The World Trade Center Transportation Hub’s concourse will ultimately connect visitors to 11 different subway lines; the PATH rail system; the Battery Park City Ferry Terminal; the National September 11 Memorial & Museum; World Trade Center Towers 1, 2, 3, and 4; and Brookfield Place (formerly known as the World Financial Center), which houses the Winter Garden. It represents the most integrated network of underground pedestrian connections in New York City.
The “Oculus” serves as the centerpiece of the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, incorporating 78,000 square feet of multi level state-of-the-art retail and dining. The concourses emanating from the Oculus link the entirety of the site above and below grade. With an additional 290,000 square feet of exciting, multi-level retail and dining space, the World Trade Center site is the focal point of Lower Manhattan. (Port Authority of New York and New Jersey site)
In my twenties, I would never have slept with a married man. I’m too moralistic. The granddaughter of a preacher. But now, I don’t consider it a moral failing. it just IS. I see him, despite his marital status. I love him, despite his marital status. I caress him in my bed, despite his marital status.
It’s not the big bad city that changed me. I’m still the goody-two-shoes Wisconsin girl. It’s just getting older. It means the stripping the body and mind clean of what constricts us, the old black and white thinking, and embracing complexity. Don’t overthink it. See the world with an open mind. We are all flawed. Brene Brown tells me to not feel shame. My love for him is not shameful. Yes, our relationship is complicated, like they say on Facebook. But I understand it. I understand that he has kids, and his wife who’s crazy, so he needs more time. What I can give him is patience. I can wait. That’s true love. Like in Shakespeare.
He treats me well, better than any other man. He brings me gifts and tells me I’m beautiful. I so want to meet his kids. Some day. And we will be a family. Or else, we can have our own kids. Yeah, imagine that! What am I talking about? I’m not going to turn into my sister, stuck at home with kids, getting fatter by the day. No kids right now! That time will come. Just enjoy what you have. With no shame. Thank you, Brene Brown.
I bought a steak for tonight. He loves steak. I wish we would skip dinner completely and fall into bed, so I can feel his strong hands grab me from behind. I love when he says my name. I wait for that. He says that I make him feel like a man again. That his wife is aloof and makes him feel that he never makes enough money.
It’s 7:30. He said he would meet me here a half hour ago. But it’s OK. He must be stuck somewhere. I know Tuesday night his daughters have Girl Scouts. I wish he would text and tell me where he is. He needs to be discreet. I understand that. Until he can divorce her, it has to be this way. It’s all good. What can I do? All I can to do now is wait. True love requires patience.
It was Friday afternoon and Sandy stood on the 125th subway platform with her daughter, Laila. They were heading downtown; it was her ex-husband’s weekend with his daughter. Sandy’s mind was elsewhere. She was hoping to have a date tonight with the good-looking marketing executive she met on Tinder, but he had yet to return her text.
“How does Santa Claus get into our apartment building. We don’t have a chimney?” asked Laila.
Laila had been obsessing about the truth behind Santa Claus ever since she observed the one from the department store Santa entering the men’s room behind the kitchen appliance section in Macy’s.
“In New York City, Santa Claus brings the toys in through the window. He also has the key to every apartment.” her mother answered.
Normally Sandy hated to bring her daughter over to Luke’s apartment, she disapproved of his new girlfriend, Ellie, a twenty-eight year old Hungarian graduate student with excessive cleavage. This weekend, Sandy was glad for the time alone. She could use her time to watch Hallmark movies in her underwear. Even if the Tinder guy didn’t get back to her this weekend, it will be enough to have the quiet in the apartment.
“And I always have my vibrator” she thought, a gift she bought for herself last Christmas.
Laila was still thinking about Santa Claus.
“So, Santa Claus flies into every single window in New York City? That would take him all night. And, uh, where does he park the reindeer?”
“He just does it. He’s Santa Claus.”
“Let’s get real. There is no Santa Claus, is there?” Laila asked, clicking her tongue.
Sandy’s heart skipped a beat. Her daughter was too young to reject the magic of childhood. Sandy felt like a failure as a mother, the type of parent to be scorned on the internet.
“Of course there’s a Santa Claus,” said Sandy. “I mean it’s not the guy at Macy’s. That is just an actor. But the real Santa Claus is out there, with his white beard, living in the North Pole. coming on Christmas to make children happy.”
“Mom, I think I need a second opinion.”
Laila saw an older black man sitting on the bench under the poster for the new Supergirl TV show. He was reading the New York Times, about the latest terrorist attack in Europe.
“Excuse me, sir,” said Laila, and the man looked up from his newspaper.
