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Modern Love

by Fred Steinberg

She sat alone, quietly nervous, in the atrium of the IBM building on 56th and Madison Avenue in New York City. Occasionally tapping her fingers on the small round table under an umbrella, aimlessly checking her cell phone, continually looking up at the atrium’s Madison Avenue entrance and checking her watch. Never touching her large container of coffee and adjacent magazine, she occasionally dabbed her eyes with a tissue.

Probably in her mid fifties, she was dressed rather elegantly but in clothes that looked a few years out of date. The makeup around her eyes ran a bit as she obviously waited for someone who was quite late. I observed her for about 15 minutes when I saw her quickly stand up and wave toward the entrance.

He shuffled in, bleary eyed and looking somewhat confused. Then he spotted her and slowly made his way to her table. In his late twenties with unruly hair, he needed a shave and probably a bath. His jeans were shredded, and not in a style-statement way, his tank top hanging from a lanky too-thin frame. She kissed him on the cheek and they both sat. She talked for about five minutes and he occasionally nodded, and finally mumbled a few words. She reached into her purse and handed him an envelope. He took it, mumbled “thanks” and looked into it. “Is that all, I told you I need at least a hundred,” he said more clearly.

She did not respond, the tears now obvious. He looked at her and without a word, stood, turned and walked out the Madison Avenue entrance. She watched him turn right and head downtown.  Hesitating a moment, she quickly got up and ran out on Madison. I could see her through the glass shouting in the direction he had walked. She stood a minute and he ambled back to her. She reached into her purse and counted out a few bills. He took them, mumbled something, turned, and again headed downtown.

She came back in and walked slowly to her table, now visibly crying. She sat for a few minutes composing herself and made a cell phone call. “I saw him, Paul. He looked awful. I can’t imagine what he’s on now though, of course, he denied everything. I don’t know what’s going to happen to him, Paul, I just don’t know.”

She stopped talking and just listened for a couple of minutes, occasionally saying: “I know, Paul, I know.” And finally: “But you don’t understand, Paul, you just don’t understand. His father will have nothing to do with him but he’s my son, Paul, and I still love him.”


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