Somebody bought us a round of drinks, the waitress wouldn't tell us who, they wanted to be anonymous. I thought maybe it was the nice young woman who had spoken to me earlier. "No tip unless you tell us," Luther said, but she kept her secret. I kept wanting to lean across the table and kiss him. "Hold still," I wanted to say. I haven't felt like that in 20 years. We were still talking when we realized the restaurant was closing. We split the bill, got up to leave. He introduced me to two friends still at the bar, both of whom were named John. Then we left. He peered into the back of my car and mentioned something about the dog food there. "I'd love to do this again," I said, and he said something I didn't hear because I was opening the car door.
I got home and called my friend. "I had the best time," I said. "I just love him."
I never saw him again. I e-mailed him after a day or two saying I hoped he'd had as good a time as I had, and asking him a quick question about something he'd said. "Who was it you said said, 'Man wants but little here below, but wants that little longer'? Was it Oliver someone?" Of course I knew the answer.
His reply was brief. "Yes, Goldsmith, but not but, it's nor." Not another word.
"Oh my God," I thought—"you're a dick!"
But being 70 has its advantages. I did not spend any time wondering what I'd done wrong, or what I could or should have done differently, whether I was too old or too fat or asked too many questions. I am who I am and it has taken me a long time to get here. But part of me was sad, because I liked him, and we did have a good time. The date was like an island you stumble on with a stranger, and you spend a few pleasant hours together there, but you can never find the island again. I ached a little.
And then oh God, I suddenly remembered waiting for a glimpse of my first serious crush, Tony Wallace, as he drove up or down the hill outside our house. It was 1956, I think. I swear I could hear his car coming 40 miles away, and I'd rush to the window hoping for a glimpse of his elbow sticking out the driver's side if he was driving up the hill, or a girl in the passenger seat when he was driving down. Either way I was filled with love and longing, an ache that was almost pain. Tony was tall and gentle and beautiful with sad, sad eyes. He was a few years older than I was. He had asked me out a few times, and it was he who taught me how to French kiss on that hill overlooking the Hudson, the smell of wisteria everywhere, but finally I was just too young. "Oh Tony," is all I'm thinking now.
"Where are you?"
Abigail Thomas is the author of A Three Dog Life (Mariner) and Safekeeping (Anchor).
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