“A butterfly can flap its wings in South America, and in Central Park you get sunshine instead of rain.”
The Universe has a funny way of deciding who it chooses to send in and out of our lives. Some of those people become main characters, some have supporting roles, and others are day players, around for just one episode. It tends to be those with the smallest part that can have the greatest effect.
Let yourself hear the weight of my words, read them slowly, fully allowing each one to sink in as I say: last night was one of the best nights of my life. My girlfriend Jessica and I met Feliciano the eighty-five year old photographer from Argentina for dinner at a little Italian bistro in the Meatpacking District.
Feliciano has been living in the hotel I work at for almost one month now while on vacation. I don’t know why this man keeps coming into my life but I sure don’t mind. The man is alive, in every single sense of the word. He makes the people around him glow; he finds a way to turn the key to unlock what they are hiding from the surface.
Jess and I arrived fifteen minutes early and were greeted by the old man moments later. Before we sat down, Feliciano asked the waiter to take our photograph. New friends. The three of us toasted to life as the sun sank low in the West over the Hudson River, casting a surreal painted vanilla sky that would have inspired Monet.
Conversation flowed with such ease. He never spoke of himself, only when asked. He talked briefly about his fifty years living on West 23rd Street in Chelsea, his humble beginnings in Argentina, and how much New York City has changed. He kept stating the great importance of true friendship, intelligent conversation, hearty meals, and health.
There was a moment of silence in between words. The three of us sat rapt in our stillness and took in the scene around us as we dined outdoors on the New York City street. It was dark now, the sun had set. There was the distinct sound of expensive shoes on cobble stone streets, horns honking, and the warmth of laughter.
“If I close my eyes, listen to the city, experience the scent of the food, sense the cool summer air on my skin, it is almost as if I am young again, sitting on the streets of Paris.”
He slowly opened his hazel eyes and stared with admiration at the two of us through his glasses, as if he was captivated, deep in a lost memory:
“There is something romantic about being young, poor, and in Love in New York City, isn’t there?”
His words seeped deep into me. I allowed every single one to marinate in the moment. A question he knew did not require an answer.
After a full course meal of Northern Italian food, tiramisu for desert, and three rounds of Pinot Gigio, Feliciano said it was time he went back to the hotel to get some sleep. I offered to pay for the meal. I’ve never had much money and so I tend to get uncomfortable when others treat. I couldn’t help it; Feliciano insisted it was his pleasure. Jess and I walked Feliciano back to the hotel, where all the staff knew him by name and greeted him like family.
“There is nothing like new friends and intelligent conversation. We must come back one year from now.”
And with that, we said until next time to Feliciano from Argentina.
Jess and I left Feliciano as better people than before we met him. An internal fire, like burning furnace for life, had been stoked. We rode the subway uptown back to our neighborhood, got off a stop early, and sauntered slowly up along the East River under crescent moonlight. The air was quite cool now, as I held her tightly under my arm. We headed back to our tiny matchbox studio apartment and made love before drifting off to sleep sometime around midnight.
My alarm clock sounded for work at 5:45 AM. I thought for a moment, it was all a dream. I write this narrative in my journal as I glance up between my thoughts, peering out over patches of robin’s egg blue sky hidden by indigo feathered white clouds hanging low, teasing the tops of skyscrapers, with no place to go, simply drifting toward the ocean.
© All rights reserved 2014