Klaus blinked. It was another few minutes before he would even open his mouth to speak, but he quickly shut it again. This wasn’t surprising to Jean-Michel. What was surprising was that a woman had gone as far as to write down her name and contact information in Klaus’ notebook of poetry. He imagined that under different circumstances, Klaus would have been rather unhappy that somebody had written in his notebook. This kind of writing, though, just about anyone would have been happy with. Klaus stuck out his hand, not even looking at Jean-Michel. Jean-Michel responded by putting the notebook in his hand.
She did what?
“She wrote down her name in here?” Klaus asked, with an air of disbelief.
“Look for yourself if you want. I’m not joking around with you here. How would I have known her name otherwise?”
Klaus made a sort of contemplative face, as though what Jean-Michel had said was one of the most profound things in the world, somehow related to astrophysics and measurements made using a certain species of wild snails as the standard for measurement. The measurement being, of course, the amount of time it would take the average snail to travel five inches if properly motivated.
Klaus opened up the notebook and started flipping through the pages looking for anything that didn’t resemble his handwriting, until he finally came upon it. It was, in fact, her name, her phone number, and a sweet note asking him to make use of the phone number. Looking up he saw Jean-Michel giving him the knowing smile that signified that he had been right all along of course. Not that this was some kind of earth-shattering philosophical debate that they had been having – though the smile would have one think that it had been.
“Give me a second,” he said, walking into the kitchen with a sort of determined manner. As he walked, his manner became gradually less determined, until he reached the telephone, and it hit bottom. What was he doing? Was he really going to call her? Did she really want him to call her? Of course she wanted him to call her. That’s why her phone number was in his notebook. The note should have been the icing on that cake of her interest in him. She must have been interested in him – otherwise, why bother writing him a note? She seemed so shy, why didn’t she say anything? Ah, clearly she was one of the more subtle types, writing notes in notebooks, leaving gifts for people where they would only find them perhaps days later in amazement and surprise.
He picked up the phone after about a minute or two of staring at it, thinking about what it was he was going to say. This was awkward, and probably a lot more awkward than it should have been particularly since she was the one who had asked him to call her. This wasn’t, as it were, a cold call. So why was he holding the phone in his hand, looking at it and not actually dialing the phone number? It was probably because he was nervous about this phone call that he was about to make. Maybe there wasn’t going to be anyone there. Maybe this would be the ideal time to think of the kind of message he would want to leave on her answering machine, assuming that she had an answering machine. What would he say? He would tell her that he wanted to go out sometime. But what if she didn’t really want to go out with him? If, perhaps, she just wanted to have some kind of telephone correspondence, as it were. They could be phone friends. He would never see her again, except by complete chance.
But then, that was an awful lot of effort, putting her phone number in his notebook if all she wanted was to be a telephone correspondent. Maybe he should just forget about the whole thing. No! He should call her. How was he going to do this? By dialing the number she had given him, perhaps. It was just that simple, he tried to tell himself. His fingers trembled a bit as he dialed the phone number. His eyebrows lowered and his face tightened up as the phone rang.
After a record one and a half rings, someone picked up the phone. “Hello?” It was, in fact, she whom he was looking for. “Hi.”
“This is, ahm, Klaus. You corrected the grammar on some of my poetry in Bryrant Park today.”
“Oh, right, Klaus. I hope it was all right that I wrote in your notebook.” She giggled.
“Well, it was a nice thing to write in a notebook, anyhow.”
“You mean the phone number, or the notes I made on that one poem about the democratic process?”
“The notes you…”
“I’m kidding. So, what do you think of having tea in Bryant Park? I can bring the tea, you can bring yourself.”
“I can bring my….”
“Okay, that’s not very nice of me. I suppose you could bring something, if you want. Think of it as a sort of test, as it were. There’s a certain brand of tea biscuits that I like. I’ll give you a hint. It’s imported from Israel.”
Klaus wasn’t sure what to respond to this. He wasn’t even sure what he was supposed to be thinking at this point in time. For one, he was pretty sure that there must have been some interest in him on her part. Beyond this simple meaning, however, he was a bit lost. A little on the forward side, he thought, for someone who he had just met a short while ago. It would seem to be contradictory to her seemingly shy nature – would a person who left a note in a notebook rather than talk directly to the person also be so forward when it came to talking on the phone?
“I think I can take on that kind of a challenge. When would you want to have this tea?”
