A springtime romantic comedy.
| Cupids Arrow
Inside Harvey’s bar and grill, with its full, wide window, patrons sit, talking to each other, looking out onto the first spring evening. The strong wind blew the large fluffy snowflakes in a northern direction. Cold enough for the snow to stick to the cars; but the traffic, driven and walking, prevented it from accumulating on the ground. Cold, wet, at odds with the first day of spring, in the middle of the week. It made no difference. New Yorkers go out.
He opened the heavy wood door, the outside chill invaded the bar, some of the patrons stiffen, stop their conversation, and turn to see the who was coming or going.
He smiled, looking at the large screen above the bar. The Rangers were winning again. He started to the empty bar seat that sat below and forwards of the screen, next to an attractive pretty auburn-haired woman. He was not sure what he would say to her when he got there.
The bar was crowded. It usually was, at this time of the day. Some were there to watch the game with their friends. Some to listen to the folk group playing around the bend of the bar. Most just to party.
He passed the bar every day, walking from his classes at New York University to his apartment on Mercer St. Like a kid looking into the window of a toy store, he would pass by Harvey’s Bar and Grill, look into the large window at the party that always seemed to be going in inside, and continue to walk to his apartment. His roommate for the past 2 years, Bryan, regularly teased him about not going in.
"It's just another bar. I go in there all the time. Yeah, it's a little nicer than the school dives you keep going to, but when you get down to it, just another bar. Man up already and go in. Next year you’re going to be an assistant professor. Believe in yourself.”
Brian always believed in himself. Whoever set them up as roommates obviously was not paying attention to their profiles. One introverted, academically superior, history major. One outgoing, academically average, athletic, business major. One perfect roommate match. It was tough at the beginning, but two years later they are still best friends, still roommates.
He was not paying much attention to the crowd as he made his way through the crowded bar toward the empty seat. Looking down at the floor, rehearsing lines that never seemed to work he bumped into one of the well-dressed group, loudly celebrating in the middle of the bar.
“Hey you little nerd, you almost made me drop this drink on my suit. Watch where you’re going.”
“Sorry, my bad “He responded.
“Leave the kid alone, Bob. It was an accident. Besides he’s half your size”.
Bob stared down at the hand on his chest and then up at the hand's owner. "Mind your own business and keep your hands off me, Jim. We’re here celebrating my promotion. That does not mean we’re friends.” Bob turned his attention back to him, as Pete removed his hand.
“Get lost nerd, I’m partying here.”
He shrugged his shoulders in false bravado and proceeded to the still empty seat at the bar. He noticed that the auburn-haired woman was turning back, to face the bar, after watching his brief confrontation.
“Bar stool with a back. That is nice” He said to no one in particular. The woman next to the empty seat smiled. Not an inviting smile, a knowing smile.
Around the bend of the long wooden bar, the three-piece folk/ rock band was playing Niels Young's, Oh Suzanna. They were loud enough, and the acoustics of the room was good enough, to be heard clearly without impeding the ongoing conversations. They were good enough that some of the patrons, sitting closer to the group, on large pillowed benches, were actually listening.
"What are you drinking tonight," the bartender asked him as if he was a regular.
“I’ll keep it simple, Jack and Coke.”
He looked back at the loud, celebrating businessmen while waiting for his drink.
“Do you expect me to talk to your back, is this how you always make new friends,” she asked.
“I read about it in a sales book once. I added the crossing my fingers in front of me. I am still trying to figure out why it hasn’t worked yet”
“Maybe you need to turn around and face your prey at some point,” she suggested.
He turned and faced her, holding up his still crossed fingers front of him. “That may have been in the next chapter. I still haven’t gotten that far”. She tilted her head, raised her eyebrows and twisted her lips into a mock frown. He tried to keep a straight face but ended up laughing out loud. “I never could do a believable straight face.” She started to laugh and Bob turned to see what the commotion was.
“I really did read that in a book”, he said as he stopped laughing. “I never tried it before. I turned around because I wanted to think of something to say, and I didn’t want to just stare at you like an idiot while I thought about it.”
They both started laughing again, louder, which made people pay attention to them
“Hey, bartender give me what their drinking”, Bob shouted out to the bartender, who started mixing something together.
“What are you making him”, he asked.
“Something expensive” the bartender responded, and the three of them laughed together.
He called over the waitress and gave her the drink to deliver, and placed one in front of each of us. “On the house.” He said.
