I met my old lover on the street last night. Really.

I met my old lover on the street last night.
She seemed so glad to see me. I just smiled.

Still Crazy After All These Years
Paul Simon

Actually, that’s not entirely true. I did more than just smile. I was equally glad to see her. I walked out of my office at the end of the day and bumped into her, almost literally. That’s one of the many magical aspects of Manhattan. Your past can walk down 6th Avenue and right into your office building.

We exchanged surprised greetings and since we both had time to kill, sat down at an outdoor table for a chat. I don’t know what precipitated our break-up but whatever it was has been long forgiven and forgotten. The conversation was easy, like no time had passed at all.

I showed her pictures of my daughters and she did the obligatory ooh-ing and aww-ing. Then something unexpected happened to me. Something extraordinary and unwelcomed. She revealed that she was engaged to be married. I found myself suddenly overwhelmed with heartbreak and loss. It felt like someone hit me with a bag of mud. What’s WRONG with me? We were intimate but never that close emotionally.

Next week is my 14th wedding anniversary. No mean feat! Lots of folks don’t make it past 14 months. I have two beautiful daughters who, as anyone reading this space knows, I adore. I don’t understand what provoked these feelings. I didn’t even grieve when we broke up but there I was suddenly deeply saddened.

We touched cheeks, wished each other well and parted. We didn’t bother with “Let’s keep in touch,” because we’re both old enough to know it wouldn’t happen. I slunk off to a Brooklyn-bound subway, where I was meeting friends for dinner.

I tried reading but as you all know, there’s no distraction when you’re in a cage death-match with your raging emotions. I got off the subway in Williamsburg, walked down the stairs, north on Broadway, looked up and saw this:photo-1

THAT cheered me up right away! I might’ve had a heartache, but things could be a hell of a lot worse. I was having dinner with two good friends at Peter Luger, a 125-year old steakhouse, one of the oldest and most highly respected in New York City. Reservations have to be made months in advance. I had a glass of Pinot Noir. Then guess what? I had another one! Then, a medium-rare steak. I told my friends about my bizarre heartache and they found it to be a tremendously entertaining dinner story.

Take a look at this menu:photo-2

Hummm…let’s see…should you order the Steak for Two, Steak for Three, Steak for Four or the Single Steak? Oh, they have other items on the menu, but if you order anything other than steak, the old world, Eastern Block European, Iron Curtain professional waiters give you a dirty look. As well they should.

Eating across the aisle from us was a family of four. They sat down and dad immediately pulled an iPad mini out of his briefcase, propped it up in front of junior and this is how he spent the ENTIRE EVENING:photo-31

Father of the year. And I thought I didn’t know what I was doing! This isn’t Applebee’s.This is an expensive restaurant. Going here is an event and a privilege. Call me a judgmental old coot, but I think that kid should participate.

Later, we heard a loud THUD. So loud, in fact, that everyone stopped talking. A man passed out and banged his head on the table so hard that they couldn’t revive him. I’ll NOT have what he’s having. An ambulance was called but it took about :10 minutes to arrive, which seemed an eternity. He never revived. The waiters continued to scurry around delivering giant platters of sizzling meat. Heartache, red wine, beef and death. It was a lot for one evening.

*     *     *

Do any of you guys play ATM poker? If there’s a receipt sticking out of the ATM from the previous transaction, you examine it while waiting for your cash to be dispensed. If your checking account balance is higher than that of the receipt left behind, you win! Well…you don’t actually win anything, but it gives you something to do while waiting for your cash.

Take a look at this receipt I pulled the other day. Look at that balance!photo-11

Who, in their right mind, keeps $44,922.18 in a checking account?! The checking account interest rate at Chase is 0.01%. Literally. Perhaps there’s a high-interest checking account for the über-wealthy that we commoners are unaware of? Needless to say, I lost that round of ATM poker.

36 thoughts on “I met my old lover on the street last night. Really.

  1. What you felt was the emotional response of a silverback gorilla to finding out that one of his females had run off with another male. It good to know that these ancient primate instincts are still alive in homo sapiens. Did seeing a fellow diner drop dead spoil anyone’s meal? It’s not great cabaret for people tucking into blood red steaks.

    • I agree that it must have been a primal response. I liked her well enough, but was never all that close. Why do I care so much now?

      The man who passed out at the table didn’t shed any blood. Had that occurred, I’m sure it would have altered everyone’s appetite. Then again, it’s a tough reservation to get. So maybe not.

