It’s just before sunset as I walk out of the office and onto the bustling city street. The urban tangle of passersby darting everywhichway — to the train! to the bar! to movies! to a Match date! — calms my mind, and I start to walk the thirtysomething blocks home to my apartment. The weather being unseasonably warm, I wear espadrilles, gauzy sailor pants and a black-and-white striped shirt, my hair pulled back in a messy bun, a weathered thrift-store messenger bag slung around my shoulder.
I look French, no? Mostly, I just look uncomfortable, pounding the pavement in espadrilles. Meanwhile, open-air restaurants and cafes are teeming with couples sharing guacamole, gazing into each other’s eyes and throwing their heads back in raucous, erotic laughter, sipping California white wine as if they were the last lovahs on earth. VOM. And yet, from the corners of my mind, scattered lyrics of that Simon and Garfunkel spring to memory, lyrics that go like this: “New York/Like a scene from all those movies/But you’re real enough to me/But there’s a heart, a heart that lives in New York.“ Cue: various sun-dappled montages of skipping over cobblestones and clasping hands with Mystery Man — whoever he may be. His face is blurry. But anyway! This — all these glaringly schmoopey couples — somehow reminds me that I need to buy a gift for my best friend’s baby shower, that her wedding was just two years ago, that I was the lone single lady on the bridesmaid panel and that I conveniently disappeared when came time to catch the bouquet….
So I walk and gawk, stopping to a halt at the corner of 25th and 7th to wait for the steady stream of cars to pass before crossing the street. Suddenly — like a bolt of white lightning — a small blonde boy, maybe 4 or 5, wheels by on a red scooter, running over my exposed toes and nearly colliding with a passing taxicab. What the? I go to reprimand him — watch it, you could have gotten yourself killed! — when a voice behind me bellows, “SAY YOU’RE SORRY!” The kid wheels back toward the curb. I grimace and turn around to face his pissed-off guardian, only to lock eyes with Ethan Hawke. Yes, that Ethan Hawke, the actor from Dead Poets Society, Reality Bites, Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. The one who married Uma Thurman and had a son with her, thought to have been named Levon — but nay, Roan. Then he cheated on Uma and hooked up with the boy’s nanny, who recalls a younger, less-hardened Brooke Mueller.
So I’m face-to-face with Ethan and my cheeks flush: He knows that I know that it’s him. He smiles warmly, just a regular guy, a New Yorker, an artist and romantic with razor-edged cheekbones and a forehead scar who played Jessie from Before Sunrise and its sequel, wherein Julie Delpy’s character goes “You’re going to miss your plane” and Jessie responds, “I know.” AND CUT. A crowd of passersby forms a circle around us, collectively IDing, “That’s Ethan Hawke! And who the hell is she?” After staring at Ethan for a good 10 seconds, frozen still and hot with starstruck embarrassment, I respond, “He doesn’t have to say sorry — TOTALLY OK.”
We laugh and then he raises a pointy eyebrow and quips, “Meet me here next week — same time, same corner.”
HA. WHAT. Is he for realzies? NO. CAN’T BE. Oh, Ethan, you rogue!
“Hahahahaha, good one. Yes! Will do!”
Ethan winks, we say goodbye and he escapes into the concrete jungle, with little Levon/Roan at his side, treacherous scooter in tow.
I go the opposite direction, heading downtown, grinning like mad because I had A Moment with Ethan Effing Hawke. I text my best friend, and I replay his odd joke/request in my head: Meet me here next week — same time, same corner.
Perhaps we might have parlayed our run-in into a rendezvouz at a sidewalk cafe, fed each other chips with guacamole, discussed Mamet, love in the time of Facebook, Richard Linklater’s genius ability to film long continuous scenes in one take and whether Denzel Washington really was that much of a douche on the set of Training Day. We’d linger over Coronas, and talk about the ’90s and going back to grad school or something. The sunset would burn into night and …. Ethan would miss his plane.
Returning to reality, I quickly kibosh that dumb fantasy — not gonna happen, especially on the nanny-wife’s watch.
Meet me here next week — same time, same corner.
I snicker, and dream up future montages: If I never showed, we’d meet nine years from now — he a successful author with a failed marriage and me a humanitarian activist with bad luck in love. Because that’s how it goes in the movies.