“The baby on the plane was so cute that I literally ovulated. An egg just like went, pee-yaow.”
Let me introduce you to my friend June.
June is the very cool, relaxed, animal-loving, pseudo-hippie, nicest-girl-on earth whom I’ve known for the past 10-plus years through high school. She is the girl who calls from the west once every two months to get the scoop on my life. In high school, the first time I tasted freedom, June was there to make the trip a little extra spontaneous and fun. (And yes, apparently, when she is hugged by babies on planes, she ovulates instantly.) In my mind, I wish I had that sort of free spirit that she has, paired with the right amount of bravery too.
I’ve been promising for years to see June in Vegas, and she in turn, promised to see me in New York. She beat me to booking the flight, and had planned on a weekend in the city with her older sister. I would play tour guide. But unlike most of my visiting friends who have scroll-length lists of plans, June just wanted to take in the city and see what it had to show her. A simple reminder of why I like her so much, she makes me relax. She is the essence of chill.
On Saturday I had lunch with L. at Commune, and then met June and her sister at their hotel. We had early dinner in Hell’s Kitchen. I followed them back to the hotel so that they could change for our big New York night out.
The ritual of getting ready to go out amuses me. How we fuss over similar shoes, or the minor wave of a hair in front of an eye, and presence of a bulge or inconsistency. Oh, how it all must be exactly right. We talked about gray hairs, fat bulges, boobs, you name it, and I was fond of the girl talk. Though, I had my limitations on gussying up as I was already far from my apartment and lazily dressed. I knew we likely wouldn’t meet anyone new, but I was wrong.
I promised myself that evening I would keep it simple. A few drinks at my favorite spot.
We eased into the lounge seats at the bar around 9 pm (this particular bar is beautifully designed, and has floor-to-ceiling views of the city from the fourth floor). I asked the waitress why my favorite drink had disappeared off the menu, but she said she’d make it for me, regardless. As per normal when I’m drinking a cocktail, I spilled all my secrets in the first hour, ordered another drink in the second hour, and in the last, swore off alcohol for life.
We danced when the DJ came, and somehow ended up at a birthday party table with a bunch of new faces. The birthday boy, a jaded New York born real estate developer, shook my hand and rolled his eyes at the celebration (and most likely at us). His friends tried to chat June and I up. One of them, a painter, sat beside me. After as many first-dates as I’ve had in the past few months, I’m easily impatient with “getting to know you” talk (if I have to tell another person where I’m from, how long I’ve lived in New York, and what I do for a living I might burst another blood vessel), so we switched quickly to his occupation, as an artist.
“Do you like art?” he asked.
Goodness, my art conversation after two drinks is laughable, in retrospect. I rattled off a list of artists I liked – Balthus, Kline, Baldessari.
“What medium do you work in?” I asked. “Oils? Watercolors?”
Did I really just ask “watercolors” to a 20-something New York artist?
“Acrylics,” he said. We kept talking till we were ready to leave, and as I was helping my friends into the cab outside the bar, he stood on the corner with his friends.
“Ariel, if it is not too soon to say, I think I’m in love with you,” he yelled to me.
For the first time, I was speechless. I just looked over my shoulder at him.
“Uh, maybe…” I trailed off; the rug pulled under my feet.
The following day I woke up bit exhausted, but brunch was scheduled downtown with an additional friend of June’s who lived in New Jersey. This now made our group a party of four. I dressed down as much as possible, a white linen shirt, my favorite cardigan made of terry (so casual it was last worn over a bathing suit), leggings and boots. We landed at Tartine in the early afternoon. It was my first time dining there. It’s a small space on a corner in West Village but the food was phenomenal, the atmosphere intimate and retro.
I wanted to show them The Highline, even though it wasn’t the right day for it. New York was having cold, drizzly days with high winds. Despite this, and a lack of real plans, I took them anyway. In good weather it’s crowded and active, but in the rain it was empty and easy to navigate. We walked it in record time, and ducked into Chelsea Market to warm up with hot chocolate. The four of us were prone to very gendered conversation: life, love, gushing over newborns, bathroom humor -- lots of laughter, too.
We did a stroll in midtown, and I took June to Carnegie Hall because she’s a fellow music buff. By that time we were ready for meal number two. Everyone wanted good Italian food and I knew the perfect place, Osteria al Dodge (adjacent to the bright lights of Times Square). But I could feel a sadness in my chest through the meal, Sunday night was ending, the evening was growing late. It was time to say goodbye. In the rain, in the heart of Times Square, we parted. I watched her figure getting further away. The comfort of seeing an old face in a city of new things drifting away with her.