Chapter 1 - Madame X
Great love stories seldom start with the words “They met at a bar.” But this is no love story. I met Henri at Madame X in Soho. It was a sketchy kind of place that was close enough to NYU for my friends and me to have found ourselves there on a Friday night. I was a senior in college, an English Major, which meant I was going to be unemployed soon on graduation.
I was with my sorority sister, Mei, who was a perfectly tanned gym rat, so it was perplexing why any guys were talking to me instead of to her. Henri was the second guy I chatted up that night. By then, I was three drinks deep into a conversation with an investment banker who was generically handsome in a Hamptons Trust Fund baby kind of way. The banker had to leave early, so I was just looking not to go home alone that night.
I didn’t usually chat up guys, but I decided a couple of days ago that I wasn’t going to graduate college a virgin. Henri wasn’t memorable at first glance. He had a steely look in his eyes, a nose that seemed just a little too big for his face, dimples that made him look just a little too cute for one-night-stands. He smelled nice, which meant he smelled like he washed with soap and water instead of the usual weird musky scents bar guys like to wear.
I didn’t know it back then because I was a little wasted and he was wearing a blazer over his white dress shirt, but Henri was ripped. He had the kind of body that men usually had to take steroids and testosterone shots to get.
We ended up making out in the back of an Uber that night. I remembered some vague tidbits from our conversation back at the bar about how Henri was a Fine Arts Major, also in his final year. He was already in the process of moving out of the dorms to an apartment downtown. We ended up fumbling at each other on his twin size bed next to a tower of Ramen and a dirty hotplate. His bed sheets were itchy and an ugly shade of green.
He kissed me and wrapped a hand around my breast. I went with it and rubbed my palms against his rock-hard abs. He was very handsome, in a dark-skinned Greek God kind of way. His hand started to tug at my artfully ripped Zara denim jeans, so I helped him out by undoing the buttons at my waist.
“I’ve never done this before,” I confessed.
“That’s what all the girls say,” he replied as he slid his hand into my bra cup. Then as he took in my words, he paused and looked at me. “Really? Are you serious?”
“It’s not because there’s something wrong with me!” I blurted out. Oh, there was so much wrong with me, where would I even begin? At least the alcohol was helping. And his six-pack of abs was helping too. “It’s okay; I promise not to be clingy afterward.”
“That’s what all the girls say too!” He replied and rolled over onto his back.
“I shouldn’t have said anything,” I said as I pulled my shirt back over my disheveled bra. “Can’t we forget everything and start over? I don’t want to be one of those weird girls who ends up a forty-year-old virgin.”
“Okay,” Henri muttered and grabbed my phone. “But not tonight. I have an early class tomorrow, and I don’t want you throwing up over my dick.”
“As if!” I snapped. “I can hold my alcohol. Unless your dick is so revolting that this is a common occurrence with the girls you bring home.”
“Haha,” Henri replied sarcastically. “We’ll cuddle. Is that okay? It’s not like you have a choice seeing as I’m between you and the door, and I’m too tired to move from the bed right now.”
“Ugh,” I said as I laid down and felt my eyes closing. It was late, but it was a Friday night! He must have been lying about the early class. I wished I kept my mouth closed. I had cuddled before, with my ex-boyfriend whom I broke up with two years ago. I never really enjoyed it. He always had Disney sheets on his bed, even in college. And then there was his twitchy smile. His name had been Donald, like the duck. His parents named him that because they were immigrants and it was either that or Minnie. “What kind of class meets on a Saturday morning, jerk?”
“Polo,” he replied with his eyes closed. His shoulders looked muscular and smooth in the dim glow of a single nightlight. “It’s far out in Long Island, in the Hamptons. I have to get up to six to catch the shuttle there.”
“Wow,” I said. “That’s pretty cool. How did you get into that?”
“I’ve played since I was a kid,” he replied. “Now, you sleep. I’ll call you tomorrow once I get back.”
“That’s very bold of you, to think I’ll want to hang out with you once these beer goggles are off.”
“You mean you don’t want to eat with me at Masa? Okay, in that case, forget it.”
“Wait a second,” I said. “Fine, if you won’t eat me out then I’ll eat with you at Masa. That’s a deal.”