A few months ago, my daughter and her family were in New York City for her brother in law's wedding celebration. At the same time, I was in Italy, returning to the states five weeks after the party, crashing head first into the holiday season so there really wasn't much talk about the party and, in the rush to get ready for Christmas, only highlights of our recent pasts were shared.
Of those highlights, I remember one well. It was the little story that Sara told about Lucy, her then six year old. The story is short and goes like this......
Walking back to their Times Square hotel one morning, after a very New York start to their day, Sara said something like "let's go back to the hotel" at which point Lucy asked that she not refer to it as "the hotel" but as "the apartment" so that all who could hear would think that they lived there, somewhere in the city. Sara obliged and from that moment on, a little girl's fantasy was allowed to live a rich full life of its own.
I loved this little story. I related to it. I applauded Lucy for her ability to verbalize her desire, allowing her mother to enter into it. I marveled at how, at this very young age, she already had a love for urban life and all that went with it. I also totally understood her little fantasy and thought about one of my own urban fantasies..
When I worked in Manhattan, I never got used to the thrill that getting off of my commuter train at Grand Central Station gave me. I loved every sight, every smell, every challenge that the big city held. I loved working in the city, loved every thing about the city and always will and now, in the dead of winter, here on Cape Cod, I really and truly miss the everything.
But, back to the fantasy world....
I had a dentist, in fact, I had two different dentists, when I was working for Colgate, who both had offices in the same building. Of course, when I left the practice of one, to become a patient of the other, it was a bit tricky but, thankfully, each had his office on a different floor so I was safe and never did I run into the former dentist while en route to the new one. Both, might I add, gave me professional courtesy and accepted my dental insurance in full, not a dime ever passed between us. This might have accounted for the many visits. No financial hardship for me. Cash cow for them thanks to good insurance from my employer. This is a cold, hard fact, especially in New York City where money talks, nobody walks.
My dentist was located on West 57th Street, one of the busiest in midtown. My appointments were always made for after work, a time I could did not have to worry about waiting for my cell phone to ring, summoning me back to the office to give a throat lozenge to my big baby of a boss who mis-used his position for such things. I never knew, when that phone rang, if it was going to be something of that nature or a call to real action because someone was having a nervous breakdown or even worse, a real crisis like a heart attack. Perish the thought that I might be taking care of myself at such a time!
I love 57th Street. It feeds my urban soul. I had a number of route options between my office on Park Avenue and my final destination and, depending upon the weather and the time of year, I would randomly select one, finding a good reason for that choice. Sometimes, I had time to kill and rather than kill it at work, I would leave and make a stop along the way that usually resulted in a purchase. Feet hurting? The Easy Spirit shoe store. New shoes for the rest of the walk. Talbot's sale, why not check it out?
The corner of 57th and Fifth is the home of Tiffany and Company. Across the street and up a short way, is Bergdof Goodman and then the plaza where the Plaza Hotel sits. Across the street, the entrance to Central Park and the glorious stretch of road called Central Park West. My walk to the dentist did not take me up that far on Fifth but rather took me straight across Fifth and on to West 57th. It was usually at dusk, after work, through the heavy ornate exterior doors and down the long marble floored hallway to the elevator bank that I walked, totally engaged in my thoughts.
There was not one time that I entered that building that I did not allow myself this little fantasy: I live here. I'm coming home now, after a day at work. This is where I live, on West 57th. Street. In my mind, I wondered what that would be like, were it real. How different would my life be from the life of the woman who lived in the apartment on the opposite side of the street, the one I watched from my chair in the dentist's office as I waited for the Novocaine to take effect. In that chair, feeling very much like Jimmy Stewart in "Rear Window", I watched through her windows as she came home, turned her lights on, checked her phone messages, opened her mail and went from room to room, preparing for her own transition from working woman to after-hours resident of West 57th Street. To me she looked exactly like Grace Kelly but I never did get a real look at her face.
All I saw was myself in my apartment on West 57th Street. Or, was that simply my reflection in the window....
Maybe one day in the future, I will visit Lucy in her own apartment on West 57th Street, it's just a fantasy away.