Lilly O’Donnell at the bar in the East Village. (Courtesy of Lilly O’Donnell)

We asked you to share your stories of summer romance — the good, the bad and the memorable. Tell us yours here, and we’ll publish the best on Solo-ish. 

The summer I turned 20, I was drinking a Long Island iced tea in a bar in the East Village when a slender, dark-haired guy about my age asked me, in an Irish accent, what there was to do in the neighborhood. He’d just arrived in town with his girlfriend and two friends, and they were “at a loss.” I was, too, as he looked at me expectantly with big blue eyes and a sly smile that said he knew I was pretending I hadn’t heard the word “girlfriend.”

“I’ll show you,” I said, trying my best to sound alluring. Over the next two weeks I took them to my favorite bars in the neighborhood and to a free Sonic Youth concert in Battery Park. I shared every tip and trick I could think of, in the spirit of travel and youth. But mostly I did it for those bright blue eyes.

I liked showing off my city, but I doubt I would’ve kept it up if not for the close-talking conversations I had with this guy, our attention focused on each other as we argued about books and art in ways no other guy I’d met in a bar had been able to, making each other laugh and ignoring his crew to a degree his girlfriend must’ve noticed.

One night when we were at a bar in the Lower East Side, drinking mojitos by the pitcher, he and I found ourselves separated from the group, waiting together in the bathroom line. He looked right at me — those damned eyes again — and told me he thought I was “lovely,” in his brogue. Suddenly we were in the bathroom together, making out with my back, protected only by spaghetti straps, pressed up against the filthy, graffiti-covered wall.

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When we remembered where and who we were, straightened our clothes and stepped out of the bathroom, his girlfriend was there, waiting in line. She didn’t say anything; we didn’t either. I felt bad, but not that bad.

Then their vacation ended, and they left. We kept in sporadic touch over Facebook for the next few years, but mostly he just existed in my imagination, where I turned him into the perfect guy. No matter how slim the pickings were here in New York, how badly various flings ended, there was always a smart, sexy guy on the other side of the ocean who thought I was lovely. And maybe someday he’d be here, or I’d be there. We’d only kissed once, in a bar bathroom, but he became the embodiment of my hope for a good man, a hope that persisted no matter how many drunken hook-ups tried to crush it.

I eventually did find my perfect man, a different one, but I don’t know if I would have recognized him if I hadn’t had kept the hope alive all those years with the memory of one drunken, shameful kiss and the word “lovely.”

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