As told by Lynn Carrington Cutler
Eddie and Maggie, my pups, gathered around my feet as I laid the New York Times on the kitchen table and sat down for breakfast. Little did I know that newspaper held an announcement of an event which would forever change my solitary and very lonely life.
For the moment, however, I was focused on a slice of sourdough bread which had just popped up in the toaster. I purchased this San Francisco aphrodisiac direct from Boudin’s Bakery on Fisherman’s Wharf in that beautiful city by the bay. The bread arrived yesterday, and this was my first opportunity to sample it. I carefully spread copious amounts of butter and sour cherry jam across the width and breadth of this bakery delight. No one else on the face of the planet makes sourdough bread like Boudins. It was frightfully expensive but worth every single bite.
I sipped my coffee, took a bite out of my breakfast toast, and opened the Times to the entertainment section. My attention was immediately drawn to the full page fund-raising ad by the Lexington Charitable Group, dominated by a photo of the handsome Rex Carlton, chairman, and CEO. Their generous funding in the fight against HIV and the control of AIDS was well-known in New York City and appreciated by every person who had contracted this evil disease.
There were to be five drawings at the fancy dress pre-holiday gala to be held at the Plaza Hotel. The final drawing was for an evening on the town with Rex Carlton himself. Rex was popular with the ladies not only for his generous funding of women’s health issues but also because of his devilish Irish good looks. I smiled at the thought of the ton of money this event would bring to this important organization.
Even more interesting, the final drawing did not appear to be limited to ladies only, which seemed odd. No doubt an oversight by someone. Attendance was required to win. The minimum donation for a raffle ticket was $25.00.
This gala was a great way to kick off the New York Holiday season though the chances of winning any of the drawings were well-nigh impossible. I wrote a check for one hundred dollars and signed it Lynn Carrington Cutler. After filling out the raffle entry form, I placed my check and the entry form in an envelope. I would mail it from work. I did not have the slightest inkling that by doing so I was about to step onto an emotional merry-go-round that would end with me holding a gold ring.
My first job after high school was in the mail room of Bergdorf Goodman on Fifth Avenue. In eleven years I worked my way up and found my niche in Bergdorf’s Personal Styling Services for Gentlemen on the Second Floor. My inherent sense of style along with a friendly professional manner earned me a large following which included wealthy and well-placed executives. Whether a teenager acquiring his first tux or a CEO looking for an edge over his competition, I treated everyone as if they were my only client, and it worked. They loved me on a professional level. On a personal level, I found myself alone and lonely.
I watched the play between my mother and father while I was growing up, hoping to have the same serenity in a relationship they had achieved with years of devotion to one another. It did not appear this was going to happen to me. I knew I was gay from an early age and feared the disappointment my parents would have if and when they found out. I was dumbfounded the day I told them. They embraced and supported me with their love and understanding without any sense of sympathy.
I found gay relationships to be shallow and of no duration. When HIV reared its ugly head, intimate gay life became dangerous.
I was a tall, younger version of Woody Allen, which did not help in attracting a life partner. I laughed when a friend told me about a new perfume for gay men called ‘New Car Interior.’ I knew he was kidding and thought it funny, but I would have given it a try if there were such a thing. My best friend advised me to get rid of the horn-rimmed glasses or at least change the frames.
The Woody Allen remark aroused self-consciousness in my appearance. I knew I was too thin, however, the idea of lifting weights did not appeal to me. As for my nose, I definitely thought it far more becoming than Woody’s nose. Besides, I was eight and one-half inches taller than Woody. I’d smile to myself when I thought about it … everyone seemed to be taller than Woody. Besides, I had a more cheerful expression. Come to think of it, I don’t recall ever seeing a photo of Woody smiling. I often wondered about that. Perhaps the muscles that permitted him to smile were impaired. How awful it would be to go through life with a deadpan expression.
I adapted to the limitations of my personal life, remaining upbeat in spite of a dismal personal future. I joked about getting a parrot and living in single blissfulness. Deep within, I continued to long for the fulfillment of a relationship like my parents.
It was silly and I never told anyone, but the lyrics to Blue Moon were my private theme song:
You saw me standing alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own
You knew just what I was there for
You heard me saying a prayer for
Someone I really could care for.
I folded the newspaper and finished my breakfast while I watched Caruso, my pet canary, and his mate, Gloria, carry on with their lives in a new and larger cage I had recently purchased for them. They were oblivious to the chaos of the big city surrounding them. I envied the companionship they enjoyed.
Caruso was feeding Gloria, a clear indication of their affection for one another. They had begun filling the nesting box with the yarn and paper toweling I had cut into small portions. I anticipated a family of canary chicks before Christmas. But it was the serenity of these two creatures as they worked together to build their life that accentuated my personal loneliness. I was jealous of these birds. How very sad.
I placed my coffee cup and dishes in the sink which was the signal Eddie and Maggie had been waiting for – it was time for their puppy walk. That accomplished, I checked their food and water dishes before hailing a cab which carried me to work.
Arriving at Bergdorf’s was always pleasant. I knew everyone, stopping for a few moments here and there, chatting about something someone had confided in me. At twenty-nine, I found myself well respected by my co-workers and superiors.
As I flipped through messages on my desk, I stopped at the one from the Lexington Charitable Group. Pamela Marcourt wished me to return her call.
“Good morning, Ms. Marcourt. This is Lynn Cutler at Bergdorf’s. How may I help?”
“Oh, Good morning, Lynn. I’m Rex Carlton’s assistant. We need to have Rex dressed for the upcoming gala. Are you available for the task?”
“Yes, of course. I read about the event in the Times this morning. What are my chances of winning anything?”
“Better than mine. Employees are not allowed to enter.”
We laughed and continued our conversation for a few minutes as I outlined the services Bergdorf’s would provide. The conversation ended with Pamela making an appointment for Rex to meet with me the following afternoon.
Rex arrived alone and on time. I greeted him in my usual open and friendly manner but was struck by his lack of enthusiasm.
“Did Pamela explain the reason I need your assistance, Mr. Cutler?”