“Yes?” he asked, glancing over at Sandy for her permission to talk to he daughter.
“Could you tell me if there is really a Santa Claus?” asked Laila
“Ah, Santa Claus,” said the man on the bench, crossing his legs. “Are you having your doubts about Santa Claus?”
“Yes. My mother said there is a real Santa Claus. What do you think?”
“Hell no. It’s all made up nonsense. There is no Santa Claus. Only little children believe in that stuff.”
“Thank you, sir,” said Laila.
“I’m glad to help.” said the man.
Laila returned to her mother, who was checking Tinder.
“Did your date get back to you?” Laila asked her mother.
“Nah, he’s a loser.”
“Yeah. Maybe this dating site is not the best place for you.”
“You’re right,” Sandy sighed. It’s so superficial. I’ll try Match.com next.”
“Good idea,” said Laila, caressing her mother’s arm.
“So, did you get your second opinion?” asked Sandy. “What did the man have to say ?”
“He said that there IS a real Santa Claus who lives in the North Pole and flies out with his reindeer on Christmas to make children happy.”
“I told you!” said Sandy, relieved.
It started out innocently. A message on Twitter. A meeting in Central Park. Lunch at a kosher restaurant on 38th Street. I had never expected to see my brother, Avram, again. When he left the Yeshiva and moved to California, he was considered dead, and my older brother, Shimon, prohibited me from having any contact. Now Avram was married and back in town, living in Long Island with his wife and two children.
The first time I saw him in ten years was on a bench near the Great Lawn. He had suggested it as common meeting area, away from our different worlds. I was shocked to see my older brother without his scholarly beard, wearing a shirt that read “LA Dodgers.” It was as if I had never met him. He said that after many years of “hating religion,” as he put it, he was now attending a reform synagogue in Forest Hills. He wanted to reconnect with his family.
“You might as well go to a Catholic Church,” I said. “The reform Jews know nothing. They serve bagels and pork on Shabbat.”
“Well, it’s not that bad. No pork. But they do serve lobster at kid’s bar mitzvahs.”
I frowned, and Avram poked me, saying that he was joking. Avram always had a strange sense of humor.
“And you, Nahum,” he wondered. “Why are you not married yet?”
That was a touchy subject. The whole Rifka incident and the sad ending to their courtship.
“God will bring the One to me.” I said.
“God does nothing, unless you make it so.”
Avram was trying to egg me on, but he wasn’t saying anything so controversial that the Rabbis hadn’t questioned themselves.
“Baruch Hashem,” I said..
Avram suggested that I spent this Shabbat in Long Island, so I could meet his wife and kids, but I told him it was impossible.
“I’ll meet you anyway on Friday.” he said. “Outside the Yeshiva. In case you change your mind.”
I said that I wouldn’t.
During the week, my heart softened. The Torah reading that week spoke of family, of Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac. Was not Avram, despite his wrong path, still my brother?
On Friday afternoon, I approached the Yeshiva, and saw Avram waiting for me. He was smiling, confident of my choice to join him for the weekend. A few feet away, with his arms crossed, was my older brother, Shimon, silent and as stiff as Lot’s wife, waiting to argue against it.
“Not here, Steven.”
“Will I see you later?”
“Not here. People are looking. Let’s talk inside.”
“I don’t want to go inside. I don’t care if the whole world knows.”
“Oh no? And what about Lisa?”
“Let Lisa find out. Where’s the security camera? Let her see us on our TV at home! Let her know everything.”
“You WANT Lisa to find out this way, don’t you, so you don’t have to tell her? Why don’t you be a man and TELL her to her face rather than trying to be caught on Fifth Avenue?”
“Soon. I promise. Soon, I’ll tell her. I’m being serious here. By January. By January, I’ll file for divorce.”
“Then let’s discuss this matter again in January.”
“No. Don’t go. I can’t let you go. I need you. My body yearns for you all day.”
“Get a divorce.”
“I know. I know. It’s just, It’s complicated. I know it’s a cliche. But it really is complicated.”
“You’re not going to leave Lisa and the kids.”
” I will. I promise. I just want to do it the right way, with everyone happy. Because I’m a good man.”
“If you were a good man you wouldn’t be fucking me every Tuesday night at the Hyatt.”
” I am a good man. I’m a kind, moral person who wants to do the right thing. My marriage has been dead for years.”
“So leave it already.”
“Beth, you’ve never been married. When you’re married for 15 years, you’re connected in so many stupid ways. It’s like a web that needs to be untangled. But I promise, at the end, everyone will be happy – me, you, Lisa, and the kids. We’ll all be happy because happiness is the most important thing in life. Right? I make you happy. I know I do. I see it in your face. I see it in your eyes right now. I see it in your blushing. I’m a good man. A good man who wants to make things right. A good man who has fallen for the most amazing and beautiful woman in the New York City. You do see me as a good man, right?”
