The Girl In the Luncheonette

The Girl in the Luncheonette Something was knocking. Rap, rap, rap. I awoke with a start and was staring into the eyes of a cop. It was late May 1968. We were four buddies at the University Florida who wanted a summer adventure, and the Hamptons were calling. We set our compass due north, drove through the night, and arrived in a Westhampton parking lot at 3:00 AM and promptly fell asleep, only to be awakened by that friendly officer, who welcomed us to his village. Our first task of the day was food. How was I to know that the little luncheonette would provide me with much more than was on the menu. During breakfast, we were visited by a pretty young woman who sauntered over to our table and queried, “May I be so bold as to borrow a piece of your New York Times?” We, of course, complied, never thinking to introduce ourselves. Then, she was gone. Before lunch we struck pay dirt by renting two rooms in a large rambling house near town. The place had been divided into postage stamp size bedrooms, which barely held two single beds. But, the price was right and it was the Ritz to us. Proud of our success, we relaxed on the front porch of our new home and watched a parade of arrivals carrying back packs, suitcases and high hopes. Suddenly, a striking couple pulled into the driveway in a convertible, and out stepped the girl from the luncheonette. The handsome driver was likely her main squeeze. I was happy to discover that she would be bunking with another hot number on the second floor. I soon learned that her name was Joy, and that lover boy had vanished to parts unknown for the summer. The first couple of weeks were spent trudging from store to restaurant to beach club looking for that perfect job. And, in a matter of two weeks, we were all gainfully employed. I was lucky enough to become the lifeguard, cabana boy and car valet at the then popular Yardarm Beach Club and nightclub. And, Joy informed us all that she had landed a waitress job at the nearby Bath and Tennis Club, just a few foot prints in the sand from my club. Life was good, what with lots of fun with the kids back at the house, getting a tan as a lifeguard and out on the town every night. We had money, we were young and girls were plenty. Joy was the object of my desire. Her air of confidence and sense of humor had drawn me in. In order to have a chance with her, I needed to move slowly. We were able to exchange a few words whenever a group of us would go for drinks after work. I learned that she had just graduated from Cornell and was off to graduate school at Michigan State. Early in the summer, her roommate showed an interest in me, and gave me the nickname, “Florida,” and was very open about her intentions, but, alas, I was interested in the woman in the other bed. One night, when her roommate was working late, I invited Joy to the summer’s number one date movie, Elvira Madigan. The movie had the desired effect and we were drawn closer in our relationship. The other girl took the news hard. On her days off, Joy would occasionally drop by my pool to keep me company. We would laugh and flirt while Vinny, the pool bartender, mixed exotic drinks for her. During one of those visits, I mentioned that my birthday was February 13th. She quickly accused me of having somehow seen her driver’s license and revealed that she, too, was born on that date. That coincidence had a greater effect on her than I would have imagined. And, so it went, watching the sunset after work at the pool bar, dancing at local clubs and working on my goal with the girl in the luncheonette. With guitar in hand, I would occasionally climb the stairs to Joy’s room and serenade her to sleep. Then, I would tiptoe down to my lonely bed. It all ended too soon. Labor Day came and went, we all scattered to our schools and Westhampton was just a memory. I was back to chasing coeds at college. I didn’t get much mail in college, so I was surprised to find something in my box. Michigan. My heart skipped a beat. I shredded the envelope and quickly read the note. She wondered if I would be interested in her visiting during winter break. What a question. Her visit was a dream. She was with me, only me. We laughed, we danced, we talked into the night, but we couldn’t quite give in. As Aquarians born on the same day, we figured we knew the difference in being in love with love and the real thing. As I sadly drove her to the airport, I was reminded of the lyrics, “Every time we say goodbye, I die a little.” And, again, our lives took separate paths. That spring I had a free weekend. Holding a hand painted sign that read, “Michigan,” at the side of Interstate 75 in Gainesville, Florida, I stuck out my thumb. Within five minutes the gods of love sent two guys in a VW Beetle who were heading to, you guessed it, Michigan. I slept, they drove, and in no time I had been smuggled into Joy’s dorm room. Our eighteen hours together was a dream. We pooled our meal money to buy my plane ticket back to school. As we parted, I understood what Shakespeare meant. A year went by. I got the diploma, had a new girlfriend and was moving to New York to start my career. While walking along Madison Avenue one day, I passed a Chemical Bank branch and remembered that her father worked there. I stopped by and asked how Joy was. He looked at me quizzically and said, “Why don’t you give her a call.” I made the call. It was as if we had never said good bye. We didn’t have to hold back anymore. It was dinners in romantic places, ski trips to Vermont, champagne brunches and picnics in Central Park. The stars were aligned. Rodgers and Hart and Cole Porter had written all those romantic songs for us. We were married in November 1971. We now call Quogue home, not far from that big house where we met. It now bears the name, Morgan House. Last November we celebrated our 41st wedding anniversary. We all dream about being happy ever after. To this day, when I hold her in my arms, I realize my reality has exceeded any romantic dream. Dan Flynn, 2013