A Scene From Two Marriages



W 57th St & 7th Ave, New York, NY 10019

Neighborhood: Midtown

Illustration by Elisha Cooper


I was married and she was married and we probably shouldn’t have been doing what we were doing, especially where we were doing it. But there we were, late winter, 2002, at 57th and Broadway, a spot that, at least to an out-of-towner like me, signified something important.

I read once that that intersection was the "Crossroads of the City." I know – it’s touristy and all that – there’s a Hard Rock Café there, for fuck’s sake – but if New York was the sort of unofficial capitol of the busiest country in the world, then 57th and Broadway was the de facto center of the planet. Or something like that.

We’d come to the city from Connecticut to walk around, eat, buy books – and have sex in a hotel room.

Two days before I’d called for a room at a place near Grand Central Station. I gave the guy on the phone my MasterCard number to hold the room, but made him promise that he wouldn’t charge it to the credit card. "I’m only reserving the room with the card," I said. "I’ll pay in cash when I get there."

I was so worried about this that I called a second time and reminded the man at the front desk of our previous conversation. "Because," I said to him, "if the person who keeps the books in my house sees that charge on the credit card bill, well, that would be bad." (Yes, I described my wife as the household bookkeeper. And yes, I know how wrong that is.)

We didn’t feel comfortable walking together into a hotel lobby in Connecticut, so the city seemed the only logical option.

The night before our trip my friend called. No, she said, we shouldn’t go to the hotel after all. We’d spent one night together a few months earlier, but she wasn’t ready for that again, at least not yet. A huge reservoir of Catholic guilt, this woman has. I, however, am not encumbered with an overabundance of guilt. Which is probably obvious by now.

So, despite the change of plans, we decided to come to the city to eat and go to the park and a museum. Lunch was at an Italian restaurant. We had pizza and salad and gin and tonic and wine. This gave way to more gin and tonics at a small bar where the only other customer was a guy eating a big sandwich and reading what I think was a W.E.B. Griffin novel. Or maybe Robert Ludlum.

We sat in a corner. We sat too close. I smelled her hair and the bartender was visibly annoyed with us.

We paid and walked together down 57th. She tripped, sort of, over a crack in the sidewalk and stumbled into me. I laughed. She punched me in the arm.

We crossed Broadway. We stopped and I put my hands on her waist. Her lips were wet with booze and so were mine. We kissed.

We’d done this before – both of us were (and still are) stuck in marriages we can’t figure our way out of – but this was not the same.

She grew up here, over in The Bronx, but we kissed like dopey tourists spending their first afternoon in the Big City. With tongues, and a lot of touching. This went on for 45 seconds or so. In that time, dozens of people must have passed by in the pre-rush hour twilight. We saw none of them.

It would be sort of poetic if we’d never been close like this again, but we have. A lot of times. But each time is so intense and real because we tell ourselves it’ll be the last time.

I love her. I have asked her to leave her husband. We’d move to the New York, I tell her. Back home for her, a sort of new start for me. She won’t leave him. We haven’t been back to the city together since, and I don’t know when we will again.

An so instead of taking off together or at least stealing a night alone, we went to a diner and had a piece of cake and some coffee and developed twin headaches. An hour later we were on the train bound for New Haven. When the mother and the little kid sitting across from us got off in Stamford we kissed again and I put my hand up her shirt.

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