Taps on your shoes are a good thing for a gentleman – they allow your heel and soles to last longer and they make a very satisfying sound against the street. I was walking down Newbury Street in Boston one late fall afternoon and the taps clicked out a snare drum beat against the cobblestones – distracting me from the wind that keeps blowing down my scarf-less neck. I am fumbling with my portable electronic nemesis as I round the corner on Gloucester Street to visit a cigar shop and I almost knock down a woman.
She smoothed her coat and brushed dishwater blonde locks from her face as I apologized for my clumsiness. “No worries, have a good day” she replies. I am not a perfume man and generally believe that only people close enough to whisper should smell it. Perhaps it was my general disdain for perfume that delayed the scent from reaching my brain until after she had pointed her chocolate brown riding boots in the opposite direction. It was enchanting but didn’t stop me from going to Gloucester Cigar Company and purchasing two Davidoff Millennium Blend Lonsdales – more extravagant than my usual Saturday afternoon cigar but what the hell the perspective client I am in town to meet became an actual client an hour earlier.
I clicked my way over to Cigar Masters, one of the last civilized places in Boston where adults can have adult beverages and enjoy a cigar. Cigar Masters has the feel of a private library, high backed leather chairs with the old man quilt are everywhere. One of those chairs was occupied by the woman on Gloucester Street; and she was occupied with a book I didn’t recognize.
“Nice to bump into you without the contact this time.”
“Should I be worried that you’re stalking me” she asked with a playful smile.
“Just a happy coincidence; but I do have a question for you.”
She extended her hand in a gesture that was either meant to invite me to take the chair adjacent to hers or to ask my question. I choose both; hung my coat on the rack and sunk into the chair.
“This marks the fourth time in my life that I have asked this question, but I have to know – what are you wearing?” After a half a beat, “Perfume wise” I clarify.
“It’s a 1940 Chanel” she says smiling broadly.
“I didn’t know there was a market for antique perfume.”
“My mom got me into it when I was in high school.”
“Needless to say, I noticed it.”
“Why do people do that? If something need not be said, why are you saying it?” She asked with mostly mock irritation.
“I suppose I could suggest it is a linguistic lever for the inarticulate or I that I simply sought to cement the obvious opinion that I was enamored by the experience.”
“Or you could acknowledge your affinity for alliteration as a linguistic lever for the over-thinker.”
Sly smiles are shared between our two porcupine intellects.
“What do you write?” I ask to lean the conversation in a different direction.
“Why do you presume that I am a writer?”
“You care about words too much, not to write something.”
“Unprofessional prose and let’s leave it at that for now.”
The day travels quickly from dusk to night as it seems inclined to do this time of year or it’s the conversation that has accelerated time. Our discussion is exceptional in equal measure for what it has included and what has been omitted. Two hours have passed and we’ve covered authors, her beloved Pats, my superior Steelers, politics, restaurant trends, and wine. Yet we have not traded names or occupations.
“Do you have dinner plans? The only place I know in the neighborhood is Sonsie’s but if you would venture into a cab with an imperfect stranger, a friend told me that The Butcher Shop is a great place…”
“I have a date” she interrupted.
My suit jacket just got looser as all of the air left my chest. “I understand, it’s a Saturday night. We just met – of course you have plans.”
“I had a really nice time talking with you; but I have stayed twenty minutes longer than I should have just trying to find a way to tell you.”
“You should go – it’s not polite to keep a gentleman waiting. I’ll take care of our checks.”
“That’s very kind of you, but not necessary. I really did have a nice time this afternoon” she says as I help her with her coat.
“It’s my pleasure and I just slipped my business card in your pocket, call me if you ever make it to DC – I’ll let you buy the drinks next time. Good luck with your date.”
“Thank you” was all she said and I watch the woman whose name I don’t know walk out the door and turn left on Newbury. “My day was better because our paths intersected and I leave town in the morning” I thought twice, though it didn’t convince me as much as I’d hoped. I returned to my chair and fished the A section of the Washington Post from my briefcase.
I watched a plume of blue-grey smoke curl into the air as I tried to remember anything from the Colbert King Op-Ed I had just finished when the Woman Without a Name walked into the room.
“Don’t say anything” she began. “I went to meet my date. We met on-line and I am sure he is lovely. Maybe I am going to hell for what I just did but I just told him that I was sorry… I would have spent the entire night looking at him talk and wondering what would have happened if I had stayed here. I know you are leaving in the morning, but I really want to have dinner with you tonight.”