short story #4

pastiche revised
Friday night, a woman who lives in my building, I quite forget her name, invited me to a party. We walked ten blocks to the wine store because she would not go to her friend’s apartment without a gift. We talked as we strolled, me chitchatting and trying to show I cared or at least that I was listening. She was preoccupied with the dress she was going to wear to an upcoming soiree of some import with a minister of state.
            After buying a good bottle of aged tequila, we went back up the street for the party. She was still talking about dresses and about the minister.
            Her friend’s apartment was nice: spacious for Paris with a large living room where twenty-somethings and thirty-year-olds mingled. I poured myself a glass of I don’t know what and entered into conversation with a woman I met at a conference. She was with her boyfriend who was a member of a metal band that was truly awful. They were encouraging me to join the mailing list on their website so I wouldn’t miss his next concert. Or the one after that. Perfect.
            I was relieved when the couple went looking for drinks and I found Thierry. He was a guy I had known through mutual acquaintances, but we had never spoken. He had slept with my good friend the previous year or, more precisely had tried to, but he’d been feeble. Soft. I thought about this while we were discussing contemporary bohemian culture with his jazz friends. Had I had too much to drink? I didn’t fully understand them. I had come in in the middle, and the subject kept eluding me. They were bullshitting about everything from electroclash music to Japanese graphic arts, speaking vaguely and always with a hint of rebellion and postmodern irony. I would have rather talked about sales. About work.
           After half an hour, it occurred to me that Thierry was hitting on me. He had his arms hugged around my waist, and he was asking me to leave with him. Despite the incomprehensible conversation, he reminded me of a quote I had read in a novel: “Charm is a quality that can sometimes replace beauty—at least in men.”
           At his bachelor pad, he told me, “You have a great ass.”
           Then we cuddled. I remembered what he had said last year to my friend on the subject of his impotence—that it was due to too much masturbation. He tried with me, I think, but not for long. This night, he blamed alcohol. I left.
Today, I lunched with my friend Helen in the Marais. She is a lesbian, but after frustrating relationships with women, she fell in love with a man who is too neurotic to have sex. Bad fucking luck. I told her about my evening with Thierry. I admitted that in my utter solitude, I found Thierry nice.
           She advised me: “Do not have an affair with a man who has problems of the penis. Do not do it.”
           I think she may be right.
– Adriana Nguyen, translated from the French by J. A. Chen
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