For Conor Finnegan, the drive north was a drive into his past. Out of Washington on Interstate 95 and through the mangle of Baltimore on the way to the blink of Delaware and the sprawling mess that was Philadelphia, and then changing to the road to the coast, through the flatlands of New Jersey. Each time he made this drive Finnegan felt young again, the spirit of the naïve and wondrous lad who first came to this place so many years ago, this place of departures, where old certainties became banal half-truths and new realities spun him off his self-assured gyrations. Conor Finnegan loved New Jersey.
He made this drive now out of confusion and wonder. When he experienced such things, he sought the ones who knew him best, the ones who could strip away the veneer that comes from overthinking things. Dan Rosselli had been Finnegan’s college roommate for four years, both of them emerging from the cocoon of a fallow youth together. They came to know each other as brothers, intuitively sharing their times, their thoughts and the marrow of their souls.
Now, thirty years on, their closeness mellowed with age and wisdom, they remained close. Rosselli, a prominent plastic surgeon, still lived near his boyhood home on New Jersey’s coast. Finnegan turned off the highway to the local roads that led to the club where he would meet his friend for dinner. A tawdry, faded blue sign, too large by half, welcomed him to Asbury Park. ‘The town that gave us Bruce Springsteen and Dr. Daniel Rosselli,’ he thought. ‘Who says there’s no diversity in the suburbs?’
Later, after two scotches, a full dinner and countless reminiscences, the two sat in the curved seats of the lounge. Rosselli had been a member of this club for years, twice serving as president. He knew it to be a charade, but it was one he gladly played, a manipulated prestige. But this club had its comforts. It was the only private social club on the Jersey shore between New York and Atlantic City, open to anyone who could pay the outrageous initiation fee. And now, in the corner of the lounge, Rosselli and Finnegan sipped their port and felt the warm glow that Finnegan had anticipated, the glow that would provide assurance, and a safe space.
“So tell me about your love life, Conor,” Rosselli said with a Cheshire-cat grin. “Tell me about this new woman.”
‘What makes you think there’s a new woman?”
“You’re as subtle as a runaway bus, my friend. There are moons in your eyes. I thought you had passed that stage.”
Finnegan leaned back and looked out the window onto the water. “Ah, Danny boy, the central question. This new woman. Adrienne.”
“Gorgeous, I assume. You’ve always had high standards.”
“Yeah. Gorgeous, and well out of my league.”
“As are most women.”
“As are most women. But Adrienne is special, my friend. Blond, petite, heart-shaped face. Soft voice, as gentle as a whisper. But it’s her eyes. My God, Dan, I’ve never seen such eyes. As blue as a summer sky. And wise. Those eyes see things no one else has ever seen. Sometimes I think she’s some type of sorceress. She’s told me things about myself that I’ve never acknowledged.”
“How’d you meet her?”
“At the airport. Crowded morning with no place to sit at the Starbucks. The only empty seat was next to me. We hit it off right there. Had dinner together that very night, then off to it.”
Rosselli sipped his port. “Sounds serious, Conor.”
“I think it is. So should I dive right in?”
“Only you know that. But trust her eyes. If she’s looking at you, if she’s looking into you, then there’s something there that’s far too rare. And it looks like you have no choice in the matter. You’re as stuck as a fly in hot tar. Danny boy can always tell.”
They finished their port, then hugged their goodbye in the lobby. Finnegan usually dreaded the three-plus hour drive back home in the dead of night. But not this time. The eyes. He trusted the eyes. His, to see through the dark.. But especially hers, to see through the fool.