Wednesday, October 03, 2001

We met in the park on Monday. Thirty minutes in the park that has to satiate a week of longing supplemented only by a daily diet of very brief phone calls, a blizzard of cell phone instant messages, and a constant stream of letters and cards that I send to carry on a one-sided conversation when she is not available to participate. Sometimes a state must be stoically endured rather than chosen.

It is a beautiful park, an artificial oasis above a parking garage on the upper West Side, the only indication of its rooftop location the strange dimples of earth in which each tree is perched; required, I assume, to permit the tree’s roots the necessary depth of soil above the roof below. I look through the dirt and picture their roots splayed out over what is probably a concrete roof, confounded in their natural efforts to go deeper. It is fortunate that the surrounding range of tall-peaked buildings shield the tree’s leafy heads from the severity of the wind.

With trees and flowers and sculpture (and the sound of the traffic below muted by the combined height and thick shrubbery surrounding its perimeter) it is a peaceful and hidden respite from the bustling sidewalks below; no one to bump into and no one that we know to see.

We come here often. We sit on a bench and hold hands and kiss, and if we have time, we talk. If no one is too near (by her standard, not mine) she will, often without realizing it, grope me (leaving me aroused and unable to stand without drawing unwelcome attention). Occasionally she indulges me and poses on a stone pillar not-yet-furnished with a statue so that I may obtain a photograph, an image to get me through the week to follow. She stands up there with her back arched, her arms upraised, and on her face a smile that simultaneously recognizes and revels in the absurdity of the pose.

She is lovely, optimistic and capable, smart and funny, secure enough to be happy, fun when she’s not sad (which is most of the time), heart wrenching when she is, and beautiful either way.

Today she is uncharacteristically soft and muted and quiet. Mostly we just sit and hold each other, all too aware of how brief this visit will be. But, for a few moments that come back to me whenever I close my eyes, she stands facing me with my hands on her hips and hers on my shoulders, her lips pursed as she looks into my eyes. I caress the soft skin of her back, lay my cheek against her belly, and then, too briefly, cup her perfect left breast with my right hand, safely hiding my touch from the view of passersby by the length of her coat.

From this brief moment of intimacy her body will entrance me for a week. I will lie in bed at night with my eyes closed and her voice still in my ears while my hands rest on her tiny waist, held in place against the force of gravity by the curve of her hips. That moment will seed my dreams; I pull her to me and kiss her stomach…

Time’s up, she has to go. We both feel like crying but we hide it well; neither of us wants to sadden the other. We make do with a prolonged and close embrace, our bodies pressed together along their entire length, a tender kiss, and a few longing and deeply felt “I love you’s.”

I watch her recede from the view out the back window of my cab (that she hailed for me) and then call her on my cell phone to soften the blow of the separation. First her touch, then the sight of her, and now her voice parts company with me to the usual refrain of “Well Darling, I’m in the lobby of my building. I love you. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

Thirty minutes. It went by so quickly, but her husband expects her home.