“How’s tomorrow for you?” Sandy asked, with only the slightest bit of hesitation in her voice. As much as she wanted to believe that this was the best idea that she had ever had, part of her wasn’t sure at all and was questioning why she was doing this at all.
Klaus looked at his watch. “Would six be okay?”
“Sure, six o’clock. Bryant Park. Near where you were sitting before would be fine.”
Klaus couldn’t believe he was really having this conversation. “That’s great. Okay, I’ll see you then. Bye.” As he hung up the phone, he heard Jean-Michel laughing in the other room. Walking back over, he picked up his tea cup, took a small sip, and asked, “What?”
“I’m sorry,” Jean-Michel said gently, “but did you just make a date with someone that left you a note in your notebook, who corrected grammatical mistakes in your poetry?”
“I’m kidding. Anyhow, I’m really happy for you. Second cup of tea to celebrate?”
The Tea Table
Felix was sitting by the tea table (when did he ever make coffee, really?) looking out the window when the phone ringing made him jump up a bit out of the chair. As much as he had thought that the cup of tea he had been served a bit earlier was not all too bad, it was nothing compared with the kind of tea he could make in the comfort of his own apartment. It was a good thing his cup of Darjeeling, poured only a minute or two beforehand from a large teapot – a light powder blue – was sitting on the table, else he would have probably spilled a good half of it when the phone rang.
Who would be calling him now? He thought that he had been quite clear about his lack of interest in a subscription to, well, any periodical at this point in time. His kitchen cabinets certainly did not need to be redone in any way, and he was pretty sure that he didn’t want to refinance the mortgage on his property since he didn’t have either property nor a mortgage. His withdrawal from general society due to a deep sort of despair over not finding any work in so long had just about alienated all of his friends, save for Sandy, and it seemed like ages since they had talked. Actually, it had really been only a couple of weeks, but they had been incredibly busy weeks, so it seemed like quite a bit longer.
“Hello?” he said after having picked up the phone.
It was Sandy. Well, at least this way he would have a chance to apolog
ize for being such a jerk to her the last time they talked on the phone. It wasn’t at all called for, he thought, the way he had responded to what was essentially Sandy trying to help him out with his bad set of circumstances. The way he had been living now for the last five or six months was just not a happy way to live at all.
“I’m sorry about the”
“Never mind that. Tea.”
“Yes. The kettle is on. You know where I live, do you not?”
“Do you still live in the same apartment?”
“Last I checked, yes.”
“Well so yes, I know where you live.”
“Good. So be here in about five minutes, and there will be tea here waiting for you.”
Oh, that kind of tea. The kind of having tea where she had to tell him something really important. Tea was good for things like that. Tea is the sort of beverage that you can drink when you’re in a good mood, a bad mood, a lonesome mood, when guests are over. You can drink it when it’s rainy, sunny, snowy, cold, wet, warm, or a combination therein. All that’s really necessary for there to be tea is the pot, the kettle, the tea leaves, cups, and water, of course. With milk and sugar on the side, to be added as necessary. The kind of tea that Felix and Sandy drank usually needed at least a bit of each.
There’s something incredibly comforting about tea, the kind of thing that makes it like a dear friend who puts his arm around you and says, “There, there, everything will be okay, don’t cry.” Sometimes it got to be nearly impossible to stare out the window on a cold rainy day unless there would be a hot pot of tea nearby. This was something else, though. When two people share a pot of tea, it makes in a way a sort of connection between them. Rather, it takes the pre-existing connection between two people and strengthens it in a way. A person who is at all fond of it will greatly appreciate being called over to have some, particularly if in the course of having the tea a nice conversation is had.
“I’ll be right there.” He hung up the phone and ran over to the closet to grab his shoes, which were waiting eagerly like servants only too happy to do the bidding of their master. Which was quite easy for them, as they were entirely inanimate. His shoes had no independent personality to speak of, other than they were occasionally quite comfortable and thus seemed friendlier than other times when they were less than comfortable. Grabbing the first coat he could find in his closet, he locked his door and started the descent to ground level.
The first step in making tea properly is in the preparation. In her tiny kitchen area, Sandy had already laid out the teapot and the tiny mesh basket with the four teaspoons of vanilla tea already in it. On the stovetop was a stainless steel tea kettle with a simple design, having a tiny kitten as the its whistler. Sandy always put in more water than the teapot could hold, as she had the tendency to heat up the pot by swirling a little water inside of it prior to making the tea. She was rather careful in how she made the tea, as it always came out better that way.