“Yes, she did, the gala fundraiser. Please, call me Lynn.”
“Ah, then you know. I need something appropriate for the evening after the final drawing. Your name was dropped at a staff meeting as the person who can get the job done.”
“At your service, Mr. Carlton,” I smiled. “Were you interested in a traditional tux or would you prefer to go with an appropriate kilt outfit?”
Rex paused and looked at me, “I don’t know; I hadn’t considered a kilt. What do you recommend?”
“Well, I’d go with the kilt. After speaking with Pamela, I did some research. I have the necessary resources at hand. And you’ll stand out beautifully at the gala as well as the night on the town. Promotionally it would be excellent for the Lexington Group as well as for you personally. The media will no doubt follow you, so you’ll be easy to spot when they air the event. But, of course, the choice is yours.”
Rex thought for a moment, “You say you have the resources?”
“Yes, I researched your name on the Internet and found several tartans which apply to your clan. The accessories are common to all clans. I also found the ancient coat of arms for Carlton which we can have created and applied to the Sporran.”
Rex looked at me with a glimmer of interest in his eyes, “Bergdorf certainly provides the service, doesn’t it? You’ve convinced me, let’s go with the kilt.”
“Very good. Let’s take a look at the tartan patterns. If you’ll step over here, please. I’ve acquired swatches of three suitable patterns.” We moved to the work table prepared for the presentation. “The coloring is similar, with distinct differences. This is called Ancient, this Modern, and this Weathered.”
Rex looked at and felt them. “What do you recommend?”
“If it were me, I’d go with the Weathered pattern. It’s softer to the eye and will be appropriate for the gala and the evening activities. All are 16-ounce worsted.”
“Let’s go with the Weathered.” Rex was beginning to show some enthusiasm.
“We’ll go with the traditional Ghillie Brogues footwear as shown, standard Garter Flashes, and matching argyle kilt hose rather than white. Here are four cufflink designs available. Do any of these appeal to you?”
Rex looked closely at the catalog. “I like the Round Thistle design.”
I made a note on the style sheet. “I’m not certain about the kilt pins, I’ll find something appropriate. We don’t want a gust of wind to reveal more than a gentleman wishes to reveal. Which reminds me, please wear boxer shorts of an appropriate color in case a gust of wind takes over. There will be plenty of cameras around looking for that unexpected moment.”
“I certainly will.” Rex laughed.
“And I recommend the Prince Charles cut jacket, it’s more formal and comfortable if the weather turns cold. It would be ideal for the occasion with a matching vest. As for the Sporran, I’m thinking we should avoid the family arms I mentioned earlier, it might be overkill. I recommend a plain one like this Black Bovine model.” I waited for Rex to confirm.
“Let’s follow your recommendation. What’s the Sporran used for?”
“It’s a pocket since the kilt is pocket-less. Here’s a photo of the round 4-ounce pewter flask designed to fit in the Sporran, which may be used for a liquid of your choice. You can also use the sporran to keep the keys to the castle or a handkerchief in case you have to cry,” I ended my comment with a grin.
“Handkerchief?” Rex grinned.
“Yes. Whenever I left the house, my mother would always ask … Lynn, do you have a hankie in case you have to cry? She still asks, when given the opportunity.”
“Have you ever had the need?” Rex was enjoying the moment.
“Not so far, but you never know. In any event, playing it safe is always a good policy,” I raised my eyebrows and smiled.
“Well, by all means, let’s make sure a handkerchief is included.” Rex relaxed.
“And finishing up, I’m thinking a slightly oversized matching bow tie would be more festive and appropriate for the season and the occasion. I’ll pick a color from the tartan for the shirt. Weather permitting, here’s an off-white ghillie linen shirt with button cuffs for later in the evening if you require more comfort. It will go nicely with the kilt.”
Rex went over the prepared display then turned to me, “Yes, perfect, let’s go with it.”
As I began taking measurements, “When you first came in, you did not appear to be too interested in doing this.” There was a pregnant pause during which I wondered if I had misspoke.
“What was your first clue?”
“Several years of experience doing this,” I stood up and smiled into the surprised face of my customer, “along with your lack of enthusiasm.” Rex was silent. “I apologize, Mr. Carlton if I spoke out of turn.”
“No, no, that’s okay. If you noticed, I’m sure everyone else has. Thank you for your candor.”
“All part of Bergdorf’s service.”
“No, it’s not.” Rex laughed. “Your honesty is refreshing. I see little of it in my position.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“I roped myself into this bloody event and have regretted it ever since. There’s no way of getting out of it either.”
“Who knows, a miracle might happen.” I attempted to lighten the moment.
“Oh, I don’t know. Perhaps Kismet may play a part in the event.
“Kismet? I’ve heard the word. Not sure what it means?”
“It’s a power believed to control what happens in the future. The will of Allah.”
“The will of Allah?” Rex was bemused and thoughtful at the idea.
“Why not,” I responded cheerfully. The winner of the ‘evening on the town with you’ may turn out to be the love of your life.”
“I’m sure Grace would not appreciate hearing that.”
I raised my eyebrows and forced a smile.”
“What?” Rex stared at me.
“Nothing. She seems a very nice person.”
“That’s not what you were thinking.”
I smiled and continued taking measurements.
“Come on, out with it. I thought you said this was part of Bergdorf’s service?
“Mr. Carlton, I never meant this conversation to …”
“Tell me what you were thinking.”
“Well, she seems …” I hesitated, searching for the right word.
“I don’t know. From what I’ve seen of her on TV and read about her in the gossip columns, she seems – a bit of a gold digger.” I bit my tongue and held my breath while making notes on my style report.
Rex stared at me, “You know, I could have you fired for saying that.” His impish smile told me he was kidding.
I had broken the ice with this man and saw he liked to play. “Well, it wouldn’t be the first time, Mr. Carlton. I truly am sorry.”
“What do you mean this isn’t the first time?”
“I try to keep it friendly and professional, but occasionally I get myself into hot water. I apologize if I offended you.”
“For speaking the truth? No offense taken.”
I skillfully changed the subject, “Being Irish, are you first generation here in the US?”
