Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Inappropriate Feelings

Last weekend, Tom and I went to see Endgame at BAM. The show was just all right, I have to say, perhaps because Macbeth, which we saw there in March, was so breathtaking. It was a hard act to follow. Anyway, Alvin Epstein was wonderful, but the rest of the cast was, I think, not really feeling it. Or at least if they were, it didn't show. Beckett is tricky to do well - actually he's simple, but sometimes simple is hard.

After the show, we popped into BAMcafe for cocktails, me teetering along in my painfully high heels, Tom still feeling a happy glow from the performance, which he loved, and with which he found no fault. Toward the end of my first gin and tonic, I noticed an extremely good-looking bartender doing his side work behind the bar. It was nearly closing time, and he was washing glasses and bagging up trash, no doubt eager to go home to his girlfriend, or perhaps just to prowl the night. Maybe I downed my drink just a bit too quickly, because I found I couldn't stop staring at this boy - for he was just a boy - and I started to go weak with desire. His shoulders, his hips, his smooth black hair and sultry eyes - oh, my. I wanted to consume him. Truly, I think if he'd come within reach of me, I might have devoured him. You always hear that women hit their sexual peak in their thirties, but I didn't imagine it would feel like this. Kind of fun though, really. I always did enjoy being naughty.

Then yesterday on the subway, I felt again a sort of yearning - a longing for some sort of connection with someone, or with everyone. I didn't want to rip anyone's clothes off and do dirty things to them, but I kind of wanted to ask people if they'd give me a hug. What would they have done, I wonder? How many people would, if approached by an attractive, sweet-smelling woman in the subway, give her a hug if she said she really needed one because she was feeling sad that day? Would you?

Anyway, I didn't ask. I sat down on the train and took out my knitting, and as the train jerked forward, my eyes filled with tears. It was the anniversary of the loss of a beloved friend, the day before had been full of small irritations, I was very tired, and altogether I felt like an open wound. As the train jostled me, my eyes filled and dried, filled and dried. I took deep breaths and focused on my knitting. Knit two together six times, yarn over, knit two, now purl a row, now knit again.

At the next stop, a distinguished-looking man sat next to me, and as we waited for the train to start again, I felt him watching me. He asked, in a soft French accent, if the train would be going to 50th street. I said yes, eventually it would. Still the train didn't move, although the doors had closed. Knit two together, yarn over, purl. A plainclothes police officer with a badge around his neck walked past our car, peering inside. My French seatmate wondered why announcements were being broadcast in the station but no announcement was made to us, and I joked that they didn't want the passengers to panic; it would be mass hysteria if we knew what was going on. We sat in companionable silence after that, and finally the train started to move. He asked me what I was knitting, and I told him it was a blanket for my daughter's doll. I said I didn't have the patience to knit anything but doll things and dishcloths.

"No," he said, "you are patient. I can tell. You are a very patient woman."

I smiled. He told me that I reminded him of his mother, who used to knit when he was a child. She had to knit, he said - it was how she made a living. All this time, as he spoke gently to me and I smiled and responded, I didn't lift my eyes from my knitting. I was afraid that if I did, those endless, threatening tears would well up and spill over. When he got off at 50th street he wished me well, and once again said, "You are patient. Don't worry. You are very patient." I realized that what I'd really wanted to do was lay my head on his shoulder and let my tears flow. He would have told me more about his childhood, in that lilting French accent, and my grief would have washed away along with my tears. Instead, I finished my row, took a deep breath, and got off the train at Columbus Circle, ready to go on with my day. I was precariously balanced, but with every step, I grew steadier.