.
I stood up, startled.
“Uh, yeah,” I said, noticing some blotchy, ingrown stubble on Sunglasses Man’s neck.
I put on my shirt, trying to line up the buttons correctly, but Sunglasses Man just stared. Or maybe he had his eyes closed, I really have no idea. His nose whistled when he breathed.
“I’m gonna head out,” I said, carelessly jamming my second button into my third buttonhole.
Sunglasses Man zipped up his fly. “Can I get your number first?”
“No,” I said, traipsing out of the water-heater closet as casually as I could. As soon as I shut the door, I raced to the bathroom to throw up. I wasn’t sure if it was the New Year’s Day hangover that nauseated me, or the idea that I had just slept with a guy because of his sunglasses.
Sunglasses Man ended up getting my number from one of my friends, and he called me that night. After a long, awkward conversation, he confessed that there was nothing wrong with his eyes, and that he wore the sunglasses because he thought they gave him a certain mystique.
Sunglasses Man remains my only one-night stand.