“Yes, my parents immigrated from…”
“The land between the streams?”
Rex’s jaw dropped slightly, “Yes. Well, aren’t you something? What else do you have up your sleeve?”
“Oh, I know a great deal about you,” I smiled as I continued taking measurements. “You’re idealistic, highly imaginative, intuitive, and a spiritual truth seeker.”
“Is that all?”
“Oh no, you’re a visionary and you inspire others.” I made final notes, laid my pen down and turned to Rex, “There, that does it for today.” I smiled at his astonished expression.
“Well, there is a downside but I don’t think it applies to you.”
“Well, I’m impressed. Are we finished?” Rex looked at his watch.
“Yes, all we need do is make an appointment for the first fitting.”
“Call Pamela, she’ll take care of that.”
“I’ll call first thing in the morning. Thank you very much, I hope you have a pleasant evening.”
Rex turned to me, “Are you finished for the day?”
“Just about. Is there something else I can do for you?”
“Yes, have a drink with me at the Plaza.”
“Well, I …”
“I’ll have you fired if you don’t,” Rex grinned.
“Ok, under those circumstances, I’m yours. Let’s go.”
As we departed, he almost whispered, “I’m beginning to wonder what is, and what is not, part of Bergdorf’s service.”
“Mr. Carlton, it’s all part of Bergdorf’s Service … as long as I’m around.” We laughed.
Rex evidently had no confidant in his life and decided I was going to be it, at least for the moment. We sat in the Plaza Oak Bar for over an hour while he unloaded.
It was obvious he had been born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Everything seemed to drop into his lap with little effort on his part. The organization he headed was begun by his father and passed to Rex. He served with distinction in the Marines. I found out later, he had been decorated for bravery in leading his men out of harm’s way on several occasions.
After I learned he was to be one of Bergdorf’s clients, I dug a little deeper and discovered that his education spanned the world from Zurich’s Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Brittan’s University of Cambridge, to Harvard University. And he spoke four languages fluently. His mother was Swiss and was influential in seeing to it he had the very best education.
His training on the Continent was obviated by his charm and graciousness in drawing me into the conversation we were having in such a way I felt equal to him in spite of my typical American education and lack of any language skills. By the time we left the Plaza, I felt as if we had been friends forever. I knew everything about him and he knew only what I wanted him to know about me.
But I did feel sorry for him. With all that education, fame, and wealth, he appeared to have no personal life – no one to play with in private. When he touched my hand to emphasize a point he was making, I found his hand warm and friendly. He wore no jewelry. I’m always leery of guys who decorate themselves.
The meeting ended. He thanked me, I thanked him, and that was that. I went to my apartment and my pups. Who knows where he went, probably to his gold digger girlfriend, Grace. As I walked Eddie and Maggie on a long puppy walk, I found myself fantasizing about the handsome Rex Carlton and the impossibility of Kismet working in my favor.
I called Pamela the following day and made a fitting appointment for the following week. Then, Pamela said something which caught my attention. “Thank you for your assistance, Lynn. Rex is much happier about doing the gala now.” I hadn’t done anything other than my job, but it was nice of her to comment.
Fitting day rolled around, I was ready for Rex when he strolled in. He smiled, was overly pleasant and a little distant. He probably realized he had poured his guts out the last time we met and wished he hadn’t.
I closed the fitting room door, he stood waiting. Guessing he did not know what to do, “Mr. Carlton, you’ll have to remove your clothing for the fitting.” I pointed to the garments hanging on the rack.
“Oh, yeah,” he continued to hesitate.
I wondered if he was shy. He kept looking around the room until it dawned on me. “No, there are no store cameras in this room, only me,” I smiled and held the kilt he was to put on.
Seeing him in his underwear confirmed my suspicions, he had a fit body. Not overly done – just right. I was envious, “You have such a fit body, how do you do it?”
“I have a personal trainer who I pay to nag me into doing routines I hate doing three times a week.”
“I need to do something to put on some weight.” I mused as the fitting progressed.
“Well, that’s it, Mr. Carlton, You may get dressed. I’ll have those additional changes made and we’ll do a final fitting to make sure everything is perfect for the big event.”
When he finished dressing, he walked over to me and extended his hand, “Thank you for everything, Lynn. And you look ok just the way you are.” He smiled and walked out.
I was surprised at his comment and didn’t have a chance to say anything other than a weak, “Thank you.”
A week later everything was ready for the final fitting. Rex arrived late and not as sober as he should have been. He grabbed the back of a chair to steady himself and smiled.
“Are you all right?”
“I’m fine. Had one too many for lunch.”
“Would you prefer to postpone the fitting?”
“No, no, let’s do it.”
“Ok, follow me.” We walked into the fitting room and I closed the door. Rex stood in the middle of the room, weaving slightly. I waited a few seconds, “You’ll need to remove your clothing.”
“Oh, yeah.” He began disrobing. When he was about to remove his underwear I intervened.
“No, no, not your underwear.”
He stopped and smiled.
“Would you like some coffee?”
“Yeah, good idea.” He sat down on the couch. When I returned with the coffee he was sound asleep.
“I think you had more than one too many. No flask for your sporran, my friend.” I placed a throw over him and called my supervisor, explaining the situation. “I’m not sure what to do next.” He advised a call to Rex’s assistant for further instructions.
“He’s where?” Pamela almost shouted
“Asleep on our fitting room couch. I’m afraid he’s a wee bit drunk. I’m not sure what to do with him.”
“Let him sleep.” Pamela sighed. “He has a dinner date at 7:00. I hope this won’t interfere with your day.”
“No, no problem. I will need to wake him before I leave at 5:00.” Pam and I hit it off from the first time we talked. We chatted for a few minutes, promised to have lunch someday, and ended the conversation.
Rex woke around 3:45 and apologized for inconveniencing me.
“No inconvenience, Mr. Carlton. We have this couch especially for our clients who wish to nap.” I pushed the envelope and was pleased to get a laugh out of him. “Shall we finish the fitting?”
“Yes, let’s.” He stood up and took a deep breath. “And call me Rex, if you don’t mind.”