  2. Previous lovers can be slightly awkward after an unexpected meeting. I recall sharing a plane journey with an ex seated next to me who did nothing but cry during the 4 hour flight. To this day I am unsure whether or not it was out of relief for what might have been her future.

    It could also have been due to the fact that I had forgotten her first name for the first 2 hours of the flight.

    • I’ve no doubt she wept for the loss. She could have been married to you instead of the dullard she’s got waiting at home.

  3. That was some evening alright!

    I was singing at a wedding a few years ago and noticed some ladies staring and smiling from the front of the stage, nothing unusual there you say! One of the ladies came up to me after the set and put her arms around me in a ‘It’s been so long, how are you doing’ kind of way. Nope, I hadn’t got a clue. “It’s me, says she, “ME, MEEE!”
    Turns out we were engaged to be married once upon a time. Oh the folly of youth! :¬)

    • What a fantastic story! You’re the pride of our gender. I haven’t had that many in my past. I remember every single one.

  4. i see my old lover all the time!

    yeah, i married him, but still. . . 😉

    early best wishes/congratulations/mazel tov/mabrouk to you and Mrs. Wife, sugarpie! xoxoxoxo

    • You know, that’s pretty clever of you. For most of us, “old” lover implies someone long gone and forgotten. Good on him. Thanks for your congrats re: our anniversary. I keep thinking it’s a long time but I’m pretty sure you’ve been at this game longer than that.

  5. I just wrote a VERY VERY L-O-N-G comment which disappeared on me….OY VEY!!! I will have to come back when I have the energy to try to recreate it, once again….
    Quickly, I will say, Peter Luger’s prices are shocking!!!! I remember that Restaurnt well…..but, at that time, we thought $10. was a lot!!!! LOL!
    I’ll be back when I recover, my dear.

    • That drives me crazy when I lose a comment before I get a chance to post it. Oftentimes, I ‘ll actually type out my comments in WordPad or other word processing software just to avoid a sudden loss like that.

      Not that they’re inexpensive by any means, but there are steakhouses in the city that are actually MORE expensive than Peter Luger that aren’t quite as good. Since it’s in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, I think they take into account that it’s a hassle for some people to get to. It never bothered me!

  6. Coming upon n ex-lover can be hard on the nerves. I was working in an electrical retailer some 20 years ago (paying my way through university) when an ex walked in.. She walked in with her husband and 3 kids. Thankfully none of the kids looked anything like me, but my heart did stop for an instant (not like the poor soul with the hypercholesterolemia in the steak house, because mine started again).

    But I had to bite my tongue to stop me saying to her wimp of a husband

    “Did you know she used to f*ck like a mink and bark like a dog?”

    But a gentleman never kisses and tells. Doesn’t stop me remembering though.

    • The past. FEH! Who needs it? But it’s true. Once certain images of a person are burned into your cranium, they are there to stay. But I’ve also had it happen that I’d bump into an older lover and during a nice chat, think to myself, “I wonder what I saw in her?” I’ll bet ALL of my old lovers think that of me!

    • Headache. Heartache. Culinary euphoria. All present and accounted for. Plus, red wine tends to turn the volume up on these things.

  7. There’s a theory which says that it is almost impossible for us to tell the difference between recalling a feeling, and feeling it again, and that is why it so often fails when couples who have previously split up, get back together – they think they have fallen for each other again, but actually they are just recalling how they used to feel and they can’t recognise the difference. The feeling is thus shortlived. If that theory is true, then it could perhaps explain some of your feelings that day.

    In defense of the Dad who put the iPad mini up, consider perhaps there could be a good reason. Perhaps the child has some behavioural difficulties, or a disorder of some kind, and the iPad is the only way to ensure he remains good and quiet for the meal – perhaps therefore the father was doing this to be considerate to other diners? Might not be that at all, but it COULD be, ya know?

    Ooh, nothing like a good steak! There are some places you can get a good steak in the UK, but certainly not as many as in the states. It’s not our speciality over here. I miss the easy access to good steaks from when I lived in the states!

    • I’m sure my selective memory was in overdrive. We did, after all, break up at some point. Obviously, it wasn’t going well. I subscribe to good Gorilla’s theory above. Something primal kicked in and brought me down. I’m blaming it on biology.

      That’s an incredibly altruistic attitude you took towards the dad, and one that I am too shallow to have imagined. Who knows? If not for that iPad, maybe that kid becomes a screaming maniac who ruins a very expensive dinner for the rest of us. Well played, you.

