Friday, June 7, 2024

An Old Story

Mr. Tree called.  He invited me to his wedding that is taking place in a couple of weeks.  His fiancé from Cuba finally got whatever she needed to come to the U.S.  She is leaving behind her medical practice in Cuba where she is paid a couple bucks a week to be a physician.  He put her on the phone to talk to me.  I congratulated her and asked her how she liked being here.  Duh.  

It's a problem for me, though.  I'm going to have to see if I can fit into any of my dress pants.  I'll probably have to go shopping.  I would like to buy a pair of finely woven silk pants with a perfect drape.  I probably won't be able to find such a thing here.  Whatever.  Maybe I'll go in jeans and a jacket.  But it will be hotter than hell.  I'll sweat like the pig that I've become.  

I should wear a mumu.  

So. . . Mr. Tree the Malaysian Indian is marrying his Cuban fiancé.  

We had a hell of a storm here last night unexpectedly.  The wind was whipping and heavy rain was coming down sideways nine yards at a time.  You know the term "the full nine yards"?  Look it up.  

We needed the rain very much, but we didn't need the storm.  I was watching t.v. and then I wasn't.  The internet went down.  Then I noticed water coming from the ceiling in the kitchen.  I decided not to freak out but I was freaking out.  There was nothing I could do but put down a towel and do some deep breathing.  I went to my computer to work on the surf series.  When I imported some files from a folder that said "Surf Series," some photos that weren't from the surf series showed up.  Miya from South Korea.  2009, summer, Chelsea, Manhattan.  It was hot and humid.  I was walking the new gallery district and sweating.  I entered an old building renovated for multiple galleries in a six story building.  The elevator had an operator.  I mean to tell you, this elevator was old.  As I stepped in, the operator asked me which floor.  

"Six," I said.  I would start at the top and walk down.  A woman had slipped into the elevator beside me and the operator asked her the same question.  

"I'm going with him," she said.  I was still good looking then, but this was quite the surprise.  

When we reached the top floor, I pointed to a small gallery space and asked her if she wanted to go there.  She simply nodded.  As we walked around looking at the work, I tried to make conversation but she was all but silent.  I felt she was barely looking at the art.  We walked into a few more spaces, and she stayed close by my side.  It was hot, and I was fairly beat, so I asked, "Do you want to go get something to drink?" 

She nodded.  We left the building and went walking toward the West Village.  Gradually, there were trees and shade and winding streets.  It felt noticeably cooler and the sound of traffic faded.  We found a cafe, sat down, and ordered beers.  She was still a mystery, but her tale began to unfold.  

She was a physical therapist on an island owned by a shipping company for which she worked.  She was one of the few women on an island of men, seamen, mechanics, heavy equipment operators. .  .whatever.  I'm just spitballing here.  But her job was to help the men who had been injured.  She worked long hours and on the weekends travelled to her parent's home to help her mother, as, she explained to me, was a daughter's traditional duty.  Her life was work, but she was making money and was accomplished.  

She met an executive of the shipping firm, a Canadian.  They began to see one another when he was there.  She thought he was her boyfriend and fell in love.  One day, however, he told her he had a girlfriend in the states and that he wouldn't be seeing Miya any longer.  She was crushed and suffered through months of severe depression.  She wrote to him in New York where he had an apartment.  He wrote back.  She had never been out of Korea before, but when her vacation came, she bought an airline ticket to New York.  

When she got there, she couldn't find his address or phone number.  She had relatives living in New Jersey and went to stay with them.  Eventually, however, she had found his information and called him.  She went to his apartment and spent the night with him, but in the morning he said he had to leave, that his girlfriend was coming and hey were going away together on vacation.  

And that brought us up to date.  

Miya was a marvelous person and I was feeling deeply for her and her situation.  She said she was going to the apartment in a bit to get her things.  It was late afternoon when we left the cafe.  We walked to the subway station together.  She was going to the West Side, I to the East.  We took a train together to the station where we would part ways.  She sat silently looking at me with heartbreaking eyes.  I had a room to myself, but I also had a girlfriend.  I wanted to tell her she could stay with me, but I wouldn't.  Just before the stop where we would part, I reached down to caress her face.  We exited the train and hugged in the crowded station.  Before we parted, she gave me her email address.  I said I would write.  

I was overwhelmed with emotions on the ride to my hotelm in one part desire and the one part guilt.  

After dinner, I went back to my room and wrote her a long email.  She wrote the next day.  She had gone back to New Jersey to stay with her relatives.  The next time I heard from her, she was home.  We wrote one another for many, many months.  She was smart, clever. . . insightful.  Her emails were long revelations into her psyche.  She seemed to hold back nothing.  And though she was writing in English on a Korean keyboard which, she said, made it very difficult, her emails were beautiful.  

Skip ahead.  She met and married a rich fellow from France, a big international oil company executive.  There were photos of her in expensive hotels and restaurants all over the globe.  They got married, and in a couple years,  they had a child.  There were photos of them, the child, and their blended families.  She got more beautiful with the passing years.  

And, of course, our correspondence came to an end.  

I thought of Mr. Tree and his fiancé last night when I found the photos of Miya.  To say the world and love are strange is an obvious cliche, but cliches are cliches for a reason.  Some people get lucky and others eat worms.  

I wonder if Miya's old email account is still active.  I feel like sending her a message today just to see.  I'd like to hear her "voice" again and see if she is still as she was.  

But that would be a bad idea, and I won't.  Just like I didn't invite her to stay with me in my Upper East Side hotel room that night.  


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