“I don’t mind at all. By the way, I talked with Pam, she said you have a dinner date at 7:00.”
“Ah, Grace. What time is it?”
“Almost four, we’ll be finished within the hour.”
“I owe you for this, Lynn Cutler.” He was implying I should keep quiet about what had happened.
“Not to worry, my lips are sealed. However, Pam knows.” I was standing behind him fitting his jacket.
“Pamela? No problem there.” He paused. “Since when are you calling her Pam?” He looked quizzically at my reflection in the mirror in front of him.
“Stand still please.” I was pinning a tuck. “We’ve become good friends.”
“I hope not too good . . . she knows everything about me.”
I walked in front of him for a final look at the jacket. “Yes, I know,” I said casually with a smile. “Let me check the jacket one last time.” I was at his back and could see us in the full-length mirror. “You Irish are so handsome. You’ll age very well, I suspect you’ll look like Sean Connery as you get older. I envy you.” I was surprised by his response.
“Envy me? Don’t. It’s one of my biggest problems.”
“How so?” I wasn’t sure what he meant.
“People come at me because of what I look like, not because of what’s between my ears.” His voice had a sadness about it.
“Well, thank God that’s not one of my problems,” attempting to be humorous about it.
“What are you talking about?” he turned to me. “You’re a fine looking fellow.”
“Thanks, but I’m not blind. Before I got contacts, I had horn-rimmed glasses and looked like a tall skinny version of Woody Allen. Of course, my nose is more handsome than his. I do need to put on some weight. You can take the jacket off.”
He was looking at me differently as he handed me the jacket. I thought it might be because of my Pam comment. “Don’t worry, your sins will remain a secret with me. However, I do plan on writing a tell-all book when I retire.” I hung the jacket up. He was still looking at me when I turned around. “I’m kidding. She didn’t tell me anything. Kilt. I’ll need the kilt.”
He handed me the kilt and finished dressing.
“I’ll have these minor alterations taken care of and send everything over tomorrow by the end of the day.”
“Well, Lynn, I guess this is it.” Rex was ready to leave. “Yes, it is. Bergdorf appreciates your business, and I plan on being at the gala.”
“Ah, the gala. I’ll be glad when it’s over.” Rex shook my hand and left the department. He still had that odd expression on his face when he shook my hand as if he wasn’t sure he could trust me.
I sent the garments to Rex’s office as promised and received a phone call from Pam later that day. “Lynn, you did a beautiful job. Rex will look so handsome in his kilt. Will you be at the drawing?”
“Yes, I’ll drop by to have a look-see.” The drawing for the contest was two weeks away at the Plaza, 5 p.m. I decided to attend on my way home. Of the five drawings that evening, the last one, an evening on the town with Rex, was the one I was interested in. I wanted to see the reaction of the person who won.
The evening arrived with much fanfare. The crowd at the plaza was so large I almost did not go in. As expected, there were more women in attendance than men, all hoping for the opportunity of spending the evening with Mr. Right.
I stood in the midst of the crowd as the moment of the final drawing approached. Grace came forward, dressed in a gown every woman in the audience would have killed for.
The announcer gave the preamble. Grace approached the turning raffle drum. The drum stopped. Someone opened the drum door, Grace slowly reached deep into the center and pulled out a single slip of paper. She looked at it, smiled and handed it to the announcer.
The announcer looked at the ticket, “The winner of a night on the town with Rex Carlton is … Lynn Cutler.”
There were applause and groans, no one came forward. It had to be someone else with the same name, mine wasn’t that unique.
The announcer called out the name again and added, “Who lives at 520 West 48th street.”
Oh, my God, now what do I do? From my vantage point, I saw a flurry of activity at the back of the stage. They probably figured out someone had omitted ‘ladies only’ from the raffle ticket. Obviously, they were not sure what to do next.
I saw someone surveying the crowd from the front of the stage – probably looking for me. I didn’t recognize her, so I felt relatively safe from detection. I decided to leave and save everyone an embarrassing moment, but it would have been funny.
I made my way through the crowd to the ballroom entrance and was stopped by someone who looked like a bouncer. I quietly said, “Excuse me, please.”
He wasn’t about to let me pass. “Sir, would you please wait. I’ve got him.” This guy was wired and talking to someone. “Sir, if you would please wait, someone wishes to speak with you.”
I turned around and saw the woman from the stage hurrying in my direction.
“Where do you think you’re going, Lynn Cutler?” She was smiling gleefully.
“What?” I didn’t recognize her, but I did recognize her voice. “Pam?”
“Yes, and you’re not going anywhere. Come on, you’ve got a date with Rex.”
“How did you recognize me?”
Pam laughed, “Rex told me to look for a tall Woody Allen without glasses. Personally, I think your nose is cute.
“Pam, it would be better if I left.” I began to resist her tug.
“No, it wouldn’t. I’ve got him. We’re on our way.” She was also wired and probably talking to Rex. I began to laugh. She had hold of my arm and was almost dragging me toward the stage.
Rex explained to the audience that an error had been made in the ad specifying ladies only. “Please accept our apologies and everyone, please welcome Lynn Cutler.” He began to applaud. The audience joined in as Pam got behind me and guided me to the stage stairway. Her hands were on my back so there was no escape. The applause, probably out of sympathy for me, helped carry me up those stairs.
Rex met me at the top of the stairs, took my arm and led me to the podium. “Well, Lynn, what do you think?”
“Hey, I thought it was for a good cause and wanted to make a contribution. Never thought I’d win anything.” The audience agreed with their applause.
Rex thanked everyone for their contribution to the fund. “It has made a great difference.” The audience applauded again as Rex drew me away from the podium.
“It’s okay if we don’t do this.” I looked at Rex and Pam, feeling they may be in a bind because of the error.
Pam didn’t hesitate, “Are you kidding? The media will crucify us if we made a change now.”
You’re not going anywhere,” Rex took my arm, “except with me. Come on, we have a dinner reservation.”
As we settled in The Todd English Food Hall, our conversation continued from where it had left off when we had drinks a few weeks earlier. I’m sure the media enjoyed the animation between us – like old friends.
