I Remember My First Great American Love
I remember the first time I met Sophia at O’Hara’s the quintessential American café on Restaurant Row in Manhattan’s Theatre District, 35-years ago on the Tuesday before Good Friday.
I remember leaves sprouting after the long winter nakedness.
I remember she paused at the coat check.
I remember she had on a sleeveless, navy blue, pinch-pleated silk dress with spaghetti straps.
I remember her raven hair shining, cut to shoulder length, defining her facial features, smooth nose curving at the tip naturally.
I remember an enticing space between her top two teeth.
I remember her pearl-adorned neck.
I remember the dress hugged her slim waist where the flirty pleats began, hemmed just above her knees, revealing her long legs.
I remember she had on black pumps.
I remember she looked at the mirror behind the oak bar before walking to the corner table where I stood, my hand extended.
I remember heads whipped around.
I remember when our eyes met, I saw a yearning.
I remember offering her a chair.
I remember the scent of jasmine, pale rouge on her cheeks.
“What does the emblem on your blazer mean?” she said.
“Ad Aethera Tendens
(Fly high and higher)
Sri Pratap College
I remember adding, “Captain, cricket team.”
“Cashmere! Is that where wool comes from?” she said.
“Yes.” I said, “Woven into shawls for the Pashas. Hence, Pashmina.”
“Excuse my ignorance,” she said, gently sipping Pinot Noir. “Many Americans are poor in geography unless of course we bomb a country, and the evening news shows us a world map. “Where exactly is Cashmere?”
I remember thinking I love her comment. Hey, here’s somebody who shares my outlook. Be careful now. Play it well. Don’t fuckitup.
“Exit 18. I 95. Hang a right. In Kashmir, my roads diverged,” I said.
I remember she tossed her head back laughing, the space between her two top teeth was beguiling.
I remember biting into my juicy hamburger.
“I’d love to photograph you,” she said. “I have a studio at work on Madison Avenue.”
I remember long drives from Manhattan to Popham Beach, Maine, where she was born and raised and where her dad, a WWII vet, taught me how to sail; I still treasure a photo Sophia took of my wire rimmed glasses, my Meerschaum pipe, a tin of Borkum Riff tobacco and my L.L. Bean wristwatch: still life on the deck of a small sailboat.
I remember one night at her parent’s cottage reading “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” to her after she had a horrible fight with her sister who somehow learnt her husband had fucked Sophia.
I remember our trip to Tulum, where Sophia sunbathed in the nude.
I remember our memorable drive in a rented Fiat from Milan across the Swiss Alps to Venice.
I remember slowing down at every road sign that said Caduto Massi, worrying what it meant in English.
I remember waking up at Pensione Guerrato, in between the Rialto Bridge and Ca’ d’Oro, to the clickety clop of heels on the stone pavements and loving it, Sophia didn’t.
I remember later in Firenze I asked my friend Roberto what Caduto Massi meant.
“Falling Rock Zone,” he said.
“Holy cow,” I said.
“There is more art and architecture in one square mile of Florence,” Sophia said, “than is found from sea to sullied sea in America.”
I remember trekking with Sophia beyond Gulmarg to a seemingly virgin meadow in the majestic Pir Panjal Range that circles the Vale of Kashmir: we took a peaceful nap amidst wildflowers.
I remember months after our first date, making love to Sophia in her photography studio on Madison Avenue; my many faces on the wall smirked back at me.
I remember once pleading with Sophia not to abort, but she did anyway; her heart had its reasons. I never probed her about the abortion; I wished I had because I felt diminished.
I remember later that first evening after dinner at O’Hara’s, the night still young, I offered to drive Sophia home in my navy-blue second-hand Skylark.
I remember parking next to the fire hydrant in front of the Episcopalian church opposite her brownstone in Chelsea.
I remember we steamed up the windows; she was forthcoming: it was easy: I felt comfortable with her; I thought I was blessed.
I remember years later a fateful day when I started cheating on Sophia, the Challenger blew up in the sky.