It’s too soon, I thought inching my way closer to Bryant Park. Why meet at this park, near this time of the year, when everyone is overflowing with warmth and rosy cheeks? It hasn’t been long enough for me to recover, why am I doing this?
I heard my heels against the pavement and felt my phone vibrating in my pocket — the emails could wait, it was time to face him. I made the decision to go here, I willingly agreed to be on time and bring my best self, and I needed a few moments before walking up the steps. You can do this. You were made to do this. You are beautiful and strong, there is no reason why you can’t smile when you see him. Breathe Lindsay, breathe, I encouraged myself as I turned my head, black-and-red umbrella in hand and caught a glimpse of him. I gasped as my heart sank and then exhaled when I felt the tension break.
He looks great. He looks happy and fresh, shining as brightly as a freshly-pressed suit from Bloomies. Is it possible he looks kinder? Did I never notice that sweetness in his eyes before? Goodness, after all this time, you’d think I would have. I approached him carefully, cursing myself for wearing heels on a rainy day when I just shelled out for a lovely pair of Michael Kors boots that would have been perfect — but I needed to look gorgeous on this night. I had to feel like a better version of myself, I needed to let the parts that weren’t fragile or mending highlight my energy. The first words were awkward and I found myself cautiously grinning, uncomfortable with my choice concerning this encounter. He was understanding of my hesitation and led me through the park gently, as pop-up store clerks greeted me with weary grins on this rainy night. Weather suitable for how I feel, I thought.
But he was different tonight and I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. Perhaps he was calmer or more collected, less frantic and more together. He was gracious to the tourist, but had the same attitude about him that I first fell in love with. We didn’t talk much as we walked, but rather we observed this park that we mutually adored — both for its beauty and for the memories it brings. For each of us, I think, the visions of those little tables and waving trees in summer and winter, fall and spring, are as brilliant as they are bittersweet, but that’s what relationships weather, seasons of change.
After some wandering through escalating water sprawled on the sidewalks, we decided to do something that’s usually only reserved for drunken nights or moments of complete convenience and hunger: walk through Times Square. Without much to say and wanting to keep the pace quiet through a crowded place, we listened to Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin as we explored. He was a gentleman and led me through the least trafficked areas while being genial with my umbrella as winds whipped between building tops. With him by my side, even in his silence, I felt relaxed and peaceful, and I wondered why I had been so distant for so long. I couldn’t fight the urge to tell him how sorry I was for being cruel and cold, for not answering calls or listening to my desires because I feared how I would feel afterwards. I confessed that I had often thought of him in those lonely, empty hours inside of my apartment with no roommates around, with no one close by, and that I couldn’t count how many times I nearly hopped the subway to surprise him.
He returned the sentiments – telling of times when he wondered where I was or when I’d return to him. He reminded me of the home we built, the time we spent and the relationship we put so much effort into fostering. We talked about the good times – at that glorious Bryant Park and at Rockefeller Center, on the Highline, walking around Chelsea and the Village and discovering neighborhoods that I’d never known. As he spoke, I started to feel guilty for my absence and for those doubting thoughts – had he really been that bad? Was it his fault? Maybe I had been a little too harsh in this situation.
Before I could let my emotions get the best of me, I knew I needed to eat – only eating a salad and some cashews for 12-hours doesn’t do this gal’s body good. I offered to buy him pizza at the next 99 cent shop we passed and he gladly accepted the challenge of finding a no-name place in some corner of the wall of some street in the heart of Times Square. When we found it, I giggled at the cliché – here we were, making another impression on one another that neither would be able to forget. Maybe this was a bad idea after all, maybe it is too soon, I wondered as I waited on my mushroom-and-olive slice that definitely broke my new diet. I didn’t care though, I wanted to savor something I love, like pizza and of course, him.
As we walked under the umbrella, finishing our slices and approaching the train, I wondered if this was where the story would end. A brave, brief rendezvous with so much communication, though no one could hear it but us. I craved to be with him more, but my feet hurt and my heart was reluctant to continue an affair that I knew could be difficult to endure. I had allowed him to break my heart before, I had shunned him and been less than forgiving – would anything really change if I kept seeing him? Or maybe I’ve just been listening to all the wrong voices, all the wrong advice, and letting all the wrong people into the places and relationships I value the most.
And then, he wanted to walk me to my door. Considering that required a ride uptown, I questioned his motives. He promised not to come up because surely, he couldn’t – but he just wasn’t ready for the night to end. I was uncertain if the magic of the evening could continue past Central Park, but something inside begged me to take the chance. And so, we caught the train. We read New York magazine and he glowed at the several articles about himself – still arrogant, I thought. Approaching my stop, a warrior for the homeless entered the doors, offering warm food and crackers to those without raincoats or cheese-and-dough filled bellies, a meal for the evening. I thought it was kind until I heard him say he was homeless too, and then I found it inspiring. Without consideration, we gave change and admired the giving and concerned faces of those across from us. The splendor of the season reflected off of their faces and came out as pennies of hope from their pockets.
When the doors opened and we turned our faces up to greet raindrops, we found there were none. I put away my umbrella and walked as slowly as I could, though inside my toes were pinching in their soggy soles. There wasn’t much left to say as we stood in front of my doorway, except for promises to be made. I swore to not let anything come between us again and he swore to continue to give me evenings like this one. I promised to be more forgiving and allow him back into my life, even if I was afraid, and he promised he would always be there, no matter what happened. There was no kiss or hug, just a mutual sense of relief and that undesirable feeling of peace that only he can bring to my soul.
It really had been too long and yet, maybe it was too soon, I concluded as I pushed the 7th floor button. But really, I could never have let Mr. P come between me and him–my New York–for long. Cheap dollar pizza and Bryant Park? My first love has always been this place — and it was time to stop letting memories have anything to do with guys I’ve dated, and let them be about the man, the city, that first stole my heart.