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A light snow fell on Lincoln Center. He had said he would meet her there, but had not specified where, precisely, in the complex of buildings.
That figure standing under the overhang at the entrance of the New York State Theater. Surely it was Evan looking for her in the snow—yes! She felt a sudden rush. Even at this distance she could sense his solid shoulders, built-up and strong from backpacking, she suspected, and those warm, big hands. She remembered how solid his handshake was—and how busy she was trying to deny how much she liked it. He looked dapper walking toward her in a steel-grey overcoat with a red scarf tossed around his neck. And hiking boots. The guy’s the Marlboro Man! He obviously planned to take her somewhere. Good. She was glad she had dressed up in her city clothes—cream-colored turtleneck, long navy wool skirt, black boots with a little heel. And her favorite pale lavender down jacket. Not elegant, exactly, but very much her. In it, with its silken silvery sheen, she felt she could go pretty much anywhere.
Good Lord. He was carrying flowers. Yellow roses. Whatever for? Surely he didn’t expect her to lug them around New York.
He had spotted her. She saw him take one giant step forward, stop, then come toward her at a fast, steady pace, his eyes as blue as she remembered, his shy smile vaguely ironic. Now he was beside her, panting like a sprinter, his exhales creating smoke-like puffs in the frigid air, holding his arms out as if welcoming her to fall into them, then pulling one arm back and, with the other, thrusting the flowers at her like a schoolboy.
“But I’ve no place to put them,” she said. “I’m at a hotel, going back tomorrow. And I don’t want to carry—”
“Oh, they’re not for keeping, they’re a talisman. To make sure you’d come. They’ve served their purpose—we can throw them away.”
The guy was fun. The last time she’d had fun, it struck her, was when she was ten. Before the lessons and the toe shoes and the hopes and dreams and . . . Laddie. Dance was many things, most of them soul sustaining, but she would not call it fun. Not for her, anyway.
“That all right with you?”
“Anything,” she said. Then, lowering her head, “Sorry. I wasn’t listening.”
He gave her a look. “That’s a world’s record. People often stop listening to me, but generally they give it at least one minute.”
A snowflake seemed to sizzle on her nose. “It’s just a bit strange,” she said. “You and the flowers and—”
He looked at her with that same intensity she remembered from the first night. “And what?”
“I don’t know exactly why I’m here.”
“To finish last night’s discussion. To breathe in this snowy night together. To get to know each other.”
“Do you think we could get to know each other someplace out of the cold?”
He took her arm. She could feel the heat of his hand through the cloth. “That’s just what I was suggesting when you tuned me out. I thought we could go to the Russian Tea Room, a few blocks down from here. I’ve heard it’s where dancers go. But then you know that.”
“Well, yeah, but it’s been years.”
He increased the pressure on her arm, and they were off, walking quickly cross 65th Street to the east side of Broadway.
She let herself be led, feeling like a neophyte mountain climber roped to an experienced guide. There was danger in their expedition, she knew. The chance of avalanche.
Not looking up she said, “So, what, are you a florist?”
“An anthologist. I’m here in New York to complete a book on the world’s greatest love letters. Yes, really. It isn’t my project. I inherited it from another anthologist, who recently died. I’m nervous because it’s due in a month. And the hardest part is this introduction I have to write, which could take God knows how much longer.”
“Have you done other books?”
“One on American antique furniture, another on 1930s movies, the most recent on the Civil War. I was about to do one on cars, vintage cars, but then was called into action on the letters.”
“You like this new one?”
“Yeah, I do. I can’t get over how passionate, open, unprotected people can be with each other. As Dr. Johnson put it, ‘In a man’s letters, madam, his soul lies naked.’”
“Ah, words again!”
He looked at her. “I like other things besides words.”
“The outdoors. You know—hiking, kayaking. And cars. Porsches, really. Going to the racetrack. Last year I went to Laguna Seca to celebrate with other pals from the Three-fifty-six Registry . . . ”
“Three fifty-six what?”
“Sorry, my car. A 1950 356 Cabriolet. A rare, redone rig. The registry is a bunch of people who have the same car. We meet from time to time. It’s called a holiday.”
She envisioned her own dented and rusted-out Ford F250 pickup, probably snowed under, its battery surely dead. To own a Porsche in her neck of the woods and at this time of year would be ridiculous; it wouldn’t get out of anyone’s driveway. To see one on the roads would be tantamount to a UFO sighting.
Evan squeezed her arm, bringing her back to New York City, to this first date in one of her old haunts. She remembered the words of her friend Luann, whose commentaries on the world of dating—about which she seemed to know plenty—thrilled Eve. “I’m 40, have been with dozens of men, but have never been asked out on a real date,” she’d recently confided. They’d both howled at the revelation. But neither, in fact, had Eve. She squeezed his arm back, noticing yet again the patrician profile and those deep weathered lines around his eyes, etching their way down to his cheeks. Snow wet her lips.
At the corner of 62nd street and Broadway, he took the flowers from her hand and one by one tossed them into a trash bin. She watched them, transfixed. Yellow roses, like lighted candles falling through the snow. They landed on old newspapers, crumpled brown bags, someone’s unwanted letters, and made them all beautiful.
Copyright © 2012 by Dalma Heyn and Richard Marek
Published by Armory New Media