“I thought I knew the face of my love. I dreamt of her so often that the image of her face is burned into my mind like a brand upon the skin. But that was years ago, in a different city, and now I’ve lost the thread. My search wanders now, and it’s easily distracted by warm, wet invitations from any pretty face with a pouting lip that softly whispers my name the same way she did.”
Waking up next to a strange woman is not an uncommon thing to occur in the life of a twenty-something male living in New York City. Waking up next to a strange woman who claims to have had sex with you numerous times–none of which you remember–is something else entirely. Joaquin tries to play down the seriousness of the situation at first but, when it happens again and again with different women, he begins to wonder if these missing chunks of time are something more than the end result of drunken binges. Could it be a symptom of something else? Something much worse?
I thought I knew the face of my love. I dreamt of her so often that the image of her face is burned into my mind like a brand upon the skin. But that was years ago in a different city, and now I’ve lost the thread. My search wanders now, and it’s easily distracted by warm, wet invitations from any pretty face with a pouting lip that softly whispers my name the same way she did. I often wonder if it was some sort of spell. Was she some Voodoo priestess? Did she work a root on me so that every time I make love to a woman, I will believe that it’s her mouth that I kiss? Her silky brown legs wrapped around my waist?
I contemplate this while standing naked over this woman—whose name I can’t remember—in a dirty, drafty loft apartment. It would be smart to leave before she wakes up. But I find myself standing over this woman, with goose bumps crawling over every inch of my skin, in a vain attempt to see what made me think she is anything like the one who haunts my dreams. Nothing about her is even remotely the same. She has a dirty, used up look about her. Her hair is limp and stringy, and her lips are permanently stained from cheap red lipstick.
I know I should leave, but instead, I wait for her to open her eyes. I’m curious to see if they are like hers. She moans softly and stirs, turning toward me as she opens her eyes. I can’t tell what color they are, but I know they aren’t the same. The shape is all wrong, and they hold none of the intent.
“Joaquin…are you slipping away in the night again?”
I puzzle at the word ‘again,’ as I do not know this woman.
She rises to embrace me and the sheet slips away exposing taut, pink nipples and fair skin. My eyes travel down her belly to take in the dark shadow of what must have brought me here in the first place. Her hand, small like a child’s, reaches up to caress the curve of my neck, and my desire awakens for this strange woman. I may not know her, but my body seems to.
“Joaquin…” she whispers, and it sounds almost right. The fog descends again. Am I so vain as to fall victim to any female voice that whispers my name? The hunger in my loins says yes. And then she says yes, over, and over, and louder, and louder until it echoes against the walls in this cold, damp place.
: : : :
When I wake in the morning, I’m sure I’ve lost my mind. That somehow in my loneliness my overworked imagination has created some alter ego that has met this woman. If her performance last night is any indication, she seems to know me and know me well. Flashes of last night flicker across my mind’s eye–her sharp hipbones splayed wide, her pussy, tight and so very wet as she slid up and down on my cock. But for the life of me, I can’t place her face. In the bright morning light, I can see that she is attractive—just not my type. Far from it, in fact. She’s pale—no, pale is an understatement. Her skin is nearly translucent. I can see the blue tracks of her veins in her arms and around her eyes. Her facial features are sharp and angular, more of a classic sort of beauty—far from the brown-skinned, shapely girls I usually bed.
“Who are you?” I whisper, mostly to myself and the sparsely furnished room.
Her eyes fly open. “Dana,” she answers.
I stare into her eyes for a long moment. They’re as blue as mine. I find that curious. Is this what it feels like to look into my eyes? Like drowning in icy, cold surf?
“Are you going to stare at me all morning or are we going to breakfast?”
My answer to her is to get up and begin to get dressed. I have no intention of going anywhere with this woman.
: : : :
Dana doesn’t understand subtle hints, and I, lacking the gene that is required to be rude, can’t shake her off. It takes me a moment to get my bearings, but once I figure out what end of the island I am on, I start walking. She follows me, chattering endlessly about this or that until the sound of her voice becomes little more than background noise.
She smokes—a disgusting, dirty habit that is usually an immediate turn-off for me. But the Joaquin she knows must smoke too because she offers me one from the battered green and white soft pack.
