Mineola

IMG_1370I’ve spotted the Handsome Man three times since the beginning of spring, when we witnessed a kick-boxing jogger deliver a one-two punch and a series of roundhouse kicks to every tree and flagpole that crossed his path.

The first time was two days after the event.

My dog and I are perched on the rocks by the elevated park terrace. The Handsome Man side-stretches by the benches while his yawn.

“Hey.” He calls me over.

“Hi,” I say. I dig deep for something clever to say.

“Remember that guy who was punching trees?”

“Uh huh.”

“He showed up the next day with his arm in a cast. But still punching trees.”

I laugh so hard, I nearly topple down the rocks. Grabbing onto the iron railing saves me from a bloody, unattractive end on the craggy rocks.

“You okay?”

“I don’t understand anything anymore,” I say. A simple fact, punctuated by my dog’s perfunctory love affair with an empty burger wrapper.

He recedes back towards the benches and lifts one graceful arm to the sky as Sadie spots a pigeon on the path below and pulls me away in a frenzied dash. For an eight pound dog, she’s a powerhouse of misspent energy.

Sissy Sesco and her fluffy dog stand at the bottom of the stairs. Sissy’s a tiny girl with a big heart that’s off-set with a wicked way of looking at the world. She’s part sex kitten, part sexy librarian, and part gluten-free baker. She dresses her shih tzu in pink sweaters and rhinestone. She’s the type of person you won’t find anywhere but here.

“The Handsome Man just talked to me,” I blurt.

“Oh,” she says.

“He must be an environmentalist,” I say. “The kind who takes in orphaned baby squirrels and would live in the branches of a tree to prevent it from being cut down.”

“Really.”

“He’s probably written a memoir about his life.”

A week later, he’s sashaying from corner to corner of his elevated perch in his hiking boots and shorts. His sinewy muscles flex and bend, crushing every pebble, every errant blade of grass that pokes up between the slate tiles.

“The Handsome Man is sashaying,” I tell Sissy.

“Oh,” she says with raised eyebrow.

“I suspect he is practicing a Tibetan dance that will usher a new era of peace. I thought it best to let him be.”

My dog has this way of kneeling in supplication to dead and dried out worms. With her chest to the ground, she lovingly caresses the worm with her cheek. She’s doing this now as Sissy’s dainty dog watches.

“Really,”

“His dance might be our salvation.”

We turn towards the terrace in time to see him twirl.

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After four weeks or so, I give up hope of spotting the Handsome Man again until fall. Sadie and I up and out when the sun rises; the Handsome Man apparently has black out blinds, a habit formed, no doubt, by many a midnight sun encountered on his adventures hiking through the Alaskan interior.

But Wednesday morning, while my dog growls at a plastic bag, I see a head bob up, then down, then up again on that magical stone veranda. We finesse our way towards the rocks and bobbing head. It is the Handsome Man intent on a series of pliés.

As we make our way down the rocks to the path below, he emerges from his morning exercise just as Sadie spots Sissy and dog across the lawn. In a singular moment of unbridled joy, she pulls away from my grip and bounds through the grass towards them.

Did Handsome Man seen my dog’s athletic charge? Her endearing smile? Her brazen embracing of life’s simple pleasures? Does he see her as a part of me? I dare to peek as he descends the stairs with his dogs. A woman follows. A beautiful woman with flowing hair and a porcelain complexion . A slender frame. Perfectly painted toe nails.

I have this theory that different people, at different points in their life, experience life through different story genres. Some live in the land of hour-long television dramas, others exist in a bubble of bad melodrama. One guy I know leads a cross-genre life of high camp and absurdist satire, best illustrated by the time a ceramic Fu Dog toppled from a high shelf at an art opening and landed on his foot. Sissy’s life is a mixture of “Sex in the City” and “Saved By the Bell.”

The Handsome Man and his woman pause across the way. He offers me a withering smile and a small wave. And even though I don’t know him, my heart drops just a tiny bit.

My life-genre wavers between a surrealist performance piece with romantic comedy elements. Without the romance.

“The Handsome Man’s with a beautiful woman.”

“Oh,” says Sissy. And then, “I see.”

The couple saunters across the lawn.

Sissy cocks her head to one side and narrows her eyes. “She’s wearing heals at seven a.m. in a park,” she says.

Maybe he’s a wildlife photographer. Or a travel writer. And she’s his muse.

My neighbor’s sitting on the stoop of our building. I tell her about the Handsome Man.

“Next time I see him, I’m going to ask him who he is.”

“He’s probably an accountant,” she says.

“An accountant  who practices hiking boot ballet?”

“Or a manager at a hedge fund. Or a mortgage broker.”

“Really?”

We sit side by side in a shrinking patch of shade and watch the world pass by. First comes the woman who carries a gallon of bleach whenever she walks her perfect miniature poodle. Then the ancient Italian lady whose hair is a puffball of perfection and her eyelids black with liner. The nutty professor whose hair blows sideways even if there is no wind. The hipster who dresses in suits and curls the long edges of his mustache with wax. A mean little old lady from the neighborhood who pretends to be nice, despite her forked tongue and insatiable appetite for chaos.

“You’d never find any of these characters in Mineola,” my neighbor says.

“Who lives in Mineola?”

“Married people.”

I wonder what my life would look like if I were there instead of here. “If I were in Mineola, I’d probably run the bingo tournament.”

She shades her eyes and glances my way.

A kid screams at his mother across the street and I wonder what happens when people obtain what they dream of their whole lives only to discover they don’t really want what they wished for.

“You’re best not knowing what the Good Looking Guy does.”

“Handsome Man.”

“Whichever.”

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