Big Law:A Novel(9)

By: Ron Liebman



So I reserved a table for four at Keens Steakhouse, one of the city’s oldest restaurants. Since it’s on Thirty-sixth Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, I could easily walk there from work. (I planned to return to the office after dinner.)

Keens is dark-paneled, 1890s-looking. Definitely not a part of hip New York. But the steaks are big and juicy, the wine list long (and pricey).

So we all agreed to meet in the restaurant’s bar at 7:15 p.m. for a 7:30 reservation. I got there first. Sean hadn’t met my date yet, and I wanted to be there for the introductions. The bar was already packed. Lined up two and three deep were a bunch of mostly young white guys in suits. By the looks of them, lawyers, stockbrokers, hedge-funders all. The drinking was serious. The bar loud and tight.

I saw Sean and Rosy at the entrance, Sean on tiptoes searching for me. It was early November and cold in New York. I’d worn a topcoat that I had checked. Sean was dressed like Sean. No coat or jacket, a hoodie, loose jeans, and sneakers. I could see that Rosy had made some effort to dress up. She had on jeans, too, but with a nicer top than she usually wore; her navy-surplus pea coat was carefully folded over her arm.

I signaled them from where I was standing at the far end of the bar. The guys standing next to me turned their heads. I noticed but paid it no mind. I watched as Sean guided Rosy through the crowd. When they got to me, Rosy first, she held out her arms for the double-cheeked kiss I always got from her. Sean must have knocked into one of those guys standing next to me. I heard him apologize. I saw the guy look Sean up and down, then turn his back on him. I couldn’t see if Sean had noticed that.

“Hey,” Sean said as we bear-hugged.

In appearance my brother and I were two sides of the same coin. Clearly related, with the same dark eyes and curly hair, the same-shaped face. I was far from manicured in appearance, but I did look the part for what I had become. Unfortunately, so did Sean. Rough hands, chewed fingernails, too many tattoos. His beaming Irish smile showing a missing tooth.

I watched Rosy look around, obviously pleased to be here. She was already drunk. Or stoned. I could see it. Her eyes were glassy, and she wasn’t all that steady.

Rosy had once been attractive. Pretty face, good figure, but the wear and tear of her life had left its mark. Now she was dumpy, anemic-looking, also heavily tattooed. Her hair was cut boyishly short, dyed a severe black, while premature gray roots peeked out from her center part. But Rosy was still as pleasant and sweet as could be.

I got the bartender’s attention and motioned for two more of what I was having. (I was drinking Heineken draft.) He quickly drew them and placed the pint glasses on the bar in front of me. I gave one each to Sean and Rosy.

“Cheers,” Sean said, raising his glass in salute.

Just then the guy Sean had bumped into took a step backward, guffawing at something one of his compadres had said, and went right into Sean’s glass, spilling beer down the front of his sweatshirt. The guy had to have noticed what he’d done, but he kept his back to Sean. Sean looked at himself, brushed excess beer from the front of his hoodie, and left it at that.

I was about to say something to this guy, but Sean signaled no to me.

“Hi.”

And there was my date, standing in front of us.

After introductions we made our way into the restaurant proper and our table.

So we’re eating, first-course salads and a shared plate of raw oysters gone. Main-course steaks for three of us. A vegetable plate for my date.

Note to self: Ask your dates if they eat meat before making restaurant reservations.

She didn’t seem to mind. And I was pleased (and relieved) that Sean and Rosy took to her so quickly. Her being black? As far as I could tell, they couldn’t have cared less. Remember, we were all from Hell’s Kitchen. Not a part of the city known for its tolerance back then. No way would I introduce this very nice person sitting next to me, laughing at Sean’s banter, to my father. That would be a disaster.

Okay, so who is this person?

Her name is Diane Robichaud. She was born and raised in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Came to New York for college (Hunter) and stayed for law school (NYU). Must be something in my online profile that attracts women lawyers—this is my third so far.

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