“Will you meet me at the Hyatt tonight?”
The man sitting next to me on the F train was fidgeting with his iPhone, nervous sweat on his face.
“Are you OK?” I asked.
I don’t usually talk to strangers in the subway, but this man caught my attention. Well-dressed with shiny shoes, he had a charisma that built trust, like a Great Gatsby of the 21st Century.
“Read this,” he said, and pushed his iPhone into my hand.
It was a personal email to a woman friend of his, a girlfriend.
“My dearest Emily,” it started.
“I’m not sure I should be reading this,” I said.
“Please,” he replied, touching my shoulder. “Read this. For me.”
I understood his need for sharing, even with a complete stranger. Matters of the heart can consume the strongest warrior, bringing him to his knees, begging for mercy. This moment of intimacy closed the deal. I started reading the email again, drawn into the world of this mysterious stranger.
“My dearest Emily, our night together last week transported me to places I never knew. As we made love, your breasts against my chest, our mouths devouring the other, my manhood thrusting into your heavenly tunnel, a mixture of pleasure and pain that only the Gods of Olympus had ever attained, I knew you were the answers to all my prayers. Ever since the death of my wife three years ago, I saw a future of loneliness and despair, but now I know True Love. God has blessed us with tears of happiness. Before we met each other, we lived on dry land, uninhabitable. Now we have received the rain to grow our bounty, to make our petals open to the sun and our flowers bloom. I cannot go another day without your body next to mine, your whispers in my ear. Let’s get married! Meet me at the Fulton Street Station tonight at 8:00PM and we will toast our future together. I pray to God that your answer is YES.” Your one and only, Michael.”
I lowered the iPhone, not sure what to think. Sure, it was melodramatic and as clichéd as a pulp novel, but who can think clearly when love has engorged the heart and groin? During passion, a man’s blood cells rush from his brain as fast as commuters leaving midtown at rush hour. Back when I was an English major in college, I distrusted the famous poets who wrote well-constructed love poems. No one experiencing passion can convey it with cohesive sentences and grammar. Here on the F train, I found a man who was truly stung by Cupid’s burning arrow.
“What did you think?” he asked, seeing that I had finished reading the email.
“I thought it was powerful,” I said. “You make your point very forcefully.”
My new friend was sobbing. Now I touched his shoulder as a sign of camaraderie.
“Don’t cry,” I told him, consoling him like a brother. “I think a woman will eat this up. I guarantee that Emily will say yes. I’m sure she’s there waiting for you at the subway station right now.”
“Yes, but what about Melissa and Anna?”
“Who are Melissa and Anna?”
“They are the other two women I had sex with last week, and accidentally cc:-ed the same message.”
It’s a decent gig playing guitar on Rector Street. Although the Wall Street guys downtown are born assholes, programmed to crush their competition, they tip well, especially when the NASDAQ is up. Music is universal, no matter your income. During two years of standing on this corner, music has covered my rent and helped me pay back some debt I incurred at Julliard. The street has also been good for my soul. The constant chaos of lower Manhattan has softened the pain of losing Gina’s soft skin next to another man at night. A year later, there was still a hole in my heart. I had loved her more than all the music in the world.
The market fell a hundred points today, so I started to pack it up early, at 6PM.
“Don’t leave yet,” he said, approaching me from around the corner. He was one of my regulars. I nicknamed him “GQ” because he was always dressed in an imported Italian suit, pressed shirt, and fine leather shoes. His eyes that were the color of thousand dollar bills.
“Play it for me,” he said to me. “Play me the song.”
“I’m already packing up,” I replied, not wanting to go through this game again.
“Play it for me. Like only you can.”
“I don’t think it is a good idea to…”
GQ opened his wallet, drew out several hundred bills, and shoved it into my hands. My body was repulsed, wanting to return it, but my mind reminded me of my financial need.
I grabbed my guitar and strummed the opening chords to Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are.”
“Oh, her eyes, her eyes make the stars look like they’re not shining
Her hair, her hair falls perfectly without her trying
She’s so beautiful
And I tell her everyday.”
As I sang the song, I thought about GQ’s cruelty. “Just the Way You Are,” was OUR song. It was playing on the radio on the night I met Gina. And he knew that. Winning Gina wasn’t enough for him. He would pay me to sing to the victor, the ultimate humiliation, because on Wall Street, you are programmed to crush your competition.