This is Caroline. When we were going out, I thought that my life couldn't get much better. It was exactly what I had imagined my life in New York would be.
We met on a Sunday morning at 0630. I couldn't believe that anyone would be ringing the bell that early. I staggered to the door in a T-shirt and boxers.
When I opened the door, I was surprised to see a beautiful girl with long blonde hair, big green eyes and a smile. She told me she was looking for my roommate and was sorry to disturb me. I was so tired and a mess, I didn't feel the need to saying anything witty. She was way out of my league anyway. "I wish I could help you." I said. She extended her hand and said "I'm Caroline". I responded as one does and that was that, back to sleep.
The following day, my roommate told me that Caroline had asked him to give me her phone number. He said "Whatever you said to her, you made an impression." I was shocked and I wondered what was wrong with her.
You know when you meet someone new and there are sparks and all? You know she wants to see you again because she gave you her phone number. There is that blissful space of time when all you have is your imagination and you can't stop thinking of her. And, you imagine all sorts of wonderful things about her because at that point, all things are possible. I held off calling her for two days.
My roommate told me that Caroline lived on 5th Avenue opposite the Metropolitan Museum and that all of her free time was occupied with figure skating. Which among other times she did at 0630 on Sunday mornings. He also told me that her mother was very unpleasant and did not like "local talent" sniffing around her daughter.
Our first "date" if you could call it that, was the following Sunday. We met in Central Park just off 5th Avenue near her apartment at 0530! She was going to be late for figure skating so she would be able to spend an hour with me. I was nervous and my stomach had been doing flip flops all night. See, growing up in New Jersey is a lot different than growing up on the island of Manhattan. Growing up in the city, is growing up fast. If you are born into money, you grow up sophisticated. You went to one of the private schools around Manhattan that catered to the 1%. You traveled, you did things that kids in Flotsam's Mistake NJ wouldn't even be aware of for years.
We talked about her skating and my photography. She spoke of the places she had traveled. I spoke of the places I hoped to go. She was poised, intelligent and beautiful and I couldn't stop looking at her. Exactly one hour after we sat down, a car pulled up to the park entrance and she said "That's for me." She started to get up then sat back down again. "I'm going to wish that I had done this all week if I don't." I started to ask what, but before I could, she kissed me full on the mouth. And then she got up and walking to the car said "I'll call you.
I guess I passed.
Growing up I had a rather shallow fantasy of living in New York City, working as a photographer. I would have a beautiful sophisticated girlfriend and we would do all the cool stuff New Yorkers do. Like the movie "Blow Up". Walking home, dazed and grinning like a fool, I thought that I was living the dream.
Caroline's mother was an actress seen regularly on the Ed Sullivan show. I met her one Sunday morning at Caroline's practice session. We had been sitting talking and being very touchy feely when Caroline's face went white and she said "Shit". Out of no where her mother suddenly appeared and was walking towards us in a very deliberate manner. Introductions were made and mom said it was time to leave. Well, she seemed nice on TV.
When I heard from Caroline the following day, she told me her mother had been very angry. She didn't want Caroline to see me. "We are going to have to be careful." Caroline said.
I had never known anyone to dislike me immediately like that.
What she didn't know at the time but found out from pumping Caroline's friend Angela was: I went to School of Visual Arts, I drove a cab, I grew up in New Jersey. So I was definitely "the local talent." In her mother's mind, if I wasn't in Who's Who (as she was), not from a good family and going to art school she didn't want her daughter wasting time with me.
I have since learned that the fastest way to get your kid to do something is to tell them they can't. We were found out several times. At one early morning practice session mom confronted me while Caroline was on the ice. She asked if she could speak to me for a few moments. "Of course" I said. She told me that she was going to allow Caroline to see me. "You're just going to continue doing it anyway." I said "Thank you" but before I got the "you" out of my mouth she turned around and walked away. She was definitely warmer on TV.
Caroline could spend time with me when the schedule allowed.
Her mother made sure she had plenty of things to keep her busy. There was figure skating practice. Her school always had functions requiring her attendance. On weekends there was the opera or the ballet or time with her father who lived separately from the family.
Caroline lived directly across from the Metropolitan Museum. So whenever there was a free hour she would call me and I would ride my bike across Central Park. We would meet at the Temple of Dendur. Behind it were galleries that were quiet with places to sit and hardly any tourist. The Met had always been one of my favorite places. To be young, in love and lust, in such a magical place had been part of my New York fantasy. "How great is my life?" I thought.
Then it became summer and Caroline had managed to get a job in the city as an intern at a law firm. But the best part was that mom was going to be away for weeks at a time doing summer stock! It would be Caroline, her sister and the maid. Of course mom filled the maid in on what would happen if she even thought that I had been in the apartment.
The day that mom left finally arrived. The next day while the maid was cooking dinner, I arrived at Caroline's building and of course was stopped by the doorman. When he called up, Caroline answered the intercom and cleared me upstairs. She met me at the door and after checking that the coast was clear sped me into her room. A little while later she came back with some food and wine and told me she was going to be back after the maid turned in. And she was. And that's how almost every night went for about three weeks. One morning Caroline's sister found me coming out of the bathroom at 0500. But Sis was cool.
After a while, I was frustrated that Caroline had a curfew and all we could do was hang out in her room. I hadn't yet learned that too much of a good thing starts to feel routine. One night we were talking about the depression and FDR. And Caroline said something which caught me by surprise. She referred to him as "That man in the White House." A phrase used by haters of him and his social programs. Caroline's upbringing had been quite different than mine. I grew up hearing my mother talk about Roosevelt, the hero. She remembered hearing his first address to the nation. People who had been suffering for years felt for the first time that everything was finally going to be OK. Caroline's family had always had money.
It was the first time I had a negative thought about Caroline. One brief conversation and I couldn't stop thinking about it. Every night I came over to see my girlfriend, the doorman looked at me like I was a piece of shit. I had to sneak into the house because mom thought I wasn't good enough for her daughter. The apartment that Caroline lived in had more square footage then two of the houses combined I had grown up in. When Caroline went to school or skating practice it was in a chauffeured car. A cab if she was slumming it. And when it was time for my girlfriend to be presented to society it wasn't going to be me escorting her.
I had never mentioned that my father was Jewish. I knew why. I had chosen not to think about it and I felt guilty. That adage "familiarity breeds contempt" became quite real. Mom had been right. I wasn't like them.
After that, things began to cool down. Caroline had a sense of entitlement that I thought was charming at first ... but I didn't anymore. Before we got to spend real time together everything had been wonderful. When I stopped being impressed with the wealth, the beauty and the sex, it turned out that I really didn't like her very much. I guess I wasn't that shallow after all.