Paolo and Francesca…

a novel about beautiful people in Italy.

Tag: New York

tour of the Standard Hotel.

it pays to have connections.  today I had the pleasure of touring two of the most fabulous suites in the city of New York, the Hudson Studio and the Liberty Suite at the Standard Hotel.  when Francesca and Selim visit New York, they stay at the Standard in the Liberty Suite.

Liberty Suite Bed

gentle readers, the bed is round.

Liberty Suite bar

Francesca would approve of the photography books; Selim would approve of the Patron.

Liberty Suite dining

succulents, fruit, and a view.

Liberty Suite bath

the bathtub looks downtown toward One World Trade and the Statue of Liberty.

mile high.

In the end, she was glad she had flown with Selim. Their seats were massive, full-reclining, and almost entirely private. She ate, she slept, she watched two films and she even pulled out a notebook and started making a list on the gridded paper of places she wanted to go. She showed it to Selim, asking if he’d ever done any of them. The Whitney, yes. The New Museum, no. The High Line, no. Daniel, yes. Ippudo, no. Did she want to go to any Broadway shows, he asked. Not particularly, she answered. Would she be able to amuse herself during the day, while he was working? Oh, certainly.

Before landing she went into the bathroom to brush her teeth and attempt to look presentable. She assessed her appearance in the mirror, dismayed in the fluorescent lights. A little more Touche Eclat under her eyes, a little more bronzer on her cheeks, and she looked more alive. A quiet knock startled her.

“Just a minute,” she said.

“It’s me.” Selim.

She unlatched the lock and he opened the door, squeezing into the small lavatory with her.

“You’re kidding, right?” She still had her makeup bag unzipped on the baby changing table.

He held his finger to her lips. “Come on,” he whispered. They stood face to face, already touching in the tiny space of the bathroom. He moved his hips against hers, pressing her into the door, and he nuzzled in to kiss her neck.

“I still can’t believe you,” she said, but she pushed back against him anyway, wending her fingers into his hair, pulling him closer to her. “I just did my makeup.” He unzipped her jeans and pushed them down her thighs.

“Sit there,” he gestured to the basin. She balanced herself on the edge of the sink while he sat on the closed toilet lid. “Now put your legs over my head,” he said, and ducked in between them.

She leaned back against the mirror and held on to the edge of the basin with one hand, the faucet with another, bracing her feet against the wall behind Selim.

“I want to make you happy,” he whispered into the inside of her thigh, kissing a trail to her labia. She gripped the faucet more tightly as he increased his intensity, targeting her with his tongue, slipping one finger, then another, quickly into her. The bell rang to call them back to their seats for landing. She squirmed against him.

“Not yet,” he said, moving his thumb to flick her clitoris. The bell rang more insistently. And then she was floating for a minute, heat emanating from the core of her body, dizzy and disoriented, and he was slipping out from between her legs, standing her up and pulling up her jeans, splashing his face with water and toweling it off.

“I’ll go out first,” he said, leaving her in the lavatory. She glanced in the mirror again and was pleased to see the color had returned to her face. As she left the bathroom she met a flight attendant eyeing her suspiciously. Francesca stared down the uniformed woman, defying her to say something. The flight attendant remained silent. Francesca noticed a cheap, glossy tabloid rolled in her quilted nylon tote bag.

[after this: New York State of Mind]

New York State of Mind.

view from the Standard Hotel looking uptown.

view from the Standard Hotel looking uptown.

photo credit Brian Solis

“I bet you never had a round bed at the Four Seasons, either,” she replied, looking around the room. In addition to the central, circular bed, they had incredible views of downtown Manhattan and the Hudson River and a bathtub in the middle of the bedroom.

“I am eager to try out the bed,” he replied, grabbing her and twirling her around the room. She demurred, and instead showed him the lights across the Hudson.

“That’s New Jersey,” she said. “That’s where my mama’s from.”

“You’re joking.” She shook her head. “Your mother is from New Jersey?”

