ABOUT TEN YEARS AGO, I sold nearly everything I owned and decided to move from Minnesota to New York City, a place I’d always dreamed of living. I landed at JFK with all my worldly possessions in three suitcases, and I hailed a shiny yellow taxi. My new life had begun.
My plan—other than to survive, that is—was to be a new kind of New Yorker. I was going to revolutionize the city’s reputation for surliness and ill humor.
The cabdriver loaded my suitcases into the trunk. Neither of us said anything. I thought to myself, Remember, just because I’m New Yorker now doesn’t mean I’m going to be impersonal and brusque and not even greet this fellow just because he’s in the service industry! The Big Apple could learn a thing or two from us Midwesterners. It was time to put my plan into action.
We exchanged hellos, and he asked what brought me to New York. I told him that I was going to live here. He told me that he had come from Haiti many years earlier because he’d always wanted to live in America.
Our lives were so very parallel! Both of us, strangers in a strange land, following our dreams! We talked. He had a lilting accent and cute little speech impediment. His name was Wodney. He said “Welcome to New York, Mary!” But it came out as “Wewcome to New Work, Maywee!”
He told me all about the big, dangerous city. He warned me that bad things could happen. Wodney said that I should be extra careful—a lot of men were going to want to be my boyfriend. Given that I was something of a late bloomer in the relationship department, I furtively tried to hide my excitement at this prospect.
Wodney continued driving with his left hand on the steering wheel, maneuvering through New York City traffic. With his right hand, he began to sketch on the piece of paper on his cabbie clipboard.
“You see, Maywee, women are like a bridge.” He drew a stick figure, approximately female-like, and some horizontal lines to represent a bridge.
“But men are like cars.” He drew what appeared to be a vehicle at the other end of the bridge.
“Cars always want to cross a woman’s bwidge,” he said, shaking the pen in my direction, then tapping it on the picture.
I leaned my chin on the back of the seat, enthralled and watching Wodney’s face in the rearview mirror. Wodney met my eyes and said gravely, “Don’t let just any man cwoss your bwidge, Maywee.” He emphatically X’d out the car attempting to cross the bridge.
Wodney and I talked and laughed and flirted on the drive to Manhattan. When we arrived at my destination, we exchanged phone numbers. I had lived in New York for 45 minutes and I already had a boyfriend! And he had a car!
Wodney called a few days later, at which point it occurred to me his name was Rodney. We made a date and, when he picked me up, he presented me with a huge bouquet of flowers. I sat in the front seat of the cab, and we drove to Times Square, and I couldn’t have been any more in New York City than I was at that moment.
Rodney drove me home and parked in front of my apartment building. He took my hand as he began to expound on his bridge theory. He reiterated that a woman must be careful who crosses her bridge, and that a lot of women have guards at their bridge, only letting special cars cross their bridge. Amidst the thrum of New York noise—cars honking, subway rumbling, music on the street, I swear I heard the screams of a metaphor being tortured.
“Take you and me for instance, Maywee”, he said. “We are falling in love and we will get mawied someday, and I wespect your bwidge….”
His hand dropped on my knee. This must be what people mean when they say things are “moving too fast.”
“I won’t cwoss your bwidge until you are ready,” he said.
I was still struggling to keep up. I placed his hand back on his knee. I mean, this was all very nice. But what about all the other men who wanted to be my boyfriend?
He sighed. “But I hope you are weddy soon, because I am a nowmal man with urges. How long can you expect a man to wait?” he said, looking deep into my eyes.
Now, I never think anything is really about me, but it soon dawned on me that extricating myself from the situation was going to require my involvement. “Thank you so much, Rodney,” I said. “But, just so you know, there won’t be any bridge-crossing tonight.”
He smiled. “I know that, Maywee.” Then he leaned toward me and looked deep into my eyes: “So how about if tonight I just lick your bwidge a little?”
It was then that I realized that I might have to modify my plan a little. I had come to recognize why New Yorkers needed to be surly and ill-humored from time to time. Midwestern assertiveness doesn’t always get the job done. Sometimes, you have to go on the offensive, guarding whatever “bridges” need guarding. I declined Rodney’s offer—politely, of course. I may have been living in New York, but I was still a Minnesotan.