She's coming over to my apartment, this young woman from Brooklyn. I'm living on East 23rd Street, in the city's smallest apartment, all of 160 square feet, and it's Saturday night.
It's 1977, late spring, and we just started going out six months earlier. We clicked right away, the second date soon after the first, and so on. Jimmy Carter is president, Hugh Carey governor and Ed Koch the new mayor. The city is in lousy shape, crime high, the streets dirty, jobs hard to find.
But that's all a distant backdrop for us. She's in my doorway now, looking cute, as she tends to do, and out we go. We go east toward Park Avenue South and hang a right on Third Avenue. In those days, Third Avenue had the action, the restaurants, the bars, everyone out on Saturday night.
We're holding hands now, her hand feeling so warm tucked into mine. We stop off at a pizza place we liked, thin crust and all, maybe two slices each. We're doing the town on a shoestring. We'd spent our first New Year's Eve lingering for three hours over a five-course dinner complete with a cabaret singer on piano. On another special occasion we went to Windows on the World in a place called the World Trade Center.
We go to eat and talk a little, nothing serious on our agenda. Maybe I'm telling her how I hated Hebrew school, or she's letting me in on life with nuns at Catholic school, and maybe we imagine what would have happened if we had traded places.
She eats like a lady, no tomato sauce dripping onto her cheek, and it's all so easy. She's easy to talk to, easy to listen to, easy to be with. We each feel no need to be anything other than who we are, and being ourselves seems to fit the bill all around.
She's more than cute and smart and funny, too. She's steady, mature. She never raises her voice or gets hysterical. We're still busy discovering each other, feeling it all out, and it's feeling comfortable. It's feeling right.
Now Third Avenue has grown thick with pedestrians as night comes on. We go down toward Union Square Park, but stay out of it, the better to avoid the drug dealers. We head back uptown and go into a Bagel Nosh to pick up some tire-sized bagels.
It's all as easy as it gets, a guy from the Bronx and a girl from Brooklyn out on a Saturday night in Manhattan. Everything feels new. We're new to each other. Our careers are new. The city itself seems to have a certain innocence tonight, still a few months away from the Big Blackout and the Summer of Son of Sam.
We're back on 23rd Street now, passing the magnificent Metropolitan Life Building all lit up. We take a bench in Madison Square Park, but only briefly, because the drug dealers are out here, too.
Otherwise, though, the city is ours, and that's because we're young and everything is ahead of us, our pasts containing little more than our childhoods. She has such a sweet smile and she makes me laugh more than any girl I've known, and nothing else matters. I feel good around her, better, smarter, more successful than I've ever felt before.
Neither of us knows whether we have a future together. We're still in suspense, nothing a given yet. We're making it all up as we go along, heavily vested in the moment, no plans on our minds beyond tonight.
We're back in my apartment now. Soon we'll watch Saturday Night Live. We'll catch Chevy and Dan and Bill and John and Gilda and Jane and Loraine in the act, and we'll laugh together. Life is good, still pretty carefree, still light on obligations. All is promise and possibility. We have no idea what's coming.
That November we'll move into Forest Hills together, and the next June we'll get engaged, and the following March, we'll be married. And then the rest of us will arrive, first Michael and then Caroline, completing us forever.
But for now all that's still ahead. Right now it's only the spring of 1977, on a Saturday night in Chelsea, and nobody's in a hurry to get anywhere. We still have 35 Valentine's Days in front of us. We still have all the time in the world.
Bob Brody, an executive and essayist in New York City, blogs at letterstomykids.org. His work has appeared in the "New York Times," the "Washington Post" and the "Wall Street Journal," among other publications.