By 2002, I had lived several lives in New York City. I’d been a wide-eyed tourist, a jaded commuter, an unemployed pothead, a spurned lover, the most social of drunks, and very nearly a Casanova. I’d been broke and financially stable. I’d been profoundly unsure of myself and utterly confident. I’d been introverted and extroverted. The only constant in my life was the flux. That October, I was in between incarnations when I’d left work at The New York Post (another constant), caught the B, D, Q, or F train downtown to the Thirty-third Street PATH station, and saw Jenni.
I wasn’t looking for Jenni at that point in my life, because at that point in my life, I’d completely lost track of her. It happens. But there she was, looking exactly as she did when I’d seen her last, about eight years prior. That’s not entirely accurate. There was one difference: in 1994, she was a girl—an elegant girl, but a girl nonetheless. In 2002, she was a woman. This wasn’t an issue of appearance; it just was.
After I stood there, slack-jawed for a minute or so, I got her attention. It took her some time to figure out who I was (like I said, several lifetimes), it all fell into place. At first things were shaky. I’d been so busy trying to find myself that I didn’t have any time for nostalgia. We had dinner a few days later, exchanged numbers, and proceeded not to call each other.
That fall, winter, and spring, I’d tried on a couple more identities—rock groupie and on-again-off-again boyfriend—until that summer when, at the insistence of an old friend I have since exorcised, I went out to dinner with Jenni and her new friend, Jennifer. Where nine months earlier, our reunion had been confused and distracted; this time, we clicked just as we had all that time ago. As such, we quickly caught up.
Her passion then was dancing. This struck me as kind of weird. I’d never thought of her as particularly creative, but rather, focused, inquisitive, and matter-of-fact, kind of like Alice from Alice in Wonderland. In retrospect, this was shortsighted of me. She’d always had an artistic streak—whether it be from cooking experiments we’d undertaken in senior-year English or the maligned pom-pom dance squad; what she also had was determination, with which she’d tackled the challenges laid out before her.
We spent the summer stealing evenings away from our crowded schedules, wandering around Spring Street looking for cheap food; or walking to or from her dance studio on the border of Soho and Tribeca, during the weekends when the streets were empty; eating at a bizarre vegetarian Asian food place, discussing the absence of love in our lives; or riding the Cyclone in Coney Island with her clamped so tightly on my bicep that it is now shaped differently forever; to later that evening on the beach where we found an amateur astronomer watching Mars through his telescope, inviting others to take a look. It was like dating, but without all that messy, time-consuming, headache-inducing romance, and as before, it brought with it peace.
But the amount of fun she and I had together was nothing compared to the amount of fun we’d had with the other Jennifer.