The car doors were about to slam shut as I boarded my lucky 7 train, sometimes referred to as the International Express. This kaleidoscope of the world on wheels would soon depart Times Square, crossroads of the world, and take me to the cozy Jackson Heights apartment which I shared with my wife, Carol, and Smokey, our cat.
I needed luck on this miserable rainy day. Frank Strong, CEO of Strong Architects, made it plain that had I had better come up with a good design for the Grant Park Library soon, or else! It was a good omen that the subway train that I boarded consisted of old, now rare, Redbird subway cars. Carol had given me an HO scale model of one of these cars as an engagement present.
The model was painted in the original blue-and-cream scheme which the 7-line used for service to the 1964-5 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows. I had planned to take a day off from work, two weeks from now, in order to ride the final Redbird subway train in regular service. Now I was not certain.
At the last split second, before the car doors slammed shut, a tiny mouselike figure squeezed into the car, and pressed up against me. She faced me, smiled, and said, “Tom – Tom McGuire, long time no see.”
“How have you been Tulip?” I replied. I had not seen Tulip Gordon in over five years. I was not sure I wanted to see her now.
“I’m married now. My husband is a doctor. We live in Bayside. What have you been up to?” Tulip asked nervously. I told Tulip about my becoming an architect, and my marriage to Carol, a recently unemployed librarian and evening art student. As we talked about old times, the world passed by in a blur and we arrived at 74th Street-Jackson Heights.
After saying goodbye to Tulip, I exited the subway and being pelted by liquid bullets, I turned into the Slattery Arms apartment building thoroughly soaked.
“I’m home!” I shouted as I entered the apartment.
“Is that you, dear?” a voice from the kitchen called out.
“No, it’s Paul Newman,” I replied.
“Ha! Ha! very funny,” Carol said as she ran out of the kitchen. Her red hair was a little damp, and her granny glasses were fogged. She wore an apron over her Mouseketeer sweatshirt and jeans. She gave me a big hug and greeted me with, “Wow, you look like a drowned rat!”
“Thanks a lot, I think I’ll change before dinner.
“How was your day?”
“O.K. I guess, Strong was on my back over the Grant Park Library project”
“You’ll do a good job, Tom, I know it,” Carol said, running her fingers through my hair.
“I could design an average building, one of Strong’s glass boxes and he probably would approve.”
“Well, why not, Booby?”
“Because I want to design something that will not only look good but will serve the public better as well.”
“Do what you think is right.”
“What’s for dinner?”
“Tonight, we are celebrating your first successful design. I picked up a delicious fillet-of-sole at the supermarket. Dinner will be ready soon.”
“O.K. I’m just going to change into dry clothes.” Moments later, after changing, I sat down at the dinner table. I stared at Carol’s delicious fillet-of-sole, without taking a bite. Smokey sat at my feet on his haunches, looking up at me hopefully. I gave Smokey a tiny bite of Carol’s delicious fillet-of-sole.
“You’re not eating Tom. Something is bothering you.”
“It’s just nerves, probably Strong. I’m going to lie down for a minute, hold dinner,” I said as I got up from the dining table.
I entered the bedroom, sat down on the bed and kept thinking about Tulip. We met at an Upper East Side singles bar. She was a social worker from Upstate New York. We had much in common, enjoying old black-and-white movies, and listening to Miles, Trane and Dave Brubeck in her East Village pad. After intensely seeing each other for a month, she said she couldn’t be with me anymore. She gave no explanation.
I got up from the bed, walked over to the dresser, lifted up the HO scale model that Carol gave me for my engagement present, and looked at it lovingly. Smokey brushed against my leg, showing his appreciation for a tiny bite of Carol’s delicious fillet-of-sole. I lowered the model gently to the dresser, like a pretty little girl in a blue party dress, rushed back to the dinner table and blurted, “Guess what, I almost forget to tell you, I met an old girlfriend tonight.”
“You dog!” Carol screamed, then laughed hysterically.
I devoured Carol’s delicious fillet-of sole, minus one bite, then announced, “I am going to design a building that will look something like Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum, having ramps to aid the handicapped. If Strong doesn’t like it, I can always get another job.”
Two weeks later, Carol and I rode the final Redbird subway train to Willets Point Boulevard, its final destination. Strong liked my design and gave me the day off with pay. The 7 train had been lucky for me after all. On a miserable rainy evening, two years ago, a woman tripped and fell while boarding the 7 train at the Times Square subway station. It was love at first sight as I helped Carol to her feet.