The Divorced Man

Posted on: August 20, 2015

The divorced man, recovering from the social inadequacy that was a product of his recently dissolved marriage, attended an event for single lovers of literature at an Upper West Side bookstore. The gathering, organized by the latest dating app, took place in a reserved section of the shop’s second floor, in a wide row splitting memoir from fiction, where the hosts from the hot-or-not app had set up tables with finger foods and cheap wine.

First to arrive, the divorced man poured himself a plastic cup of dry white to avoid tooth stains and browsed the Zs on the last fiction shelf. He picked out a Chilean writer he’d been meaning to read and the fluorescent light reflecting off the paperback’s glossy cover made him uneasy. The place was too damn bright, surely enough to illuminate the asymmetrical tendencies of his face: the tip of a slender nose leaning left, a right ear higher than the other on the side of his head, and stubble growing only on one cheek he’d forgotten to shave before his morning commute. He knew, though, this was his best shot at landing a date in this isolating city, this island that imposed its identity on and induced a debilitating loneliness in the most unsuspecting residents.

Even in a dimly lit Brooklyn dive bar where his physical flaws wouldn’t be accentuated, the divorced man wouldn't know what to say to a cute girl confident enough to catch his attention with her fuck-me eyes. They couldn’t be meant for him—maybe she was squinting?

It was excruciatingly difficult for the divorced man to reconcile his physical desires with his decision to vacate that oath-sworn relationship. After all, a divorced body was nothing else but neglected and in dire need of affection.

The divorced man hadn’t been inside a woman in months, not since he’d tried to outrun the heartbreak of his failed union by fleeing the nation’s capital. Best-case scenario: literary conversation would be the sexual catalyst he needed it to be. At the very least, he wanted simply to feel noticed. To feel a flirtatious hand squeeze his arm, hear the sincerity of a woman’s laugh at his sorry jokes.

He read and re-read the book’s first page, but the arrival of other dating-app users prevented him from retaining any of the minimalist prose. He was facing the staircase, feigning interest in the book and nonchalance toward the women, heartbeat accelerating each time heels clicked on the hollow steps.

When men reached the top stair they would nod at the divorced man, not in solidarity, but as if to communicate their status as competitors. We are here for the same reason, their looks said, therefore we cannot be friends. They would puff out their chests and strut over to a single lady, cups filled and ready for a practiced toast to their favorite dead white writers. It looked effortless, like they picked up more women than books at these events, an easy lay for every hardcover lining the walls of their hip lofts.

The divorced man could hardly afford to fill his one flimsy bookcase, let alone the drafty room he rented from his Dominican landlady-slash-roommate in Washington Heights. She was a sweet woman with kids his age and had been married once too, but he hadn’t confided in her—or in anyone else—the emotional pain of losing his best friend and the person in the world he most loved.

The room was crowding and his wine drying up, so the divorced man poured himself another cup at the table, where a woman he hadn’t seen asked his name. She was wearing flats and thick-rimmed glasses, blouse tucked into a skirt that flowed from her hips to her ankles, a pen holding her dark hair in place.

Underneath HI! MY NAME IS, the woman wrote the divorced man’s name in cursive with a smiley face and pasted the tag on his shirt, smoothing it out over his chest. They made small talk while standing next to shelves of writers who disclosed every dirty detail of their lives; however, he had no intention of dropping the D word to a woman who lived in a city where marrying as young as he had was taboo.

While the woman shared tales of learning to hang with New Yorkers, the divorced man noticed how she talked with her hands and pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose and curled her lips when she laughed. He wanted to take her in an unoccupied aisle of the shop, between the pages of love stories, to lift the back of her skirt and pull aside her panties.

Upon her request, he recounted silly adventures like getting lost in Queens, ending up in the Bronx after falling asleep on the express train, and having a bagel so good he chewed it slowly to prolong the deliciousness. The woman took hold of his bicep, a look of surprise on her geometrically proportionate face, when she realized she’d had the same artisan lox bagel with a thick layer of cream cheese at the same Park Slope deli and had also eaten it slowly.

Two refills later and buzzed, they found themselves half-naked in the divorced man’s apartment, on the bed he’d inherited from the previous tenant, their bodies entwined beneath the covers.

                              —What’s wrong? the woman said.

She’d stopped kissing him.

                             —It’s been a while.

                             —Then this shouldn’t be a problem.

                             —I guess you have a point.

                             —Did I do something wrong?

                             —No! No, you’re perfect.

He lay beside her and slipped his hands under his head and closed his eyes and listened for a moment to the honks of Broadway taxis filtering in with the fall breeze through the open window.

                             —But you’re not my wife, the divorced man said.

Written by: Eric Zurita
Photograph by: Anthony Delanoix

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