A few months ago I was talking with a woman on tinder who said she really liked ice cream. This was the most exciting part of our conversation, so I said, “Let’s go to the new ice cream museum.”

“YES. OMG. YAY.” Unfortunately, the tickets were sold out. So I went on Craig’s list, i.e. The Sketchy Wheel of Fortune, Creep-Roulette, Texas Holy Shit You’re a Maniac, and found a seller. One night before work I arranged to meet the seller at a coffee shop. She was a pretty woman with a funny giggle and batting eyelashes. She flirted with me during the exchange. I expressed my gratitude like a gentlemen and left.

A few weeks ago, the seller texted me again. She was in my phone as “Ice Cream Mu.” She asked if I would like to see the comedian, Dylan Moran. I thoroughly enjoy live comedy, so I replied,

“Can you Venmo me the money right now?”
“Hell no.”

We agreed that I would give her the cash in person before the show. This past Wednesday night I met her outside the Town Hall Theatre.

The seats were on the balcony and the show was good. Dylan is basically a European version of Louis CK. He’s middle aged, depressed, ashamed, eats a lot, has a domineering wife, parenting is difficult, believes people use cell phones too much, thinks about death, etc. etc. just laugh at my pain.

My favorite joke: “I was in my hotel room recently watching some adult films. They shouldn’t be called adult films, though, because they’re all just young, muscular men thrusting against young, beautiful women. An adult film should be a middle-aged woman staring out her window at the rain, when a man hobbles up to the house, knocks on the door, and says, ‘I have bowel disease,’ then she replies, ‘I don’t care, I don’t love you anymore.’ Then he goes away and dies.”

During intermission, I asked Ethel what she did for a living.

“I’ve been unemployed for six months.”
“But I…sort of do my own thing…on the side. I’m secretly self-employed…in a sense.”
“What’s that?”
“I can’t tell you. Not right now.”
“Alright.” Pause. “I’m just gonna assume you’re a Russian spy.”
“Hahah. Yes. You can think that.”

Vladamir Putin

Once a week, Ethel goes to some unemployment office, answers six questions, and receives a $425 check. She says that’s not nearly enough. She watches a lot of Netflix. She is in no rush to find a job.

After the show, Ethel and I were in lobby when she yelled, “Heeeyyyy!” then hugged two, young men who looked very uncomfortable. They did not say each other’s names. I was not introduced. It was one of the strangest, social encounters I’ve ever witnessed. The men looked eerily similar to me (reddish hair, pale, Irish, light scruff), blushed, and immediately began shifting away from Ethel. Nothing meaningful was said, not even: how ya been? As Ethel shuffled to the entrance, I found myself turning around and, for some reason, god knows why, introducing myself and shaking their hands. One of the guys winked.
While Ethel and I walked through Times Square I asked, “How did you know those two guys?”
“Oh, I just sort of know them.”
“Through what?”
“Just…from….being in the city.”
“Ahh, alright.”
“Isn’t it wild how you run into people?”
“Yeah. Wild.”
Times Square was comparatively empty. People were probably all inside watching the 3rd presidential circus. The lights were bright and we walked past a restaurant where I used to labor and dream of big things.
We arrived in Hell’s Kitchen and went to one of my favorite restaurants: Mercury bar. When I lived in this neighborhood, two yeas ago, I used to come here frequently during the summer with my bulldog: Hank. We’d sit outside, Hank lounging beneath my chair on his back, and I’d occasionally sponge his belly so he wouldn’t overheat. I’d also drink a couple pints of Guinness, read Turgenev, and watch the passing crowds.

The dinner went fine. We sat outside and it was warm and balmy night. Right after we arrived, Ethel went to the bathroom (girls always do that) and I closed my eyes and felt a breeze from the rushing cars on 9th avenue. I listened to the surrounding chatter, a distant siren, a honking a few blocks away, a homeless man shouting bloody murder, and settled comfortably into the wicker chair. To my right, people were cramped and boisterous inside the bar watching the tail end of all the nonsense.

During dinner I did not think Ethel was a prostitute. But I did think it was strange that despite being 33 years old, and having lived in the city for the past 20 years, she would invite a complete stranger to a comedy show. Also, little things in the conversation struck me in a peculiar way. Ethel asked, out of the blue,

“Would you go on a cruise with someone you only knew for a month?”
“Have you done something similar like that before?”
“Yes. I have.”
“Well, I went on cruise recently with someone, and it backfired. After three days we hated each other.”

Later on, we shifted to broader topics. I remember asking her what she wanted out of life, and she replied,

I paid the bill. We sat there for a couple of minutes and finished our drinks. “Well,” I said, “I know you have to wake up early for work tomorrow, but wanna come to Staten Island for another drink?” It was the smoothest way I knew of convincing a woman to take a boat ride in the middle of the night to an island with a serious heroin problem.
“Umm…I actually have an appointment tomorrow, kinda early.”
“An appointment for what?”
“It’s my self-employed thing. I can’t really talk about it.”

I walked her to the subway and we parted ways.

There’s a very good chance she’s not a prostitute. I’m not even sure how this theory popped into my brain. There were other little things though: mannerisms, glances, ways she acted which reminded me a co-worker of mine who actually was a prostitute, the way she sensually took off her cardigan, questions that led to this theory….

But who knows? I shouldn’t judge. Perhaps she’s just lonely. Perhaps the next morning she actually had a video conference with Putin:



Subscribe here: