The vision took place in the West Fourth Street station – the one where the Sixth Avenue and the Eighth Avenue lines converge, then go their separate ways. I had no intention of getting off there. I was just passing through on my way to meet Janna at a nouveau foodie restaurant on Spring Street.
I was safe now living a life far from any city and from mountains, just stretches of beach. Although, the ocean occasionally caused anxiety. Because here the ocean is too low, away from the road, at the bottom of a bluff. And it’s as calm as a pool, no waves. Everything on the bluff is flat – no soaring mountains, no hidden villas, no mule trails winding down, down, down to the seductive turquoise Mediterranean. Nothing to call me into it’s depths. My ocean is a real ocean, cold until late summer, always a greenish grey, never bright blue. Not as beautiful as the Mediterranean, but safe.
On that day, I had left my cozy house by the ocean because Janna wanted to be a lady-who-lunches. It is to be a celebratory lunch because Janna has a new show opening in the prestigious Broome Street Gallery. Janna always manages to be involved in the most prominent of galleries and to be in the center of the most important of events. I am celebrating Janna’s good fortune despite my unwillingness to share in it. It is safe that way.
So, I undertook a journey on the Long Island Railroad to help Janna affirm life and her love for art. I myself am now childless and have renounced a promising career. It was a bright day, neither hot nor very cool. I knew the restaurant on Spring Street (apt for the season, now that I think of it). I remembered that they don’t accept credit cards, but I had already gotten off the LIRR and made my way into the subway, the Eighth Avenue line and was on the E train. I knew that there is a branch of my bank near the West Fourth Street station. Hence my getting off the train at that stop.
I knew which exit to take – the one on West Third Street. It seemed that the bank was now where O. Henry’s Steak House once had been. I had memories of very happy times at O. Henry’s Steakhouse with Sebastian, where, ravenous after a performance, I always had a rare sirloin burger – rare, I say, but it was in fact raw in the middle and charred on the surface. Red wine accompanied it, at least two glasses and sometimes three. Salad, though. Never fries. Fries were seductive, their appearance and aroma beguiling, but their substance nothing but disappointment.
So, I got off the E train at West Fourth Street. I had a vision of Sebastian standing at the Third Street entrance, as he did long ago. But maybe it was something more substantial. As I approached the stairs I saw a rat looking at me with sad eyes before he ran away.