Friday, April 25, 2008


When I first met G______, we went out for a secret rendez-vous, even though we weren’t aiming (or headed) for a romantic relationship. There was undoubtedly an attraction of some sort, and even a certain urgency to tête a tête, either of which would have surely had our respective girlfriends jealous. But perhaps more to the point, there was already an unfettered joy between us, one that was lacking in our very fettered home relationships, neither of which lasted overmuch longer. G_____ and I were both lovers of meetings, secret or otherwise, we both believed in friendships, and we both liked strangers, the stranger the better.

I knew G______’s face from the bookshop, just one of the many regular customers I’d seen over the years. Then suddenly I saw him twice one week: once before--and once after—I’d shorn all but a quarter inch of my very-long dark hair. He stopped short on his way out the door. “Wait, didn’t you used to---?” “Yeah,” I said.

The third time that week was the time we actually met. I was in yet another hairdo—a tall red wig, part of a costume in which I was reading from my first novel. G______ had innocently come into a bookshop to browse (a different bookshop now; Brooklyn, not Manhattan) and felt “caught” upon finding himself at a modestly-attended reading. He stayed, then liked what he heard. But as the reading ended and the Q and A began, he started to take his first chance to bolt. “Wait!” I called. “Don’t you recognize me?” (My costume consisted of details like 4-inch heels, a gold-lame mini-dress, pancake makeup and redrawn eyebrows; in my normal life I tended to wear Levi’s and soccer shoes.) “Yeeee…not exactly,” G_____ replied. “I work at _________, I’m the girl who just cut all her hair off.” “Oh!” he said very convincingly, though months later he would admit that he'd had no idea what I was talking about.

G_______ was a recovering alcoholic at least a decade older than me; he was a poet who’d been writing a few decades longer than me. For our rendez-vous he took me to a bar he knew in Brooklyn and we walked straight through to the backyard, one of those unexpected urban spaces with quiet, flowers, pebbles, and privacy. We sat on wrought iron benches and were prepared to order seltzer waters should a waitress come around; none did. We talked and talked, about writing mostly, and life, and the city; we laughed easily; we forgot our home troubles.

After a few undisturbed hours, we left the backyard sanctuary and G_________ walked me most of the way home, one neighborhood over.

When we parted on a corner near my house, G________ told me definitively, “You should keep writing.” Then as he started to walk down Manhattan Avenue the way we'd just come, he paused and turned around again; added, “If I don’t write every day, I just feel bad.”

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