too much

Turner told me I was adorable and had great boobs. This made me like him more. Too much more.

Turnersk_3 We went to brunch at Balthazar on a summer afternoon, and with mild food coma, we slugged our way out its doors, stalling outside the entranceway. We had to choose a direction. I stood looking at the small shop next door, a window of confections and crusty breads with white powdered tops. I was sated, but it didn’t stop me from looking. I suppose it’s the way we all feel sometimes, just not only about food.

In the reflection of the window, I saw him checking out my ass. I liked that he did. Behind both our behinds were the tourists, running their fingers along tables of knock-off sunglasses and plastic beaded jewelry. Something about the light that day felt more like winter. I expected gloves and ski caps. I heard one woman ask her companion what she thought and assumed she was holding up a necklace of buttons or wire-backed earrings made of stones she took to be semi-precious instead of wholly-horrendous. But when I turned around, I realized the voice was coming from another table.

The vendor beside the knock-off jokes was selling artistic prints, Polaroids, smeared and exposed onto watercolor paper. The woman who ran the booth, mid-thirty with brown hair mid-way down her back, had a foreign flat look to her. German, I thought. Hungarian, maybe. Pretty, certainly, especially in that boho, I like to drink tea and wear things braided and made of wool, kind of way. She was posing tourists in the street, directing three brothers to look at their mother, while the mother looked straight into the lens. The young woman took four shots with an old-school Polaroid camera that resembled a miniature accordion, then hurried to her station.

As she ripped the Polaroids apart, before they had time to develop, I pulled Turner to the table with me. "Let’s see," I said. We fingered through boxes of $5 prints: window sills, flowers, a blue bowl filled with pomegranates. "Aren’t these beautiful?" They really are he said. I’d never heard Turner say anything disagreeable, and despite this, I’d never describe him as kind or boring. We stood, just watching, as she ran a q-tip along the edges of a print, smearing it.

"I want one," I said, jerking his hand.
"I’m not photogenic," he said, resisting, giving me that half-laugh that begged to be begged.
"You’re beautiful," I said without looking at him. And he really was. Oh, come on, he said. "And, you’re easy," I said, luring him into the street, signaling to the photographer that we were ready.

Turnersk2_3 Personality and sweet palatable neurosis aside, some men are cute. They don’t want to be, but they’ll take it. It’s the dimples or the eyelashes. The coy smile that creeps wider, and you feel they’re letting you in by letting it slip. Keeping mannerisms, intelligence, and humor out of this, others are just plain manly, and even if they’re ugly, they’re sexy. It’s the intensity of their gaze. You’re always the first to look away or blink. And they’ll continue to stare even after you’ve asked them not to. "I enjoy you," he says without ever saying so. Some are sexually attractive in the way they wear themselves, in a lean, their gait, or signaling for the check. Turner wasn’t any of these things.

But he was beautiful. Beautiful without being effeminate, cute, or cliche. I could stare at his face for hours, for so long it stopped looking like a face. I studied his nose, the dip beneath it, his freckles, and strong chin. I never wanted to stop touching his hair. And he liked how affectionate and clingy I could be. "Don’t stop," he’d say if I let my hand drop. I liked how much he liked me. Too much.

First she had us look at each other, and I worried it would be this awkward bridal pose. Something befitting a field with long grass and yellow flowers. As bad as those school portraits where I was instructed to rest my chin in the bowl of my hands. "This is weird, huh?" I said as we looked at each other. Everyone’s looking at you, he said, not me, so I don’t feel weird. But I didn’t believe him. It must’ve been a line he heard in a movie trailer. His eyes were like the lake your parents take you to when you’re young, at the house of some relative you didn’t know you had. He reminded me of a cabin with worn floorboards and Irish sweaters. He was safe, and I couldn’t do anything wrong.

"How many?" The photographer asked us.
"Two," I said at the same time as he said, one. "One?"
Well, yeah, you can have it, he said. And then, even though I was still smiling, I felt something inside me fall.

He doesn’t want to keep it in his apartment, I thought. In case it kills his game with another woman he brings home. He’ll have to remember to take it out of a drawer when he knows I’m coming over.

"Okay," the photographer said, "now you, you look here–no, there, at that sign, okay?"

Let it go, I thought. Don’t ruin the day. But it was too late. He could tell.

Okay, two, he shouted to her. But I knew he’d only said it to please me. He didn’t think of us like that, of two people who wanted a beginning they could point to someday. He didn’t think of anyone like that. I’m a guy, he would’ve said had I brought it up. And guys don’t think like that. You don’t want a guy who thinks like that,do you? That’s not the point, I thought in response to all my other thoughts.

