The night before, I was out on Smith Street with Dom. An ex-girlfriend of his joined us after dinner, and the story of how I got my upcoming date was told. Afterward, she said she was having a premonition: she said I was gonna’ marry this gal. Yeah, sure.
I don’t know why I had this thought, but that Saturday afternoon, I got the idea that I did not want to wear anything that night that I had ever worn on a date before. Something about clean karma. Crazy, eh? I did it. Thank God I had a new coat. I also wanted great music in the CD player: I went with John Mayer’s 1st, James Taylor’s next to last, Michele Ramo’s ‘Costeria’… and my favorite, Charlie Brown’s Christmas. I got a haircut. I shined my shoes. And, because it had just snowed, I got the car washed. It was 4 weeks old… finally, the Mercedes I had wanted forever.
I showed up at 6, and Larysa was ready to go. But first she had a question she needed to ask me. Seems she wasn’t sure… “Is this a business dinner, to talk about my cases, or is this a date?”
“This is a date. Definitely a date.”
“Good,” she said.
I helped her over the snow, into the car, and we took off. She asked where we were going, and said she just assumed we would stay local because of the snow.
“I know a great place in TriBeCa. I think you’ll like it.”
“Great” she replied, kinda excited.
I learned a lot about Larysa on the ride in — she hadn’t been out in the city much, but always wanted to be; she liked the Opera (but hadn’t actually been), she liked ice cream and Chardonnay, and she loved the music from Charlie Brown’s Christmas. Good start.
We were seated right in front of the fireplace at the New Moon. Perfect. We both ordered soup and lasagna. I had a good Pinot Noir. and then things went completely sour.
Lots of talk about her years with the old boy friend. Then talk of them trying to beat his illness. And then of the things they owned together, like their dog. “Oh no,” I thought, “she’s hung up on him. Too much history. They’re bonded. I’m out!”
How is this a date?
I felt totally dejected. I actually began to plan bringing her back to OZ, picking up Dom, and staying out all night to drown my sorrows. I concentrated on seeming casual and hiding how much hearing this shit hurt, and not on her. And then, I realized that at some point, her whole presentation had changed. He did this, he did that; he didn’t do this, he didn’t do that. He was given 100 chances and he blew them all. It was over. She didn’t feel anything for him anymore! They were through. There was no going back. He wasn’t getting this somehow, and kept showing up, either acting like nothing happened, or pleading that it was a rough patch that would pass. But it was real, and final, for her. She was moving on.
And then…”I really like you.”
That simple statement erased all doubt and pain. Then she had another question. “Isn’t there a rule against dating clients?”
“Yes. I don’t care.”
“Did you think this through?”
“Yes. It only took me 2 seconds.”
The rest of the night was magic. Joking, flirting, confiding, planning (the Opera, of course!). We went to Cafe Vivaldi for ice cream and Chardonnay, and we quickly got a spot on the street. Now that’s magic, no? Then we ran through the falling snow, hand in hand, from the car to the cafe, laughing. In the cafe, a kooky guy in the corner kept holding a baguette up to his eye and over his head, like it was a periscope. I joked, “be careful, his baguette is really a camera!” We talked and laughed. I stared, a lot. And suddenly, it was 3 a.m. We drove back to her store, and before Larysa left the car, I gave her a simple, short kiss good night. On the cheek.
The next day, Larysa called me at noon. She said that she had read “The Rules,” and was totally rejecting them. She said she couldn’t possibly wait three days to talk with me again. I told her I was glad, because I just had to see her again, right away. We spoke another good hour. And our 2nd date was set for Tuesday night at the Tea House. She loved Michele’s album, and she wanted to meet him and see him play.
I had brought a good dozen gals to the Tea House to see Michele and Heidi. I always did 2 things: had Michele chat with my date and then tell me what he thought of her, and told my date to “really listen to this one, it’s special” right before Heidi and Michele performed “Nightingale in Berkeley Square.” None of my dates were ever that taken by the song, and Michele was never that taken by any of them. But this night was different.
Larysa thought the song was just lovely. She too thought its melody and story were beautiful. It meant something to her! Later, when Mr. and Mrs. Ramo took five, Michele came over to our table. We chatted a bit, and then Larysa excused herself: we had drunk a pot of chamomile!
“What do you think of this gal, Professore.”
“This one is different. She has a gentle soul,” he said.”I have a good feeling.” He paused. “I think you’re going to marry this woman.”
“I think you’re right,” I replied. And crazy as it sounds, I was already kinda sure.
Later that night, I gave Larysa that same simple kiss goodnight, on the cheek. She looked at me funny. “I guess I’ve got to be bold here,” she said. And then we shared a real kiss.
I got home around midnight, excited, and wanting to tell someone about what was going on. But who could I call that late on a work night? My musician friend, Tommy O., in LA, of course. A fellow warrior poet and true romantic. My sometimes Cyrano. And a Trekkie. After I finished my tale, he said, “I can hear it in your voice: you’re inside joy. You’re in the Nexus!” I laughed, knowing he was right. “Stay there. Stay as long as you can,” he advised. I told him I planned to. Then he also advised me that I was writing a song, to go write down what I had so far, before I forgot, and to make sure that it rhymed.
