He left me by the side of the bridge: it was the Queensboro Bridge in Manhattan and then he drove away. We had been arguing and he didn’t want to hear what I said and I kept saying, open the door, just let me out and I will walk. So, he complied. It was the middle of early afternoon Sunday and traffic was light. I opened the door, charged out, made a face at him and turned away to stare defiantly off the bridge. I was twenty-three years old living on my own in New York City often mired in deeper water than I cared to admit
Today, I am not even sure of what the argument was about but I couldn’t believe it when he drove away. I watched his old run-down car get smaller and smaller. Then I began to remember what the argument was about. He graduated with a BA in electrical engineering a year ahead of me. He had finally landed a position working at Rohr and was very happy. He said he loved me and wanted us to live together but in Long Island. I wanted us to look at apartments in New York City as there were no positions available for a newly minted graduate of liberal arts with an English major, and minor in French, in Long Island. We drove around and around turning corners on the Long Island Freeway which is never a simple feat with the fast traffic. I remember one day as we were driving, someone took a pot shot at his windshield from above us and it cracked like a spider’s web signaling all the fights, discussions, and disagreement that were to come with our relationship.
His parents lived in a beautiful house in Garden City and his father was a professor. They liked me. His mom took me shopping for her daughter’s wedding and we picked out silverware, bedding, etc., for her new home.
David or “Dave” as I knew him was not a perfect fit in Long Island. He always seemed as if he belonged in Northern California or the Rockies with his gentle spiritual nature. He played the flute, a wooden flute, and was divorced with a child. I met his daughter; she was eight years old. He was returning to finish his bachelor’s in his early thirties, so he probably knew more of what he wanted than I knew at twenty-three but his mom thought I was good for him. If he was California, I was definitely New York, imagining that I would be able to keep pace and excel in the center of the city. I wanted excitement and not to settle with anyone so soon. I thought it would be a great idea to live in Manhattan and he didn’t. Our fights were intense and so was our makeup.
He loved me and yet he drove away.
Years later, thinking of it, I realize that even if he changed his mind and tried to turn around, it would have been impossible. In the heat of the moment, he just kept driving. I can picture his gentle self talking to himself and finally giving up - continuing on the easiest path.
So, I stood there, burst out crying, and then began to look for a taxi. Nobody pulled over as they all had fares. These were the days before cell phones, so there was no landline near me. I began to feel the first signs of anxiety as the cars whizzed by sometimes staring at me almost as if in amusement or bewilderment. Some even honked at me to get me out of their way. I turned away because I didn’t want them to see me crying.
I kept on hitching my thumb for that elusive taxi until one bright yellow cab slowed down. Immediately, I began to worry about the fare from here to my apartment. Did I have enough money? My face froze in a neutral expression and I rushed to open the cab door. He turned around to stare at me; he was probably in his late thirties or early forties, with brown hair and an olive skin tone as if he might be Italian. I was so happy to see him that I kept smiling and sobbing simultaneously.
“So where is it going to be?” I heard his unmistakable New York accent. Secretly, I applauded that he was American and a native or so I presumed. As I climbed in, he gently inquired of my destination. In between sobbing, I told him my story. He just kept talking and telling me his story and that he was a New York native. He assured me that no one who cared about anyone would leave them on the bridge and that I was better off without him.
“Yes, yes," I kept saying and hiccuping…because of course, I wasn’t sure if I believed that. Dave and I had been dating on and off since my junior year of college. When I went to France, he waited for me the year. We had been together for three years and it was assumed that we would marry.
I felt his eyes watching me in the mirror as every now and then I glanced at him. It was a relief to have been picked up off the bridge and even a bigger source of comfort to have someone to talk with. He slowly drove around until he found my apartment. As we eased down the street, I knew that I didn’t have enough money and would have to go into my apartment to get it. Being new to the city, I was very uncomfortable with the situation. I was rooming with a fashion designer or rather potential designer who was currently working in sales at Bloomingdale´s. I found her ad for a roommate through the Village Voice. It was affordable and although my roommate was a little high strung at times, we were OK together for now.
He agreed to wait outside and I flew in the broken front entryway of the old apartment building. My roommate had actually left the key under the doormat! Sometimes I wasn’t sure which scared me more: the trusting nature of my new roommate from Connecticut or the possibility of not having enough rent money. I scrounged around until I found the extra money and ran back down the stairs.
As I gave him the money, he slowly asked me, “Look, do you have some time? I would love to show you another side of New York.” He knew that I was from the Catskills and that I was new to the city other than weekend trips with my mom and my girlfriends in Long Island.
I thought of my boring Sunday with my roommate gone, and nothing to do except worry.
He smiled and said, “Get in.”
He took me to North Brother Island which is a strange island with a mixture of wilderness, desolate scenery and empty buildings. We drove somewhere between the Bronx and Manhattan. He pointed out the water as we drove over a little bridge, the birds, and the area. The sky was blue and the setting was beautifully quiet.
Some people, when I told them this story, including my roommate, just stared at me as if in wonder that he hadn’t murdered me and dumped my body in the water.
Then, after we finished our tour, he drove back to my apartment. He turned around in the seat which had no glass partition and stated, “I want you to stay a long time in New York and I want you to know that these places exist here. Don’t ever sell yourself short. Here is my phone number. If you ever need help again, call me.”
I never called him, but I kept his number, glad to know that a Superman existed for me and that he didn’t require any exchange or payment from me in return. Simply knowing that he presented an alternative reality was enough for me to accept.