I wondered today if you could – and I’m sure you can – type in something like “weather winter 1978 New York City” and get a site that would tell you what the temperatures and snowfall were that year.
I think it came from the radio mentioning that the record for the lowest temperature on today’s date was in 1978 and I thought of me in 1978 on that day. It was a cold winter. There had been snow and the office had closed early and Eric the lawyer in the office where I was temping had driven me home down Fifth Avenue in his black Porsche and there were no other cars, just one or two people cross-country skiing down Fifth Avenue.
He dropped me off and it was all in keeping because my boyfriend had started sleeping once a week with an old woman he’d met at a writing class – an evening writing class – at the New School – an old woman who had a seven-year-old daughter and published books already so it fit that the lawyer in this office would flirt with me, then take me out for lunch at Le Cirque where I only ordered tomato soup and a Margarita (Come on, he kept saying, don't you want something to eat?) and we only stayed about half an hour before heading back to the office and he started kissing me in the elevator. It all fit neatly. It was just what I needed, a lawyer who had his eye on me and seemed capable of making it happen.
How cold was it that winter, and the one before that and the one before that when I always seemed to be on 119th Street, walking head-down from Amsterdam to Broadway against the bitter wind in the long brown coat with the hood that my mother had paid $100 for at Macy’s in the suburbs, a coat that I loved, Red Riding Hood, a romantic coat, long and full, not tight and belted like the trench coats my parents liked, long, full and flowing, and the six-foot Icelandic scarf that my almost-useless high school boyfriend had given me, the one present he really got right. The scarf and the coat and the fierce wind and the grey unforgiving sky. The tiny Apple supermarket and the dress shop where I bought a tent dress in browns and greens, cotton, full and cheap, but a shopping mistake. It doesn’t get worn. It gets thrown out somewhere eventually before or after the drive to California just a few weeks after Eric drops me off in the snowstorm.
I buy a duffle bag at the Army/Navy store, a long green sausage, and I put all my clothes into it and put it in the trunk of the big white boxy Mercedes that is my boyfriend’s car. Of course he has a Mercedes. He has everything.
He is driving to Los Angeles. Now he is saying I can come if I want to. He has often said he will go to LA to become a film director and I am sure he will. I don’t say anything about coming with him. I don’t know what I will do when he leaves. I don’t think about it. There is too much to think about with him going once a week to spend the night in Harriet’s apartment – I imagine him there, I imagine a dark place, the little girl, this woman who is so old but he wants to sleep with her and she is so much a writer that there are paperbacks with her name on them and I have no idea how to get from here to there, but she knew how to do it and now my boyfriend sometimes likes her better than me and this is like a knife in my stomach that I say doesn't hurt.
And then somehow he is inviting me to go with him to this California where he will become a film director and I am sure he will. I do not know how I will become anything. He says he has been waiting for me to finish school so we can go together, but I didn’t know that, he never told me, and it didn’t feel that way – Harriet and Eric -- but it is fine with me to go too, to go to California now, sure – go with him, be part of his adventure that is now filling the apartment. It takes me fifteen minutes to put my clothes in the green sausage, but he is making tapes for the road – each color-coded: red for fast tapes, blue for slower ones, violet for sleep tapes – each with a title like a book, each made as carefully as a stained-glass mosaic, and he buys two small cases to carry them in – two little sort-of suitcases especially for cassette tapes and his trip is all there is so of course I will come too, as if I were really part of it, and his sister comes a day or two before we leave, Buf, his sister, with her blonde spaghetti hair – that’s what their little half-sister called it – I remember Buf coming home and telling us about it, laughing – she always laughed so intensely, they both did, as if there was a lot at stake in that laughter, as if you better join in or else -- describing the taxi ride and the cute little sister saying “spagheti hair” – and the fact is that Buf is plain. But she rolled us an ounce of pot into joints so we’d have enough for the road. My boyfriend and I always smoked with pipes, neither of us could roll, but Buf had learned somewhere along the way and she did it for us. Mostly, she is exactly the same as my boyfriend and the ways in which she is different do not count. Except for that she can roll. This is maybe her only difference that is cool. She and my boyfriend always laugh at the same jokes, are always part of one world -- one they made together -- or maybe he made it and she is Citizen Number One -- I am allowed in, but only with a visa.