“I almost fell through the floor when Pam caught me on my way out of the ballroom. Are you all wired for sound?”
“As a matter of fact, we are. Isn’t this cool?” he showed me a mic hidden under his lapel. “The earpiece is in my sporran, along with my handkerchief,” he grinned.
“Well, turn it off before I say something which will get us in trouble.”
“It’s off. At least I think it’s off. I told Pam to disconnect us.”
I couldn’t resist, “So Rex, what are we doing after dinner, a nightclub, and dancing? I’ll let you lead.”
He didn’t appreciate my jest. “Very funny.” He obviously did not have a clue what to do next. Arrangements had been made for two nightclub stops, which didn’t seem practical under the circumstances. He looked at me, “Any suggestions?”
I did have a suggestion. “Yes, I do.”
“Well, let’s have it?”
“Why don’t we go to Deno’s Wonder Wheel? The weather is perfect and it’s close by. They have a Ferris wheel with moving gondolas that will scare the pants off of you . . . you did wear pants I hope.”
“Yes, I did, thank you.” He almost smiled.
“They have Bumper Cars, Spook-a-Rama and a roller coaster called the Thunderbolt. Ever do Bumper Cars? No, probably not. Did you bring the shirt I recommended for after dinner?”
“Yes, it’s upstairs on the stage. Sounds like you’ve been to Deno’s before.”
“I was raised there as a kid. After we’ve eaten, let’s go get . . . wait, here comes Pam with the shirt. Bless her heart.” My suggestion and Pam’s arrival had Rex relaxing.
As we drove to Deno’s, “I’ve done bumper cars before just in case you’re interested.” Rex threw me a superior glance.
“Oh, really, when?” I enjoyed playing with him. “I don’t know, maybe when I was 10 or 9.” We laughed.
The media and a small crowd of on-lookers were waiting as we arrived. Rex’s enthusiasm rose rapidly as the enormity of the park and all that it had to offer began to register. He insisted we do Bumper Cars first.
He definitely was a force to be reckoned with once he got behind the steering wheel. The little boy inside each of us came out to play and we had a great time. I had difficulty keeping up with him after that. For the media, it was a field day and they took full advantage of it.
It was well past midnight when we finally called it a day and made our departure. I think Rex could have gone on until morning but I was exhausted.
The limo pulled up in front of my apartment building. Rex got out with me. “Lynn, this was the most amazing evening. I had more fun than I thought I’d ever have. Thank you for suggesting Deno’s.”
“Well, I’m glad. I believe we skillfully averted a potential disaster.” We laughed as we shook hands. I walked toward the building entrance.
“Lynn,” Rex followed me. “Maybe we could meet again. I en…”
I stopped him before he finished his sentence. “Rex, that’s very generous of you and I do appreciate it, but I don’t believe we should be seen together.”
“What? Why not?”
“Rex, I’m gay and it would not do your reputation much good if it became public knowledge who you were associating with. I’m glad I won the drawing and that we were able to spend the evening together. It was a lot of fun. But it’s best we leave it at that. Thank you again for your patronage at Bergdorf’s.”
The media had left, we were alone with his limo driver at the curb.
“Lynn, I don’t know what to say.”
“You don’t have to say anything, Rex. Good night and thank you very much.” I turned and went into my apartment building.
“So did I,” came a soft response from someone who was obviously bewildered. As I waited for the elevator I heard his limo drive away. I hoped that was the end of it.
The media coverage of our adventure was well-done and it bolstered the reputation of the Group as well as Rex, for being a good sport under unexpected circumstances. I did have to laugh at a camera shot of Rex when his kilt got caught in a gust of wind. He wore black boxer shorts which were perfect.
I became a sort of celebrity for a while at Bergdorf’s which came in handy. Customers would come up to me and chat about the mix-up at the contest and how much fun we seemed to have at Deno’s, who also got a boost from the event.
The Thanksgiving Holiday came and went as bone-chilling cold weather set in for the final days of the year. I was contemplating the loneliness of Christmas when I got a phone call at Bergdorf’s. “Rex, nice to hear from you. What can I do for you – another contest?
He laughed. “No, never again. Would you join me for dinner this evening?”
I was surprised but figured it was business related, so I agreed. I met him outside of Bergdorf’s. Rex hailed a cab, “What kind of food would you like.”
“Oh, I don’t know. How about fish and chips?”
“Here, in New York?”
“Sure.” I gave directions to the cabbie. “A Salt & Battery on Greenwich. Know the place?”
“Sure do. We’ll be there in a jiff.”
“It’s authentic British, you’ll love it.” We arrived and were munching away when I asked him why he wanted to meet with me.
“I enjoyed being with you during the night out and thought you might feel the same.”
I stopped eating and looked at him, “Rex, I told you, I’m gay and you don’t want to be seen with me – your reputation.”
“What about your reputation?”
I almost laughed when I heard that, “Rex, I don’t have one. We travel in different circles, I would not fit in yours.”
“And I wouldn’t fit in yours?” He sounded terse.
“I didn’t say that.” I wasn’t sure what to say next, so I stepped off the cliff which is my wont to do now and again. “Rex, you’re rich and well-known, I’m nobody. It’s not that you wouldn’t fit in my circle. Trust me, you would not want to fit in.”
He was silent for a few seconds. “I resent that.”
“But it’s true and you know it. If you don’t know it, you’d find out pretty fast. Do you know any gay people outside of me? How about your offices? I’m sure there are a few gay people working there. But, of course, you’re not aware of them. At your level of management, I doubt you’ve ever mixed with the hoi polloi in your firm. Have you ever been in a gay bar?” The look on his face told me he didn’t have a clue. “Rex, I’m sorry to tell you, but I’m part of the hoi polloi. I thought you asked me out for business reasons. I should have clarified that before we got this far. I’m sorry.”
I lost my appetite, got up, and excused myself. “This is my fault. I’m going now. You’re a good fellow and I do appreciate the gesture.” I left the restaurant.
He followed me, “Lynn, I’m not gay, but I like you. I thought we could be friends.”
