Chapter 19

19-1

Tracey is on a date. With a guy. He seems a little boring, judging by her roving eyes; she’s flirting with the bartender at every given moment. The bartender likes the attention, and he sends it back to her, even giving the pair of them a round of drinks on the house. Tracey’s date excuses himself to the restroom, and the bartender wastes no time coming over for an introduction. “Gabor,” he says as he extends his hand. “Gabor… where are you from?” // “Hungary.” He emphasizes the first syllable. “I’m Alina,” Tracey says, shaking his hand. “And I’m on a terrible date.” // “Well, I’m going to the basement to switch out some of the kegs,” Gabor says. “Just through the door past the restrooms.” He smiles, and departs just as Tracey’s date returns. “I’m going to relieve myself too,” she says, excusing herself. She turns from her date and walks towards the restroom, then through the doors just past. At the bar, two stools away from where Tracey was sitting, we now see that Alina is there too, watching everything unfold.

19-2

Tracey’s date has finished his beer, which was full when she left. She returns, apologizing for the holdup. “There was a woman in there, just… sobbing!” she lies. Alina, still there, snorts her drink. “I had to help her,” Tracey continues. “Her husband left her.” Just then, a woman rounds the corner, returning from the restroom. She walks past the bar and smiles at Tracey, if only politely. “That’s her,” Tracey says to her date, who is buying it. “She seems perfectly fine,” he says as he studies the woman. “That’s why it took so long,” Tracey says “She had to collect herself.” They watch as the woman joins a man in a booth, and kisses him. “Then who’s that?” the date asks. “Certainly not the husband?” // “Well, she was going to leave her husband, but he left her first. For her sister. So it was shocking in its own right.” // “Wow. Shit.” // “Yeah, shit.” Alina is still laughing at all of this, and finally speaks up: “You’re so full of shit. But that’s what I love about you. You’re so confident.” Tracey sips her cocktail as Gabor the bartender returns from the basement. He and Tracey smile playfully. Tracey’s date turns to her: “You wanna get out of here?” // “Yeah, sure. I wanna get out of here. And I wanna go to your apartment. And I wanna wrap my legs around you.” He wasn’t expecting this response; after processing that this is real life and yes, Tracey really just said that: “Wow. Damn. Yes. To all that. Let’s go, Helene.” (She has lied to both men about her name.) Tracey waves goodbye to Gabor, who, like Alina, chuckles to himself as the pair exits.

19-3

Tracey and Alina exit the subway at Grand Army Plaza, and walk down the Parkway towards Tracey’s apartment. “That was a lot of excitement for one night,” Alina says. “I’m proud of you, girl. But your date—what was his name?—what a snore.” // “I was hoping he’d surprise in bed,” Tracey says. “I think you surprised him…he seemed beside himself, at his luck.” // “That’s because I was pretending he was you.” // “Well, next time, maybe don’t stare at me the whole time, give him a little eye contact, too.” // “There won’t be a next time for him, poor thing. But I enjoyed myself, thanks to the imagination. I’m glad you could be there, too.” // “I like being with you everywhere. I’ve never felt so close to someone, Tracey.” Tracey blushes as they pass Alina and Helene’s apartment. They both look up at the building. “Not even to Helene?” Tracey asks. Alina hesitates, then: “I don’t know. But… I want to get even closer to you. Can we get even closer?” Tracey nods. Yes. Yes. Yes yes yes. It’s exactly what she wanted Alina to ask.

19-4

“I’m with Helene so that I can be as close to you as possible,” Tracey says. They’re back in Tracey’s bed, under the sheets. “To be in your skin. Your home. Your wife’s embrace. She needs you now, and so I want to help her, since I know you wanted to help her.” // “Wow, that’s so courageous of you, Tracey. That’s what I love about you. You’re so courageous. Always trying to help. Helping me by finishing my book. Helping me by helping Helene. Even after I left you. Even after you pushed me in front of that truck.” // “I didn’t push you…” // “You’re right, you didn’t push me. But I know you think you did. And you didn’t. That’s what I love about you. You could have hurt me intentionally, but you didn’t. You’re a responsible woman. And now you’re accepting the burdens of my life. And I love that you’re building your own career from the accident. That’s so smart of you. I love how strong and aggressive you are. It turns me on. It makes me want to get even closer to you. I love everything about you. I want to live inside of you. You are so smart and beautiful and talented and vibrant. You remind me of me. But with even more potential.” Tracey so loves this praise. She loves every word.

19-5

The women are in the middle of making love—we just see the bedsheets moving around their coupled bodies. Tracey’s head emerges from the sheets, expressing delight as Alina worships her. We hear Alina’s voice: “I want to get even closer. Can we get even closer?” Then, Alina’s head appears from the sheets, and she repeats it: “Can we get even closer?” Tracey, sweaty, nods in delight. “Yes. Yes.” Alina disappears again, as Tracey screams “Yes. Yes. Yes!” That last one is punctuated with the glossing-over of her eyes, with the writhing of her entire body. Then she exhales, very dramatically, and falls flat on the bed. The sheets fall flat over top her too… she’s alone. She laughs hysterically to herself, running her hands all over her body, as if feeling it for the first time. “So, this is what it feels like, being you,” she says to herself. “This is gonna be fun.” We close in on her deranged face, as she laughs hysterically to herself once more.

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