Who Loves You?

During the summer between high school and college, back in the '70s, I got caught up with a dysfunctional group that hung out at a bar in Scarsdale called Tommy's Tavern. My friend Gaynor and I, although teenagers, tried to shoehorn ourselves in with a cast of 30-something drunks. They played in a softball league on a team they named the Cunning Linguists. We were young and stupid enough to be amused by their hilarious way with words and flattered by their attention. We actually fought over the most dysfunctional of them all, Vincent (not his real name).

Vincent had lived with a girlfriend for many years but they were forever breaking up. That summer, she had moved out, leaving him with his black velvet paintings, naked lady shower curtain and Bob Dylan LP collection. What a catch!

Gaynor and I attempted to one-up each other with our closeness to Vincent, in a "he likes me better/no, he likes me better" way that I now shudder when I recall. Ultimately, we both had some wins and some losses. My high points included his installing some shelves in my mother's living room and taking me to see "The Man Who Fell to Earth." There were plenty of low points as well, as there will be for those who hang out in bars.

In the fall I left for NYU and forgot about Vincent. But I went home for Thanksgiving and the Wednesday before the holiday (traditional returning student celebration night) headed out to a bar to catch up with everyone. Before I even made it inside, I ran into Vincent. He seemed glad to see me and insisted that we should get together while I was home. He asked for my phone number and promised to call. I was skeptical, given his track record. He sloughed off my skepticism, saying, "Who loves you, baby?"

I'm not sure whether he was quoting the Four Seasons, who'd just had a hit song by that title, or Kojak, a then-current TV show starring Telly Savalas as a bald detective with that catch phrase. Either way, it seemed like a phony line, delivered ironically. I responded in kind: "I don't know. Who loves me, Vincent?" Taken aback, he paused just a moment before saying, "You know I do, babe."

In fact, I knew he didn't. I knew it absolutely, in a grown-up, scales-fallen-from-the-eyes kind of way. I turned and went into the bar. He didn't call and I never saw him again. I later heard he'd married the long-time girlfriend and had several kids. Happy Thanksgiving to them all!

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