“We all need friends, Rex. But you would tire of me as one of them very quickly. Please believe me, I’ve only got your best interests at heart.” I hailed a cab and went home.
The cold snap continued to grip the city and then it was spring again. I had not heard from Rex so I assumed he got the message until the phone rang at my desk. “Rex, I can’t believe you’re calling me.”
“I’m driving up to my cottage on Cape Cod and would like you to come along,” he asked in a matter-of-fact tone.
“What for?” I was direct and annoyed.
He hung up without a word. Oh, shit. I probably would hear about this. To make amends I called Pamela.
“Hi, Pam, is Rex there?
“Lynn, what in the world is going on? He just stormed out of here madder than a wet hen.”
“Pam, I wish I knew. Please tell him I called.” There was nothing more I could do. He was a big boy, he’d have to deal with it himself. The day came to a close. I went to my apartment and leashed Eddie and Maggie who were excited as usual about going for their puppy walk.
Later that evening, I wasn’t expecting anyone when I heard a knock on my front door. I looked through the peephole. It was Rex. I hesitated, then opened the door. “How did you get in?”
“I pressed all the bells except yours.” He walked in, I closed the door, he was still angry.
“You probably saw that in a movie. Next time try my bell first. I would have let you in.”
“I doubt it.” He was bristling.
“What are you doing here, and why are you so angry?” I was at a loss what to do with him.
“Why do you keep refusing me? I want to be your friend.”
It was obvious he didn’t want me to be his friend, he just needed a friend. “Did it ever occur to you that I don’t want to be your friend?”
“No, it hasn’t. Why not for God’s sake?
Obviously, he was not accustomed to rejection. I would have to spell it out for him. “Come on, I’m about to brew coffee. I’d offer you a drink but I’m not going to.”
He got the jab. “Very funny. I don’t drink that much and I don’t smoke either.”
I wasn’t sure why he was telling me. “I’m glad for you. Park it over there and let me talk without interruption.” Eddie and Maggie followed us into the kitchen. Eddie jumped into Rex’s surprised lap. “He won’t bite. Pet him or put him down if you don’t like dogs.”
I got the coffeemaker going, then turned to Rex. “You’re probably not going to like this. I tried to put you off graciously the night of the gala. For some reason, that didn’t work. I’ll try again. Hopefully, you’ll get off of my case and leave me alone. Have you considered how I feel about your unwanted attention?”
Rex just looked at me. He was clueless. “You know I’m gay. Does that mean anything to you? I like men, I’m attracted to men, I would like, one day, to have a long-term relationship with a man. Yes, and that includes having sex with a man. How does that strike you?
“You come along, you’re rich, drop-dead gorgeous, and a genuine basket case between those ears of yours. I hate being in the same room with you because I know I can’t touch you. It’s like dangling a giant lollipop in front of me which I’m not allowed to lick. It’s torture for me to be around you, and now you want me to go to Cape Cod. Fat chance of that ever happening.”
Steam was about to come whistling out of his ears. I didn’t care. I wanted him out of my life, I wanted peace. The coffee brewed, I poured two cups. When I turned around he was gone. I heard the front door open and slam shut. Thank God he was gone.
Eddie and Maggie had left the room. I looked out from the kitchen to make sure they had not followed him. Oh, my God, Rex had not left. His arm was across the door with his head leaning on it. It looked like he was breathing hard. Eddie and Maggie were at his feet.
I sat down at the kitchen table and decided to wait it out. Let nature take its course. I sipped my coffee and prayed it would end – and soon. I heard the door open and close quietly. Eddie and Maggie came into the kitchen. Rex was gone but I had the nagging feeling it wasn’t over.
Three days later I got a call from Pamela. “Rex is in the hospital.”
“You’re kidding. What the hell happened?”
“I thought you would know. He won’t talk to me except to bark out orders.”
“No, I don’t know. Why is he in the hospital?” I was beginning to guess why.
“I’m not sure, I think he took something.” Pam’s voice began to crack.
“He OD’d on something?” I held my breath.
“I’m not sure.” It sounded as if she had been weeping.
“What hospital?” This was my fault, I had to go.
“Saint Luke’s or Roosevelt?”
“Saint Luke’s; are you going?”
“Yes, I’m going. I probably shouldn’t.”
“Oh, Lynn, thank you. Please let me know what’s going on.”
“You probably won’t like it, but I’ll do my best.”
“No visitors,” came a sweet voice at the reception desk.
“I’m his brother.” I lied.
“Oh, that’s different. Sign here please.” I guess I didn’t look threatening enough to ask for identification. I signed my first name and his last name. I chuckled at the irony.
“How did you get in? I told them no visitors,” Rex barked at me, he looked drained and dreadful.
“I lied. Any objections?” The moment I saw him laid out on that hospital bed, looking more miserable than the wreck of the Hesperus, my heart leapt. The sadness and hurt in his eyes triggered lyrics in my head from my personal theme song:
And then there suddenly appeared before me
The only one my arms will ever hold
I heard somebody whisper
“Please adore me”
And when I looked,
the moon had turned to gold!
I turned to the nurse. “Would you excuse us, please,” I stared at her.
“I’m not supposed to . . .”
“Would you please leave?”
“I’m sorry, sir, but…”
“GET OUT AND CLOSE THE FRICKEN DOOR BEHIND YOU, please.”
The poor creature folded like an origami fan and scurried away.
“What are you smirking at?” I leveled my glare at Rex.
“I didn’t think you had it in you.”
“She’ll probably bring reinforcements, so here’s the deal. When you get out of this antiseptic mortuary, let me know and we’ll go to your fricken place in Cape Cod. You can explain to me why you did whatever you did to get your bloody ass in here. OK?”
“OK,” he was smiling, a little.
“Good.” I saw the troops pass outside the window of Rex’s room. “Here they come, bye.”
“Sir, you’ll have to leave,” came a gruff-voiced attendant.
“Oh, shut up!” I walked out smiling my ass off. As I walked down the hallway I heard them apologizing profusely to ‘Mr. Carlton’ for the inconvenience. He knew there would be no ass-kissing when we were alone.
