St. Patrick’s Cathedral. A middle-age woman was sitting on the steps of the church’s front plaza, map and pencil in hand, talking on a cell phone. Three men in near-identical gray suits and white shirts – only their ties were different -- mounted the steps from the sidewalk as a “Clean Air Hybrid Electric Bus” bound for South Ferry glided by. They looked happy, Dan thought. Delighted to be out of the office for lunch? He followed them up the stairs and through the door – Jesus towering over his disciples, bronze on black just above -- into the imposing sanctuary, leaving the din of the thoroughfare behind.
- - - -
Dan pushed his rear end forward to get a little more comfortable in the straight-backed pew. Without warning, his mind engaged. Gloria. Marcy. Marcy. Gloria. … Gloria, Alfred. He’d forgotten about the risk of coming into a church. Now there was no avoiding it. He’d have to think it through one more time. Maybe St. Patrick’s would bring a new perspective.
- - - -
“I need to keep this private,” he had explained – and turned on the sconce lights, but not fully, Marcy realized later. Slightly orange light came through the skylight in a soft glow, diffused by the thick glass. The entire room seemed to be in soft focus as the dark paneling absorbed more light than it reflected.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it? An oasis of solitude!” The minister’s voice came from behind her.
Standing close together in the small space, Marcy hadn’t moved when she felt the minister’s body brush slightly up against her from behind.
- - - -
Dan found he was starting to perspire, sitting almost totally still in St. Patrick’s. Just like the first time he heard the tale.
- - - -
Finally, as always happened, Dan returned to the starting point. In the church, in Alfred’s church. In her father’s church. In God’s church. Father. God. God the Father. Creator. Architect. Minister. Passion. Concepts as sexual as they were religious. Dan’s brain swirled. That room. A certain light.
- - - -
Confusion mounting, Dan realized he had to get away -- away from St. Patrick’s. Sliding out of the pew, he retraced his steps, then crossed the back of the church on the inside, heading toward the exit nearest 50th St.
Across the street a store called Mexx and then H&M, manikins populating three floors of windows.
- - - -
Ahead, at the intersection – Don’t Block The Box – Fine Plus Two Points – a Kingfreeze HVAC Service van was making a turn.
Place de Cartier. How did they score that coup? The jeweler’s store, festooned with maroon “Love” flags hanging down in front, was across the street. Dan’s progress was slowed by a crowd of Asians in front of the store – Japanese by the sound of it. As he gently pushed his way through, he noticed both a private security guard – “5th Ave. Safety District” -- beside the entrance to Cartier and just a bit further along the pavement, a New York cop, two-way radio squawking on his belt
Two girls in chino pants, light cotton tops and open jackets walked past Ferragamo, deep in conversation, oblivious to a sumptuous, deep blue, pleated silk dress in the window.
Still gazing across to the other side of 5th Avenue, he noticed Brooks Brothers and Hickey Freeman. Birds of a feather do flock together, male as well as female, he thought.
Here he was, just outside of Fendi where white dresses appeared to be in. The one featured most prominently in the display window looked rather retro in a country-outing sort of way and Dan stopped to consider it. An unusual shawl collar, tied in the front, both imparted a period-piece look and gave the dress an air of youthful innocence.
“Just a frock I bought somewhere.” Dan mimicked in his mind the voice of a girl who might wear it. Then he noticed the shoes on the feet of the headless manikin. They were jet black, had very tall, spiky heels and large, stiff black bows on the toes. “I’m sophisticated, sexy and filthy rich,” they screamed. ...
As he continued to contemplate the outfit, Dan remembered a phrase he had read in a newspaper article on fashion some time ago: “He designs clothes as though he has a particular girl in mind.” Now he understood what that line meant. ...
What was she like – the particular girl, he wondered?
Dan tried to imagine a woman, probably a natural blond with hair that would catch the light, in her late 20s or early 30s, standing on the patio of an expensive house in late spring. He wanted to put her out on the lawn, near a flower bed, but not with those shoes. Well, maybe there was a paved path through the garden. Her hair curved gently in a careless sort of way and she brushed it away it from her face from time to time as she talked and laughed with a companion. No, not a single companion. With two men, both very attentive. ...
Dan imagined an older woman in red, talking to the designer as the designer contemplated his muse. Who was she? A collaborator, a sycophant, or perhaps the girl’s mother? The designer seemed to be ignoring her. ...
It was Edvard Munch, Dan thought as the initial, photo-realistic rendering of his conception resolved into pigment. Each of the five main figures symbolic of a human emotion. “The Frieze of Life.”