He leaned over to pick something up. It was a pan. My boyfriend picked up a frying pan from the sidewalk in Brooklyn. “I need a pan,” he said.
Typical Dave. Jump in head first, never consider the risks. Who’d owned that pan? A serial killer who used it to fry human brains? How long had it been out on the sidewalk? Long enough for a dog to piss on it?
I mentioned these concerns to him, and he replied, “I’ll wash it.”
It was well after midnight, and we were headed back to Manhattan after a party. Suddenly, we heard a voice behind us pipe up. “Hey, nice pan!”
It was a tall, thin, elderly gentleman. He was wearing a tweed suit, frayed in several places. There was a large, blue ink stain on the lapel.
I went into defensive mode. I’d lived in New York long enough to know that I needed to be ready to either bolt, or punch him in the nuts.
Dave went the opposite direction. Dave engaged.
“Right? It’s a perfectly good pan, and I need one.”
Dave was born and raised in the New York City metro area. I was born and raised in a tiny town in rural Kentucky, and yet I felt I constantly had to teach him about the dangers of the world.
The man motioned toward the arch at Grand Army. “Did you know this is one of the largest and grandest arches in the world? Notice how those horses on the crowning statue have no reins.”
He was right. There were no reins.
I bolted toward the subway station. Our new friend kept pace. He swiped his card, followed us to the platform for the Manhattan-bound train and, of course, he sat with us.
Then, the man’s demeanor became almost urgent. “You simply must come see my collection. At my firm, I have an incredible collection of subway maps from all over the world. It’s marvelous, really.”
“Maybe,” Dave said.
“Now! You don’t want to miss it. I’m heading to the office anyway!”
Just as I was getting ready to rudely shout, “No Thank You,” I heard Dave said, “OK. Why not?”
You see, this was back when our relationship was new. Back when he didn’t know he had to run everything past me first.
So, here we were. Following a strange man to a more deserted location.
The financial district is a ghost town at night. We were all alone. We arrived at the base of a skyscraper, and he implored us to look up. “This is art deco at its finest.”
He pressed a button, a buzzer went off, and we walked into a grand lobby.
He showed us the intricate tile work of the lobby, which he said was based on Aztec designs. Then he pushed the elevator button, and up we went, to the 35th floor.
We emerged into a luxe law office. The walls were dripping with art. Audubon prints from the 1950s, an ancient Roman tapestry. We went into a tiny, windowless conference room. He began to show us subway maps.
There were more subway maps than I could have imagined. From the tangled web of the Paris Metro to the clean lines of the Washington, D.C. subway. He showed us a map of Tokyo’s system, which he said was presented to him at a traditional tea ceremony.
Then, “I must show you my article! They did an article on me!”
He swiftly left the room, and shut (locked?) the door behind him.
And for the first time this whole night, Dave looked scared.
“What the hell?” he said. “What are we doing here?”
“I don’t know,” I said, happy he was finally waking up.
“We don’t know who this guy is at all! Listen,” he said. “I still have this pan. If he does anything, I’ll hit him in the head with it.”
And although my boyfriend was talking about striking an elderly man in the head with a frying pan, I’d never found him sexier.
The man came back, carrying a newspaper clipping. It was from The New York Times, about 10 years old. It had a picture of him, in a much cleaner suit. It said he was a big-deal lawyer with a collection of art worth millions.
And that was that. It was very late at this point, so we offered to walk him back to the subway. He said he needed to stay and do some work, that he didn’t really sleep so well these days.
Dave and I didn’t say anything, but we both had tears in our eyes. What a night! And if I hadn’t been with Dave, I would have missed it all. All the wonders of Bob’s office, Bob himself, a man I pigeonholed in four seconds flat, a millionaire who wanted to show two strangers on the street some of his treasures.
Dave still shows me the wonders around me, helping me to stop viewing this world as a war zone filled with dangers, rather a wonderland to be explored.