Even though it’s jacket weather and 3:00 in the afternoon, the west wind is very soft on my face. Soft like a cloud, milkweed down or warm kittens. Not soft in the way it blows. It buffers and bluffs against my ears, its voice loud and lapping as it slaps them.
It is too cold this Memorial Day weekend to swim; almost too cold to eat in an outdoor café. But with my back to the wind — and my leather jacket zipped up — I manage to lunch in the sun, under the scudding afternoon sky.
A slim gray-haired woman is studying the menu, which is hung above a tub of purple pansies by the door of La Grainné. She asks me about it; clearly not from the neighborhood. She is, in fact, from Brattleboro, VT. She is a writer. As there are only three outdoor tables, we agree to share one.
Arlene is delightful. She is on her way to Nashville to visit her pregnant daughter, who (not surprisingly) has married into a family of musicians. ROCK musicians, however; they don’t like country.
Mario makes her a lovely quiche and a ratatouille crèpe salée for me. We share a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and our lunches. In October there will be a literary festival in Brattleboro. If the house isn’t full of visiting family, I can stay for free. (Her son lives in Brooklyn, but I’ve already offered her a free spot in my loft if she returns).
We play with all the passing dogs and babies: they seem to want to stay with us, and their walkers indulge them by letting them make friends. One golden retriever sits down and makes soulful eyes at Arlene and her lunch. Instant guilt overcomes her, but she gamely hangs onto her quiche until the disappointed dog departs.
After lunch, we stop in a children’s store and I buy a blue truck-shaped box of crayons for a friend’s little boy. Arlene’s the one who stopped in the store, but she comes away empty-handed.
We walk toward the Highline and turn north on Tenth Avenue, as there’s a lovely bookstore there at 22nd Street. She will browse and then go on to 23rd Street and the Highline. I also tell her about my “secret garden” in the nearby theological seminary, and the Clement Clark Moore Park near to the bookstore, with the spouting seal sculptures in the playground.
We hug and I walk east on 22nd toward home. It is after 5:00 but the light is still strong. The wind has given up and now lets me walk without pushing me.
I have a new friend!