He lifted his glass. “With appreciation”. He turned to face her as she lifted her drink. She tilted her glass to the bartender “Thank you,” she said and then tasted hers. “Wow this is good, what is it?” The bartender smiled and shook his head. “Secret”
“Well thank you for sharing your secret drink Mr. Bartender” she responded. “It is genuinely appreciated.”
The bar was warm, and New York loud. No one was shouting or acting out, except for the celebrating party in the middle of the bar. It was crowded enough to have that good time buzz you hear when a lot of pf people are talking and enjoying each other. The light complimented the wooden décor, which meant you couldn’t see anything. The bartenders and waitresses kept things moving. It was March 21, but cold enough for the fireplace to be burning. The fireplace was situated just to the right of the large bow window facing the busy street. He asked her if she liked fireplaces. The picture of the fireplace next to the snow coming down outside made for an ironic warmth.
“The environmentalist think that fireplaces are bad for the environment”, she says.
He looked at those two scenes. The running fireplace and the snow falling on the first day of spring. “Some things are just worth a little risk.” He responded.
“Yes, some things are”. She smiled.
Outside the snow continued to fall. Inside the fireplace continued to glow, the celebrating businessmen continued to be loud, and the young couple continued their conversation; soft, sweet and humorous. He liked the bite of her humor. She liked his sweet, innocence. They both liked the secret ingredient in their drink.
"Hey, don't you think she a little too much woman for you little nerd” The comment was made by Bob as he started walking toward them. They both ignored him.
"Hey I'm talking to you," he said as he shoved the boy's shoulder. He turned around to look at the Bob. He was big with a grin that shouted asshole, and obviously with too many drinks in him. He looked at his companion who was shaking her head no.
Standing, trying not to shake, and getting face to face with his tormentor he said. “You obviously had too much to drink. Why don’t you just leave us alone?”
“Why you little punk” Bob began, then stopped as he noticed the bartender holding the small bat in is hand. "Ahh, she's not worth it". He said as he turned away. Yes, she is, he thought as he turned around.Not in time to see the bartender put the small bat back in its place beneath the bar.
"My hero," the young woman said. She kissed him short and sweet, giving the bartender a grateful look.”
Their conversation stopped for a moment. Sitting up she looked at the bartender.
“You know you might be creating a problem,” she announced to the bartender.
“And what might that be," he asked, smiling at the two of them.
“Well if we become famous lovers this will have to be our drink. We don’t even know what to ask for, let alone what is in it”
He laughed. “You don’t even know each other’s name yet. When you become famous lovers, come back and I will give you the ingredients, and you can name it.”
She stretched up from her stool and planted a kiss on the bartender’s cheek. “That’s a deal. Well, since I am in pre-law, it is a verbal contract.”
The bartender went off to take care of his other customer’s needs, the emerging lovers went back to their conversations.
“Let’s go for a walk,” she said excitedly. He looked out the window. It was still snowing.
“Sounds nice,” he responded.
“thank you “ she called out to the bartender, as she gave him another kiss on the cheek. He just smiled back at them.
“Where is your coat”, she asked as they left the bar.
“I wasn’t wearing one”
They put their arms around each other and walked west down the narrow Greenwich Village cobblestone street. They turned off of the small side street, onto Seventh Avenue. Patrons at other clubs began leaving their favorite village haunts. It was midweek and mostly locals. The pedestrian traffic was easing. The cabs were picking up speed. They just wanted to walk in the falling snow. Their arms wrapped around each other. No plan, no direction. Just walking and talking. Holding each other tight as they did. Getting closer with each step walked and each syllable spoken.
Greenwich Village is an unusual area in New York filled with lovely two and tree story brownstones built a century ago. The streets angle making strange connections like the corner where 4th street and 11th street meet. The brownstones are embellished with the type of stonework no one takes the time to do anymore. The young lovers walked easily through these streets, looking at the wonderful architecture, and learning about each other
They were admiring the architecture of one of the old brownstones townhouses when a squad car stopped and asked them if everything was all right
“It’s ok officer. We were just admiring the building”, he said.
“Yea, I always admired this one too, the officer responded. Be careful. Someone in the building just called us and said two people were casing the building. It’s 2 am and people get nervous”
“Sorry, we didn’t mean to alarm anyone” he replied.
