Old October and I was young on cold morning and the rain came in rushing in. The streets of Midtown West, the 7th Avenue Garment District woes and crazy times, rushed with people in quick hurries to beat the out-of-nowhere storm, which came in suddenly and without warning.
And me, there I was in a window seat at a coffee shop, writing a letter to my Mother, looking out the window and watching everyone scatter and run for cover.
I watched businessmen with briefcases put their newspaper over their head to shield them from the heavy rain.
Large gulp-sized drops fell from the sky and spattered on the ground in a chattering sound that could be heard from my place inside, safe from the rain.
Some were readied with umbrellas and some just ran through, trying to avoid the downpour, to avoid the curbside puddles, and the dirty splashes from crazy cab drivers, swishing through the street, eager to pick up a fare and make their ends meet.
I was young then, not too sure. I had a briefcase. I had on my little grown man’s suit and tie. I had a job which paid me little and aspirations that I was too afraid to reach for.
It was strange though, to watch the city, as though the large coffee shop window was my own special television, and the world outside was this different place with different people in it.
Everyone had a story. Everyone had a life. I saw business men in business suits and women dressed the same as well.
I was a salesman at the time. I had big hopes but no vision. I was running samples all over town, trying to have garment manufacturers by labels from me.
I had all kind of labels; size labels, identification labels, and Made is U.S.A. labels which was odd to me because the labels themselves were made in Taipei, Taiwan, but either way, I sold the little scratchy tags that come with the garment that itch the body. Most people cut them out anyway, which made my item the least important, but yet still necessary, which meant my sales job was perhaps the most abused in the industry.
I had no idea what I would become. I had no vision nor did I understand that the man I was in my 20’s would not be the same man forever, or until the last days of my life.
I sat there watching. I sat as an observer, a young man that was unsure of everything —unsure of his own self, unsure of his future, unsure of his own ability and validity, and unsure if lessons of our past last forever or do we eventually overcome and outgrow our previous or former selves.
I was never very good at love or dating nor at minimum, was I ever good at lust and dating, but more likely, I was only good at lust itself, which confused me because truth be told; I always wanted something to hold onto. I wanted something to connect with, to let me be me without fear or discomfort. I never knew what I wanted. More than anything, however, I only wanted someone or something to make me feel real.
I never knew how to say or do the right thing. Everything I tried seemed forced or coerced. Therefore, dating was never my strong point and neither was the courtship or the relationship battles, which of course there is such a thing; there is such a battle in the search for love and the need for validity. There is the need to be needed and the desire to be desirable to someone, which of course would mean they would have to be desirable too, —at least to me of course, or at least desirable enough that I wouldn’t care about what others thought because with her, there would be no more scrutiny, no more mutiny, and no more conflict of love but just love itself, which I had hoped that if this happened; it was as beautiful as I always dreamed.
I was skinny though, small in structure but not short. I was thin and boyish looking, which at best would only leave me as cute. But cute only goes so far. Cute gets you a pinch on the cheek and a smile.
I never asked to be cute. I only wanted to be wanted. I wanted to be desired. I wanted someone to want me, to yearn for me, or better yet, to dream of me to the point where better decisions came in third place; therefore we would have no such thing as inhibitions and lust would be part of the meal that fed love’s belly. And we could be happy. And therefore, I would be happy.
I drove a beat-up car at the time. I was living in a basement. I was bringing home, somewhere around $300 a week at best, yet, no commission because my sales were never enough to cover my draw.
I did have big dreams but bigger than my dreams were my misperceptions of life or the way life is. I was a young and hopeful but afraid of everything, timid like a child, only old enough to realize that no one should see this, —so I put on a mask and hid my fears behind a smile and pretended to act “As if.”
I have a box somewhere in a closet, filled with cards that I wrote to Mom. I always took the same seat at the same coffee house, in front of the same window, and drank the same thing, large coffee, no sugar, from a huge mug that almost looked as if it would make for a good soup bowl.
Meanwhile, as I wrote my weekly cards to Mom, in the background, the coffee house played songs from the classics like Ella Fitzgerald with Luis Armstrong, or Bing Crosby, Sinatra, or maybe a little swing or jazz or something from The A train, Duke Ellington, “The Duke” himself, and I felt enriched with something I could not explain. I felt a sense of culture, which changed and evolved, as if I were on the verge of a new exploration. Everything was so big and new, and yet, I had no idea what to do or what to expect.
Mom kept the cards, which I found when I went to pack up her things before placing Mom in the assisted living home. She kept them all.
I never told her everything, of course not about my complications with love or the confusion between love and lust or lust and love.
Instead, I wrote about what I saw from my seat at the coffee shop, looking out at a life I was about to explore.
I have the box Mom kept the cards in. Only, I never read them. I suppose it’s just enough to know they are there and to know that she kept them, that they meant something, and that they comforted Mom when she might have felt alone or sad or maybe depressed.
They don’t have coffee shops like they used to. They have Starbucks, but to be honest, the feel is not the same; neither is the ambiance or the taste of the coffee, nor is the view the same, or my eyes, my life, nor my Mom, whose life passed on June 10, 2015.
Like I said, it doesn’t matter if I read the cards. I know all about them. I wrote them. I suppose reading them could be sad or bitter sweet, which is why instead, I just keep them to encapsulate a time when I was young and unsure of what would come next.
By the way, I’ll turn 48 this year.
Never thought this would be my age, especially not back then. Still not sure what’s to come. Still feel like I’m on the verge of something, like a change, let’s say, —and yes, truth be told, I’m scared. (As in right now)
And what else is a boy to do when he’s scared but write to his Mom just to hear back from her when she says, “Don’t worry son. No matter what happens, you’ll always have me in your corner.”
If you get this, can you send me that sign you used to send? It’d be nice to hear from you again. Or better yet, it would just be nice to know that you can hear me.
Getting on a plane today, but don’t worry. I’ll be sure to wash my hands and wear clean underwear—although, to be honest, if there’s a problem with the plan, I’m not so sure the clean underwear will make a difference . . .
I love you