I insisted on picking her up from her apartment. I had made reservations at Chateau 1771 at Greenbelt 5. I ordered briskly and authoritatively. A glass of Bacardi White to start, a plate of Gambasetti to share, an enormous Angus rib-eye steak in mushroom sauce, sticks of French fried zucchini, a salad of arugula. A big bottle of Valpolicella with that, and a Galliano with espresso to finish.
“My God,” she said nervously. “Can you afford this?”
“No,” I said, touching her cheek tenderly. “We’re going to have to wash dishes.”
Then back into the car and over to Bonifacio Heights for an outdoor mini-concert. I had been frolicsome during dinner, laughing and joking, breaking up the waiter with my rendition of Italian double-talk. And during the walk to the car from Chateau, I had rattled off verses from Dylan Thomas that even had the drunk expats at Café Havana cheering. But as the concert unfolded on stage, my mood soured and darkened.
“Let’s get out of here,” I said thickly. I refused to go home, but demanded we stop at URBN for a nightcap. No one we knew was present, so we sat at the bar and ordered brandy stingers. I drank like a madman: one, two, three—just like that. She, a hand on my arm, tried to slow me, but I was now in a manic mood and would not be tempered. I roared, shouted, sang bits of nonsense, insisted on buying drinks for strangers, and only agreed to leave after I toppled from my barstool and sprawled on the littered floor.
She took me back to my place, only a few minutes away. At my apartment home, I went staggering into the lobby ahead of her. I asked for more brandy and drank wildly without removing my coat. She watched me, her face wrenched with concern.
“Joey,” she said. “What’s wrong?”
“Don’t try to get in my head,” I said. “You won’t like the mess.”
“Do you care about me?” she asked in a cracked voice.
“I care a great deal for you,” I said. “That’s why I’m going to give you some very sound advice. Run.”
“I am a bad, bad person. I am cold, selfish, and mean-spirited. I assure you, I take no pleasure in it. It just comes easily to me. But you…are not that way.” I said solemnly. “So I suggest you think long and hard about whether you really want to wake up every morning, with all the promise that morning conveys, and come here. Which I say to you…only because I care.”
“You are such a liar,” she said defiantly. “Pretending that this stuff doesn’t affect you. That you can just brush it off.”
“I’m afraid I can,” I murmured.