The swirling bright electric colors of Times Square was a spectacular dizzying scene from every corner between Seventh Avenue and Broadway. She's standing in the middle of this famous square with her daughter Mckenna trying not to stare at a shaggy brown-haired, naturally-tanned man sitting on the 7th row of silver bleachers located on 46th and Broadway. The man looked vaguely familiar; she was trying to figure out where she knew him from. Maybe he looked familiar because he was dress like many men his age-- Levi Jeans, tight fitting t-shirt; a refusal to break out of the 80’s and let go of their teen years. To avoid being caught she whipped out her Nikon D-5000 to take pictures of the scenes around her. A group of young, muscular men wearing matching blue and white striped shorts and white tank-tops were entertaining a crowd in front of the Marriot Marquis with their Breaking and Crumping skills. Mckenna, a dancer was beaming a smile that was brighter than the lights swirling around them. Head bopping, feet tapping to the mixed beat of loud bass and fast speaking undertones of lyrics; she looked as though she was going to jump in and join the group. The camera flashed with a beep, two quick pictures later she spins on her heel, noticing a crowd of people mostly men, watching a Las Vegas type showgirl dressed in teal and peach feathers walking on stilts. “How in the world can anyone do that so skimpily clad?” she asked Mckenna. Her daughter too busy watching the dancers didn't answer back. The Camera flashes again and she pivots on her heel in the direction of the crowded stands pretending to be taking a pictures of the Broadway billboards; Wicked with green-tinged Elphaba and sparkling pink Glenda grace the screen. Another board shows Daniel Ratcliff starring in How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying; she can't imagine Harry Potter singing, but she might pay to see him do so. Snapping picture after picture, her eyes speed up to the seventh row, the man is no longer sitting there and she quickly scans the rest of the bleachers. Nada- he is gone. Darn, I won't be able to find him again in this noisy crowded chaos.
Turning back to her blond, green-eyed daughter, she focuses on the odd beauty of the street dance. Mckenna begs her mother to let her take a few classes at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. "Did you bring dance stuff?" she asks her. Mckenna's smile turns to a frown as she shakes her head no. How could she ruin her daughters elation by saying no, after all it wasn’t her fault that she was in a funk because she lost her chance to verify the man against her cloudy memory. Surprisingly, she responds, "Well, we’ll just have to buy you something before you sign up for classes. Let's head off early tomorrow morning to look okay?" Receiving an unusual hug from her unaffectionate daughter, a man's voice breaks over her shoulder.
"Rosa, Rosa is that you?" she turned around nearly bumping into the man from the stands. She still can't place him. Sensing the confusion on her face, the man says, "It's me Patrick- Patrick Braelia, do you remember me? We were friends in Long Beach. A smile slowly radiates across her face, she can now see his round, rosy resemblance of boyhood hidden under his browned, slightly weathered face. "Oh, Patrick, I knew it might be you, but it's been so long." she sang. Hugging each other, the memories seep into her heart; she hugs him tighter.
Patrick asked her where she has been since she moved away. He knew that Mrs. Field (or Trudy as she wanted the kids to call her,) had been living in the house for a few years alone, a man moved in and a little girl was born. The house was sold and they moved into an apartment on the beach. He had seen her wandering alone on the boardwalk mumbling to herself. Rosa’s heart ached for the mother she never really knew, who had been so alone and mentally broken.
She told Patrick her mother had died in the Long Beach hospital in 1994 of AIDS, infected by the father of her half-sisters whom she’d met once when she was twelve. Rosa didn't want to talk about her mother, so in her usual way she started gushing out questions, "how are your parents; did they still live in the Long Beach house; did his dad still do lawn maintenance; did his mom still make those amazing cookies with the slivers of chocolate shavings in them and..." a burst of loud laughter hit the air interrupting her questions. He didn’t mean to laugh, it was just that she was the same old Rosa– she could never shut up even then; she was always full of questions and always talking.
Before he could answer her though, Rosa realized, while she had been living in the past for the last 15 minutes or so, the dance crew had completed their performance and had moved on to another corner of the square and she was now the center of Mckenna's attention; an angry look shot at Rosa and she knew Mckenna was upset about forgetting she was around. Stumbling through a quick introduction and explanation of Patrick's connection, the attitude warmed only slightly. Mckenna hated how this conversation had been going; she always felt that when her mom talked about her birth-mother (which was rare,) she was hurting her beloved grandma's feelings even if grandma wasn't around to hear it. So, she asked her mom is she could run over to Forever 21 to do some shopping and then head back to the hotel located across the square. "Mckenna do you have your cell?" "Yes, of course. When have I not had my cell! Geez, mom." With a quick reminder about safety and a "Have a fun time, call me when you are up in the room." Mckenna was off across the square, pleased as punch not to have to listen to Rosa and Patrick anymore.
