It was September 19, 1981. I hadn’t had a “date” since that ill-fated night on the Appalachian Trail in Connecticut several months earlier (and had no reason to expect that dry spell would end today). It was supposed to be a bunch of us, ink-stained-wretches-in-training from the local community college, taking the train to the city to see Simon and Garfunkel reuniting for a free concert in Central Park.
How the hell was I to know that the rest of my life was knocking on the front door? It was probably 8 a.m., and I was fast asleep. But Jane kept knocking.
Our family dog, Whiskey, was about 14 and tired. She limped into the foyer, looked at the young woman peeking through the window, and went back to her spot in the kitchen to lie down.
Jane knocked again. My sister Tonette woke up this time, answered the door and came upstairs to tell me, “get up, there’s a girl looking for you downstairs.” She said it like the word “girl” should be in italics, as if this sort of thing didn’t happen to me.
But this was something I half expected. The plan was, Jane would pick me up and we’d meet the gang at the train station. Except, there wasn’t a gang. Unbeknownst to me, Jane called everyone and told them to stay the hell away, probably in that tone. She wanted it to be just the two of us. The others could find their own way.
See, this surprised me because she was dating another guy at the time. Her infidelity was an immediate turn-on.
We drove to Deer Park and picked up the train and tooled around the city for a while, walked by the Dakota to see where John Lennon had been shot, walked past the guys selling loose joints, found a spot in a field that we thought would give us a good look at the stage and were absorbed by half a million people.
Simon and Garfunkel opened with Mrs. Robinson. We walked around Central Park for half the concert, looking at the tiny musicians on the stage half a mile away, saw a guy dangling from a limb in an oak tree, and a cop trying to talk him down; ran from a bunch of guys that Jane called “assholes” when one of them bumped her, stayed for the whole show and walked some more.
Did a lot of walking that weekend, peeled each other’s minds back. Never uttered the words “soul mate,” though. Way too soon.
We spent the night in her friend Jackie’s dorm at NYU and I called in sick to work at the bowling alley the next day, a Sunday. She bought me a shirt at some basement store. The shirt has long since been eaten by moths and time, but Jane and I are still together, in spite of many odds.
So this is an anniversary of a first date that wasn’t supposed to be a date, and I’m a romantic by nature, but I’ll pull a Fred Flintstone tonight and go where I was supposed to be 30 years ago on that Sunday morning-after. I’ll go to the bowling alley.
Hey, my team needs me. And Wilma will understand.