I called Pamela. “Hi, Pam.”
“Lynn, tell me.”
“I’m not sure why he’s there, outside of looking like death warmed over. In the short time I was with him I ripped him a new one.”
“Thank God, I’ve been wanting to do that for such a long time. Bless you, Lynn.”
“We’ll be going to his place in Cape Cod when he gets out of hospital. I’ll see if I can find out what’s going on between those ears of his.” We chatted for a few minutes. It was obvious she was in love with Rex, and goddammit … so was I.
A week later I opened the front door of his Mercedes and climbed in. “You have no idea what you’re in for, do you?” I shut the door.
“Hum,” was his only reply.
We were out of the city when I gracelessly fell asleep. It had been a busy week at Bergdorf’s and I was pooped. I woke with a start, “Where are we?”
“We’re almost there.”
I suddenly realized Rex was holding my hand. I did not pull away. ‘Holy Crap, he’s changed.’ The hospital stay probably was the turning point. I wondered if he had a near death experience that brought him around.
We stopped at a small grocery store and bought food for the weekend. Rex chatted with the clerk as if they were old friends which they probably were. We were definitely in small town country.
Ten minutes later we pulled into the driveway of a small, quaint cottage overlooking the ocean. “Gee wilikers! What a great view!” The getaway could not have been more perfect. The cottage was straight out of a fairytale, probably built in the ’40s. Fieldstone construction with a rolled edge roof and little eyelet windows here and there below two stone chimneys. White trim with Dutch blue shutters and front door. It was enchanting.
As I neared the white picket fence gate, a small plaque on the light post next to the gate came into view. My breath caught as I read it . . .
Blue Moon Cottage
22 Rose Hill Lane
“Did you name the cottage?”
“No, my mother did. She left it to me.”
“She was a wise woman,” I said under my breath as I closed the gate with my foot.
“Must have some lovely memories.” I followed Rex to the front door, carrying the groceries.
“It does.” Rex opened the front door whose hinges squeaked.
“Those need oiling,” as I walked into the cottage. I had barely walked beyond the door jamb when Rex closed the door, pulled the bags out of my arms, set them on the floor, and grabbed me.
“I’ve been such a fool, Lynn, forgive me.”
“For what? Watching you act like a damned. . .” his mouth met mine with such passion and force it almost knocked me out. He held me so tight I could hardly breathe. I pushed him away with all my might to keep from passing out. “Wait a minute! Wait a bloody minute! What the hell are you doing?”
He wilted. It was the worst thing I could have said.
I moved into his arms again. “It’s ok. But I’m warning you, I never do anything on my first date,” and smiled. The grateful look on his face was priceless. I would have to give him instructions on hugging before he squashed me to death.
All the barriers came down and I began to see the little boy who had never been loved by anyone for himself. I wanted the job. The weekend of passion and revelations came to an end as we reluctantly left Blue Moon cottage and headed back to the city. I drove and held his hand this time. We talked and laughed about everything and nothing. It was the sound of our voices mingling which began to solidify a relationship I hoped would last. I thought of my mother and father.
I was determined to follow my mother’s advice, ‘Whether a friend or a lover, give everything you have and expect nothing in return. If you find someone with the same philosophy, like your father, you’ll experience a little bit of heaven here on earth.’
It was noon when we pulled up in front of Bergdorf’s. We got out of the car, Rex ran around and got into the driver’s seat. I glanced back as I entered the building and saw the tail lights of his car disappear in traffic. I wondered if there would ever be more.
As I changed my clothes in the fitting room I glanced at my body in the full-length mirror and remembered asking Rex, “Why me?” His answer was short and sweet.
“Your ears, my friend … because of your ears,” he said with a knowing smile.
“What about my ears?”
He put his big beautiful, warm hands over my ears and paid me the most incredible compliment I had ever received. He whispered, “It’s what’s between them that turns me on.”
I smiled at my reflection in the mirror and touched my ears as the memory flooded back. He also told me that he loved my body just the way it was. I took a deep breath and threw out my chest, “You gorgeous creature.” Then laughed and finished dressing. I was drained and happy, and busier than a one-armed paper hanger the rest of the day.
The phone was ringing as I closed my apartment door. “May I come over? I don’t ever want to sleep alone again.” I could have cried.
I gave him a key to the apartment and showed him a space reserved under my bed for his shoes, for as long as he wanted to put them there. “Or in the bed if you want.” He laughed at the symbolism, but he got the idea.
A few days later Pamela called me. “What the hell are you two doing?” she was tense and terse.
“Meet me for lunch – today,” the assertive side of my personality was still in gear.
She agreed. We met at a café across the street from Central Park. I leveled with her, she deserved it. “I know you’re in love with Rex.”
“You do?” she sounded surprised.
“Well, yeah. Caring for him the way you do, it’s obvious.” I tried to be as sympathetic as possible.
“I am disappointed,” she admitted, “but I am glad it’s you and not Miss Stinkweed. I figured that’s what happened. He’s been different lately, happier than I’ve ever seen him.”
“Does he know how you feel about him?”
“Probably not,” she looked at me pathetically, “I guess I never had a chance.”
“Do you want me to tell him?”
“Would you? I could never do it.”
I told him everything over dinner, he had no idea she had been pining for him. He gave her a raise and sent her on a paid two-week cruise to the Caribbean with two of her close friends.
I mentioned my philosophy of giving with no expectations, he liked it and endeavored to do the same. He shared his personal trainer with me. I gained 20 pounds and looked more buff than any time in my life. Rex said he liked that as well.
As summer drifted into fall, our relationship blossomed and became known at the Group, and Bergdorf’s. Old friends and fellow employees rallied around in support. Pamela told me Grace was furious. She put up a fight for her man as she called Rex, but it was hopeless.
I found out later she showed up at Bergdorf’s one day – looking for me. She asked a number of employees where I was. They artfully gave her the wrong directions. She left in a fit of frustration. Not long after, she packed up and disappeared. We laughed. Rumor had it she moved to Miami. We speculated that there was plenty of gold down there to keep her busy.
