© Copyright 2021 by Rich Courage
Photo by Gabriel Tovar on Unsplash
In December of seventy nine I was about to finish the second semester of my Freshman year at Fordham’s College at Lincoln Center. I got straight A’s in my major, English, and C’s and D’s in other courses. I was a troubled youth. I was lonely a lot. I felt like I didn’t belong. I was fifteen. See, I was really, really bright, but didn’t know how to socialize with all the other older Freshman, hence the C’s and D’s. I somehow, despite my social awkwardness, had attracted a young Sicilian girl, Sophia, an economics major with ambitions to be a big time commodities broker. She saw greatness in me and latched onto me like a raven onto a ruby, and at first I was euphoric that she had. I was lonely and she filled a desperate need for affection, but I didn’t come to love her. The physical intimacy, the sex, was good so I stayed with her even though we hardly spoke and had almost nothing in common. I remember we liked Elton John, the Jetsons and bacon cheeseburgers. But even with that, she liked mozzarella and I was strictly a cheddar guy. So even with Sofia in my life, I was still hollow inside, starving for something I didn’t even know I was without. Love. Then I met Liza.
I was manning a raffle table in the campus lobby, playing Tiny Dancer and other Elton John tunes on the turntable, gazing from time to time out the picture windows onto the snow blanketed sculpture plaza. I noticed a girl dressed head to toe in sky blue ski suit standing in the snow. Suddenly I saw her collapse into the drifts. Startled, I got out of my chair, and watched her get up, take three steps, and collapse again. A few moments later I was through the glass doors and out on the plaza running towards her. She had gotten up again and I asked her, “Are you okay?” To which she responded by laughing and said, “I’m wonderful!” and seemingly collapsed again. I hurried towards her and saw why she was collapsing. She lay on the snow, waving her arms and legs. Snow angels. She was making snow angels. And as I glanced around, I noticed she’d made, well, dozens of them. She got up and said, “You must think I’m nuts, huh?” I stood there for a few seconds, dumbfounded and relieved she was okay and finally said, “It’s fantastic.” “Aren’t you freezing?” She asked me. I had hurried out onto the frosty plaza without my coat and the second she asked me, I felt a wind swipe at me and I shuddered. “Yeah, but I kinda like it. I was born in February so I’m a winter baby,”I said. “ You want to try? You could get your coat.” she said. Without a word, I fell backwards fluffing onto the fresh snow and started flailing my arms and legs. Liza collapsed again and joined me. We kept rising and collapsing and flailing for what seemed like a pleasant eternity, until we finally stopped to view our handiwork. The entire plaza was a mosaic of angels, big ones from me and smaller ones from Liza. “Wowza.” I said. “That’s amazing.” “Your face is bright red.”She said,’We should go in” We went inside and Rocket Man was filling the lobby, which was practically empty because it was after class times and most folks had gone home. “Would you like to get a hot chocolate or something angel girl?” I asked. “Sure, and I’m Liza.”She answered. “I’m Rich. My name, not my economic fortune.”
And I put on my coat, stashed the stereo in a locker, and off we went.
There used to be a old time luncheonette on Columbus Circle called Sam’s and it had an old time red speckled formica counter. We sat on worn red vinyl stools, sipping our hot chocolates, for what must’ve been hours telling each other about, well, each other. Liza was one of three sisters. I was an only child. Her parents were the O’ Flanigans and she had a large extended family. I lived in a railroad apartment with my aging mother. She was the youngest and had always lived with her working class parents in a crowded apartment in the west eighties. Nice, friendly neighborhood. I lived in a tenement building in Alphabet city. She spoke with a quiet voice, but her bright green eyes were full of fire, like thoughs and feeling were just bursting to get out. She loved making art, watercolors especially. She painted everything and everyone. She showed me a sketchbook of her doodles, and I was struck dumb. Lifelike portraits of old men and women, pictures of Central Park that looked like photos they were so good, At one moment while looking through her sketchbook, I looked up and right into her emerald eyes. I just sat there for a few seconds, mesmerized, and she was staring right back. With a thud, the sketchbook fell out of my absent minded hands, and I said ”Oh god, I’m sorry!” I jumped off the stool to fetch it, and she did too, and we bumped our foreheads. I looked up and she was...giggling. Giggling. She was wonderful. And then night fell and I asked her if I could walk with her a bit. “You can walk me home if you want.” She said, with an inviting inflection in her soft, whispery voice. So I gladly did.
While we strolled up Broadway, snow began falling quite fiercely. Flakes as big as your thumb were pelting our faces and caking our knit hats and shoulders. And we loved it. We started laughing after about a half a mile, and even though it was too windy and cold and snowy to talk, we kept looking over at each other and smiling and giggling. It was magical.
We finally reached her building, a snowy old brownstone, the kind covered in ivy in the warm months. I walked her up the stoop steps and she did something which startled me. Liza grabbed my hand and pulled me into the warmth of the brownstone’s vestibule. And she stared into my eyes, and pressed her face to mine and gently kissed my cheek. She peulled away a few inches and stared into my eyes again. And I stared into her emerald eyes for a few heavenly seconds, and drew her close and kissed her on the lips. And we kept kissing. Just the two of us, in a cozy vestibule, in an upper west side snowstorm. It felt so good, so right, so perfect. Like a snowflake times a million. Like we were wrapped in a blanket of pure innocent affection. As we kissed, not a sound disturbed us. No cars on the white streets. No people on the frosted sidewalks. Just Liza and I. Kissing. And suddenly the outer door swung open and an old man walked in on us. And as he saw us he smiled from under his snow caked cap and whispered, “I used to be you.” and entered the building and dissapeared from our lives. As he leftus, we giggled mischeviously, said not a word, and kissed again. Quietly. Sweetly. Lovingly. And the kissing went on and on. The kissing seemed to go on forevor, and that was fine with Liza and I. Years later, I have never kissed another woman like that nor loved another girl that way as I did that snowy night. Liza and I were not merant to be, but for one magical night, we were. Our lives were as simple as a kiss in a snowstorm. And as we kissed, the snowstorm sang it’s ancient song. And we were young.