“No thanks,” I respond with a shake of my head and an obvious frown of disgust.
“Did you quit?” she asks.
“No, I don’t smoke.”
She shrugs this off. I’m convinced she has me confused with someone else. But then, that doesn’t add up either. She knows my name…she knows what I like in bed. I rub my head feeling more confused than ever.
We eat breakfast at some dirty, greasy spoon. She orders French toast, sausage, scrambled eggs, and orange juice. I order coffee, toast, and one fried egg. I don’t know what I drank last night, but my stomach still seems to be pissed off about it.
“So, how’s school going?” she asks in a random sort of way. Like we’re pals catching up after not seeing each other in a while. Now I am beyond confused. I’m irritated.
“Okay, seriously…how do we know each other?”
She smiles and rolls her eyes, then begins to rattle off the details of our introduction. But she does it in a bored, monotone voice as if she’s told me this a hundred times.
She says we met at a bar, and by the looks of her, that doesn’t surprise me. She says we talked for hours, which I find hard to believe. On the walk over, the conversation bounced back and forth between the plight of some drug-addicted pop star and wondering who invented Cheez Whiz and why. I can’t imagine having any sort of conversation with this woman, let alone one that lasted for hours.
“How many times have we slept together?”
“I don’t know,” she replies with a shrug. “Dozens.”
I am stunned, baffled, confused, and more than a little disturbed. I don’t know what I find more disturbing. The fact that I can’t remember any encounter other than the one last night was one thing, but for her to seem okay with it is even more disturbing. What sort of woman is she?
I glance around the diner again, then back at her. This place, the other patrons, this strange, pale woman sitting across from me—it’s all beginning to feel like some crazy scene from a Stephen King novel. I can’t wrap my mind around whatever is going on here, and I just want to get out.
I stand up abruptly. “I gotta go.”
“We just ordered. You’re not going to stay to eat?”
I tell her no, shrug on my leather jacket and yank up the hood of my sweatshirt.
“Well, I don’t have any cash to pay for this.”
I glare at her. Is this her con? She smiles up at me in a way she must think is cute and disarming, but it only succeeds in making my skin crawl. I pull out my wallet—at this point, I don’t care. I just want to be away from this woman. I pull out a twenty and throw it on the table.
“Can you give me another twenty so I can catch a cab uptown?”
“Come on,” I grumble, but then shell out another twenty anyway, wondering why it is so difficult for me to be a jerk.
“Thanks, honey,” she says as she swipes the money off the table and tucks it in her bra. I imagine there is plenty of room in there. Her chest is so flat she looks like a twelve-year-old boy.
“See you around, then?” she asks as I walk out the door. I shake my head. If I ever see Dana again, it will be too soon.
I walk toward the subway briskly. My shoulders hunched against the biting wind. My mind is ticking along, asking a million questions that I don’t have the answers to.
Have I really slept with her a dozen times or more?
Did I use a condom?
What bar did I meet her in?
How can I avoid seeing this woman again?
By the time I get to my fourth floor walk-up in the Bowery, I’ve convinced myself that I can’t possibly know Dana. She has me confused with someone else. There are just too many holes in her story. I’m not the crazy one, she is. I congratulate myself for having narrowly escaped being killed by some psychotic, nympho vampire.
“Yeah, that sounds good to me,” I mutter aloud as I unlock my door and step into the sanctuary of my apartment.
I strip down and get in the shower. As the hot water washes over my face and hair, I feel the tension begin to melt away.
Truth be told, Dana is the least of my worries. I went out drinking last night when I should have been studying for midterms, and now I only have one day to play catch up.
“Get yourself in hand, Joaquin,” I mumble. My drinking is getting out of control. I know this. But lately, thoughts of her haunt me more and more, and I don’t really know what to do about it. It’s as if she had spun a sticky web over my subconscious. Everything and everyone connects to her somehow. I wonder how long I will be plagued by the illness of her love. Or should I say manipulation? I was so young when she had her way with me. Maybe there is some truth to what that psychiatrist said last year. Maybe she did leave me scarred—ruined, somehow. And now I search for her in the face of every woman I meet. I lean forward into the stream and let the water wash over my shoulders. One thing is clear, I need to find a remedy before there are a whole slew of Danas.