From Kingergarten, with Love by Ronni Gordon

Carly Weisman was a New Yorker through and through. She knew where to get her bagels and lox, where to find the perfect Reuben and how to grab the best parking places. She disliked winter, but the change of seasons made up for it.

How, then, had she ended up in Pasadena, and why had she stayed so long?

It all began in kindergarten at the 92nd Street Y, where the rooftop playground overlooked busy Lexington Avenue. She always chose Mikey Miller first for her teams, and he always chose her.

They were in love. She was a pretty little girl with a pear-shaped face, deep brown eyes and a head of dark curly hair. He was a cute little boy with short bangs, striking green eyes and a dimple in his right cheek.

They sat side by side in the toy closet, their knobby knees touching, and made a pact that they would someday marry.

They lost touch when they went their separate ways in first grade. But there he was again in college, calling her name in an elevator. “Carly Weisman, is that you?” he said. “You look just the same as in kindergarten.”

The spark was re-ignited. They dated for a while, but again, they went their separate ways. She settled on the upper east side of New York, got a job teaching high school and married an advertising executive. They had two children, a boy and a girl. Their marriage was bumpy, and when the kids went to college, they called it quits.

After she had tried and failed at the dating game, she got a Facebook friend request asking, “Are you the Carly Weisman from the 92nd Street Y?” She wrote that indeed she was. “Remember me, Mikey? I’m a little ticked off. You and I had a pact that we made in the Y closets,” he wrote.

He lived in Pasadena, writing screenplays. “You should come visit. I have plenty of free time,” he said.

It was winter break, and before she knew it, she was on a plane taking her to the other side of the continent.

Mikey, now Mike and on the way to getting divorced, met her at the airport carrying a rose, the city’s official flower. They hugged and then took a good look at each other. When he smiled, she remembered the cute dimple.

“You look the same!” he said. They both laughed.

He had arranged for her to stay at the apartment of a friend who was out of town. After they brought her bags over, they had dinner in Old Pasadena at DISH, where they updated each other over Oysters Deanna and Lobster Ravioli. She told him that she was afraid to trust again. He told her that although he was not divorced yet, “I’m never going back to her.”

“We’re meant to be together,” he said, putting his hand on top of hers. “You can trust me.”

They discovered that each had developed a passion for tennis, so on the second day he gave her one of his extra racquets and they went the Rose Bowl Tennis Center. He brought two bottles of Gatorade, and when they went up to the net to get a drink, they kissed, a gentle kiss that held the promise of more to come.

He called her every morning, and they made plans to see the sights. Their wanderings included Devil’s Gate Dam and Hahamongna Watershed Park, where they walked hand-in-hand.

One night after they had seen a performance of the Pasadena Dance Theatre, they kissed long and harder in the parking lot. “I think I’m falling in love with you…all over again,” he said.

That night she stayed at his place.

She went “home” in the morning so he could write for a few hours, and their days continued pleasantly, with the promise of more to come.

But about half way through her visit, she noticed that he was calling her later and later in the day. She called him and got his voice mail. “Wonder where you are,” she said. She called again. He didn’t pick up.

When he surfaced, he apologized. “I had a deadline, and then my son called with a problem, and I just couldn’t get away. How about I pick you up for tennis?”

He had brought only one Gatorade, and it wasn’t for her.

One day he didn’t call at all.

His friend had left a car, so she drove to Jameson Brown, got a dark roast coffee and spread out the Los Angeles Times. But her head was spinning, and it was hard to read.

Two women wandered over. Mary, a professor at Caltech, and Rebecca, a freelance writer, asked if they could join her.

She felt like they were old friends, and the story poured out of her. “I feel like I’m being hung out to dry,” she said, her eyes filling up.

“You should ask him what’s going on,” Mary said.

So that night she emailed him.

“I trusted you to be up front with me,” she wrote. “I will not go crazy if you changed your mind. I just need to know.”

The next morning, silence.

She dialed her new friends, who met her at the café. Carly’s stomach ached, and her head hurt.

“I wonder if he went back to his wife,” she said. “I wonder if I said something. I wonder if he hated my backhand. How can someone just disappear?”

“It’s nothing personal,” Rebecca said. “There’s a book called ‘He’s Just Not That Into You.’ You should read it.”

Carly was leaving in three days. The three friends linked arms and went for a long walk, the warm breeze soothing her. She had lost a chance at love, but she had gained two friends.

“I’m sure he’ll show up again,” Carly said. “Next time I’m going to hit him over the head with a tennis racquet.”

They laughed until they cried.

© Copyright 2010 Ronni Gordon. All rights reserved.

Ronni Gordon is a freelance journalist living in Western Massachusetts. She spent most of her career writing arts and features for The Republican, a regional daily in Springfield, Mass. She is also published in the New York Times magazine and on the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s website. She is the proud mother of three children and owner of a Labrador retriever, Maddie, short for Madison, as in Madison Ave., in honor of her hometown, New York City.