modern love [writing]

one random last-august afternoon i got on an uptown F train with a comely brown-eyed girl heading to some event i've now forgotten. we sat down on one orange seat and one yellow seat and held hands. after a stop or two, the elderly man in the seat perpendicular to mine cleared his throat and, when he had caught our eyes, asked if we were brother and sister. with equal parts sheepishness and brazen good humor, we clarified our situation. he seemed happier that it was our way and not his and told us we looked 'real happy together.' then, perhaps to fill the off-balance silence, he told me, 'she's a real pretty girl,' and quickly reaffirmed both his respect and his manhood, allowing, 'i don't mean nothin' by that.' she blushed. i blushed.
for the next who knows how long his watery blue eyes glistened as he told us about growing up in brooklyn, the travails of being a new york city cop, losing his wife, remarrying. incidentally, he happened to be returning from greenwood cemetery, visiting his first wife.
once on the topic of marriage he began to muse on the tragedy of love as a lost institution of our time - lamenting that so many divorce, are unhappy, or never marry, and that too many true loves are lost by chance or foolishness. he spoke about his first wife and his current wife in distinctly different tones, utilizing his old-timer's brooklynite logic and power of suggestion to convey more than he actually spelled out. clearly, he loved both women, but his two loves were as different and necessary as sugar and salt. he spoke of his first wife sweetly, tenderly, with twinges of heartbreak and fondness for familiar super8 memories; he made it clear that love was all they'd needed. he spoke of his current wife less delicately, but perhaps with a greater sense of her being his other half, as if the two relied on each other as partners, foils, lovers, friends. he secretly went to the cemetery every week while she was getting her hair done. 'she don't need to know. i think it'd only hurt her.'
we got off at the next stop.

i was reminded of that day reading the first installment of salon's new series american's talk about love.
...Going home one Sunday night, I go down on the subway and something happened that has never happened before -- ask any New Yorker, they'll agree with me -- there was nobody, I mean no single person on the subway platform.

It was maybe 10:30, 11 o'clock. The train comes, and again, nobody is on the train. Except for a woman sitting at the head of one of the cars. So being a young New York boy I get on the train, I walk the length of the train to where she's sitting, I sit down right next to her, pull out a book, and start reading. And I peruse the page, or a half-page, I turned to her and I said, "Excuse me, does this train go to Brooklyn?" She looks me in the eye and she points across the other side of the car and, of course, there's a big sign: "To Brooklyn." I said, "Oh! Thank you! Goodbye."

Get back to the book. Couple minutes later I turned to her and said, "Could I take you to your home?" She looks at me and she says -- with a pause -- she says, "If you got a quarter you can go anywhere you want." Which was what the subway cost at that time. And she got off at the next station, and I got off with her and followed her.

She's standing here watching me tell this story again. [continue]

DOWNLOAD: bloc party - this modern love [mp3]

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