"How difficult can locating a giant whale be?" I muttered to myself as I raced through the cavernous rooms of the Museum of Natural History in New York City. Every date with Amit seemed to begin with a "Where's Waldo?" puzzle or a hide-and-seek game, which was not pleasant for someone running through the city in 3-inch heels.
After a frantic 15-minute search, I finally spotted the great whale in all its glory. I slowly walked towards the underside of the belly, staring at the whale in awe. Suddenly a blonde, cherubic preschooler beside me began shrieking, running towards the exit of the room. "Make it go away! Make it go away!"
"Come back, Maggie!" shouted a similarly fair-haired woman in her early thirties, racing after her. "You liked Shamu at Sea World! We'll go to the pet store instead!"
I shook my head as I glanced at my watch, noting that it was 2:40 p.m. Amit and I had agreed to meet under the belly of the great whale at 2:30 p.m. I sauntered over to one of the display cases in the room, where I caught a reflection of myself. After seemingly endless deliberation, I had finally decided to wear a black blazer with a sky blue camisole underneath along with my new trouser jeans. I frowned as I wrinkled my forehead. What if Amit had seen me and left because he was disgusted by my outfit? Perhaps I should have taken my dad's recommendation and worn my brown suit.
By 2:50 p.m. I was in near panic. Because of lack of cell phone reception, I resorted to roaming the halls of the museum. Despondent and uncertain of my next course of action, I sighed, heading again towards the room of the great whale. Suddenly I felt someone squeeze me in the ribs from behind.
"Hey!" said a low voice.
I turned around to see Amit smiling at me. He looked fantastic in a thin burnt orange cashmere sweater which highlighted the outline of his toned but not overwhelming biceps. My heart skipped a beat.
"Oh, hey!" I squeaked. "I mean, hey," I said in a lower register as nonchalantly as possible. "When did you get here?"
"A while ago," he admitted. "Can you believe I couldn't find the stupid great whale?"
"Oh really?" I remarked, raising my eyebrows and scratching the back of my neck. "Oh well. Better luck next time." I quickly averted my gaze.
"Do you want to look around?" Amit asked.
"We may as well, since we paid the $20 entrance fee," I replied matter-of-factly.
We strolled through the various rooms which featured such elaborate displays as those of underwater sea urchins and birds local to New York City. Our conversation was intermittently interrupted by my giggling as Amit entertained me with his dry wit. Amit paid the additional admission fee for the special water exhibit. While there, we stopped at numerous stations, each of which was associated with a short quiz mostly focusing on water conservation. I sighed as I answered question after question incorrectly. Much to my amazement, however, Amit earned near perfect scores on all the quizzes.
"Were you a geological engineer in your former life?" I inquired, viewing him with newfound appreciation.
"Well, conservation of resources and recycling are important when you live in the city," he replied as he sat down on a bench. "There are so many people here, and everything is so expensive."
I nodded as I joined him on the bench. In front of us was an enormous window which revealed a view of the west side of Central Park. Outside people were playing frisbee, running with their dogs, rollerblading, or merely sitting on towels on the grass while reading, catching the last few rays of the sun. Well-dressed women with lustrous locks strode on the sidewalk with purpose as they carried large glossy bags from exclusive department stores. Young women in exotic dress pushed double-seated prams holding infants and toddlers.
"I love New York," I commented as I sat beside Amit, both of us staring out the window. Then I shook my head. I sounded like a bumper sticker.
But Amit didn't seem to mind. "Me too," he agreed. "Sometimes I still can't believe I live here."
I turned my head to face him. "Far cry from Troy?" I asked, mentioning his hometown in Michigan.
"Yeah," he answered, seemingly lost in thought.
We continued admiring the view of the city in companionable silence. After a few minutes I glanced at my wrist watch.
"Hey," I whispered, feeling guilty for interrupting Amit's reverie. "We should probably make a move if we want to grab dinner before heading to Brooklyn."
He turned to look at me and smiled. "Okay, let's go."
We headed to a nearby restaurant featuring classic American cuisine on the Upper West Side recommended by my sister's friend Julie.
"I know you have a thing for cabs," I teased after dinner, placing my napkin on the table. "But a cab ride to Brooklyn would be pricey."
Amit grinned. "I suppose we could take the train," he said graciously.
"Take the subway? Are you sure you can handle that?" I demanded, enjoying embarrassing him.
He rolled his eyes, stood up, grabbed my hand, and helped me to my feet. "Come on. We have a train to catch."
We boarded the train at the Museum of Natural History stop for the nearly hour-long ride to Brooklyn. Once we disembarked from the train and exited the station, I looked around, a perplexed expression on my face.
"So where to now?" Amit asked.
"Um," I hesitated. "I think we take a right."
