Ny life is a Woody Allen movie. There's a woman I've had a crush on for 15 years. For 13 of those years, I was too awed to carry on a conversation with this person. She's dark, exotic-looking in a Semitic way (my mom would be happy). I'd call her stunning. She's lived in Europe, speaks foreign languages, has had rich husbands and, I fantasize, interesting lovers, probably French. We ran in parallel social circles, but whenever I was in her presence, I was dry mouthed, tongue-tied, and clumsy. I usually tried to keep quiet. I was totally intimidated. I was not worthy.
If life after high school imitates high-school, then Sweetish Hill is the cafeteria. Except, instead of buying chocolate milk and Twinkies, it's mocha decaf latte, skim milk. The popular grown-ups sit at big tables with all their friends. The rest of us mill about trying to locate our one pal. Rachel (definitely not her real name) knows everybody at Sweetish Hill. She's a very popular girl. In high school, she would have never considered speaking to me.
One morning, not long ago, I'm sitting there trying not to look self-conscious when Rachel sits down with me. Startled, my right knee jerked spilling half my scalding coffee over the small table and onto her dusky, soft knee. Even with a potentially humiliating scene in progress, I felt under control. As I was making a small bon mot - she knows French, remember - and cleaning up, I knocked half her muffin off the table. God.
In spite of this spectacle, Rachel, after we cleaned up the mess and moved to a safer spot, said, "Hey, let's go for a bike ride sometime." I have a bike worth about $10,000 hanging in my garage, bought some years ago. A bike friend said I "had" to have this bike. It's been dangling from this cool yellow hook, untouched, for at least two years. Still, I didn't hesitate. Yes, certainly, bike ride, absolutely! Of course, I would have gladly said yes to a trip to the Ranger Museum or the Snake Farm. Yes, indeed. A bike ride sounded outstanding.
So, it's the morning of the ride. As always, I'm late. I know the tire is flat. No problem; I'll just fill it on the way into town. Unexpectedly, instead of the tire filling with air, it totally deflated. I don't know why. It's a high-tech bike. I'm now 30 minutes late and I don't know her phone number. I rush back home and pick up two extra tires. I pull up at Rachel's house, filled with apologies and splattered in black grease and bike dirt, one hour late.
I'll spare you most of the tire change details. By some miracle, after mighty labor, I got both tires on... except now the brakes won't close. Shitshitshitfuck! I'm covered in sweat, smeared with grease. It's now 10am. Rachel, dressed all in white, wisely keeps her distance. By now, I'm obsessed. I have to fix the fucking bike. What are the chances Rachel will have an Allen wrench? Exactly. "I'll be right back," I tell my bike date. "They must have one at the gas station." It was closed. So was the bike shop. Forty-five minutes later I return, totally and utterly defeated. "Maybe," I suggest, "we should go for a walk."
My nose began to bleed as we crossed the First Street Bridge. I'd had a bad summer cold. After blowing my nose for a week straight this sometimes happens. But why now? I tried to be cool. By this time, really almost impossible. I hoped it would stop. Please God, make it stop. It didn't. I guess he was busy - it was Sunday - or having too much damn fun watching the fiasco he'd planned for me. Anyway, by the time we got across the bridge, my arm's covered with blood and black grease. We had no Kleenex. Rachel was at once concerned and mortified. Concerned something was really wrong, mortified she'd run into anyone she knew. A flawless Jewish girl reaction.
Considering the events of the morning, we were both acting remarkably composed. She, cheerful and calm. Me, upbeat and lucid. This bloody, filthy, sweaty person between us was just an unfortunate old friend, a bit down on his luck. Best not to stare at him. We went back to her house, stopped the hemorrhaging and cleaned up a bit. I survived the chaos of the morning with no coffee. I suggested we walk over to Sweetish Hill. She was, justifiably, uncertain. "Are you sure you're okay?" "Oh, yeah," I said. "Coffee would be great!"
When my nose really began bleeding there was, alas, no place to hide. We're at one of the small outdoor tables. Rachel knows everybody. They were all there this morning. They approached our tiny green table. Rachel was still trying to be polite and introduce me to her friends. My head is tipped back, napkins stuffed in my nose. Her friends tried very, very hard not to look at me.
I figured out how to fix the bike within minutes of returning to the pressure-free environment of home. My damn nose didn't bleed again. We talked about going to a movie sometime. I haven't heard from her since. n
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