I hesitated from mentioning my relationship with Rex to my parents. If it didn’t work out for some reason I didn’t want the task of telling them it didn’t work out. Mom told me she suspected what was going on. I asked her how. All she said was, ‘You glowed.’ I laugh to myself when I think of it, but I guess I was glowing. I couldn’t help it. The truth impacted me the day I came across the canceled check for one hundred dollars I wrote for the Fundraiser gala. I wish I had kept that copy of the New York Times. I tossed it because it was spoiled by some sour cherry jam which slipped off of my toast that morning.
Rex had never heard of, let alone tasted sourdough bread from San Francisco. I enjoyed the expression on his face when he tasted it for the first time. I placed an ongoing order with Boudin’s to make sure my man always had sourdough bread at his fingertips.
He had traveled the world over but had never been to San Francisco. We made plans to visit that wonderful city together. I had vacationed there any number of times but the thought of being there with Rex gave it new meaning. I began making a list of the places I would take him, the main one being the very center of Golden Gate Bridge when the fog was rolling in thick and heavy from the Pacific Ocean. And again when it was sunny and clear. Golden Gate Park was also high on my to-do list. I believed we could spend several days exploring that wonderful place and never see all of it. It would be a perfect place for a honeymoon but I didn’t dwell on that possibility. I had my blue moon. I wasn’t about to press my luck for the stars as well.
December First was my 31st birthday. Rex planned a party with friends and my parents. I thanked him for the gesture but told him it wasn’t necessary. A weekend at Blue Moon cottage with him would be enough. He insisted.
It was his insistence that raised a little flag. Was he up to something and wasn’t telling me about it. That curiosity was answered when I received a call from Pam one afternoon. “Rex is up to something and I don’t know what it is. Thought I would give you a heads up. Do you know?” I didn’t and thanked her for telling me.
Rex and I talked about the gathering that evening. He gave no hint of anything out of the ordinary. He rented a small reception room at the Plaza, had his driver bring my parents into town, and we gathered together on a beautiful wintery Sunday afternoon.
There were gifts and food, laughter and a smile on Pamela’s face which was a little too knowing. “Pam, you know something, don’t you?”
She tried not to smile, “No, I don’t know anything. I would tell you if I did.” She walked away pinching her lips to hold back a grin. Pam is a wonderful person but she’s a terrible liar. I was convinced she now knew what Rex was up to and wasn’t about to let the cat out of that bag.
Mom brought a cake she had baked and was in the kitchen fussing with it. I walked to the door to take a look and was immediately blocked from entering by my father who also had a big grin on his face.
I moved forward. We were belly to belly and nose to nose. “Dad?”
He didn’t move. “Bertha!”
“Lynn, go away for crying out loud.”
I backed away just as Rex announced, “Ok, birthday time. You, sit here.” He pulled out a chair from the table. I obediently sat down. A blindfold came out. Rex placed it over my eyes.
They sang happy birthday with several choruses I had never heard before. I decided Pam had something to do with that which is why she was so secretive. As the singing ended, the blindfold came off. On the table in front of me was one of my mother’s gorgeous cakes with two lit candles. Then, it hit me like a ton of bricks. In between the two burning candles sat an open ring box with two glittering gold rings.
I looked around, everyone was beaming with anticipation. Rex was standing behind me. He leaned over, put his arms around my shoulders, lowered his head next to mine and whispered, “Lynn, I love you, please marry me.”
I was so overwhelmed I began to sob, I stood up and turned into the arms of this unbelievable man I had grown to love. I incoherently answered between sobs, “Yes, I will marry you.”
Rex looked at my mother, “Mom, he’s crying and doesn’t have a handkerchief.” Everyone laughed and rushed forward with tissues and napkins and a handkerchief my mother had tucked in her belt. It sounded like everyone was weeping as they converged on Rex and me.
Champagne bottles were popped, glasses filled, hugs, kisses, and I was a total mess.
“So,” Rex took my hand, “when would you like us to take our vows?”
“The sooner the better,” slipped eagerly off of my tongue, “How about just before Christmas Day?” I could hardly believe I was making a date for my own wedding.
“Perfect,” Rex agreed, “that way we can celebrate Christmas at the same time. How about the 23rd?” Rex lifted his glass.
“Agreed,” I lifted my glass with the others as the tears ran down my cheeks. “Here’s to the 23rd of December.” Everyone chorused the toast. I turned to Rex and whispered, “Merry Christmas.” We clinked our glasses, entwined our left arms and drank our toast.
Pam put her arms around me, “I had all I could do to keep this secret.” I laughed and complimented her on the achievement.
As the merriment of the moment subsided, I noticed Mom and Dad, they were having more fun than I was.
Rex whispered in my ear, “You were right.”
“About what?” I didn’t have a clue.
“Kismet,” he smiled and kissed my cheek. I laughed when I remembered, then thought of the final lines of Blue Moon:
Now I’m no longer alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own.
The party ended, Rex and I were alone. “Lynn, after the ceremony, where would you like to go?”
“You mean like a honeymoon?” My head was still spinning. That was the last thing I was thinking of.
“Yes, a honeymoon. I’ll take you anywhere you like. How about San Francisco?” He came up behind me and put his arms around me, resting his chin on my shoulder.
“That sounds perfect – wait a minute. I know where I would like to go.” I turned around and looked into his beaming face. “Don’t think me silly.”
“Never. Where?” He kissed the end of my nose. “Blue Moon Cottage. I’m a cheap date.” I smiled into his astonished face. Rex pulled back from me and stared.
“Not a good idea?”
“No, it’s a perfect idea. Christmas at Blue Moon Cottage, I was thinking about it myself.”
“It’s close. I’d like to have a few people visit – not many, and not often. I’d like Pam to come. Is that okay?”
“Not many, and not often is perfectly okay with me.” He pulled me into an embrace. I smiled. He had learned not to squash me. “Yes, Pam for sure.”
The promise of attaining a relationship like my parents was now possible with the day-to-day joy of giving all I had to Rex, and expecting nothing in return.