“She is. She went to Italy to do a semester in university and she never came back.” Francesca smiled with nostalgia. It had been her favorite family story when she was young–her mother, the American art history student, running off with her father, the Italian student activist. She had imagined their romance when she was a teenager, after her father had died, a memory based more on creativity than fact. Her mother now seemed a stranger compared to that young woman of her imagination, carefree and easy once. Her father’s death and the overwhelming influence of his family had changed all that.

She snapped back to attention. They could see the new Freedom Tower, too, from the downtown-facing windows, all illuminated though it was still incomplete. She reached for Selim’s hand.

“Let’s go out,” she said. “Before I fall asleep.”

They walked through the streets of the West Village, smoking cigarettes, peering into the windows of the townhouses, and peeking at the corner cafes. The Spotted Pig was bustling with crowds outside and Francesca and Selim ducked in to try to get a table. They stood at the bar to wait; Selim drank a draft beer and Francesca had a cocktail called Corpse Reviver #2.

“That’s rather grim,” Selim said, to no one in particular.

“It’s a classic,” the bartender explained. “Back in the day, it was a hangover cure.”

“There you go,” Francesca said.

“People here are so friendly,” Selim whispered to her. “I don’t know why they say New Yorkers aren’t nice.” She could detect a hint of sarcasm even in his whisper.

“It’s delicious,” she replied, passing him the pretty gimlet glass to taste her drink.

Selim looked anxiously over at the hostess station. “I wonder why it’s taking us so long to get our table.”

“Relax,” she said. “This is fun. We’re at a bar in New York City.”

He drank his beer. “You’re right,” he said. “I’m almost always here for work, I forget what it’s like to have fun.”

“I’ll remind you,” she promised. “We’re going to have a great time.”

Standard High Line.

standard highline

[before this: wine bar.]

It would take longer for him to get downtown than for her to shoot across to The Standard, and she was grateful for the geography because it would give her a chance to pull herself together.  Back in the Liberty Suite, she tied her hair back and washed her face with cold water, in an attempt to sober up.  She brushed her teeth, then carefully reapplied her makeup, adding a red lip stain to cover the swollenness she feared Selim would be able to see on her lips.  She heard him open the door and rushed out of the bathroom to greet him.

“New lipstick?” he asked.

“I went shopping.  Do you like it?”  It wasn’t a lie.  It just wasn’t entirely accurate.  It came to her so easily, she thought.

He held her shoulders, looking at her face for a moment.  “Is that all that’s different?”

“I never wear red,” she mumbled.

“I like it,” he said, and his voice sounded wolfish to her, or his teeth looked sharper, something about him seemed more predatory.  Like he was circling her, a fawn in the woods.

He played with the dark green strap of her bra, running his finger under it, snapping it against her bare shoulder where her sweater had slipped off.  She smelled her own breath, minty freshness covering the whiskey and the wine and the sweet lingering marijuana taste of Justin’s kiss.  She didn’t know what would happen if she kissed Selim now.

[after this: rich girls.]

rich girls.

[before this: wine bar]

The DJ was spinning a song she loved, The Virgins’ “Rich Girls”, a song that had been popular on the runways a couple seasons ago.  She wrapped her arms around Selim’s neck, still holding the champagne, pulsing her hips against him.  Instinctively, she fingered the diamond on her left earlobe, checking to make sure it was still there.  She moved closer to Selim, kissing him as she danced up against him, the crush of people surrounding them pressing them into each other.  His chest rose against hers, she felt his lips on her shoulder, on her neck, his tongue circling the diamond on her earlobe.  She breathed heavily, wantonly, twining her legs in his so she could grind with him.  The music had shifted to techno, throbbing beats mimicking their bodies’ motion, Calvin Harris singing about feeling so close and she still wanted to be even closer to Selim.  Strobe lights circled around them, the lights of the city flickering outside, the heady combination of the Cristal and the joint they shared before they went up and the fog machine and the pulsating music made her head spin, and she had never felt so alive in her life.