“Am I really?” I asked.
“You sure are,” he answered. And he turned out to be right! You can read it later.
The 3rd date. That’s the big one, right? There was even a T.V. show about that. Well, Larysa complained to me that because of the holiday rush at the store, she was “all Christmas’d out” already. So our 3rd date was going to be all about me reviving her Christmas spirit. She was going to come by my place for lunch, and then we were going to go into the city for caroling at Grand Central and shopping in Bryant Park. Afterwards, back at my place, I was going to make ice cream sundaes (I found out her favorite: pralines and cream) and play Christmas music. But that isn’t what happened at all.
The weather man said it would be cold that day. Yellow roses arrived at my door at noon, and the delivery guy said he couldn’t feel his feet. I knew Larysa would show up shivering, so I put a bunch of those heatable blankets in the micro-wave. When she arrived, she sat on my recliner, and I put them on her feet. I thanked her for the flowers, and we planned the day. Then the phone rang.
“Lenny, its Eliot. It’s 2 o’clock“
“Dude, you called to tell me the time? “
“Shut up. I won a contest Mercedes had. There’ll be a limo at your place at 4. It’ll take you to the Water Club, and from there we’ll go to the Radio City Christmas Show. Afterwards, we’ll have a nightcap at Beekman’s Bar & Books. It’s all free. You have 2 hours. You’ll need a date.”
“I happen to have one with me right now,” I replied.
“Good start. She’s got to get really dolled up. You in?”
I asked Eliot to hold on a minute, and I covered the mouthpiece with my hand. I explained the call to Larysa, swore it was not a set-up, but truly an out of the blue opportunity, and said that I would understand if she passed on it, ’cause it would be so hard to be ready on time.
“Are you nuts?” she blurted. “Tell him yes, hang-up, and give me the phone. I’ve gotta’ make a call and go home to get ready!”
So I did. And then Larysa called her mom. I heard her ask her to “get my dressy coat out of the attic.” Then “I’m going to Radio City with my lawyer… yeah, I know. I’ll tell you later.” And then she was gone. I threw on a suit and waited.
A little before 4, the bell rang, I hit the buzzer, and I stepped into the hall. There she was in a long black velvet evening dress, fur collared wool coat, teardrop earrings and high heel boots. Sexy evening makeup. I stared like never before.
“I clean up pretty good, I guess,” she said with a giggle.
“You sure do. You look absolutely beautiful.”
And she really did. As we walked across the floor at The Water Club, I saw all the guys checking her out. When the limo let us out in front of Radio City, it happened again. I was so proud to be with her.
She loved the show! I know this for sure, because I spent most of it watching her watch it. She smiled a lot, and I just loved seeing that smile.
When the show ended, we all went downstairs to the lounges. I snuck away to buy her a souvenir Christmas ball. I had the crazy thought that if I was lucky enough to marry her, we would have that Christmas ball on our tree every year for the rest of our lives, always reminding us of that perfect night. Then we all went to see the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. And it started to snow. At the rail, I stood behind her, and she leaned against me. I put my arms around her waist, and she covered my hands with hers, saying “you should have brought gloves.” She had. Soft Cashmere. Later, we all enjoyed the window displays at Sak’s. The theme: Christmas in Eastern Europe! The mannequins all looked like… her!
As we looked at the dioramas, I suggested that we skip cocktails and go home for ice cream instead. I called a friend I knew would be driving his black car in midtown that night, and asked for a big favor. He picked us up on the corner of St. Pat’s and whisked us home.
Back at my place, we ate ice cream on the couch. Larysa asked me to play and sing a song for her, and I have to say, I was nervous. So I played the 1st song I ever learned… a song I love, have performed hundreds of times, and could never screw up. I did Graham Nash’s “Right Between the Eyes.” I didn’t give any thought to it’s meaning. I really didn’t. It had to be subconscious. The meaning wasn’t lost on Larysa, however. She heard the story of her and I, her ex-boyfriend, and my past (which, after all that talking, she knew). I loved that song 25 years before I had any reason to sing it. Google the lyrics. Did I somehow always know?
Later, wrapped around each other on the couch, Larysa said one of the coolest things I have ever heard. She said, “you really want this dress off, don’t you?” I nodded yes.”Well I can’t take my dress off for you… yet.” Sexy. Classy. Clever. Oh, my!
I went out and warmed up her car for her; I hadn’t felt it earlier, but it really was just freezing out. Then she left, promising to call me when she got home. I was hungry, so I poured a bowl of Cap’n Crunch Crunch Berries and reclined on the couch, with the bowl on my belly, eating. When Larysa called, she asked what I was doing. So I told her. Exactly. She thought this was hilarious for some reason, and not a week later, had me recreate the scene for her, exactly, as she giggled. Go figure.
A week had passed. I was already falling in love. But I had been working on it for months. For Larysa, it was brand new. Yet she was falling too. I could feel it.
An ongoing love story throughout the month of February, continued in Part III next week, and if you missed Part I (weird that you’ve read this much without having read the first part…) catch up here.