When he finished his work, he considerately asked if I wanted to put on a little makeup, because he knows that I don’t like to leave the house with at least some mascara and cover-up for any skin imperfections. Without it I feel ugly and exposed. Contrary to what most men seem to think, makeup is a mask.
“What about the puzzle?” I asked. It is challenging, but I’d figured out one of the borders. I’d hate to dump it back into the box.
“Leave it there. You can work on it tomorrow,” he said.
I went to my bathroom to put on the 5-minute version of my face and asked him what I ought to change into, clothes-wise.
“You look perfect as you are.”
“Collector, it’s cold outside, and anyway I can’t wear this–” I gestured at my blue cotton gingham dress with a bow, reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland–“out in public.”
He went to the coat closet and took out his long quilted parka. Everyone in the Tri-State area has a puffy coat for the hard winter weather. It’s basically a sleeping bag with arms.
“Put on socks and your boots and wear this. Nobody will see.”
So I bundled up and put my boots on. While I was doing it, I noticed that my arrows were gone from underneath my bed, where I store them. My bow was there, but the arrows were gone.
I didn’t say anything about that.
We took the elevator down and walked through the lobby and out onto the street. The parka kept me warm, though I’d get a cold draft from underneath up my bare legs. I still felt exposed, like everyone had Superman’s x-ray vision.
We got a cab and went to the zoo in Central Park, specifically the Tisch Children’s Zoo, which is a petting zoo full of nubian goats and sheep. It even has an alpaca!
Who wouldn’t want to pet cute goats…? You can touch their horns and weird feet! I love goats! I wish I could have goats!
He knew it would make me happy. He knows how much I love animals.
He gave me quarters to buy food from the dispensers to feed the animals. I didn’t have my purse, so I didn’t have any money. In fact, he told me “don’t worry about your handbag” because he would “take care of everything” before we left the house.
He took a bunch of photos of me with his cell phone.
There were all of these little children running around the petting zoo and it made me happy, but it also hurt my heart. Because I don’t get that, and the older I get, the more unlikely it is that it will ever happen. How is it possible to be happy and sad at the same time?
Then we walked to The Strand bookstore, and he told me that I could pick out whatever I wanted.
He’s an avid bookworm (we all love the Kindle, but let’s be frank: nothing compares to a physical book), but he didn’t leave me alone so that he could browse by himself. He was with me the entire time. What did he think I would do…? Run for it?
I feel so much pressure whenever he asks me to pick something for myself because he has such a demanding sense of aesthetics. I feel like I’m being judged on my taste.
I picked out a charming Berlitz “German for Travelers” phrase book from 1954 (when “Mein Herr” was still the default polite way to address a strange man) and a Tim O’Brien fiction book, In The Lake Of The Woods. O’Brien can turn a phrase. I also picked a hardbound book about pirates.
Then the Collector took me to the children’s section and said, “Pick out a book for your future daughter.”
And what, o what, am I to make of that…?
Before we went home, we stopped in a Duane Reade close to his place. He went to the makeup section where all the nail polishes are.
“Are all of these the same? Or is one brand better superior to the other?” he asked me.
“I dunno. I guess Essie and OPI are the best,” I said.
He picked out a sky blue one, because it matched my dress. No man has ever bought a cosmetic for me before.
An hour later, he was painting my toenails. No man has ever done that for me, either. Not even a client.
“Margo,” he said, bent over my feet while I laid on the sofa with my legs in his lap, “I want you to allow me at least the opportunity to make you happy. Didn’t we have fun today?”
What could I say to that?