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I leave the melave malka with my new Longchamp bag slung over my shoulder as I walk down the busy streets of Midtown Manhattan. Looking into the eyes of the New Yorkers on the streets, I suppress a sly smile.
In a city of over 1 million people I don’t stand out at all. I look the same as any twenty-year-old woman as I check into the hotel and take the elevator up to the third floor.
Opening up my large purse and pulling out my things for the night, I can’t look at my reflection in the mirror on the nightstand. I’m not ready for that yet. Peeling off my Stern-girl exterior I slip on my lace and spray my newly-liberated skin with a noticeable amount of floral perfume.
Smiling to myself as I smooth down my freshly-ironed hair, I hear my Blackberry ping as I reach for it with my free hand. It’s him.
“Should I pick up some drinks?”
“Why not? Sure.”
I put my phone on the nightstand and crouch down to perfect my glossy pout when that familiar bell chimes again.
“I don’t understand why these bottles say they’re different sizes. They all look the same.”
I chuckle to myself. My phone rings in my hand.
After a short and frivolous conversation on the levels of eventual intoxication produced by different amounts of beer, his phone dies. I go back to glossing my lips and curling my eyelashes.
Adjusting the clasp on my Hadaya necklace, I finally take in my whole reflection in the bathroom mirror. My transformation from Occasionally-Cute-Modern-Orthodox-Girl into Sexually-Appealing-Secular-Woman: complete. I had managed to startle myself so much that I rush to cover myself in my peacoat. My hand won’t stop twitching at my side while I sit impatiently on the bed. “How long does it take a person to walk?” I think aloud.
A minute later there’s a key turning the lock in the front door. Breathing deeply in an attempt to regain my composure, I stand up and open the door with a coy grin. He says “hey” as he walks in with a bare head. After all of our secret rendezvouses, I’m still not used to seeing him without his yarmulke on, but this time it’s somewhat of a comfort.
My partner in crime improvises with the room key as a bottle opener and we gorge ourselves on Stella Artois and cable television. In between swigs, I glance over at him; my cheeks are flushed and my head feels lighter with every drop. Making him think I’m farther gone than I actually am helps me shut off my conscience when I kiss him hard on the mouth. That little pest of a conscience is screaming again when he starts taking off my dress, so I shut her up with a last gulp of beer.
As soon as my bra hits the floor, the voice is gone.
Between the fumbling, the pain, the pleasure, I convince myself that I’ve learned how to make love.
Cuddling with him that night, I tell him how much he means to me, but I know I can’t tell him I love him. He removes his arm from around me and turns away. I bite down hard on my lip but my emotions betray me and I let out a whimper.
I get dressed the next day and hail him a cab before I walk back to the university cafeteria. Wanting nothing more than to sink into the earth with a lifetime subscription to The New Yorker and an endless supply of blueberry smoothies, I drag my feet as I walk.
I call up my cousin who lives in the east Village with her stockbroker boyfriend. She’s touching up her manicure while we talk.
“I made a stupid mistake.”
“What did you do?”
My silence is enough of an answer.
“Well, now you have to learn from it.”
Not wanting to hear such rational words, I mutter something and hang up.
The only thing I learn is how to do the walk of shame the day after.
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