“Don’t drink today,” says Charlie. His left hand connects with my ass in three ways. Slap. Grab. Shove. A gust of air-conditioning sails from the Lex and 43rd entrance to Grand Central Station. It cools my blush.

Charlie and I exchange “God bless” knowing we’ll never see each other again. We met ten minutes ago on the corner of 54th and 5th.

“Are you Jewish or Italian?” asked a 5’2” Puerto Rican stranger while I stood waiting for the lights to change.

“Sicilian.”

“I knew it!”

We start to walk.

“What’s your name?” queries the tanned skin man with seaweed eyes.

“Stella.”

“Stella,” he says connecting my hand to his flower petal lips. “I’m Charlie.”

Charlie is the fourth guy to try to pick me up this morning. First a pair of office cleaners hollered out the window of their van while I strut up Park, “Lookin good Mama! Alright?!”

Then a St Lucian boy cleaning windows along 47th met my smile with, “Mawning be-yootiful womun. Yer lookin fine dis fine summah day.”

“I bet you woke up with that smile,” says Charlie admiring his reflection in each lens of my red-framed Ray Bans.

“Gotta greet the day positive. Where you off to?”

“Houston. There’s a pawnshop down there, they owe me six hundred bucks. You?”

“Grand Central Station.”

“I’ll walk you.”

A group of students on a field trip are snapping shots. “That’s two dollars!” yells Charlie.

Mobs of people rushing around cause us to momentarily disconnect our hooked elbows and walk single file. I pass an orange skinned yuppie wife; a greasy haired lawyer puffing a cigar; and a Mexican delivery boy pushing a cart of edible delicacies.

Charlie makes his way to my left saying “Hold on,” and crossing back to the right where we link up again.

“This is where a man’s supposed to walk. So he can protect in here.” He presses one small hand to my flat stomach.

“I take it you’ve got a strong right hook? Otherwise you’d want to be on the left?”

“Exactly.”

“Maybe I can defend myself. ”

“Serious?”

“Deadly.”

“Ha!”
In six inch heels, I’m approximately nine inches taller than Charlie. I’m concerned he’s pegged me all wrong in this the suit until I say, “I just finished another bloody interview,” and he replies, “Just go to McDonalds.”

We’re holding hands walking down Madison Avenue and he’s saying, “Italian girls don’t smile like you, ever been with a Puerto Rican? I’ll start at the bottom of your feet and work my way up.”

Charlie spots a seafood delivery man flailing his cigarette and barking into his cell phone. “Fucken! Are you serious?! You gotta be kidding me! Look… I told you!”

Charlie raises his right hand like a peace symbol, flips it toward his lips halfway up, and connects his fingers to his mouth with two quick pats. The man nods, reaches in his pocket, and hands Charlie his pack.

“One sec,” Charlie tells me with a wink. He releases his grip to retrieve a Newport. Still gabbing, the guy flicks Charlie a light and nods when he says, “Thanks man.”

“You smoke?” asks Charlie as we link arms and resume strolling.

“How so?”

“I bet you drink. You drink Vodka huh? You’re an alcoholic! Ha!”

A family of tourists looks down to pretend that the site of Charlie and I does not fascinate them. I wink at their teenage daughter who giggles and wiggles her fingers my way.

“What’s your favorite color?” asks Charlie over the blast of another impatient cab.

“Orange… I like yellow too.”

“You’re a rainbow girl,” he says flashing very white teeth for a cigarette smoker. “Did you drop something?”

I know that I haven’t but still roll my eyes and check the sidewalk. “Made me look.”

“No, you did!” he insists. “It was my heart! It fell at your feet!”

“Good one!” We high-five.

“Do you know how to Latin Mambo?” he asks serenading me. “Amor para mi, eres lo mas sublime…”

“Don’t drink today,” says Charlie. His left hand connects with my ass in three ways. Slap. Grab. Shove. A gust of air-conditioning sails from the Lex and 43rd entrance to Grand Central Station. It cools my blush.