Looks like a cell in Gaza, just maybe not as nice.
I’ve managed to make 35 trips to my new place on foot with most of my things. I’ve been told repeatedly how insane that’s been, but to me it was less painful than having movers with names like Hector and Juan cart my possessions out like casualties.
That said….on Christmas Eve at 10 p.m. I couldn’t sleep. Everyone I knew, including Tallulah the bichon next door, is away with family. I’m quite used to being alone on holidays it’s really not an issue, but this year feels different no longer having the immediate creature comforts of home.
So I asked myself, where’s the nearest place to seek solace on this drizzly, sleepless night?
Bemelman’s, that’s where.
I rarely go that late, but then again, I rarely move after 36 years so let’s hit the closet with its bare essentials. Most of my clothes are at the new place on nifty new hangers covered in Chinese silk. Yes, she went all out courtesy of her collection of Bed Bath & Beyond coupons, but left my favorite Ralph Lauren dress hanging, and not by its neckline either, just in case.
After waking her up, sliding into tights and pumps like the night owl I once was, slithered into the moonlight.
When I got there the room was swinging. The bar was three deep, banquettes filled, Chris blasting jazz on the piano, his eyes half shut like the opium days of old.
Sweeping in, without sounding vain, turned a few heads, but that’s due to the lighting that rather than your coat, takes away 15 years. If only it had a tip jar.
I headed to the bar for a shot of Jameson, water back, hoping it would wrestle my restlessness to the floor. The first sip went down like heat, is the way my dad always put it.
There were no seats so I stood at the end inhaling instead of listening my ears unable to participate. A stunning woman was seated next to where I lurked in a royal blue dress with deliriously low decolletage I thought her date, any second, would dive into. Even in the twilight I saw how his gaze never strayed. She was drinking prosecco like water clearly accustomed to the flagrant flirt. Hey, she was 40 if she was a day, so this is her time to brandish those goods, at least that’s what I’d tell her. I thought I was old at 40, yeah, like Nora Ephron said, wait till you turn 50, then 40 will seem pretty preferable.
Knew none of the night bartenders yet they seemed to know me, making sure my glass was holiday filled. Anxiety took flight as I swayed with the music feeling hope for the first time in weeks.
Change is tricky, comes in like wind winking the whole time knowing more than you do. Just wait, it whispers, all will be well if you’ll just trust me.
Yeah, I’ve heard that one before.
An attractive man of a certain age asked me my name. He was expensively dressed with a watch so gold it reflected the bar lights. He smelled good, but my aim was not to be accompanied. Made me think of something a friend said, how now that I have new digs maybe I’ll meet a nice, older man, and I said without taking a beat, or a nice, older basset hound.
Carmela still reigns in my heart more than a man who would require too much attention. This fellow was foreign, rich and prowling like a cougar loose in another country. I had visions of a wife somewhere, maybe even upstairs sleeping, happy she finally had some time alone. Europeans are much less neurotic than we are. I’d be paging him at the front desk, smoking when I don’t even smoke, interrogating the bellhop.
After he saw I wasn’t interested he turned to a redhead drinking Pimm’s. She was half his age, but clearly up for anything, and why not, it’s Christmas Eve after all.
And what better way to celebrate that little guy about to be born in a manger than with fruit abundantly spilling from your glass.
I stayed a little while longer…paid my own bill returning to my bed of 36 years, someone I still trust even though in a few days we will forever part company leaving him behind for someone new, and not to mention, quite a bit harder.
I let my dress slip to the floor peeling off my hose, sleeping naked, the way I always did when I was young.
Fear and peace slept side by side calling a truce for the holiday.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night…even me.