I wake up to a colossal headache. Correction. A toothache. In New York! You’re not supposed to get a toothache while on vacation. And you’re not supposed to have half of your face swell up so you look like you have an allergic reaction. Blast. And I have no hairspray or gel because of ‘plane safety issues’. I look bloated. At least half of me does. I pop some serious ibuprofen and hope this is just a momentary toothache and not, say, cause for a root canal.
I need coffee. I throw on a 1980’s type floppy shirt over my yoga pants. One thing I love about New York is you can look swollen, puffy, and crazy in your yoga pants and 80’s t-shirt and NO ONE CARES.
Out the door of my hotel, there are all these trucks. Wait a minute…not trucks. Production vehicles. They’re shooting a film on my block. (I call it my block even though it’s mine for only twenty four hours.) I’m hoping a casting agent will see me and maybe put me in the film as a Crazy Cat Lady. I have the hair and face to prove it. I just need the cats. And a wool coat. And then it’s off in search of coffee….which I find at The Hot and Crusty. I’m not kidding you. It’s a deli called The Hot and Crusty…and it’s incredible. Eggs, toast, hash-browns and coffee for $4.65, and the guys behind the deli will flirt with you for free.
I don’t look flirt-able right now. Although, someone reminded me (Biff) that women hit their sexual peak in their late 30’s. Maybe that’s why everywhere I go men are awfully nice to me. It’s either that or because I have big boobs.
My niece Caity and I check into our next hotel, the Hilton in Times Square. Compared to our first night in the city, this place is gigantic. My brother booked the room for us using his super-important-VIP status. They let us check into the hotel three hours early. I think they would’ve given me a foot rub if I asked.
Then we explore Times Square a bit. There are people everywhere: most of them are obviously tourists. Caity and I try to blend in with local New Yorkers by walking really fast and looking mildly grumpy. It works.
We discover Bryant Park on our hunt for a sandwich and are smitten. The foodie in me emerges because I want to take pictures of all the delis and the buffets. Keeping my niece’s tender self-esteem in mind, I refrain, but it takes a lot to do so.
We shop at H&M. It’s a flashback to 1984 and I find that I am actually supportive of this. I mean, come on, paint splattered shirts are fun. It’s like “Look at me! I’m wearing paint splatters!” I like the oversized droopy shirts, the belts, the crazy patterns. I try to remember that I’m 37 and not 17 and that I really probably shouldn’t tease my hair again and wear rubber shoes and bangly bracelets and a Like A Virgin shirt. (Although secretly I really like the idea of being a mom with two kids wearing a Like A Virgin shirt. Something about that is very appealing.)
At 4:00 I get a call from my old boyfriend. He says “Hello, darlin’. How are you doing?” His voice is soft and low and I can hear him smiling when he talks to me. We decide that drinks are still on so I get dressed. Caity tells me what to wear. The long sundress I love is a big No. “You look like a soccer mom taking the kids on an outing.”
“But I have cleavage!” I say.
“Tanya, moms have cleavage too. They feed babies.”
Ah. So I try on a new dress I bought at Filene’s Basement. It’s short and tight and again, my boobs are enormous. I’m having Boob Paranoia. I can’t do that dress. I’ll wear that dress when I’m out with Biff. But not for an ex. So I put on a cute wraparound blue dress where the cleavage is easy. I mean classy. I was slipping into the Summertime song there. I apologize.
The bar we meet at is called the Vanderbar, on 45th (I think) and Vanderbuilt. I get there early and sit by an open window. They have the air blasting so you get the benefit of open windows without sweating. New York is smart that way. I order a drink. A martini made with blackberry vodka with real berry bits. I don’t like how the term ‘berry bits’ sounds…sort of like something exploded. The drink, though, is good.
I watch men walking by the window, into the bar. They’re in suits and I have a surreal moment where I look around for Christian Bale thinking I’ve slipped onto the set of American Psycho.
My old boyfriend…let’s call him Harrison (with a nod to Harrison Ford though my ex doesn’t look like him at all) texts me and says he’ll be there in five minutes.
I try to relax and I find that I do. I also slip back into 2001 when I met Harrison. We met online and our first date lasted 8 hours. We went to restaurants and bars and kissed in a bar surrounded by hundreds of people. Our relationship was easy and intense and I loved him. After September 11th, the city was so depressed, especially that first Christmas. I had no money and no family. I wanted a Christmas tree but couldn’t afford one so I drew a picture of one on a grocery bag, colored it and decorated it. I taped it to the wall and there was one present under it, a quilt I’d made for him. We spent Christmas together walking through the night to Central Park. There was a light snow and the world was draped in stars and Christmas lights. And menorahs too, of course.
A couple months later Harrison broke up with me. He said it was the timing and that “It’s not you, Tanya, it’s me.” I didn’t understand. I thought I’d found the One. I felt totally used and like I didn’t matter. All part of why I moved back home.
I think of this waiting for him. When he enters the bar we look at each other and we smile. He looks the same. Exactly the same. He’s married now with two kids and one on the way and he’s the kind of guy that is just plain comfortable to be with. We sit and talk and drink and laugh. He brings up the past. He says “You know, I’ve often thought about you and wondered what would have happened if we met a year later. I was just in a really difficult time in my life and I wasn’t ready.”
I get teary then because what he’s said is a gift to me. I didn’t imagine a connection; it was really there, and I mattered to him. And now, after being divorced, I understand what he means. It really was the timing. We talk about our lives and kids. I talk about my divorce and Biff. We toast to old times at another bar and then say our goodbyes.
I walk by myself through the streets of New York and I find that a little part of my heart has just healed.
I meet my niece at American Idiot and we see a show together. We spend the rest of the night walking around together and laughing. We eat Tasti D-Lite in Times Square.