Authors: Suzanne Jenkins
Copyright © 2012 Suzanne Jenkins
All rights reserved.
eBook ISBN: 978-1-62111-235-8
think I am living a nightmare. I’m frantic because for over a month now, the man I am seeing, I
seeing, has not called me. He often drops out of sight for two or three days, but like clockwork, he’ll call by the fourth day, always with an excuse. His wife was suspicious; his mother was sick; work was pilling up.
My office is on Wall Street, down about four buildings from Exchange Place where his is located. He has forbidden me to ever set foot there. He told me that his boss has a very, very strict policy on marriage and divorce, morals, stuff like that. He said if anyone suspected he was having an affair, he’d lose his job and then we wouldn’t see each other again because he would have to leave the city.
Because our offices are so close, we see each other a lot. He used to escape for a quickie almost every day around eleven. At first, I was a little miffed because I expected him eventually to spend more time with me. We always went to the same place—a public bathroom that is a one-stall closet with a lock on the exterior door on the campus of a university three or four blocks toward the harbor. We’d go in, make love, he’d buy me lunch from a street cart and then we’d say good-bye. He never took time for a real lunch. Rarely, we’d meet for a drink after work. He’d call me at 5 p.m. and say the same thing every time.
“Kiddo, how about a cocktail in ten?” He bought me gifts; bracelets were his favorite. I have bracelets made with every gem known to man. I was getting a little tired of bracelets. Then he switched over to earrings. I have pierced ears. Thanks to him, I have quite a collection of earrings. They are real, too. Not street-vendor jewelry or any junk like that. My sister, Heather, says that the garnet earrings he gave me for Valentine’s Day are antiques. Why would he give me a pair of antique earrings? So anyway, we would meet at a dive bar close to the Path Train. He would have time for one drink, two at the most. The bar is very dark. The booths are unpadded, uncomfortable. He always wanted to mess around, so we sat in the back corner where it’s private. I was happy to do it because I figured he would be satisfied and then he wouldn’t have sex with his wife. Even though he was older—I didn’t know his age for certain but guessed he was about forty-five or fifty—he still could do it like twice a day. The bartenders in Manhattan can tell you a thing or two about the sex lives of their clientele.
The first time I saw him I was standing on the corner by my office, buying a hot dog for lunch. He was behind me in line. I paid for my lunch and moved away so I could eat my dog without being in the way of the others in line. He bought a dog and soda, asked for a paper sack, and took it with him. He got into a cab with his lunch. I have never seen a person who could afford to take a cab buy his lunch on the street until that day. After that first time, I watched for him and saw that a couple of days a week he would do the same thing. He’d buy his lunch at the same hot dog stand and then hail a cab. He never looked my way, which was another thing that bugged the heck out of me. I’m young and pretty and have been told I am a “looker.” I am a Jersey girl through and through, even though I am originally from Scranton.
Finally, on a Friday about three years ago, he noticed me. He was buying his usual dog and soda and I made sure that I was close behind him. When he turned around to walk away from the cart, he almost smacked me in the face. I looked up at his face with a smile. I had on a tight, low-cut sweater and the highest heels I can walk in. First, he looked me in the eyes, and then I saw his eyes move down. He smiled back. When I finished paying for my hot dog, he was waiting for me.
“Want to eat together?” he said. I nodded yes. “I have to make a quick call,” he said. He walked away a few feet and spoke quietly into his phone. “Let’s walk to the park, okay?”
We started walking down toward the triangle. He seemed a little nervous, looking around him as if he might be observed. We were just going to eat a hot dog, so I wasn’t sure why he minded if someone saw us. He didn’t even know my name. We found an empty table and sat down across from each other. He extended his hand.
“Hi there, I’m Jack.” He shook my hand and then started opening the bag containing his hot dog. “Thanks for having lunch with me.”
“I’m Cindy,” I said. “Cindy Thomasini. You work downtown, right?” I asked. “I’ve seen you around.” I bit into the dog, but I was self-conscious. When we talked, I worried that there was food in my teeth, or my breath smelled like mustard. I put it down and drank some soda, trying to swish it around in my mouth as unobtrusively as I could.
“Right over there,” he said, pointing to a tall, beautiful building on Exchange Place. “So you’re Italian,” he said, smiling. “How about you? What do you do?” He was looking intently at me, staring into my eyes. I felt a chill of pleasure because his look said, “I’m interested in you.” I told him a little about myself; I’m thirty-one, single, work as a secretary in a pool at the Stock Exchange and live alone in a studio apartment in what was an old slide-rule factory right by the Holland Tunnel in Jersey City. He was interested in my building, the history of it, whether I had a view. I did actually; I could see the top of the Empire State Building. I told him the traffic noise during rush hour going into the tunnel diminished what enjoyment I got from living so close to the city. The only good thing about it was that it was about a hundred yards from the Path Train.
