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Last Lunch With Lily
would requisition a few empty boxes from the supply
clean out his desk. And that would be it. Finished!
CBS could mail the stuff
him in Stamford, he wouldn't have to drive down and
go through the hassle
getting it home.
But all that could wait until tomorrow. Friday.
"Today is Thursday," he
For the last 15 years he lunched with Lily Watts on
Thursday -- always on
Thursday. That way they wouldn't miss a week, if he
or she was busy on
they'd make it Wednesday or Friday. Neither of them
wanted to miss a week
without having lunch together at "La Vigna." It
made the rest of the
quickly. But this was the last lunch. He looked at
the time on his new gold
11:15. "Heavy damn thing -- too much gold," he
thought, "like all
watches, too big, too formidable, as though time
was the only important
left to me." He read the inscription again ....
"To Lowell Morton, from
everyone in the CBS family, for his thirty-five
years of faithful
"Well .... let's not get sentimental about it,"
knows I would have left a hundred times if I got a
better offer -- it
wouldn't have to be much better either."
He called Lily and she let him pick the restaurant
as always. "La Vigna of
course," he said firmly, as though there was no
question about it. After
was their favorite. La Vigna was the only
restaurant on 46th Street that
hadn't changed hands in 15 years and that was
reason enough to have their
lunch there -- at the same table. "You're a
sentimental old fool," she
"Okay 12:15." He looked at his new watch again,
11:25 .... "I'm
have to stop this," he thought, "I'm checking
it every ten minutes."
Lily! She was thirty five when he first met her at
La Vigna. He would never
have spoken to her if it hadn't been for Mario, the
head waiter. She was
almost as tall as he was, with an Irish tilt to her
nose and a combination
jet black hair and milky white skin. He saw her
there week after week,
alone, but because of his natural shyness with
women, and because of a
aloofness in her, they never got any further than a
nod and a smile of
Then finally, in exasperation, Mario stepped in
"Look, Mr. Morton, these tables are for four. Do
you realize I am losing
customers every Thursday because you and this
lovely lady choose to eat
You will drive me out of business!" He took Lowell
by the arm and led him
Lily's table. "Miss Watts, may I present Mr.
Morton? Six weeks you have
enjoyed the food at La Vigna, and I have slowly
been losing my shirt. Would
both of you mind sitting together? Here, at the
same table -- for your
cooperation in this matter I will contribute a free
dessert for both of you."
It took them both by surprise, but it secretly
pleased them as well.
solution seemed to be just what the doctor ordered.
"My name is Lowell Morton, I hope this is agreeable
to you." He sat down
gingerly and Mario set the table for two, he even
lit the candle between
"I'm Lily Watts. This is really very embarrassing,
but it's not as
though we've never seen each other here before."
"I'm really very pleased, Miss Watts, it's just
that I ...."
"It's Mrs. Watts."
"Oh! I'm sorry .... I mean, I just assumed ...."
He turned to Mario
help, but Mario had already disappeared in the
"It's all right Mr. Morton -- believe me. Please
stay. I'd love
someone to talk to."
Such a simple beginning. Within the short space of
time it takes to eat a
light Italian lunch, Lowell learned Lily's marriage
was on the rocks, Lily
learned Lowell was a bachelor, Lily was a legal
secretary, Lowell was a
for CBS, and when they said goodbye the first day,
they both glanced quickly
at the other's lips. They established the
groundwork for a relationship
lasted fifteen years.
They fashioned a tenuous link between themselves
that survived the discord
their professional lives, and their own personal
lives as well. Lily worked
with lawyers and litigants, and she suffered an
endless series of broken
romances in her private life. Lowell represented
the lowest species of
in the acting profession -- that of the television
soap opera thespian, the
daily grind of it soured him against relationships
of any kind except for
of his weekly lunch with Lily. Their troubled lives
were forgotten for an
or two every Thursday at La Vigna.
As he walked up 6th Avenue that final Thursday, he
could still recall every
detail of the first meeting. He still called it 6th
Avenue even though it
been known as Avenue of the Americas for twenty
years. He recalled the
railway line, the Center Theater, Hurley's bar and
the pawn shops that
the actors in beer money. All gone now, replaced by
like giant anonymous gravestones each of them forty
stories high and
indistinguishable one from the other.