      I don’t eat a lot of beef. Especially steak. But, man, once in a while, I treat myself to a dinner like this and it feels like a reward for the commuting, hard work and a bunch of other things I’ve never put in this space. It’s a great restaurant. NOT at ALL fancy. Dress anyway you want. It’s all about the meal.

  8. That family is dreadfully sad and I hope we (me and the girls) never come to that sorry pass. What happened to *talking*?

    I had the same thing happen to me with a girl I used to work with, who I found maddeningly sexy, even while I knew that as a relationship it’d never work. But we did used to go out together and she enjoyed the attention I supposed.

    Then, a couple of years later, I walked late into a theatre, and saw her on stage tied to a tree. Afterwards, she came out to the foyer in this black mini dress and I wanted to have her over the bar, there and then.

    Then she introduced me to her fiance, and I felt this hot rush of jealous blood as I looked him up and down for the rest of the evening. Thinking “hmmm… and you prefer HIM?”

    Irrational and sex-driven, but that’s me I suppose 🙂

    (ATM slip envy here as well–although I have learned that you say “checking” account for a current account).

    • Do you know what it costs to feed a family of four at that restaurant? It’s a pity, really. It could have been an early fond memory for that kid.

      It’s the relationships that will never work, the impossible conquest, that we are most drawn to. Like moths to the flame. It’s the oldest story in the book. And is it just me or do they always wind up with someone inferior?

      I’ve never heard of a current account. I know you guys invented the language and all, but checking is a far more accurate description. You write checks from it. Hence.

  9. Cage death match with your emotions…I LIKE that. Pain demands to be felt. Don’t worry, she waited 14 years for you before she got engaged 😉 Funny what silly things get to us when they shouldn’t.

    $44,000 in a current account? I hope it wasn’t the man who died in his dinner.

    • Yes, pain wants all of our attention. Especially heartache. (Also, when you stub your toe.) Serves me right for clinging to the past. The Buddhists have a thing or two to say about that. They make it sound so easy — oh, just breathe, live in the present, let go. YOU try it!

  10. a rather grand adventure for you – would make a lovely play, wouldn’t it? get my girlfriend, Mary Louise Parker to play your ex-girlfriend. Maybe Danny deVito as the dead man. Richard Gere is now too old to play you, i think…

    i think i would find it hard to finish my meal if there’s a guy with his face in his steak a few tables over. but if it was really good? i’d find a way, or get a doggie bag.

    i believe Ms. Chapman is onto something – i have a rather protective memory system that is excellent at revisionist history. it has, on occasion, created emotional scenarios to keep me from hurting. “If i don’t love him now, then it must never have been love, so let it go, sister…” Pretty primal stuff…

    • Are you still coming to NYC?! Because OUR girlfriend Mary Louise Parker is doing Broadway this fall. Same theater that you saw “Good People” in. Interesting thought about the film treatment but if I’m penning it, she’s going to swoon over me instead of skip happily away, the way she did.

      If you paid what we paid for those steaks, you’d finish it. Fortunately, he didn’t fall face-first into his plate. The CLUNK we heard was skill on wood.

      That’s the most satisfying thing about the comments section–all the fun theories trying to rationalize my peculiar behavior.

  11. I love this post – emotions are so weird sometimes…In other news, I definitely want to go to that amazing steak house when I return – thanks for the travel tip! The ATM game is new to me, and yes, it’s really dumb to have that much money in a checking account. Que en el mundo? Oh, and that’s definitely doosh dad numero uno at that place, believe it. Excellent post : )

    • I think I invented the ATM game. Do you think I can get it patented? Thanks for reposting this. As I explained, it’s a numbers game for me.

  12. Finding your blog is the best thing that’s happened to me all day – even better than coffee – and for a Northwesterner, that’s saying a lot!

    I always lose at ATM poker. Sometimes I like to call and get my balance, because a little shaming from a computer generated voice makes me feel alive. “Your current balance is . . . ten dol-lars and . . .for-ty-three cents.”

    • This comment will probably be the best thing that’ll happen to me today. Oh…waitaimute…I’m having my anniversary dinner tonight. I’d better say THAT’S the best thing that’ll happen to me, right? THANKS for your elegant comment. You are a person of rare intelligence.

    • I don’t understand the chemistry behind it and I certainly can’t speak for the male population, but I held two conflicting emotions. While I had always hoped she’d find someone be with, I was distraught to find that it actually happened! Who can unlock or understand the mysteries of the frail, human heart? It’s best left up to the poets to decipher.

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