Max Babka!

Quite a few of you have written to me asking for an update on Max Babka, the mystery Jew whose card case I found in the back of a taxi at the end of July. July! Yes, it’s been seven weeks since I hoped and dreamed that the fella to whom I would be returning the case would be a John Cusack clone. Time flies when you’re forgetting to update! (smirking, winking, drooling, leering emoticon just begging for a black eye)
Rather than risk suffering mass wrath and being hounded down the dark streets of Manhattan by a torch-wielding throng, I am supplying that update now. By now I suspect that only the diehard romantics among you will give a hoot about this, but still, if I can make the day of just one romantic …
I gave my outfit a bit of consideration. I did not want to look like I’d made an effort, so I discarded the notion of a hoopskirt and shimmied into a darling pair of cropped white pants and an orange tank top tastefully “embellished” (Stacy and Clinton were high fiving each other) with a delicate sprinkling of sparkly things that are notorious for commanding the attention of womanfolk. I wore orange just in case Mr. Babka wound up being the orange shoe guy, in a wonderfully coincidental twist, the likes of which are only seen in Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan “rom-coms”. (Feel free to create a scarecrow-like effigy of me and then set it on fire for daring to use the vomitous term “rom-coms”.) A kicky pair of sandals rounded out the ensemble. My hair was full and cascading. My lips kissable, thanks to a Bonne Bell Lipsmacker I found rolling around in a shoebox that housed a half-destroyed diorama I made in seventh grade.
As I approached the 72nd Street subway stop (yes, I feel safe and comfortable disclosing the stop now, since seven weeks have passed since the event), my stomach churning with a stunning blend of dread and excitement, I suddenly remembered that all I’d told Max Babka is to exit on the north side and that neither of us had bothered to describe what we look like. Of course I knew I’d know him immediately, because he’d be the one who, yes, was an even better version of John Cusack than John Cusack himself. Identifying me was going to be a big problem for him, though, since I knew that, due to my low voice, he was picturing me as Bea Arthur, complete with tunic top.
When Babka and I had arranged the time of our rendezvous, I didn’t take into account the little-known fact that New York City at rush hour is a bit busy. So when I approached the northernmost end of the 72nd Street station (I’d also forgotten that the station is in two parts, one at 72nd Street and one at 73rd), I panicked (prettily!) that I wouldn’t be able to pick Babka out of the crowd. Naturally, of course, I had to appear nonchalant and cool. I considered unfurling the sleeve of my white T-shirt and tamping out a cigabutt from the pack I keep there, and maybe letting it dangle from between my Lipsmackered lips like a Pink Lady, but then realized that I was wearing an embellished tank top that was orange and, true to tank top form, devoid of sleeves. Lucky for me I think quick on my feet, so I sort of affected a cool stance without the prop and casually scanned the mass of people for someone who looked like his name would be Max Babka.
One guy, dressed in a trenchcoat, stood in the center of the park-like area on the 73rd Street side of the plaza and held up a boom box that played a familiar Peter Gabriel song. It was John Cusack himself, doing a bit of fabulously nostalgic performance art. It was then that I realized that it would be just too damned coincidental if Babka resembled Cusack. It would be overkill. It just wouldn’t happen.
After standing around for what felt like six minutes but which was probably closer to five, I spied a fella who looked like he was looking for Maude. I raised my trademark eyebrow and approached him, strolling with all the swagger befitting a girl empowered by returning a man’s prized possession to him. As I closed the gap between us, my swagger devolved into a remedial skip not unlike that I’m sure I effected on many a playground in the early ’70s.
He was probably about 5’9″, neither thin nor fat, but rather broad in a not unpleasant way. He was no more than 35 years old, dressed conservatively but not entirely like a schnook. He had a nice head of sandy hair wavering somewhere between wavy and curly. Smartboy glasses.
“Max,” I said, all of a sudden a hybrid of Auntie Mame, Norma Desmond, and Jan Brady. I may have extended both hands toward him, the better to display my imaginary feather boa across my arms.
He grinned the grin of the happiest MSN Messenger emoticon and greeted me with boyish shyness. I felt like I was his big sister’s best friend on whom he had had a crush forever and was finally telling him, “Yes, we may kiss now, while she’s fetching the shuttlecocks and racquets from the garage. But make it quick!”
“I believe you’re looking for this,” I said, extending the not so long lost card case.
“Thank you so much,” he said, taking it, and extending toward me a small gold Godiva shopping bag.
“Oh! That’s so sweet!” I gushed. I may have added, “Literally!” with a wink toward Camera 2.
Max Babka had just presented me with the perfect-sized box of Godiva chocolates. (I believe it was one of the 16-piece “collections”.)
I said something about how my mother would be so impressed, about how now his sister wouldn’t have to kill him for losing the gift (and thus I had saved his life), and then proceeded to babble and blather further about who the hell knows what. You’d think a boy had never given me chocolates before.
But all of it was tainted by the fact that when Max Babka, in all his Godiva-giving glory, grinned, I spied an errant poppyseed conspicuously loitering near the gum of one of his front teeth. I was crestfallen.
John Cusack would’ve had the foresight to brush beforehand.