They both watched the squad car proceed up the block and turn the corner. He was still looking up the street after the car was no longer in his sight, she was no longer next to him. He turned to see her walking, up the short series of steps, leading to classy, but ornate front door.
“Do you really think that is a good idea”, he whispered loudly to her.
“It is if I am ever getting to sleep tonight. I live here.”
He looked up at her as she unlocked the door. Sad that the night was about to end. He still did not know her name. How to contact her.
She looked down the steps, at his dejected face. “Will you be standing there when I wake up?”
He looked up at her; not knowing what to say.
“Maybe it would be a better idea for you to just come up”, she finally said.
He leaped up the steps like a Gisele, and held her in his arms. They kissed. It was not a loud, overly passionate kiss. It was not a long kiss. It was soft and sweet. It was short. The first kiss of new lovers exploring each other’s touch, each other’s needs
She pulled away from him. “We better get inside before that patrol car sees us.”
“What patrol car?”
“The one that stopped us before and is now coming back down the block.” She pulled him into the building before he could turn around and look.
The morning continued soft and warm. Filled with embraces and kisses. There was tea and cookies. There was conversation and questions. There was learning about each other while they lay on the deep carpet, in front of the old burning fireplace, that allowed them to look up at the falling snow. There was caresses and exploring. There was searching, reaching and discovering the nooks and crannies of each other’s bodies. There was sleep.
He opened his eyes and looked into the deep blue eyes of the Siamese cat that sat like a statue staring back at him.
“Hello”? The cat did not answer. Did not purr. The cat just stared.
“My guess is that you take your coffee strong, with a little milk and two sugars.” She said from the small kitchen in the large studio apartment.
"Right on the button," he said. The sweet pungent smells of the large breakfast began to enter his space. He smiled at the cat. “If I move, will the cat attack me?”
“That depends on whether she decides you’re good or bad for me.”
“What if she decides I am bad for you?”
“You don’t get breakfast”
“And if she decides I am good for you?”
“You get anything you want.”
He turned to look at her. She was mixing the batter by hand. Her naked body glowed in the morning sunlight penetrating the large bay window. He could still smell the burning embers of the dying wood in the fireplace. He looked up and stared at the ornate, but tasteful trim that bordered the high ceilings. He looked back at her as she turned toward him to ask a question.
“That might mean I still don’t get breakfast” They smiled at each other.
“Her name is Mike," she said.
“Her name is Mike!” he asked
“I think she has gender identification issues”, she said
“I wonder why” he responded, wryly.
Mike followed him and stared wherever he went in the apartment. When he went to the bathroom he closed the door leaving Mike outside. When he opened it Mike was still there, staring.
“Is Mike always like this”?
“He is deciding whether he approves of you or not”.
“And how do I know when the audition is over?”
"When he ignores you," she said.
Breakfast was wonderful, fresh and filling. The morning sun shone on the kitchen table through the shadeless window. She told him about her parents and siblings, 5 brothers, all jocks. Mike continued to stare
“I am glad to hear that you have more than Mike to protect you.” She laughed, Mike stared.
I told her about growing up alone with my happy, but widowed mom.
“So, I have no one to protect me from a possibly intruding mom, but you”. He laughed, Mike stared.
We spent the morning and early afternoon telling each other about our childhoods, families, and friends. Mike continued to stare as we made the bed, and prepared to leave the apartment for an afternoon walk around the Village.
“Before we leave I have one question I wanted to ask you since we first met”, he said
“Make it a good one”
“What is your name”?
“Penelope, but call me pen. And yours?
“Herbert”, I said. Max looked up at me turned and went to her bed under the window.
The streets were still wet from the previous evening snow. The sun was bright, but the day still felt a little chilly.
The village by day is similar to the village by night. There is more office commerce by day, but the pace is the same as it is when the sun goes down. People coming out of office buildings converted from old lofts; mix with the students and tourists perusing the coffee shops, café’s, and boutiques that permeate the west village streets.
“What a perfect March day” she stated as she put her arm around him. He put his arm around her shoulder as they began their afternoon excursion. We started on Seventh Avenue and made a left at West Fifth St. They looked in some of the windows, went into some of the stores. Pen would try out some summer dresses and model them for his approval. She dragged him into a fine men’s sports shop to try on some clothes he probably would never wear, and model them for her.
