Saw You On the Q Train

(Originally appeared in Esquire, February 2003)

Saw you on the Q train, late afternoon, March 7. You were wearing a red dress, carrying a black purse. Departed at Broadway. Too shy to say hi. Respond here?

Never done this before. Am responding. Now what? Black Purse.

New for me as well. Tell me about yourself. Q Train.

Interests: Movies, jogging, gardening. Yours? Purse.

I, too, enjoy gardening: Have always dreamed of owning a country home, perhaps far, far away. To awaken each morning to the trilling of canaries. Q.

Dreaming of that perfect home, that flawless slice of land. Ah, yes, to live amidst nature! To create, from out of the ashes of nothingness, a dream fashioned into reality. A bed of flowers in the springtime. Newly sprung vegetables. A rebirth of sorts. I love it! Purse.

This house of which we speak. Ivory-colored clapboard with blue trim? A red picket-fence? A crushed-gravel path winding towards a mahogany-topped gazebo? Within it we shall sit, eating the fruits of our gardening labors. Q.

I picture a house more beautiful than those found in the fanciest of periodicals. Rose bushes next to a babbling brook. A hand-crafted swing. A couple in love rocking into days and nights of firefly-lit wonder. Two children, perhaps with the names Audrey and Jonah. The perfect home, a perfect life. Purse.

Yes, two beautiful kids, two ideal names! A babbling brook, there is nothing more luxurious! But the swing, so silly. Q.

Children with doe-like eyes, so wise for their years, I can see them now! And there is nothing more luxurious than a babbling brook! But no swing? Purse.

Something so gauche about a swing, no? Too Maurice Chevalier. Not enough Clark Gable. Q.

Clark Gable, indeed! One of my favorites. But, really, no swing? As a child growing up in the city, there was nothing that I wished for more . . . besides that perfect man! Purse.

Just something . . . how do I put this? A little too yearning, a tad too needy? Perhaps I’m not expressing myself well. Q.

A small swing, then? In the corner of a long porch? Overlooking the garden? While we enjoy freshly squeezed lemonade? From the lemon tree out back, just next to the badminton net? Perfection. Purse.

I’m just really . . . the garden, yes, the lemonade, I love it, badminton, fantastic. But the swing, honestly, I cannot approve. It’s just–are you familiar with that life insurance commercial, the one with the older gentleman and the elderly woman, they’re swinging and they’re talking? About death? Perhaps it’s that connotation, perhaps something else, but it’s not doing anything for me. I am so sorry. Q.

For me, I hate to say this, but the swing, the cherry on top, the dot beneath the exclamation point, the swing is everything. Without it, the house becomes a carcass, sans soul, sans meaning. Can you not compromise on this? A swing, as simple as it stands? Think about it? Please. Purse.

My love, I have thought long and hard about it, and as much as it pains me to write, I cannot accept the notion of a swing. I, too, have dreams. Dreams that include no reference to a swing. And for that I most sincerely apologize. Q.

You bastard. For this you extinguish our dreams, our desires? A goddamn swing? Purse.

I shall go one step further. A babbling brook? Gone. Your taste is suspect, that I knew from the start. Q.

And this coming from someone who wishes for a hideous red picket-fence? The irony, it’s delicious. Purse.

My darling, please. The swing we can talk about another time. We have our whole lives . . . Q.

But, really, a red picket-fence? Is it your wish to construct a New Orleans-style bordello? Purse.

A bordello? I grew up with a red picket-fence! Are you implying that I grew up in a whorehouse? Q.

I am implying nothing. Beyond the fact that I am unhappy. Perhaps it is not the swing. Perhaps it is more. Purse.

A separation? Is that what you’re reaching for? Keep your dream house, the colors were all slightly off, the imaginary mortgage was beyond my grasp. Build your swing. Create your new life. Q.

That seems fair. But can we not work it out? Could it possibly be too late? Purse.

The children shall remain mine through my dreams, the fragments of happiness that I had with you shall stay locked away for good. Let us make the most of it . . . and that shall be that. Q.

That shall be that? When, pray tell, shall the children visit me through my dreams? Are they are not as much mine as they are yours? Purse.

Weekends? Q.

And holidays. Purse.

Holidays? I think not. I shall have my lawyer Jack Brenner iron out the details. Q.

Do that. And while you’re at it, have him tear down that hideous red picket-fence. Purse.

I take back what I said about the house. I want to keep it through my own memories. It is no longer yours! Q.

Asshole! I put just as much dreamy thought into that house as you! Purse.

And the rose bushes. I want those back, as well. Q.

Mr. Q Train, my name is David Knight and I am Ms. Purse’s attorney. You get no imaginary house, imaginary rose bushes, or imaginary children. Leave the dreamy thoughts to Ms. Purse before this gets messy. Knight.

Mr. Knight, my name is Jack Brenner and I am Mr. Q Train’s attorney. Messy? You haven’t seen messy. You know full well that this fantasy house and those fantasy children are just as much my client’s as yours! Brenner.

I know nothing, except that my client is not getting a fair deal. I shall see you in court. Knight.

And I shall see you in court! Brenner.

See you there! Knight.

Saw you on the Q train, late afternoon, June 12. You were wearing a red dress, carrying a black purse. You have officially been served. Respond here. Brenner.

Never done this before. Am counter-suing. Now what? Let it begin, my love. Let it begin. . . . Purse.