He stood at 48th Street with forty other people
waiting for the light to
change. Across from him on the opposite corner,
like an opposing army, a
group stood waiting to charge when the light turned
green. But when it did,
instead of the clash of arms, the people flowed
through each other like
of fish, never touching or looking into the other's
eyes. "If there
casualties," he wondered .... "would this ritual
of crossing the street
pause for a moment until the dead had been pulled
to the side of the road?"
Walking downtown he kept to the right, close to the
buildings -- walking
uptown, the others kept to their right, but out by
the curb where the street
peddlers sold cardboard luggage and bootleg CD's.
The rights of way of the
Across the broad avenue, a mirror ritual was being
enacted. Would it be
opposite to this in England, he wondered -- he'd
been there twice and
In any case, it didn't matter -- nothing mattered.
Lowell Morton was now
officially retired. A gentleman of leisure. He
looked at the watch again,
large golden Rolex. A little loose for his wrist
perhaps but wickedly
all the same, the kind of a watch he would have
enjoyed flashing and telling
the time when he was a working man and time meant
something. Now? .... what
difference did it make now? Nobody would think to
ask an old man what time
He wondered if Lily would be impressed.
He turned west on 46th Street and looked at his
watch again, 12:15. Right on
time! This lunch would be different from all the
others, he was going to
his move after all these years, that much was for
sure. "Took you long
Lowell," he muttered as he set his sights on La Vigna half way down the
street. He squared his shoulders and rehearsed what
he was going to say and
was going to say it. "We've thrown away the best
years of our lives,
Let's not let the rest get away from us." Yes, he
would say these things
Lily would lower her eyes and say ..... what would
she say? He felt strange
tingly feeling. Suppose she didn't say yes? Maybe
Thursday was all it was
ever meant to be. What did he have to offer Lily?
She was still a young
woman of fifty, especially a woman like Lily would
have greater expectations
than an old man like Lowell Morton.
The thought caused him to stop in his tracks. What
ever gave him such a
idea? Of course that's all it was -- it was lunch
on Thursday with Lily --
nothing more, an opportunity to open up and talk to
someone -- nothing more.
They were just two lonely people! There was a
tightness across his chest.
would have given him a signal long ago if .... he
had no grounds to assume
would ever .... of course not. He found himself
breathing heavily. The
was painful, so he took shallow quick breaths and
backed up against the
marble wall of the Time and Life building. He stood
looking up at the sun.
just past noon, the only time of day the sun
admitted a narrow shaft of
to pierce the East and West canyons of midtown
Manhattan, and it seemed to
that he was standing at the bottom of a deep well,
or a grave perhaps.
He eased himself down to a sitting position on the
sidewalk. There, that was
better! The pain eased somewhat. He drew his knees
up to his chest, and yes!
That was better still. "Nobody will notice me here.
You can do things like
this in Manhattan .... I'll spend a moment here and
think about Lily and me,"
he said to himself .... "it will help to ease the
Lily looked at her watch -- 12:45! What on earth
was keeping him? She had a
feeling all morning that this lunch, this final
lunch, might be the
of a change in their strange relationship. Maybe it
would take something
the finality of this last lunch to wake both of
them up. But where was he?
He was never late.
"12:50! Well, that's that -- stood up! I guess he
had something better
do." She checked her face in her compact mirror, a
rising resentment had
color to her cheeks and she tried to compose
herself. She drummed her
on the checkered tablecloth. She had work to do!
She had to download the
Jackson vs Lippincott paternity suit trial, she had
to contact Judge
she couldn't sit here all afternoon! She waved to
"Mario, I've got to go. If Mr. Morton ever gets
here .... well just tell
him I couldn't wait any longer."
"It's not like him, Miss Watts. I'm sure he'll be
here any minute."
Lily didn't answer. She walked out into the bright
sunshine and turned for
the corner. She saw the flashing lights of an
ambulance and a crowd of
and she decided to walk back to work the other way.
A crowd was the last
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