My First Spring in New York
by Adam Dawkins
n the spring of 1986, I had a lecture to give in Manhattan.
I had been doing lectures for a solid three months. Three months is not
long, but I had been to a number of cities. Most of my travel in those
months was limited to airport tourist shops and cab window views of
landmarks and smog. In those early days, I was sent in and out of cities
in less than twenty hours. I did most of my sleeping on the plane.
Manhattan, I remember thinking in the sub car on my way to Long Island,
would be different. I had just received a slight raise, and my itinerary
included a day after my lecture to spend in the city. For the first time
in my career, I would have some time to take a walk, visit a museum, or
even take on a fine meal. Racing through the subway to the city, I tried
to find the most fascinating thing I could do. I slept fast when I arrived
at the hotel; it was considerably late.
I awoke in the morning fast. It was hours until I was expected at the
school. This lecture I had given before. The notes were the same, a
sweeping overview of a paper I wrote years before while teaching a
university English class. I called it: "The Success of Peer Grouping:
a Study of Student Potential." I felt confident to deliver the lecture
without preparation, so I forewent my usual note parasol and settled into
the love seat at the corner of my hotel room. Paging through a tourist
guide I de-shelved in the lobby, I searched for the most fascinating way
to spend my extra time. All five times I had stayed in New York, I was
strung up in 40th floor rooms looking down on the city. This trip proved
I looked straight out the window and found that my room sat no higher
than the smallest lilac bush in the garden. I always pictured Manhattan
cluttered with browns and oranges: permanent fall. I realized just then
that it was the first spring I had spent in the city. It was like seeing
the city again for the first time. The month of April gave the city a
refreshing splash of green; it seemed more inviting. I reached over the
arm of my seat and slid the window open. I could smell the lilacs and the
fresh dirt of the garden.
The cover of the brochure I had plucked read: WELCOME TO THE CITY THAT
NEVER SLEEPS. I had no interest in the night life; I wasn't going to waste
my first chance at a Manhattan spring resting for a night excursion. I
look for a venture into "greener" New York to fill my added day. I wanted
to have a day so enjoyable that it could end quietly with a nice meal.
Then, I figured I would sleep with or without the city.
The crowd at the lecture was as large as a New York crowd always is. The
giant auditorium was scattered with clusters of people. One of the
clusters, of at least five people I remember, moved together out of their
seats in the first few rows and down to the lecture floor -- which I like
to call the pit. There were two women. I remember because they were very
excited about the lecture being on such a "glorious day." The men said
things like "Tomorrow it is supposed to be even nicer" and agreed with
everything the women said. "We are glad to have you on our campus, Mr.
Groves," the women would say. "Yes. Thank you for coming," all of the men
seemed to echo. They introduced themselves to me, paying close attention
that I understood their positions at the university. The women were both
English teachers. The men, it seemed to me, were not as happy to be there.
If I remember correctly, one was a science teacher and one the leader of,
as he stated, "a new revolutionary program" with which he was hoping to
"apply" some of my techniques. I do not remember the other men's titles.
I gave my lecture accurately and it was well received.
Afterward, the crowd huddled trough doorways at the top of the stairs.
The English women, as excited as they had been before the presentation,
scurried back down to the pit, where I was packing my materials back into
by briefcase. "Do you need any help finding your way around the city,
Mr. Groves?" the taller one asked, although they were both about as tall
as I was and pretty. I found it strange they would ask such a question.
Being taken aback, I was quiet for a moment. "No. No. I have been in
Manhattan before," I said. Then I added, just to fill the space, "Never
in the spring time, though, very nice." The shorter woman thanked me for
coming and excused herself, but not before inviting me to "peek in" on a
reception that was down the hall, a staff party or something. I was
surprised that the taller woman did not follow up the stairs; they had
seemed so inseparable. I burned my eyes into the bottom of my briefcase,
pretending to be looking for something, but really trying to think of what
to say. "Your appointment card said you'd be staying another day, Mr.
Groves," she said after watching her friend climb the stairs and exit.
"Yes. Yes. I do not often get a chance to spend any time in the cities I
speak in." I locked my case and offered to walk her up the stairs. "My
nephew has a soccer game in Central Park tomorrow. It's a nice place to
view the city as well. There will certainly be a lot of activity." I
mentioned to her that I had been hoping to spend the day outside. "Seeing
as I have never been to the city in the spring" is what I said. "I'm Abby,"
she said, lifting her hand for me to shake. "Brian," I shook her hand.
Since that day, I have wanted to write about the first day I met my wife.
Now I give lectures at her school almost yearly. We had our wedding in
Central Park in the spring, and she wore lilacs in her hair. Now we both
love the city that never sleeps.