Amit stared at me. "I thought you said you've been to the Brooklyn Academy of Music before."
"I have. I'm pretty sure it's to the right," I said breezily.
"We could always take a cab," he suggested, shivering in the chilly night air.
"Let's just go to the right," I stated, becoming slightly irritated.
Amit smiled. "Okay, if you insist."
"I do," I retorted, clearly exasperated at this point. "I insist."
As we veered towards the right, I impulsively grasped the nook of Amit's right arm and wrapped the scarf around my neck more tightly. I noted my breath assume a formation of a puff of smoke.
Amit squeezed my hand and turned to look at me. "Are you okay?"
"Oh yeah, sure," I mumbled, struggling to speak as my mouth was nearly frozen shut.
A half hour and a few sets of directions later, I finally spotted the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
"Look!" I exclaimed, pointing in its direction as if it were the Holy Grail. "I told you I know where it is."
"Right," Amit chuckled. "Can we go inside now because I don't think that the lack of sensation in my feet is normal."
Once we entered the building, we ascended the stairs to the second floor, on which the cafe featuring the performance space was located. After choosing a table near the makeshift stage, Amit headed to the cafe counter to purchase a few drinks for us. I sat down, appreciating the crowd of mostly twenty- and thirtysomethings milling around the cafe, some sporting trendy attire, others donning chic vintage garb characteristic of the Lower East Side set.
"Thanks," I said as Amit handed me a glass of Diet Pepsi.
"No problem," he answered as he sat down and took a sip of his beer. "So who's performing again tonight?"
"According to the description on the website, it's a folk-jazz fusion band that uses innovative instruments."
"Innovative instruments?" Amit inquired, raising an eyebrow.
"You know," I replied nonchalantly. "Spoons, everyday appliances."
"Like...a dishwasher?" he asked, wrinkling his forehead.
I was silent as I considered this possibility. "Maybe not a dishwasher."
Our conversation ceased as the band arrived onstage. After a nearly 2-hour performance, we bundled ourselves in heavy coats, scarves, and gloves to prepare for the frosty night air.
"Well, that was...different," Amit commented politely as we walked toward the subway station.
"Admit it. They sucked," I remarked bluntly.
"Well, if you want to put it that way," he stated.
I turned to face Amit. "I'm really sorry. The description of the band seemed pretty cool. I guess I should have previewed the music before suggesting we go to one of their shows."
"No worries," he said lightly. "Anyway, it's not where you go. It's who you're with, right?"
"Sure," I responded dejectedly, hanging my head down.
We continued walking in silence, huddling closely to shield ourselves from the cold.
"Why don't we go to Washington Park?" Amit blurted out once we arrived at the station in Brooklyn.
I rubbed my nose against my coat sleeve. "Tonight?"
"I know it's cold," Amit began, "but..."
I pondered the prospect of spending more time with Amit, and suddenly a smile appeared on my face.
"Okay," I said. "Let's go."
We boarded the train to begin the journey back to Manhattan. While on the subway, I recounted stories of my travels to such locations as Central America, Europe, and North Africa.
"The worst experience was when I forgot which hotel I was staying at in Paris when I had decided to scope out the city on my own," I told him animatedly. I proceeded to relate to Amit the way in which I wailed in the back seat of a car with the police, roaming a 1-mile radius from the Gare du Nord from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. "Fortunately I was able to find my way back to the hotel with the help of the police," I concluded, sighing.
"You're so worldly," Amit commented as we disembarked from the train and walked toward the park.
My eyes widened as I spit out the coffee I was sipping, coughing uncontrollably. Amit stared at me with alarm.
"Oh my God! Are you okay?" he asked, patting me on the back.
I cleared my throat. "Oh yeah," I responded offhandly, embarrassed. "The coffee just went down the wrong pipe."
Amit spotted a bench and sat down while I sat beside him. At least a dozen others had braved the cold to stroll in the park, its tranquility a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of the rest of the city. I rested my head on Amit's shoulder while he held my hand.
"So how would this work?" I questioned.
"What do you mean?"
"Well," I began, lifting my head to face Amit. "I don't live within a 1-mile radius of you."
"True," he replied, nodding his head and sighing.
"You may have to make an exception to see me and travel outside your neighborhood," I explained matter-of-factly.
Amit looked at me, a funny expression on his face.
"I mean, I live on Long Island, so you'd have to take the train to Penn Station, and then -"
Before I could complete my sentence, Amit grabbed me and gave me a lingering, tender kiss. People continued to walk past us, unfazed by the public display of affection. I finally pulled away, smiling and shaking my head as I realized that I had managed to do the seemingly impossible: to seal the deal.
"What is it?" Amit queried.
I hesitated for a moment before responding, "Nothing." Then I leaned in for another kiss.
Stay tuned for Part V: The Breakup.