Less than thirty or so seconds before the tea kettle was to start whistling, indicating that the water was at its perfect temperature for tea making, there was a soft knock at the door. She guessed that it was probably Felix, as it had been not too long since she had gotten off the phone with him, and he was rather punctual when it came to important things in life, like having tea. Sandy took off her Harrod’s apron, which was a dark shade of blue and was covered with tiny little teapots. Walking over towards the door, she hung the apron on a hook by the pantry. “Just a second” she said as she unlocked the door and undid the chain.
“I’m sorry about the last time we talked on the” Felix began, apologetically. Sandy interrupted. “Never mind that,” she said, “there’s a kettle on the stove that’s about to”, and then the kettle started whistling.
“Hold on a second,” Sandy said, “I’ll be right back.” Felix sat down in a chair by her tea table. There was a copy of the newest Martha Stewart Living magazine on the table, along with two tea cups, a tiny pitcher with what looked like milk inside, and a small tub of similar design, full of sugar. He started flipping through the magazine, mostly looking at the pictures from the recipes and the various advertisements.
In the kitchen, Sandy started pouring the boiling water into the teapot right after starting off a kitchen timer. It was important to get the right timing for tea making, lest the tea become undrinkable. Well, it was certainly not such a bad thing to under-steep it as it was to over steep it. It wasn’t that she had a reputation to upkeep in the field of making tea, but she didn’t like to be the one accountable for a bad cup of tea. To her, that would be akin to being the supplier of poor gasoline which made a car break down half-way through a road trip to Alabama.
After the alarm started ringing, she took the mesh tea basket out of the pot and put the used tea leaves on a tray by the window sill to dry out. Sandy liked to walk out to Riverside Park on warm days and put the used tea leaves amongst the flowers, as it was good for the soil. That way, she thought, the tea leaves wouldn’t be sitting in a plastic garbage bag for thousands of years. “The tea’s ready!” she called out to Felix, who was just finishing up looking though the issue of Martha Stewart Living.
Sandy walked over to the table with the teapot in hand. As she started pour the tea in the cups, Felix asked, “What’s the occasion that called for this tea?”
“Well,” she said, sitting down, “I’m going on a date. With a guy that I just started talking to in Bryant Park. I don’t know what to do. I’m so nervous.”
“Wait a second. Back up the train. You just started talking to some guy in Bryant Park? As in, a total stranger?”
“Well, I saw this guy writing poetry in the park, and I decided to read it over his shoulder. After pointing out a few grammatical errors, he let me read it some more. Then, when he was on the phone, I wrote my number in his notebook.”
“You wrote your number in his notebook? Aren’t you the little sneak. I take it he called you.” He put two teaspoons of sugar into his tea, along with a splash of milk. Sandy did the same.
Sandy giggled. “Well, it wasn’t like I could call him. Yeah, he called.” She sniffed the air, and suddenly said, “Were you just smoking?”
“I might have been. Why do you ask?”
“One of these days you’re going to quit, right?”
“Yeah, one of these days. It’s not so easy for everyone, you know. We can’t all just go cold turkey like you, Sandy. I’m still amazed by the fact that you were able to do it.”
“I never said it was easy. It helped to, well, never buy them. Can we get back to me for a second here? I’m not sure what to do here.” She took a sip from her cup. “I mean, I know where and when and all that, but what am I doing? This guy isn’t observant, I know that much. What am I doing to myself here?”
“He’s not observant? He noticed your phone number in his notebook. Sounds pretty observant to me.”
“You’re very funny. I meant not observant in the way that I used to be not observant, the way that you’re not observant. Heck, I don’t even think this guy is Jewish at all. But he seems like a sweet guy.”
“So go out with him, at least on this date that you seem to have made for yourself. Nothing wrong with that. Excellent tea, by the way.”
“Thank you.” Sandy liked making a good cup of tea. A good pot of tea, even. One of the nice things about making a good pot of tea is that you can share it with friends or family, and everyone can benefit from your ability to make tea well. It is an experience not quite like brewing coffee in a machine, wherein the machine does just about everything except for putting the correct measure of coffee into the machine. There were some machines that could
even do that – though they were expensive.
“So, what was it that compelled you to write your phone number in the notebook of a total stranger?” If it wasn’t for the fact that Felix had on his face the look of genuine concern, Sandy probably would have gotten a little bit annoyed at this question. They had been close friends for quite some time now, however, so she knew where he was coming from in asking her this.