We waited for our prints to dry. What’s wrong, he said. "I just wonder how they turned out," I said. But I already had my answer.

Click to read the continuation…

40 Responses to “too much”

  1. ana Says:

    Come on, the guy gave you a boob compliment. That should buy him some slack, right,Right? I cannot wait to hear what crazy does next :)

    Reply

  2. beth Says:

    that movie would be "american president" – michael douglas and annette benning, while they're dancing at the white house at the dinner for the french president. great movie, great line. doesn't necessarily mean the boy didn't mean it when he said it, though.

    Reply

  3. jessica m. Says:

    yum….i can't wait for more!

    Reply

  4. Christina Says:

    I love doing polaroid transfers! You should try it, you would probably be really good at it.

    Reply

  5. stephania Says:

    Stephanie, I just finished the manuscript (with corrections– my friend works at your publisher) of Moose, and it is really really great. Good job with the intertwined tales between chapters and the little snapshots you provided. I really can't wait to enjoy this in final form. Have you decided on final shots for the cover? I really cannot wait to read the final copy and see you at an appearance! Are you planning anywhere in New Jersey?

    FROM SK: That's crazy. My friends and family haven't even read it yet! Glad you enjoyed it (unvetted), so keep those real names to yourself :) As for the cover, that's pretty final. We're working on the interior design of the book right now. As for a reading in NJ, sorry, no. There's just not enough time. Between Long Island, Manhattan, and DC, with Texas, Miami, Chicago, and LA in the mix, it's a whole lot of travel in a short time. I do hope people from NJ can make the trip into the city. It's why I passed on doing it at B&N. The Borders at Columbus Circle is the easiest to access from many places throughout the city and all the neighboring burroughs and cities. Still, thank you.

    Reply

  6. Anouk Says:

    The tone of this changes so much in the last paragraph… Up until that I really loved this post :) With the continuation I guess I'll see…
    Also, he said you're easy? Or I thought you said that to him?

    FROM SK: I said it to him, aloud. I realized the end was rushed, so I've lobbed it off and will add it to the next part, so it tells the story more accurately of what happened.

    Reply

  7. belle Says:

    Oh how I wish I could write something like this about my "MIDs." Beautifully written. And how sad that Polaroid has gone out of business…

    Reply

  8. smallstatic Says:

    Oh god Stephanie, I'm loving this. Knowing it, and loving it. Totally.

    Reply

  9. Amy M. Says:

    "The coy smile that creeps wider, and you feel they're letting you in by letting it slip." That was my favorite part, although it was hard to choose from this piece. I liked it from start to finish. I felt like I was there.

    Reply

  10. shelby Says:

    oh stephanie. too good. it's just too real for me….i think i've had those same thoughts before. hell, just last week. i'm glad i'm not the only one.

    Reply

  11. Carol Says:

    I'd be really pissed off that someone at my publisher was handing out copies of my manuscript to all and sundry. Or even one and sundry. What a cheek.

    Reply

  12. kim Says:

    Random thoughts while reading this:
    - "others are just plain manly, and even if they're ugly, they're sexy. It's the intensity of their gaze." –> Benicio Del Toro :D
    - your description of his beauty –> I wonder how Phil feels when reading this. I'd hate to hear my love talk about loving descriptions of exes. But that may be so because I'm a girl.
    - "I felt something inside me fall." -> I know exactly what you mean. Small things he says or does, and you just KNOW that he's not how you thought he was, or not feeling for you the way you thought/hoped. The pang, the drop in the stomach. Disappointment. It's why men think we're crazy, how we define stuff on "just something they said without thinking". And they think it's unfair. But I tell you, that feeling has never betrayed me, the instinct was always right.
    You describe it perfectly. I look forward to finding out what happened.

    Reply

  13. Ricky Martinez Says:

    You are a damn good writer……just sayin.

    Reply

  14. sarah g Says:

    this leaves me sad. i'm not sure why. but i could feel that 'something' crumble inside of me when he said it too..
    at least with your story we know the outcome, Phil.
    my story doesnt have that part written yet…

    Reply

  15. Jill Says:

    Such a true to life post and written so well. To take just a few moments of ordinary time and make it totally captivating – your talent is endless.

    Reply

  16. Jaime Says:

    I loved this post, really written well..I feel as I was there with you that day – the way you describe the events, you catching him look at you, even the way you describe what you're thinking when he asks for one photo. Can't wait to read the rest!

