Wednesday, September 15, 2010


I never liked men with European accents but I was falling hard for Bernhard. He wasn’t my type, zero percent body weight, perfectly starched and fitted Diesel Brand shirts, Adidas (which he pronounced ah-dEE-DAAAHS) with laces that appeared to be bleached and pressed – yet he was growing on me fast. They put me together with him as a creative team at the agency where I worked, he had arrived in this country just weeks ago and was rumored to be a creative genius which proved to be true within the first hour of working together. He was a goldmine of brilliant out-of-the-box ideas.

No matter how horrible the assignment (we were quickly put on a big pharma pitch) he would make it fun and challenging. He raised the bar on creative ideas and I was challenging myself to jump higher with each new challenge, whether it was a radio spot that would run 10 times, or a crappy coupon ad, Bernhard said it had to be at “that level”.

He was a boarding school boy from a family of aristocrats – complete with a trust fund and a Rolex watch that he would let me wear like a boyfriend watch. He broke it off with his girlfriend of ten years when he came here to America and was staying with his good friends here, Michael and Sarah. There was never a dull moment with Bernhard, he would breeze in around 11 and say with his clipped staccato cadence, “So. My. Love. What. Will. We. Do. Today!!” We would have some unseemly assignment, but whatever it was, with Bernhard had to make it great, “The. Great. Idea. Will. Not. Happen. In. This. Shit. Office.” And with a, “Lunch?” he would whisk me off in a cab to some fancy eatery where we would work, drink, and eat crab cakes. Then it was back in a cab to the West Village to this little favorite record shop of his to buy LP’s of the latest dance beats, he was a huge fan and DJ hobbyist to add to his joie de vivre cred. Then it was off for two scoops of the best ice cream in the city, Bernhard had been here but a couple of months, but he was showing me a New York I had only seen in movies. He had a passion for the business combined with a real distaste for the office – so much so that my manager left me a voicemail one afternoon, “it would be nice if you two could occasionally stop by the agency,” but it was all good; we were hitting it out of the park – Bernhard was the best partner I’d ever had. And I was falling for him hard.

Bernhard and I spent breakfast, lunch, and dinner together – but the weekends were saved for his roommates, Michael and Sarah, to whom he seemed incredibly close. Bernhard would sneak out early on Fridays, “I’m. Going. With. Michael. And. Sarah. To. The. Hamptons. Soo. Lovely.” But I would dearly miss him over the weekend, we were glued at the hip Monday through Friday but weekends he would never so much as pick up his phone. One Friday afternoon he was packing up his man bag in a hurry so I asked, “Hey, Bernhard, maybe Michael and Sarah would like a weekend to themselves.” “What!,” he rolled his head in joy, “They. Love. Me. We. Have. Too. Much. Fun,” and he’d be off with a kiss. A few more weeks went by, I had more and more portfolio pieces for my book – Bernhard was the best thing to happen to me in the ad business – he was a great hugger, would hold my hand in cab rides to expensive restaurants, I was a goner. There was just this business about Michael and Sarah.

It was a crisp Fall Monday morning, Bernhard appeared at my office door, “Hey. Bay. Bee. Let’s. Rock.” We strolled over to Bryant Park, it was chilly, and Bernhard took off his 300 dollar Diesel Jacket and put it over my shoulders. “Come. Sit. Let’s. Talk.,” he led me over to two open seats on the lawn, “So. I. Have. Something. To. Tell. You.,” I couldn’t imagine, did he have a girlfriend, a wife and kids somewhere, what was with the lost weekends. He held my hand, “You…Know… Michael. And. Sarah…,” he said in a slow staccato, “Well. There. Is. No. Sarah.” He went on, “And. Michael. And. I. Are. In. Looove.”

