Laurie Stone


My friend said, "Look at the naked man in the window." We were walking across 83rd Street. The man stood under a butter-colored pinlight in the kitchen of a brownstone, his back to us, sautéing something in a skillet, mushrooms maybe, flipping the pieces with his wrist. My friend said, "I love that you like watching him." I said, "I could stay here all night." My friend said, "This is such a New York moment. I don't think this could happen anywhere else. Every time I go out, I find something to look at that changes me. I think it's the reason I am supposed to be here." He sounded a little lost in his love for the city, as if the story he was in was taking a wrong turn. I did not want him to leave, as he often predicted he would. The air was mild, and a halo surrounded the moon. If the naked man had looked out, he might have seen two shadows against a wall.

The back of the naked man was broad and thickened before tapering at the waist. I said, "He has a nice ass." It was rounded. My friend said, "I like a bit of paunch, or a tuft of hair in the wrong place, or a lace of old acne scars across a cheek. Gay men are obsessed with perfect bodies. When I am with a man who doesn't have a perfect body, I feel better about myself." My friend was tall and slender and had a beautiful face. He had once told me his hair curled wildly and this was the reason he kept it closely cropped. I thought the imperfection of men aroused his tenderness.

My friend said, "I bet he does this every night. You could come and watch." I said, "Yes, like TV." I tried to picture standing on the street alone, waiting for the show to begin. I said, "I don't think it would be fun without you." Watching the naked man together was intimate, as if we were sharing a sexual moment. I sometimes felt we were the same age, even though we were a generation apart. I said, "I think he's preparing a meal for someone in the back room. I think they made love so long they forgot to eat, and now they're starving." My friend said, "I tend to jump up after sex." I said, "Me, too."

The naked man turned, and we saw the front of his body. He was the type my friend preferred with a small pillow of flesh below his waist. His arms and legs were muscular but not toned by machines. He was someone's lover, and I felt a pang of yearning that was not specific, and it made me feel connected to all the people that night who were forgetting who they were. The naked man was looking down at the pan, and his face appeared handsome and tanned. I wondered what would have happened if he had come to the window and beckoned us inside. Would we have felt we had come to a gingerbread house and should run? I could see myself saying, "What do we have to lose?"

My friend said, "Maybe there is a dog on the bed, and they will hold each other." I slipped my arm through the arm of my friend and said, "I was waiting for him to turn. Now, we can go." My friend said, "He has a nice penis." I said, "Yes, a very nice penis." As we continued on, I wanted the city to hold my friend tight, although I did not think it had that power and I remembered the urgency of racing from experience to experience. Sometimes in friendship you feel a muscle twitch almost to life. You are not sure what to do.