    Reply

  17. Ellen R. Says:

    I just went back to the earlier post, after clicking on Turner's name. I somehow hadn't read that one before. Now I can't wait for the next installment. I love how you let us know bits of the future while also keeping us anchored in the past.

    Reply

  18. mia Says:

    Uggh, that got to me.
    That feeling of everything being so perfect, slighty drunk, so comfortable, happy…
    I can feel myself in the same place. You're so happy and they say one small thing and suddenly your day is crushed and a sick feeling creeps in.

    Reply

  19. becky Says:

    Really beautiful writing in this one.

    Reply

  20. dulce Says:

    that's what i'm talk'n about!

    Reply

  21. mia Says:

    Yikes, I work for a publisher and we would never hand out manuscripts to anyone outside the company. Something about that seems wrong. On the other hand, I bet it was passed around because they can't wait to get it published. I can't wait for my copy to arrive in June!

    Reply

  22. J Says:

    Man, you crack me up sometimes. All of that over a photo.

    Reply

  23. ATX Says:

    Phil is confident with your relationship otherwise I doubt you would have posted this without giving him a heads up; that says a lot actually. It's great you have that kind of trust in each other.

    This post was kind of made me sad as well; I had a 'Turner'. He loved my over affectionate personality and once admitted that it was because it made him feel more loved than anyone else he had been with. He liked that. I've moved on, married with a family now but heard from a mutual friend that he was lamenting our breakup (he didn't handle it well. He initiated it) and admitting he 'really screwed up' and so forth. Said all of this with no idea it would get back to me as I ran into this mutual friend I lost touch with by chance. It didn't make me nostalgic, but more vindicated. Like good, jerk, you should feel that way. Our dynamic was so like the one you had with Turner so this was neat to read.

    Just a question though- an interesting phrase you used 'foreign flat'… what does that mean?

    Reply

  24. Brett Says:

    The photo is really neat. So she ripped the plastic covering off..? and just smeared the edges with a q-tip? Is the grainy/watermarked effect something she did or a result of age and the way it was stored? Cool effect in any case.

    FROM SK: No, it's a process. It was stored perfectly, acid free, etc. That's what a Polaroid transfer looks like. Before it has time to develop it's transfered to paper (that is slightly wet)… but it's a timing thing, too. You have to know when to rip the Polaroid open, and it won't work with a new Polaroid camera. There are sites dedicated to this process. I love it. Though I've also learned how to replicate the process using Photoshop because I'm a design psycho like that.

    Reply

  25. Angie Says:

    So the two pics were taken and in the end, you wound up with both of them. There's something so prophetic about knowing the ending before it even begins. And yet, you knew. My friends and I always remind each other: listen to your gut. Thank God for the power of being a woman and possessing the sixth sense.

    FROM SK: Yes, it's exactly why I posted both photos. I slipped them both into the envelope, and he never asked for his copy. But of course, the story doesn't end there… not even close.

    Reply

  26. JR Says:

    I just wanted to ask – how is it ok for a publisher to share manuscripts with a friend? isn't that illegal? maybe it's just the lawyer in me, but doesn't that make you nervous and uncomfortable that your manuscript is out for people to read? What about confidentiality?

    I don't know if you'll post this or not, but wanted to express my concerns for you. Perhaps you should contact your publisher, let them know what you've heard. There has to be something wrong with that, i'm sorry.

    Reply

  27. Andrea Says:

    Isn't it amazing? You can be so content, and then he can say one thing, and something inside you just falls. It stings. And, you'll repeat it over and over in your head, for days on end, maybe. He won't even get it b/c he's a guy and will say it meant nothing. But, to us, it means everything. It can change everything, too. I really liked this post. Hope you don't keep us in suspense too long for the continuation.

    Reply

  28. A Says:

    I used to pass by that polaroid lady all the time. I always wanted to have one taken but never did.

    Reply

  29. LB Says:

    the photos that girl took of us (not your us, obviously – but my "us") are among my favourtie remnants of our new york life.

    Reply

  30. LB Says:

    uh, that would be "favourite". canadian spelling is weird, but not that weird…

    Reply

  31. meredith Says:

    i keep returning to this post…because with so many men I have dated I have at that moment, where something "falls inside." and yet as with your turner, its not the end of the story. the last one even said, I don't think I can be what you want. oh, and – I don't think I'll ever be your boyfriend.

    yet we kept sleeping together for another month. ugh.