Bernhard was flying high with this news finally off his chest, he didn’t seem to notice that the color had drained from my face. He giddily explained that had been hetero his entire life, had met an English banker 25 years his senior at a restaurant his first week in New York, Bernhard and he decided they were soul mates and had been together ever since. They were both well traveled, both spoke 5 languages, and had a passion for dancing and doing ecstasy until five in the morning. Bernhard had moved into Michael’s apartment and was living the gay life in NYC unbeknownst to his friends, family, and until five minutes ago, me. Bernhard popped out of his chair, grabbed both my hands and said, “Come! Come. See. Our. Beautiful. Home!” I had no time to process or protest, we were once again in a cab on the way to his Upper West Side homosexual soul mate love nest.

“I’m. So. Excited. To. Show. You. My. Dear,” he said, unlocking the door to the pre-war apartment that I’m sure his lover Michael snagged back in the day when he was young. There were fine English antiques everywhere, beautiful oriental rugs, and Robert Mapplethorpes on just about every inch of the walls. Expensive black and white prints, pristinely matted, professionally framed photos of naked twenty something men. Raw shots of men’s butt cheeks, men’s butt cheeks with horsewhips inserted in their anuses, men’s uncircumsized penises in bubble wrap. “Isn’t. This. Won. Der. Ful!” is wasn’t a question, I needed a glass of water. The kitchen was large and smelled like last night’s dinner although it was immaculate, save for a glass plate with white powder by the breadbox, “This. Weekends. Party. Favors,” Bernhard said with glee, the horse tranquilizer had a step-by-step preparation process, the men were proficient in the kitchen.

The cat was now out of the bag and now Bernhard’s felt he had a carte blanche to talk ad nauseum about Michael. He would describe their love making in graphic detail, how Michael had slowly broken Bernhard into homosexual lovemaking, Bernhard was the receiver. I lost my taste for crab cakes, the ten dollar glasses of wine, the trips to the little LP shop, it all took on a different flavor.

Our partnership was halted a couple of months after that, Bernhard had to find a better paying job, his partner Michael had quit his banking job, had “borrowed” most of Bernhard’s trust fund, and wanted to buy the apartment next door and break down the wall. Bernhard had become sole bread winner – and when I ran into him years later, we hailed a cab and had lunch at one of our old haunts. Bernhard had become a creative director at an agency who’s heyday had come and gone, he was on a terrible account forced to do terrible work to keep the client happy, he was now a slave to the big bucks, he had a whopping mortgage to pay, as well as having to throw Michael’s old lover some money now and again. He grumbled that Michael had to Get. Off. His. Ass. And get a job – he hadn’t lifted a finger since they day he walked away from Wall Street, I didn’t know the likelihood of that happening, I imagined that he was now well into his seventies. Bernhard still had his passion for club music, we strolled over to the little LP shop but it had gone out of business, then strolled a bit more before Bernhard said grumpily, “I have to get back to those fucking agency people,” his staccato now subdued, his job as a CD had sucked the life from him. I had been laid off from my agency job of 21 years - I was enjoying the farewell bag of money they had given me for signing the “I sign away all rights to sue your ass” agreement, life was good. I was seeing a mentally ill Physics professor who looked like Matt Damon who was keeping me on my toes by rarely showing up when he was supposed to and exhibiting borderline psychotic behavior when he did – his hairless gym body, Mensa-sharp wit, and calling me “baby” like he meant it was still gaining him access to my crib for the time being. “You. Are. Fucked. Up. Like. All. Single. Woman. In. New. York.,” Bernhard said with a window of staccato before giving me one of his world-class hugs and hopping in a cab; I didn’t know if I would ever see him again. He seemed so different, he’d gained 40 pounds, soured on the business, bitched about his spouse – he was pretty much like all the other beaten down ad hacks who had seen better days. But Bernhard had turned me on to great work, great food, and repetitive disco beats. He showed me how screwing around is fuel for the creative process and let me feel the cock ring through his slim Euro-jeans one day in the client’s lobby. Bernhard was one-of-a-kind and I had loved him back then, that was until the day we took a walk to Bryant Park, the day my whirlwind tour of New York took an abrupt left turn and there would be no turning back.

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