Leaning against a cement support beam in the atrium of the new Whitney, opening weekend, facing the door, as hundreds of tourists wrapped in puffy winter coats stream past and toward the registers behind me, parting and coming together like river water around a rock, and checking my watch, then my phone, and adding three minutes to the 12 she’s already late because through the large front windows I can clearly see three minutes up the street and she isn’t on it.
Sitting on my hands in the theatre lobby, looking up whenever someone enters and hoping it’s her, and overhearing an old man near the door talk on his phone.
“He was,” he says, “the smartest person I ever knew who wasn’t a reincarnated being.”
On Atlantic, waiting in front of her building, where she’s told me there’s no need to come up because she’s on her way down, and having stood there for seven minutes when a Hasidic man approaches and asks if I’m Jewish.
“No, sorry,” I say, and realize it’s the first time I’ve ever lied about my religion, and that I’ve done it to a Jew, a Jew who immediately doesn’t care, and who’s off to ask another before he can register my surprise.
At a table for two in a restaurant she heard has good ramen, near the end of my third glass of water, the server already less attentive to refills, and my back to the door to curb how often I look, how often I think every approaching form is hers, and instead facing the two women three tables over, the movement of their lips enough to fill in the words I can’t hear clearly.
“That’s why our date night is always Thai,” she says. “Skylar can’t even step into a Thai restaurant. The air, he can’t breathe the air. He’s that allergic.”
Aimlessly pacing a Chelsea gallery while she goes to the bathroom one last time before we leave, and eavesdropping on a young couple, his right arm laid long across her shoulders, and his left conducting an orchestra as he shares his thoughts on the show.
“I’m not,” he says, “trying to present myself as someone who knows, but the whole thing feels a little like throwing water into the ocean.”
Watching a basketball game in the West Village, halfway through a slice, trying to stay aware of any vibrations in my pocket that’ll let me know she’s arrived to see the matinee at IFC across the street, and listening to an old man on my side of the fence make observations about no one in particular.
“Most of them only got nickels and dimes,” he says. “But this guy here is the whole dollar.”
Curled over half a beer in the Crown Heights bar where I’m supposed to meet her, my phone recently dead, the drinks from a birthday dinner still sitting inside me, and using everything I have not to pick at the paper boat of fries my neighbor left behind when the bartender, his button-down shirt unbuttoned to the belt, brings out a dog dish, fills it with Guinness, and slides it to the end of the bar where a man dressed like a dockworker lifts up his pug to join him for a drink.
In Washington Square, near the fountain, sporadically getting messages that say the trains are screwy and she’s on her way, and watching a man appease his superstitious girlfriend by walking across the park to knock on a wood bench when, finally, after what seems like longer than normal but is really just the same, she arrives, speed-walking across the square. She’s flustered, breathless, apologetic.
“I’m so, so sorry,” she says. “Were you waiting long? God, and you don’t even have a book.”