Catch and Release: Chapter 3 | Drinks at Ascent

Photo by Philip Maier.

Previously: Chapter 2 – The Proposition

By Karen Rempel

George must have watched Marilyn Monroe in How to Marry a Millionaire a few too many times. He always wants to talk about why I’m still single and what type of man would be suitable for me. “You’re beautiful and smart. You should marry a millionaire.” I always say, “I’m waiting for you to ask me.” The last time, I changed it up and said, “I might be willing. It depends what I would have to do.” And evidently he knows someone named Steve who he thinks is perfect for me—good looking, single, and rich! Steve, if you’re reading this, and don’t mind someone with abnormally long arms, my number is easy to find.

And now, back to our story…

My abnormally long left arm tingled as Keith walked me up Fifth Avenue to West 10th Street. I didn’t notice the November chill or the late-night dog walkers. Invisible fingers were pulling me to close the two-inch gap between us. We turned the corner and stopped in front of the brownstone next to the church. Suddenly our lips clamped together like magnets locking home. Zowie! All the blood drained from my brain and I almost fell over. All too soon, he was walking down the block. Blood flow resumed and my mind was whirling. 

Wow! More kissing, please! London! An architect! Smart and creative! Almost a Rolling Stone! This was the fairytale that I had secretly been wishing for. This would never have happened in Vancouver. But in New York any magical thing is possible. I floated up the four flights to my garret. 

Prudence, my internal voice of conscience and censure, was faint in the distance, “It’s too good to be true.” Prudence and I have been down a few rocky romantic paths before. But I ignored her and focused on the burning sensation in my lips, and replayed the feeling of Keith’s body pressed to mine. “What harm can there be in taking a trip with a man I barely know?” I asked myself. “It’s going to be great!”

The next day Keith texted me a picture of himself. His feet looked very large in the photo, and he was scorching hot in a burnt sienna leather jacket and blue jeans at a sidewalk café, possibly in Paris. I showed the picture to my best friends, Sally and Kim, and we oohed over his good looks, and that hair! Did they warn me about traveling to a foreign country with a stranger? No, they did not. Everyone loves a fairytale.

In his next text Keith invited me to drinks on the weekend. I played it cool. I texted that I already had plans to see the Adès opera Exterminating Angel at the Met on Friday and I was going to see Eric Reed at Smoke on Saturday. He texted, “OK, let’s meet at the Ascent Lounge at TWC on Sunday afternoon. Can’t wait to see you.” “Me too.” I didn’t tell him that I planned a double-header, with Keith as the warm-up act before the main event with Lew—dinner at Jean-Georges and then Ravi Coltrane at the Vanguard. Two men in one day is my favorite kind of day, though I still keep striving for that unicorn triple-header.

After a couple days of pleasurable anticipation and the purchase of new lingerie, the afternoon of our date arrived. I took the 1 train to Columbus Circle and saw the horses and carriages lined up by Central Park. Romantic! I felt the buzzing excitement of the city as I crossed the roundabout to the Time Warner Center. 

Keith was waiting at the bar and the rosy sunset sky was glowing through the southwest windows framed by golden wood paneling. The chandeliers sparkled, the jazz music was soft, the candles were making everyone look gorgeous, and I felt fantastic in my little red suede dress. He stood and kissed me. “Darling, you look wonderful!” “You as well.” No word of a lie—he wore a pale blue shirt open at the neck, black jeans, and yes, very large shoes. I melted onto the barstool next to him. 

I suddenly felt a bit shy and spent a minute looking through their three-pound, leather-bound cocktail menu. The romance deepened as I read the ingredients of cocktails from the jazz age. I loved the sound of the honey-syruped Bees Knees, and Keith ordered red wine.

“How was your week?” I asked. He told me about a mix-up at his job site down on Morton Street. He’d spent a day sorting out issues with the imported Italian marble. The flooring slabs weren’t the right thickness. “Measurements are crucial. Even one-eighth of an inch off and there will be gaps.” “Mmm, yeah.” I told him about my current project, writing standard operating procedures for a multinational food distribution company. Quite fascinating, I thought. “Poo distribution?” he said. Poo distribution? I guess the bathroom installation was still on his brain. “No, food distribution!” He took my hand on the bar, and his hand was warm, and his hair looked great.

I gazed into his hazel eyes, and longed to trace the tantalizing lines on his face. Keith said, “Darling, there’s something you should know.” “What is it?” He shifted a bit, and tightened his grip on my hand. “I’m separated from my wife. We’ve drifted apart for a long time. But we still live together with our daughter. I have a separate suite in our house in New Jersey.” I paused to take this in, and took a sip of my Bees Knees. Prudence was poking my shoulder, and said, “I warned you! He’s married!” “Married, shmarried!” I retorted. It would take more than one hand to count the married men I had dated, knowingly or otherwise.

I wriggled my shoulders and appraised his expression. He brow was furrowed, waiting to see how I would respond. “I don’t have a problem with that, but thanks for telling me. How old is your daughter?” “Fourteen.” He was smart enough not to show me a picture of her, and I gave him kudos for being straight with me right off the bat.

“And there’s something else.” I put my finger to his lips and traced down to the dimple in his chin. “Enough revelations for one day,” I said. “Tell me about London. I think we should have sex before our trip, don’t you?”

Tune in next month for our third date, and the answer to the question on every single woman’s mind, “Is the third date too soon?”

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