I’m in the queue at Citarella, inching towards the register, my shopping basket filled with a tuna steak (Sushi-grade), a pint of broccoli rabe, three Bartlett pears and a Lindt chocolate bar. Total cost will be somewhere around fifty-five dollars. I’m part of the affluent, Upper West Side consumer scene, idly wondering whether to do the tuna w/Teriyaki sauce or au poivre. In front of me, a thirty-something mom and her daughter, perhaps six years old. The little girl gives a sudden coo of excitement. “Mommy, look!” She bends down and plucks a dime from the floor, rising proudly to display her discovery in the palm of her hand. “Oh, Tiffany, aren’t you observant! Good for you!” says Mommy, showering the child with Positive Re-enforcement. But then she says: “Somebody must have lost it. It belongs to someone. We’ll give it to the lady at the register.” Well, the kid’s face drops a mile and she starts blinking rapidly. “But Mommy, I found it…” “Yes, honey, but we don’t keep other people’s things. It’s not honest.” The child looks sadly at the floor, not wanting to accept this verdict. I feel a tide of fury rise within me. Of all the unjust, unfair, pain-in-the-ass, Politically Correct-Montessori Method bullshit! I tap her on the shoulder and she turns. To my chagrin I see she is a striking red-head in a cashmere sweater. “Didn’t you ever hear of Finders Keepers?” I ask her. The kid looks up at me hopefully. Has she found an ally? Can mommy’s decision possibly be reversed? The mommy gives me the tightest of smiles. The look in her eye is close to murderous. She’s obviously restraining herself from lashing out violently in a very unfriendly response. Her eyes, I notice, are tastefully made up, just a hint of pencil and a subtle brush of violet shadow. A flash fantasy drops into my head: this is the beginning of the hottest romance I’ll ever know in my life. Yes, here, with this hostile lady. Oh sure, we’ll argue all the way through checkout (at adjoining registers) about the morality of how to dispose of the kid’s found coin, taking the heated, unfriendly (but hot) clash all the way outside and into the street, during which I’ll learn that the kid’s father is no longer around (killed in a car crash) and that she’s a Broadway performer in need of an original song for her cabaret act and then (jump-cut) I see us in bed, she’s riding me, my hips are thrusting upwards, her eyes are closed in ecstasy, her thrilling, low voice a sensual moan and I’m about to lose control…Except, Oops, the line’s moving forward. I’m hurtled out of my dream, I’m back in Citarella’s, and her turn’s been called (“Next–“). She’s pulling Tiffany along but she throws a parting shot at me over her shoulder, and it’s nasty: “When I want your opinion on how to raise my child, I’ll let you know.”
Oh well. Such is the life of a dreamer-fantasist.