"Can I buy you a cup of Coffee?" Patrick asked.
"I don't drink coffee but I could do with a hot chocolate," Rosa replied.
He called his wife told her about the situation and they headed off to the Coffee Pot around the corner which was open 24 hours. Only a handful of people were sitting in the café dressed up in sparkling dresses and suits as if coming from the theater. No one noticed Patrick and Rosa walk in, they were too busy telling the waitress about their evening.
The cafe was extremely run down with its stained blue brocade papered walls; small intimate back porch tables filled the front of the cafe. The back held numerous worn couches; walls lined with book shelves filled with an eclectic mix of colorful spines showing titles like Tuesdays with Morrie, Fahrenheit 451, Nights in Rodanthe, City of Glass- a Graphic Novel, How to Build a Computer for Dummies and more. It was the perfect place for old friends to catch up. Kicking back on a plaid and floral couch they sipped from their sweet and bitter steaming cups; talking about everything they had missed from each other’s lives.
Patrick talked about his siblings; Rosa only remembered his brother Michael because she too had a brother Michael the same age (they were known as the 2 Moody Mikes around the neighborhood, always getting into trouble. One of the reasons we moved, Rosa reminded herself.) Patrick said Mike had cleaned up his act in his late 20's, went to Law school and passed the Bar Exam after three attempts; he helped people, like himself, who frequently got into trouble; most of the time working Pro-Bono. She told him that her brother Mike died four years ago from an adverse reaction between his meds and some beers he’d been drinking. For a while both of them sunk into the worn couch digesting the polar-ism of their brothers’ lives.
After freshening up his coffee, Patrick told Rosa he lived in his childhood home with his wife of 20 years, his three boys and two twin daughters. He had taken over his old-man's lawn maintenance company. His old man still kept the books but in recent months had been coming in sporadically since his momma passed away fighting valiantly from throat cancer.
Rosa told him, that they had moved to Utah from New York. She told him her dad (whom he knew had gotten remarried) and her mom had moved to Florida after retiring; they loved every sea breezed day reading and listening to music on the beach or riding their bike to the gym and/or the library. She and her husband Matt and three kids had moved to Florida about three years ago to be closer to them.
Checking the time on her cell phone she gasped- it was 4:30 in the morning, the café was empty now. The time had slipped away, Wow- it’s late. She returned to the couch ordered another Hot chocolate and suggested to Patrick that they head back to where they had met,
"I'm staying at the Marquis. How did you get to the square?"
"I took the subway. I’ll just take a Taxi back to Long Beach,” he said. After paying the bill at the old IBM register they headed for the Square.
Walking down the streets of Manhattan in the wee hours of morning is an experience everyone should have at least once in their lives. What is glamour and glitz in the evening with the bright colorful lights, excited laughter and talking people gathered along the busy sidewalks turns into garbage and grim in those breaking dawn hours. Where once the people wandered; now piles of stacked condensed cardboard boxes and bags of trash lifted off elevators from various store basements. Dancing along the gutters was an assortment of paper, fast food boxes, discarded cigarette butts and gum wrappers. The rotting trash permeated the air along with the smell of alcohol coming from the snoring bums cradled on subway grates. Rosa and Patrick don't notice any of this until they reach Time Square. Rosa hated being the first to break the bond, but her daughter would be up soon and she didn't want her to worry.
“We will be in the city for another week, maybe we can get together again; this time bring your wife and kids. I would love to meet them.” She grabs Patrick’s cell phone, plugs her number into his contact list; dials her number from his phone and lets it go to voicemail. “I’ll call you.” She hands him back his phone, hugs him and runs across the square.
“I will call you soon; have a great rest of the weekend,” he calls after her.
She knows that she will never call him. He is too much a part of her painful past. She doesn’t want to dredge it up again. She is an avoider and this is what she does. Looking forward to taking her daughter to her dance classes she heads up to their room; invading scenes of her previous life like the lights from the evening swirl through her mind. Curse him for recognizing me.