In the afternoon, Lacey Freeman texted to invite me to Christmas dinner at her apartment. This kind of last-minute invitation was typical of Lacey. “Herding all the strays over for my annual Xmas feast, so stop by if you’re lonely  6-11 pm.” Every time I saw Lacey, she’d gained five more pounds. She was turning into the kind of obese girl that does her hair like a forties pinup, wears bright red lipstick, a blue polka-dot dress with a white doily collar, colorful tattoos across her huge, smushed cleavage, as if these considerations would distract us from how fat and miserable she had become. In a few years she’d get her eggs frozen, I predicted correctly, and the rockabilly thing would disintegrate into Eileen Fisher tunics and lazy, kundalini yoga. Any man interested in Lacey would have had to be seriously self-loathing. I knew this because I’d made out with her when we first met at Mark’s birthday party five years earlier. I got drunk and went back to her place, came to with my face buried in her back fat, about to consummate my desperation. I left quickly and rudely. I never told Mark about it. The next time I saw Lacey she acted unfazed, like we were chums who had merely shared a funny moment. “That scotch!” But having held my dick in her hand, she seemed to feel she’d earned the right to belittle me as much as possible. “Are you getting by okay?” she liked to ask me. She was a sad person, sheltered and confused and ineffectual, et cetera. She’d recently become obsessed with canning and baking and making her own bitters. The last thing I wanted for Christmas was her homemade eggnog and gin-pickled okra. “Merry Xmas! I’ll try to make it!” I texted back. But I had no intention of giving her the satisfaction. Mark texted me a photo of his father-in-law’s model replica of a World War II battlefield. I did not reply. 

For the rest of the afternoon I watched more DVDs, checked my e-mail, and pined for Britt Wendt. I fantasized about our life together. We’d get a one-bedroom in Flushing, fill it with her furniture, cook roasts, and drink expensive wine bought with the money we saved by living in Queens. Our repartee would be rich with subtlety and sarcasm, as smart and funny as mid-career Woody Allen. Our fucking, like Werner Herzog, serious and perplexing. I could imagine Britt Wendt lying beside me in bed, her frothy blonde hair flattened into a fuzzy halo. We’d be like dope fiends for one another, reaching out our swollen hands for one more hit, her body pale and freckled, nipples pink as sunsets. “The worse your morning breath, the more I love kissing you,” I’d say, slipping my tongue into her hot, bitter, velvety mouth.

I think by then I’d been single longer than is healthy for a young man. I’d had just one serious girlfriend since graduating from college. Post ­breakup, there was a consequent jag of failed sexual reprisals (including the one with Lacey), a two-year dry spell, then a single and only semi-interesting encounter with a completely hairless Taiwanese girl I met at Bloomingdale’s. Next came a few standard Brooklyn bar hookups with insecure twenty-five-year-olds, then three more years of nothingness, not a drop, not a cloud on the horizon. By my Jesus year I was practically a virgin again. My father told me to focus on my career. “Women are attracted to money,” he had said over the phone before leaving for Tahoe.

“I’ll die alone,” I told my father. “I don’t care.” This was all before I’d met Britt Wendt, of course.