They reached the corner of Bleeker and Avenue of the Americas and marveled at how the heavy traffic could move at the speed it did. Avenue of the America’s, also known as 6th Ave is a wide road with 4 lanes of moving traffic and two lanes of parking. When the light turned green, they crossed the avenue to the east side of the street, moving quickly, to get to the other side before the lights change.
At the south side of 6th Ave, on the corner of Bleeker St. is a small, fenced-in basketball court. A pickup game was in progress skins versus shirts, and they stopped to watch. Herbert noticed that she seemed to be cheering the shirtless team.
“Getting jealous already,” she said with a flirtatious smile.
“He shouldn’t be jealous of them, he should be jealous of me.”
The voice belonged to a large, muscular baldheaded Caucasian. His arms were bare and covered with tattoos. He smirked as he looked at his three friends who stood next to him with their arms folded across their chests.
“Why don’t you come with us? It will give me a chance to show you my city as we get to know each other.” He and his friends chuckled as they looked at each other.
"Why don't you just get on your way and leave her alone," Herbert said as he put himself between pen and the ______________-.
"You can just call me sir. Now, why don't you just go home to your mother and let me and the lady get to know each other."
“I do not believe the lady has any interest in getting to know you”.
“Well, as I said, you go home to mommy and the lady and I will discuss it. If she is not interested in me, I will just have to change her mind.” He emptied the space between him and Herbert, lifted him by his shoulders and threw him against the fence.
The tall shirtless player, still dribbling the ball, looked directly at the gang leader. “Maybe you need to play with someone your own size”
“Thank you”, Penn said to the basketball player, “let me see if I can deflate this situation”.
“Now that is what I am talking about. I am all inflated and need some deflating.” He let go of Herbert and walked over to Penn. Smiling he lifted his open hand and spread it over her shirted breast.
The basketball player stiffened, let go of the ball, and began moving to the fence opening.
Herbert began to move and was pinned back by one of the gang members.
Penn smiled at her attacker, moved her hand over his, and grabbed his thumb, twisting it to the right, spinning him around to his knees on the ground and kicked him in his hamstring. The other gang members moved toward Pam, while Herbert got up and the basketball player ran to the fence opening.
Pam quickly moved to the other three gang members. One tried to grab her by the shoulder. She collapsed to the floor and swung him over her head into the fence.
“Yea, kung foo mama, you go”, the rest of the basketball players chimed in.
The gang leader was up by now and faced the shirtless basketball player. He put his hands up, open faced, backed away, turned and ran. HIs friends not far behind him.
Herbert made his way to Pam and looked at her quizzically.
“My father owns a string of Do Jo’s. I was a black belt by the time I was 11. It seems to scare off all my potential boyfriends, so I don’t talk about it much. Are we still OK?
“You know all this fancy Kung foo stuff still will not protect you from my mother, "he said with a straight face.
She laughed, jumped up at him, her arms encircling his neck and kissed him passionately.
The basketball player laughed, clapped and went back to their game.
“Excuse me, Excuse me.”
They both turned to face the tall Asian lady addressing them.
“I really am sorry to interrupt. I am a reporter for the New York Post. We are running a photographic piece on spring love. I have been watching you from when you were on the other side of the street. I was going to come over to you there and ask if you would participate when you started walking over here. I saw the whole ruckus and think you too would be an amazing addition to my piece.”
She showed the pictures she took of them from across street while they were crossing 6Ave. She had even taken a couple of them embracing and kissing. She asked questions. They told her how and where they met, where they were from and go to school. They told her about where they worked and what they did. She asked them about what they liked and why they were together. When she was finished she gave them her card, and left.
“Don’t forget to look in tomorrow’s Post”, she yelled back at from a few feet down the block.
The sun started receding as they worked themselves back to Harvey’s Bar and Grill. It was still early. There were some diners there enjoying the fare, but otherwise, it was empty. They walked up to the bar and took the seats they occupied last evening. The bartender recognizing smiled.
“Yes, we came to find your secret, didn't we Harold," Pen said victoriously.
“I said you had to be famous lovers” the bartender replied.
“We are”, he said, his voice rising a bit with excitement. “Tomorrow the Post is running a photographic piece on spring love and we will be featured in it. Pictures and story”
The bartender laughed. "I'll be damned. Well, a contract is a contract. ” He told them the ingredients and how to make it.
"What is it called," Pen asked when he was finished.
“You tell me”. “I never had a reason to name one of my drinks before. You might as well have the honor”
“Cupids Arrow” they yelled in unison.