I haven’t been to Bemelmans since Valentines Day treating myself like a sweetheart. I charged my drink of course, but come to find out, the bartender picked it up. This allowed me to rationalize going there again, plus I needed to sit in the quiet opulence alone with my thoughts.
When I got there it was pretty empty except for a packed bar. Since I had my choice of the rest of the room, I slid into a back booth with a great view. The barmaid smiled and brought me a huge bowl of chips and an automatic glass of Merlot. I was happy about that since I wasn’t up to making any decisions, even that one.
“Haven’t see you,” she said, “everything okay?”
I went to speak and burst into tears instead. Nothing like being the life of the party. A man perched at the end of the bar came over with his handkerchief like an old knight in a tweed blazer.
“Oh, I’m fine…really…it’s allergies.” They both looked at one another like perplexed parents before the barmaid went back to the bar.
The man clearly in his 80s, was very handsome in that Floridian, play golf all day, hope my toupee doesn’t bother you, kinda way. I held his hankie tenderly with no plans to use it because, then what? I give it back with snot all over it? It’s the one area of polite protocol I’ve yet to master.
“Can I join you?” he said, his liver spots glowing in the dim, overhead light.
Before I could answer he sat down. Well there goes my few minutes of I vont to be alone.
“You’re much too pretty to cry like that. I’m J and you just tell me what’s the matter because I can fix anything.”
Oh my, and he’s modest too.
Why me and not Camille who would have thought she won a sweepstake. I know what you’re all thinking. Why not you?
First of all, I may not be a hottie anymore, but I still simmer given the right circumstances and this wasn’t it. His skin was the color of well-done toast while that rug sat on his head like George Burns’s who at least was funny.
And incidentally, I haven’t a whorey bone in my body so his obvious wealth meant little. My heart leads the charge always, even if it’s going in the wrong direction.
This was one of those times I searched for a wedding band finding none.
I knew I needed to come clean since my ability to feign politeness was missing in action. I didn’t even want him to pay for my drink.
Then he told me a story. He was a friend of JFK’s who kept a suite at The Carlyle, a well-known fact. He likes to come and have a drink when he’s in New York to toast and remember his friend. Kennedy was born in 1917 so could he be even older than that? On May 29th, John Kennedy would have been 98.
However, now he had my interest.
“You don’t say.” I said, wanting to interview him.
“Was it true he was as much of a philanderer as they say? I mean was he really that indiscreet?”
“Absolutely,” he said without blinking an eye. I waited for more detail but none was forthcoming.
“Do you think deep down he, despite his indiscretions, loved Jackie?
“I just finished a book about Bobby written in 1969 by Jack Newfield, a journalist who knew him pretty well.”
“I knew Jack. Great guy, good writer.” Again, nothing to follow and I wasn’t about to beg.
“You know sir, I’m very low over a few things I don’t wish to discuss, but you’ve reminded me of something I love very much and that’s American History. I need to read more. It will help me heal.”
“How do you figure?” (at least he didn’t say absolutely)
“Well, most of the players are dead which reminds me to lighten up because life’s short (he being a fossil I probably shouldn’t have said that). And many of them had terrible things happen and still carried on, something I need to do. So I wanna thank you for dropping by to remind me of all that.”
He stared at me as if I was a little crazy which was fair since I am. I signaled for the check but he quickly said, “I have it…don’t be silly.”
“Are you sure?”
“Absolutely…consider it on Jack.”
I let this seep in and said, “Well in that case, thank you very much.”
I collected my things and headed for the door realizing I still had his handkerchief.
“I’m sorry,” I said, turning to give it back.”
“Seems you’re a crier…better keep it.”
I really looked at it for the first time when I got home.
The initials? JFK.
Did it really belong to Jack Kennedy or did they have the same monogram?
I called the barmaid to ask who said, “I don’t know J’s whole name. He always pays in cash.”
“You don’t say…hmm.”