We finished our hot dogs, and then he started to fidget. I mean, he was pulling on his collar and messing around with his tie, everything but looking at his watch. He started to push his chair back to stand up.
“Want to walk a little before we have to go back?” he asked. I was already going to be late; we only got half an hour for lunch. But there was no way I was going to miss one second of time with him. He was an answer to my prayers, a real dreamboat. I smiled and nodded yes. He moved right over to me and took my hand. We walked for several blocks like that. He asked me questions about my family and friends, the people I worked with. I guess he could tell I was lonely; that I was alone. My mom and dad still live in Pennsylvania, near Scranton. I went to school in North Jersey and never went back home. I tried living with girlfriends, but they always got engaged, and then I either had to move out so the boyfriend could move in, or they left and I couldn’t afford the rent anymore. Last year, I saved enough to buy the little place I have now and I think I’ll probably be there until I find someone to marry, although I didn’t tell him that.
Conversation with Jack was so easy. He seemed interested in my life and me. He held my hand, letting go of it and placing his on the small of my back when we crossed the street. Before long, we were on campus, near the public john that became my home away from home. On the first walk, we took didn’t end up in the bathroom, but he did seem to gauge the time it would take us to get there and back to Wall Street.
When we got back to the Exchange, we made plans to meet at the vendor the following day. He asked for my office number; he’d call if he were hung up. But he was pretty sure his boss would let him leave right at eleven. He squeezed my hand hard and, looking into my eyes, he thanked me.
“I feel like I had a break from work, from the stress of my office. Thank you.”
“What company do you work for?” I asked. He laughed, but shook his head.
“I think I’ll keep that private, for now. Okay? Oh, and I’m married. Married with children. My wife has the money in the family and she would sooner kill me than allow me to have lunch with a pretty, young thing like you. So is it still on for tomorrow?” He bent down and looked into my eyes. I involuntarily shuddered. He laughed aloud! I’m such a pushover.
“Yes! Why wouldn’t it be?” I smiled back at him. “See you tomorrow! I’m not going to have a job if I don’t get back in there.” He let go of my hand and we parted; Jack walking backwards, nodding his head in approval while he looked me up and down. The chill went through my spine again. I wish I had run the other way.
The next day, I left my office at 10:58 when I didn’t get a call canceling our lunch. I ran down the steps of the Exchange and saw him at the hot dog cart the moment I stepped onto the pavement. That thrill from yesterday—the chill—went down my spine again. He looked just…well, unbelievable. He was like a model. Tall, fabulously built, broad shoulders, narrow through the waist and hips. He had on an expensive suit and was impeccable in every way: crisp shirt, shined shoes, silk tie. His hair was cut to perfection. How in God’s name was little Cindy Thomasini from Scranton able to attract someone who looked like he did? He was aware of our surroundings; I saw him give the area a once over just as I approached him. It must have been safe because he threw his arms around me and lifted me off the ground in a bear hug. It was thrilling!
“You look wonderful!” he said. “I couldn’t take my eyes off of you the minute you came out of the building ‘Wow!’ I said to myself. ‘She looks like a movie star!’ And you do look like one.” He bent down and kissed me right on the mouth. I wasn’t expecting it; a public kiss? I had had a boyfriend in high school who, for two years, wouldn’t hold my hand in public. I wondered if older men just didn’t care how they appeared. He turned to the hot dog vendor and ordered our lunch, asking me what I wanted to drink. We walked to the triangle again and found an empty table. He talked the entire time, asking me questions about my job, if I had a boyfriend, what my plans for the future were.
“No, no boyfriend,” I said. “I wouldn’t be here having lunch with you if I did.” He grinned at me.
“This is just a hot dog! And I’m harmless.” He bit into his dog. “I just know that I like a pretty face and you have one. And your figure, ooh-la-la!”
I guess that I must have been suffering from total lack of self-esteem, because no alarm bells went off. Was I becoming desensitized already? A man I had known for thirty minutes comments about my figure and nothing seems wrong about that? I think I was so flattered because he was so gorgeous. I had never dated anyone who wasn’t struggling. My last boyfriend worked at a muffler repair place in Hoboken, for God’s sake. This guy was like the king. There was an element of unreality about it. I felt like the girl in
. The rich man paid attention to her and swept her off her feet. The only problem was that it wasn’t to Manderley that Jack would take me, but to an empty bathroom stall on a college campus.