    Reply

  32. Yana Says:

    That post made my cry (cry even more, since I am crying ever since I left the Bolshoi Theater tonight). May be it's because of the "relationship" I had recently (recently is two month ago, but it still feels like yesterday), but the very first line made me feel that something was wrong. There is going to be pain… That feeling of some drama that is inevitably going to happen… The story felt as if it was a piece of a movie, when the sound is suddenly off. You see life still going on as usual, people talking to each other, smiling, but you understand that it all doesn't matter, because something terrible is already there, already in the air, the danger is growing, but the main character still does not suspect anything. And then it all bursts out when he says "One?"! The sound is back on. You're back to the cold reality. From that moment on you know that all the words he said, – he did not feel them (he might have meant the compliments, but did not feel them the way a women in love wants a man to feel). ……May be its just me projecting my story on your story… He was also "beautiful without being effeminate, cute, or cliche", made 'proper' compliments (about the eyes, about the curves), never said anything disagreeable…. (are they a certain specie?)

    Thank you so much for writing, Stephanie! It's very often that by reading your posts I find support and understanding, without even knowing you personally :-) Your posts never leave me indifferent. And it's a pleasure to read them!

    Reply

  33. Rebecca Says:

    There is just something about Balthazar. I can't get enough. I honestly don't even think that food is that amazing (except for the steak frites and the goat cheese tart of course!). But there is just something about that place…the vibe, the warmth, the burgundy, the full belly. I love it.

    Reply

  34. Lori Says:

    You look so sad in the first pic.
    I had a guy like that in college. The chemistry was insane, he was so handsome, we were close friends. We were always seeing someone else though… One night we said to hell with it and caved to the temptation. Of course I'm a girl and had hopes of making it something more… in the relationship realm. When I went to talk to him he told me that he didn't regret what happened. That it was the perfect way to end college because… I quit listening at that point bcause while I was thinking beginning, I just heard the word end. We are still friends, the temptation is still there and mutual. Actually to be quite honest, I think he's my one who got away. I often dream of the day when the time will be right. Sometimes I have silver hair in those dream, but then I think better late than never. Right? Right? I still think of him everyday.

    Reply

  35. Sia Says:

    What a bittersweet story. It's these posts that keep me reading!
    It got me thinking about the time when I knew that I was in it for the long haul with my now fiance: he'd introduced me to a band, I loved it and went to pick up a CD so that I could have my own copy.
    Right there in the store, when I reached for the CD, I realized that it was a waste of money as I would be sharing his copy. Such a silly little thing, but that is when I knew…
    and then it got me thinking what if that was what Turner was thinking…

    Oh, and Lori – pick up the phone, life is too short! :)

    Reply

  36. kayla Says:

    Amazingly written. I love this story. Can't wait for the ending.

    Reply

  37. Azizeh Says:

    Hurry up and post the rest, already!

    I'm on my last few pages of your book. I don't know what took me so long. I was reading the blog way before the book came out, but only got around to buying and reading the book when faced with a long flight from LA to NYC. It's almost hard to feel really worried over your story when I know how it's turned out, but reading it is still worthwhile. I like how you string together words, and it's like reading a diary.
    I'm sure you've answered this in comments before, but have you heard anything from the ex or his family, that they've read the book and had a reaction? I really appreciate how you seem to not write for your audience. You just say what needs to be said.

    Reply

  38. the other K Says:

    Sia's optimistic explanation was great.

    There are no "ones that got away" for me anymore: they've been replaced by people who were too scarred or too scared; people who went away without making an effort; and people who may have had beautiful eyes but were blind to certain things.

    It's taken years to realize how many chances were wasted by doing nothing out of some fear of making a mistake. Looking back, sometimes that sinking feeling as I've experienced it could've been neutralized simply by talking it out, but again … some people don't make the effort. It's easy to say this, because I used to be "some people." Not wanting to fail, I simply stepped aside and let things take their course; it got me nowhere. Things ended. Things that could've begun didn't. It helps to know that nothing the other person might have said or done could have changed me.

    Many men were the same as me, and I used to wonder about them, my "Turners"; I don't anymore. While this may sound a tad harsh, from my present vantage point, that and they and my former self were simply a little silly for not digging deeper and for wasting time. Because time really is precious, and a wasted chance somehow feels like an insult to that fact; it signals our own myopia.

    Reply

  39. Sarah Says:

    "Well, yeah, you can have it, he said. And then, even though I was still smiling, I felt something inside me fall."

    I know this feeling all too well. It makes me so sad to realize how much I could relate to that and how many times I have felt that way in my current relationship.

    Reply

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