Photo and story by Karen Rempel
Dear readers, if you missed Chapter 7, you can read it here. I’m taking you back to a dating story from 2015, when I was in my first flush of being madly in love with New York City. Thanks to everyone who wrote to George and asked him to print Catch and Release again.
I felt high on life the day after meeting Harvard on the F train. As I gazed around my studio apartment, the orange glow of the walls matched my mood. My third-floor windows were just above the tops of the trees on West 9th Street, where there was a constant flow of pedestrians and yellow cabs. I felt electrified by the creative vibe of the city, and loved the feeling that life was happening on the street below at all hours of the day and night.
I had jumped on this apartment the first time I browsed Airbnb in Vancouver and saw the juicy orange walls covered with artwork. It was a large studio in a brownstone, with a narrow yellow kitchen, blue bath, and eggplant hallway. The kitchen looked out on an airwell, and I could see the dinner parties hosted by residents in the next brownstone. This always gave me a thrill—peeking into other peoples’ lives. And best of all, my dear landlord had created a large walk-in closet to accommodate all of my shoes.
I was on a six-month sojourn from Vancouver, testing the city to see if I could manage to make a living here before jumping in with a full-on commitment to move. I came with three 50-pound suitcases, absolutely loaded with shoes. When I came through the airport in Montreal, the US customs inspector asked, “Why do you have so many shoes?” I said, “All of my shoes want to visit New York!” Evidently this was a good reason, and he waved me through.
Here I was, staying in this amazing apartment in the Village, surrounded by artwork that previous residents had created, inspired to create my own art and to write like crazy. I was working for my Canadian Poo Distribution client on a lengthy project, making decent money. I was taking a humor writing class and writing some rather bold erotic comedy about romantic adventures I’d had in Vancouver.
So I wasn’t exactly sitting around waiting for the phone to ring, but I was curious about what would happen next with the man I’d met on the subway platform. Throughout the day, my gaze landed on the square of chocolate Harvard gave me. That evening, the donor was on the other end of the cell.
“Hi, I’ve been thinking about you,” he said.
“What were you thinking?” I asked with a dirty laugh.
“Why don’t you meet me for a glass of wine, and I’ll tell you in fine detail,” Harvard said.
“Hmm, intriguing. OK, I have plans tonight, but how about tomorrow?” I suggested.
“Are you Canadian?” he asked.
“What gave me away?” I replied.
“It’s the about,” he said.
“Oot and aboot, you mean?” I said, exaggerating the Scottish lilt.
“That’s it,” he agreed. “Cute!”
“Can’t wait to hear more of your accent. How about the 8th Street Wine Cellar, tomorrow at 8?”
The next evening I bounced along West 8th Street in a pink, teal, and cream plaid miniskirt, pink sweater, faux leopard jacket, and Charles Jourdan pink satin, sequined shoes with two-inch kitten heels. Harvard wasn’t that tall, so I was underplaying my stature.
He was waiting for me at the wine bar, a few steps below street level. I took in the scene. Candles flickered on the row of tables built for two. Sleek, black-clad musicians and hedge-fund managers filled the barstools, candlelight sparkled on the rows of bottles and glasses behind the bar, and the noise was about 100 decibels. Harvard had changed into a navy suit jacket for the occasion, over a pale blue shirt unbuttoned at the collar. I couldn’t see his bottom half until he rose to greet me. Dark jeans. I liked his boho-yuppie look.
“Hi!” we said in unison. This was before hi turned into hey. We semi-hugged over the table, and I sat down with my back to the room. Awkward! Doesn’t he know he should sit with his back to the room? Prudence hissed. Whatever! I hissed back. He obviously didn’t know how to make the transition from sitting where he could see me enter the room to giving me the window seat. Minor.
“You look wonderful,” he said, reaching out to stroke the leopard fur. I shrugged my jacket onto the chairback. “What will you have to drink?” Now that’s the right question! See, he knows what’s important, I said to Prudence. Compliments and drinks.
I glanced at the triangular menu card on the table. This was well before QR codes became the doorway to the menu. The “Hot Nikkers” looked interesting, but perhaps too suggestive. “I’ll have a glass of sauvignon blanc,” I said.
He summoned the server and ordered red for himself and white for me.
“What did you do today?” I asked.
“I was working on a grant for the foundation. And thinking of you a lot.” My nickers got a few degrees hotter as I looked into his dark blue eyes and contemplated this.
“Hmm, how much are you asking for?”
The server returned with our wine. Our eyes were locked as we clinked and sipped.
“For the grant, $500,000 for the first year. For you, I’m hoping for third base,” he said, jumping right into the fire.
“Wow! That’s bold,” I said, gulping wine and shock in the same swallow.
He showed me his hand on the table. “See these two fingers?” They were quite thick and stubby. I can’t tell you what he wanted to do with those fingers. Disgusting creepy pervert!! Prudence yelled. I agreed with her. The corners of my mouth drew down and my eyeballs squinted as I looked at him in disbelief.
I raised my brows. “Not gonna happen.” You tell him! Prudence agreed.
This middle-aged nerd definitely had balls, but that didn’t earn him the right for this kind of talk during our first glass of wine together. The wine turned sour in my mouth.
I flashed back on the square of chocolate and the visions it had conjured up. Dinner at the Harvard Club. A small jazz combo at the grand piano. Lofty ceilings. Hushed dining. A Christmas tree that stretched three floors in the grand foyer. Crackling fires, shining brass, and gleaming wood paneling. Clinking silver on white plates. It all came crashing down into a heap of shite. Another Commonwealth expression enjoyed by Canadians.
“This was a mistake,” I said. “I forgot I have to be somewhere else.” I slipped on my jacket. “Sorry!”
Harvard’s leer slipped from his face. His fingers wilted. I felt a bit bad for the guy. But not bad enough to stay. Prudence, we’re outta here!
Tune in next month for a new NYC dating story. And take a peek at this month’s Karen’s Quirky Style.