Mr. S.


It threw Mr. S, meeting Dee like that, on Seventy-second Street of all places, how

long was it – twenty years? It took him right back to those years in Boston.

She was such a nice kid. He remembered when she applied for the job, didn’t even

know what a Gal Friday was, but ready for anything. He was sure she’d leave him

soon, get married or something. But Dee stuck with him, all the way, much more

than a Gal Friday, even in the crazy years, when he moved the company to New

York, trying to keep up with big shots like Alice Taylor, learning the rules of the game

by doing. Later driving back and forth, trying to save the marriage, keep up with  new

business in the city at the same time – Dee was a brick through it all, taking over a lot

of stuff he hated doing. If he’d told her then, would she have understood, remained

loyal? A lot of people didn’t.

He’d lost friends, people he’d grown up with who couldn’t believe it. In those years it

was up or down, one way or the other. God knows it was hard for him too, especially

when he was young, falling in love with this girl or that boy. He used to feel like a

tossed coin – what would come out on top – heads or tails, male or female? His

closest friends admitted their own confusion, but only for a moment, or when they

were drunk. Part of growing up, they’d said later. But not for him. He tried to hide it,

ashamed to admit his attraction to boys too, not just girls, afraid of being labeled


He met Edie in college. They dated, went steady, broke up, repeated the cycle

several times and finally got married. From the outside, a normal romance. From the

outside, a normal marriage. He had to admit Edie was unusual. She said she

understood, as long as he was ‘discrete’, her favorite word. He knew it was a

bargain. As long as everyone believed she had married a nice Jewish man – one

who could earn a living, provide her with children, a home – as long as everyone

believed it, she would tolerate the weekends away, the overnights in the city.

In a way it was a blessing the cancer had taken her before things had gotten too


He had to admit there was a time – about a year after Edie’s death – he’d gone wild.

Was he trying to drown his sorrow, to convince himself he had always been gay and

now that the guard rail was gone, he could lash out? He had slept with anyone,

anywhere, anyhow. It was a wonder he hadn’t gotten sick. But it wasn’t

uncensored sex life he was looking for. He’d tired of that soon enough. He was

looking for love without conditions and he’d found it with Jeffrey.

By the time the wildness was over, Sam was on the Board of the Boston Ballet.

There were lots of attractive boys in the company, but Sam kept away, remembering

the saying about not dirtying the nest. Jeffrey became a board-member after his

career as a soloist. No longer young, he felt he couldn’t dance the way he wanted to.

He’d gone back to school and earned a degree, a BA in BA he used to joke. He told

the Board it would be a good way to stay close, not as an old dancer, but someone

who still had something to offer to the world he loved. Sam, who’d felt untethered for

most of his adult life, was impressed by so much clarity. Their friendship grew over

balance sheets and sales prognoses, performance plans and personnel changes.

Jeffrey appreciated Sam’s vision; Sam valued Jeffrey’s judgement. In their sixties,

both were surprised to find the ideal partner so late in life. They bought an apartment

together, facing the Charles River. Sam’s son Davey visited often, but his daughter

Carol stayed away.

Maybe Dee would have felt like Carol, would have quit rather than work for someone

like him? On the other hand, Alice had once said Dee would never find a man

because she was always dating gays. “What’s she saving it for?” Alice, who could be

very direct at times, confided in Sam.

Evidently, she was still single, he hadn’t seen a ring. Not that a ring meant anything

these days. She still looked good. Not as open as she used to be. Now, it’s like she

has a cape around herself – look, but don’t touch. Maybe she picked up that attitude

working for Alice on the Taylor merry-go-round. Anyhow, she’s done alright for

herself, buying a place in this neighborhood. He’d always loved it – Seventy-second

and Broadway – full of actors, dancers. That reminded him of his errand: what was it

Jeffrey wanted from Zabar’s?