Letting Go of the Apthorp

According to our mutual friend, my date has an Ivy League pedigree and experience in finance. The budding matchmaker has probably told my dinner companion that I can be mildly amusing. We take the usual older-person-dating-inventory while ordering drinks. So far, I would tell our hopeful friend, "I think I'm underdressed, and his posture is intimidating." So far, my date might say, "I'm less than enchanted."

One of his gambits holds some promise though: "I've just moved back to Baltimore after many years in Manhattan."

I say, quietly, "I lived in Manhattan, too."

"Oh? Where?" I can tell I've interrupted his flow because his response is a bit snappy. Did I mention his ancestors may have traveled over on the Mayflower?

"Upper West Side," I answer.

"Me, too. What street?"

I lived at 79th and Broadway, but saying it that way won't get me the attention I now inexplicably crave. Besides, I haven't lugged this old chestnut out for a while, so I go for it: "The Apthorp."

Suddenly, the room has warmed. I am charming and probably more intellectual than I appear. Unexpectedly, he might know people who know people that I know. He orders another drink.

Saying I lived in the Apthorp is always like eating too many Almond Joys or oysters on the half shell. Sooner or later, my elation evaporates into regret. This is one of those sooner times. My date remembers parties he attended there with rich, famous people, lots of them. I'm hoping he's not expecting me to return volley here because the reality is I can't. I lived in the Apthorp for five months. I was in my early twenties. John Lindsay was mayor. Nora Ephron hadn't moved there yet. You get the picture.

And then there was the way I got there in the first place. Spring, 1970, I was a college sophomore. The Cambodian invasion and Kent State killings sparked protests, and I was roused. Not by the political climate, but by one student radical in particular, with curly hair and a vocabulary that sent me running to my dictionary. I had to have him. I got him. I followed him to New York because it was clear we'd be together forever, fighting "The Man." I told my parents: "I'm just languishing in school. I need to find the real world."

The real world turned out to be his mother's apartment in an Italian Renaissance Revival building with iron gates and limestone sculpture. Every amenity at the Apthorp was foreign to me. The elevator operator made the safest of small talk while he pressed buttons and then, at my floor, graciously extended his arm to show me the way out. The men who ushered me into the compound at the imposing gate called me by my last name.

Tenants, especially the old-timers, knew an interloper in a granny dress when they saw one and politely ignored me. It didn't matter. I learned the names of anyone who did anything for me. I over-thanked the elevator man twice a day for carving out a recurring exit strategy for me. I asked the Super about his kids. I cleaned before the cleaning lady got to our room.

As much as he didn't want to admit it, my boyfriend, by virtue of being born into this, knew the code. When he kindly explained how I should act, I said something like: "Pardon me. I was told there'd be a revolution here." I should have said, "I just don't get this place."

My dinner date winds down, and I smile at how much time and attention the Apthorp got tonight. At dessert, my date bemoans the building's current state of turmoil and how blatantly public it's all been. "Sad the way it's unfolded," he says, and even if I thought of agreeing, my mouth was now in that blissful position it finds when chocolate mousse floats through it.

My date and I say our goodbyes in the parking lot with a peck on the cheek, throwing little fibs into the air about staying in touch.

If ever asked again, I'll say I lived at 79th and Broadway. Even if he's Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard and has the best posture I've ever seen. It's long past time to let the Apthorp go.