Valentine’s Day Special: All The Time In The World

Dear Michael and Caroline,

She’s coming over to my apartment, this cute young woman from Brooklyn. I’m living on East 23rd Street, in the city’s smallest apartment, and it’s Saturday night.

She’s in my doorway now, looking cute, as she tends to do, and out we go. We go east toward Park Avenue South and hang a right on Third Avenue.

In those days, it seemed we would always be doing Third Avenue. It had the action, the restaurants, the bars, everyone out on Saturday night.

We might be holding hands now, her hand feeling so warm in mine.

We stop off at Nizza’s, a pizza place we liked, thin crust and all, maybe two slices each. We’re already quite fond of eating out. We’d spent our first New Year’s Eve at a place called Bar None, lingering for three hours over a five-course dinner complete with a cabaret singer on piano. We might even have already gone to Windows on the World in the World Trade Center.

We like to eat and talk a little, nothing more on our agenda. Maybe I’m telling her how I hated Hebrew school, or she’s letting me in on life with nuns at Catholic school, and maybe we imagine ourselves trading places.

She eats like a lady, no tomato sauce dripping onto her cheek, and it’s all so easy. She’s easy to be with, easy to talk to, easy to listen to. We each feel no temptation to be anything other than ourselves, and being ourselves seems to fit the bill all around.

It’s 1977, maybe late spring, and we just started going out six months earlier. We clicked right away, the second date soon after the first and so on. Jimmy Carter is president, Hugh Carey governor and Ed Koch the new mayor. The city is in lousy shape, crime high, the streets dirty, the economy struggling.

But that’s all a distant backdrop for us. We’re still busy discovering each other, feeling it all out, and it’s feeling right. It’s feeling comfortable. She’s cute and smart and funny. But she’s much more than merely entertaining. She’s steady, mature. She never raises her voice or gets hysterical.

Now we’re back out on Third Avenue, the streets growing thick with pedestrians as night comes on. We go down toward Union Square Park, but probably stay out of it, the better to avoid the drug dealers.

We head back uptown, past those tall, white apartment buildings. We go down the steps into a Bagel Nosh and pick up some tire-sized bagels, either for later that night or tomorrow morning. It’s all as easy as it gets, a guy from the Bronx and a girl from Brooklyn out on a Saturday night in Manhattan.

We’re doing the town on a shoestring. I’m at the Eastside Courier, earning about $9,000 a year, and she’s at Harvest Fabrics, probably pulling down about the same.

Everything is new. We’re new to each other. Our careers are still young. The city still seems, at least to us, to have a certain innocence (we’re still a few months away from the Big Blackout and the Summer of Sam). But I’m heavily vested in the moment, no plans on my mind beyond tonight.

We’re back on 23rd Street now, the sky dark, the street lights on, passing the massive Metropolitan Life Building. We take a bench in Madison Square Park, but only briefly, because the drug dealers are out here, too. The city is otherwise ours, though, because we’re young and everything is ahead of us, our pasts containing little more than our childhoods. She has such soft skin and such a sweet smile and she makes me laugh more than any girl I’ve known, and nothing else matters. I feel good around her, better, smarter, more successful. Neither of us quite suspects whether we have a future together. We’re still in suspense, making it all up as we go along, nothing by any means a given.

We’re back in my apartment now, settling in for the evening. Soon we’ll watch “Saturday Night Live,” back then still a major, looked-forward-to event. We’ll catch Chevy and Dan and Bill and John and Gilda and Jane and Loraine in the act, and we’ll laugh together. Life is good, still pretty carefree, light on obligations. All is promise and possibility. We have no idea what’s coming.

That November, of course, we’ll move into Forest Hills together, and the next June we’ll get engaged, and the following March, married. And then the rest of us will arrive, first you, Michael, and then you, Caroline, completing us forever.

But for now all that’s still ahead. It’s only the spring of 1977, on a Saturday night, and nobody’s in a hurry to get anywhere. We still have all the time in the world.

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