NB: there are better dance remixes of this song, but this video is CLUTCH.

wine bar.

She stopped in a cafe on Avenue B, near Tompkins Square Park, and though it was still early in the afternoon, had a glass of wine.  There were a few other patrons in the bar, on iPads or laptops, while the bartender cleaned glasses for the evening and fussed with the music.  Bruno, she thought.  Now it was the wine reddening her face.  That had to be it.  The wine.  She had seen Bruno just that one time on Capri, and once in Milan after that, at dinner, with her brother and his wife.  She wasn’t attracted to him.  That wasn’t to say he wasn’t attractive, she thought, remembering his well-cut Zegna suit and the tortoiseshell glasses that made him look a little like Clark Kent.  An Italian Clark Kent.  At the time she had just gotten together with Paolo, and even an Italian Clark Kent couldn’t hold a candle to a football superstar.  She finished her glass of wine.  The bartender came over and poured her another.

“I didn’t ask–” she began.

“It’s on me,” he said.  “Enjoy.”  She held his gaze for a moment, unblinkingly staring into his icy blue eyes.

“Thanks,” she said, replying the way Americans spoke, so casually.  She looked down to the bar, letting her hair fall halfway over her face.

“What do you do?” The bartender asked.

She picked up her Leica point-and-shoot from the seat next to her and waved it at him.  “Photographer,” she answered.

“Here in the city?”

“No, I’m from Italy.”

“You don’t sound like you’re from Italy.”  The bartender looked puzzled.

“I lived here for a year after school.”

“Would I have seen your work anywhere?” he asked.

“Maybe?  I shoot fashion, mostly in Europe, occasionally here.”

“Oh, cool.  Is that why you’re in New York?”

“Just vacation this time.  My boyfriend came over for work.”

“And left you alone?”  The bartender leaned in.  He had cropped black hair, a beard and mustache, shirtsleeves rolled up to the elbows to reveal muscly forearms covered with tattoos–she noticed angels and skulls, script lettering spelling poetry or song lyrics, one that reminded her of the shape of an indeterminate midwestern state.

“So it seems,” she murmured.  He stayed leaning on the bar, she swirled her wine in the glass but didn’t drink.

a day in the park.

Something had changed with Selim since Venice, since Moscow.  The difference was barely perceptible at first but she came to recognize it by the frequency of his phone calls, the candor of his text messages, his seeming willingness to be more open with her.  To be more open about her.  Where he had once called her in whispered tones, in stolen moments, he now spoke freely.  She asked about it one day, when he called and she could hear his daughter in the background.

“Where are you?”

“I’m with Eva at the park,” he said.  “It’s my afternoon with her.  She’s got it in her head to fly kites.”

Francesca imagined him unfurling the six-year-old’s kite, butterfly-shaped, she pictured, probably pink and purple, showing the little girl how to run with it and then release it into the air.  The way her father had taught her, in the rolling space of Parco Sempione.  She felt a pang–of what?  Nostalgia?  Regret?  It was hard to place.

“I miss you,” she told Selim.

“I miss you, too.  I think we should go away together.  I’ve got to go to New York for some meetings in several weeks.  Can you come?”

“I’d love to,” she said.  “I love New York.”

“I was hoping we could go together.  I want you to show me all your old haunts.”

She laughed.  “My haunts are from almost eight years ago.  I’m sure it’s all changed.”

She heard him calling to his daughter in the background, “Eva, no, wait–” and then he came back to her.  “Darling, I have to go.  I have to chase her down.  I’ll call you later.”

This time, when he said he’d call her later, she knew he would do it.  He had promised to protect her and he was following through.  And she remembered that night they’d met, when he told her he was the marrying type, that against all odds, Selim was the kind of man who took commitment seriously.

This time she wouldn’t be scared.

aperol spritz spotted!


look what I found at a bus stop on Amsterdam Ave last night…looks like Paolo and Francesca’s favorite aperitif has made it to New York.