“I guess he seemed like a really sweet guy. I haven’t been having the best time in the world going out on these set up dates, and I just wanted to talk to someone who would sit in Bryant Park and write poetry. To me, that said a lot about him.”
“Volumes, you could say.”
“Very funny.” She laughed, though. Then, “so what’s with this smoking thing? I thought you were going to quit.”
“I don’t know,” he said with a tinge of a sigh behind it, “I’m just a bit overwhelmed with everything right now including the whole not working thing, feeling alone so much of the time, that is just a lot of stress. Just, ahm, too much stress for me right now.”
“So what,” she said, “this makes it okay to poison yourself? I know this must sound incredibly funny coming for me, who smoked for…. well, for an absurdly long period of time… anyhow! You should really stop.”
“Thank you Surgeon General. Here I was thinking that all of the vitamins and minerals I was getting from my daily cigarettes really were doing my body good.”
Ignoring his sarcastic remark, Sandy asked, “So, are you doing anything tonight?”
“I don’t know. I thought I might go down to the Peculier Pub, have a drink or two.”
While Felix had gone to the Peculier Pub on a number of occasions, and he had promised Sandy that he would have to take her there at some point, they had not reached that point yet. It was the kind of pub where one could take friends, have one of their many beers on tap, and casually talk.
“So… wow. Good luck with your date. I hope you can tell me about it later.”
“Oh, you know that you’re going to be the first to find out all of the most important details, Felix.” When it came to confiding things in someone, Sandy usually went to Felix. Even though he had been a bit on the reclusive and anti-social side lately, he remained one of her closest friends. She knew that she could count on him in an emergency, or a teamergency, as it were.
The tea, of course, had been quite excellent – a result of careful preparation. While there were those who argued that a cup of tea is a cup of tea and that there is no fundamental difference between the kind of tea that comes in bags and gets dunked in hot water for a few minutes and the kind of tea that comes loose to be made with precision, Sandy felt otherwise. She felt that the proof in this was in the teapot (being a very weight conscious person made her one to avoid pudding whenever possible) and that her teapot was full of incredibly well made delicious tea.
Later on, in the evening hours, Felix was walking along, having just emerged from the subway. He then noticed, about half a block later, that one of his shoes had become untied again. He bent over, a bit irritated, and started to tie his shoe when someone came up from behind him and said, “Excuse me.” He apologized ever so slightly and moved over to the left.
“Oh, it wasn’t that kind of excuse me, I apologize.” What was this person talking about? Finishing off the shoe, he turned around to find himself face to face with the woman from the restaurant. The one he had been looking at, who was with her brother, or boyfriend. Hopefully it had been her brother. Yes, that would be quite nice for him.
“Are you… were you…. were you the guy that was in the diner type place earlier today? I think you had tea, or something like that. Was that you?”
Felix found it a bit difficult to get out a coherent sentence. “I…er… who are…. that guy…. yeah, that was me.” Well, that didn’t come out nearly as nicely as he would have wanted it to. He always got a bit nervous in situations like this one. She giggled a bit. “You can, ahm, stand up now if you’d like. I wouldn’t object.” She offered her hand, and he took it getting up.
“So, you’re the guy, huh? Where are you going, anyhow? Rather, where were you going? I’m guessing you were going somewhere.”
“I was thinking of going over to the Peculiar Pub, actually. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it, but”
“Oh, I love that place. They have some of the best beers there. With that hefeweizen beer that comes in the really big glasses….”
“I don’t know the name of it either, if you were thinking that I knew the name.”
“I was hoping you would know it. I’m up for a drink myself. Mind if I join you?”
“Do I mind if you?”
“Join you. To get the beer.” Felix looked a bit surprised at this. Perhaps his theory about the guy being her brother was true after all. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing? Yes, it would be. Perhaps years of bad luck in the realm of dating were coming to an end.
“So that guy, the one that was with you, he’s not your boyfriend?”
“Not that it really matters, but no. That was a date.” The facial expression that he then made could have been on the cover of some magazine dedicated to people who were told that their kittens were hit with trucks, only to be later told that it was merely a joke for the purpose of capturing that facial expression. For the magazine, that is.
“So, I don’t understand. If that was a date, what does that make this?”
“A different date. Are you okay with that? I’m not some empty-headed pin-up girl that’s waiting for my knight in shining armor. I don’t need you to rescue me from anything. I’d like to have a beer with you, though. Think we can swing that tonight, insert your name here?”
“Oh,” Felix laughed, “My name is Felix.”
“Kate” she said, shaking his hand. “Nice to meet you.”