Years ago, when I was new to the city, I was hired for a part time job at as a reader for a publishing house. I didn’t know there was such a job before. Basically it meant reading (or skimming) manuscripts submitted by agents to see whether they were worth considering for publication. Three months after getting the job in early fall, I was fired. I was assured that it wasn’t my performance and that the publisher would be happy to provide me with a recommendation. I surmised that I was being let go because Ellis, the editor who’d hired me, had quit to take another job. I was Ellis’s hire and now that Ellis was gone so was I. However, I had already received an invitation to the publisher’s Christmas party. It never occurred to me not to go. The party was being held at the Sheraton on Park Avenue South (which I don’t think exists anymore; on the other hand, neither does the publisher). I had another part-time job at Paramount Pictures, then quartered in what used to be the Gulf & Western Building on Columbus Circle (now the Trump tower) and so I also had an invitation to their Christmas Party at Tavern on the Green (which also doesn’t exist anymore). Conveniently, the Paramount party took place in the morning while the publisher’s Christmas party was scheduled for the afternoon, allowing ample time to get thoroughly boozed up prior to my post-employment appearance at the Sheraton. By the time I arrived I was in a very good mood. The expensive alcohol I’d consumed at Tavern on the Green had made me indifferent to etiquette. (If I were a stickler for good manners I wouldn’t have gone to the publisher’s party to begin with.) I had heard that another reader was being allowed to keep his job for several more months and didn’t think that this was fair. So I approached the publisher, a stolid bear of a man. He was surprised, not pleasantly, to see me but was quick to recover. “It’s good to see you,” he said, reaching for my hand. “Thanks for coming.” Parties aren’t known as occasions for outbursts of candor.  Then I asked him why the other reader was staying on when I’d been shown the door. His face darkened. “I don’t have to stand here and be interrogated by you.” Well, he had a point. I simply shrugged and walked away. (What was he going to do -- fire me again? And I didn’t think he’d cause a scene and have me booted out of the party.) I was enjoying myself immensely. Somehow I ended up talking with a young woman whom I’ll call Francine Acton. She was indisputably the best-looking girl at the publishing house. I believe she was in the art department. (All the good-looking girls in publishing seemed to work in the art department in those days.)  For the three months of my tenure, sitting in a cubicle no bigger than a closet, squandering my eyesight on books of little discernible worth, I’d been watching her (I was not alone.) But at no time had she so much as glanced my way, let alone acknowledged my presence. Yet there she was in the ballroom of the Sheraton Park Avenue coming on to me. It was hard to believe that this was happening. She was talking, only half-jokingly, about getting a room in the hotel. She was busy unbuttoning my shirt. I was so paralyzed with wonder that I’d completely pushed the publisher’s rebuke out of my mind. I think we might actually have gone to the desk and inquired about a room but none were available or maybe she had second thoughts. But the flirtation had been so intense and unexpected that it kept my mind fueled on delightful fantasies for the next several days. She’d given me her number.  But when should I call her? I hesitated. I didn’t want to sound overeager but I didn’t want too much time to pass by, either. I wasn’t sure what I would say exactly but I knew what I wanted her to say and was afraid she wouldn’t. When I finally did call her she sounded a little taken aback like I wasn’t supposed to take her offer – or her scribbled phone number -- seriously. “I had a wonderful time,” she said, but then let me know that she was living with her boyfriend and it wouldn’t be advisable to get together. I failed to realize that what had happened in those delirious, drunken minutes with Francine Acton couldn’t possibly happen outside of an office Christmas party; it was a breach of the natural order of things (the natural order was Francine being forever inaccessible) and if that day allowed me to do anything, to open any door and find a prize waiting for me, I had to reconcile myself to the unhappy truth that that kind of serendipity is limited to one day, and one day only, and then is no more.

_DSC7490 800 brooklyn bridge snow1.jpg
AuthorLeslie Horvitz