Left Waiting
Michael Maiello

I almost lost her in the winding streets and glass-mirrored buildings of New York. My girl left me in the New Mexico desert, to seek fame, money, and brunch with Woody Allen in Manhattan. She went to NYU and the first week met Spike Lee in an elevator. I don't like Spike Lee. Hate midgets. I promised to follow quickly, but I left her waiting a year -- expenses, obligations. I put the girl on hold. Then I chased her.

I flew into a typically crowded La Guardia airport in the heat of July. New York heat isn't like southwestern heat. The sun doesn't burn the skin (I remember once when she and I were in White Sands, sunlight everywhere, searing my skin so badly it felt like getting a tattoo) But here in the New York summer, my lungs are like kitchen sponges, sopping up the air and growing heavy. I light a cigarette to loosen them up while I wait with my briefcase and wave for cabs to cart me to Grand Central, where a train leads to Penn, where a subterranean walk leads to Greenwich Village. Find Broadway, find NYU. the Tisch school for the arts (she's on the seventh floor, doing theatre)

I wait outside, hoping to surprise her on the street, to be her love regained on Broadway, to pry her away from Spike Lee, Alec Baldwin, David Byrne and every other cosmic celeb she's met walking these streets over the past year. All I see here are bums and hipsters hurrying to clubs and alleys.

I grow bored waiting. I figure I should go upstairs, find her at school. But NYU's a private university and the security guards don't let just anybody up. The tall black man in the blue rent-a-cop suit says I can sit in the lobby, which is air conditioned. I thank him and I think that slipping him a five to let me upstairs would be a very New York thing to do. Uncertainty censors the impulse. Is a five enough? I can't spare a ten, and a bribe which falls short is nothing but an insult.

I'm there until the lobby closes, reading a Village Voice. I'm asked to leave. I wait outside, finally here, but left waiting.

First published: May 10, 1999
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