a full tummy,the late hour, the hum of samir's car and a few glasses of beaujolais conspired to allow s. to feel free to lay his head on jean's shoulder. sure, it was a balmy summer night and she was warm and soft next to him in the front seat but there was this total trust and comfortability also. it was love at first touch.
of course jean was supposed to be samir's girl. he had explained everything when he invited s. to join him for dinner at the girls' apartment. susanna was supposed to be s's date. sure she was nice, a little prim, but good looking in an aristocratic way. but susanna hadn't come on the ride after the pleasant formal dinner and lively conversation.
so here he was blending into the body and essence of this stranger who not only didn't shrug his sleepy head off her shoulder but gave all the signs of not minding at all. s. felt at home with jean.
the next day, a saturday, first thing in the morning s. called samir.
"do you mind if i ask jean out?"
samir was nonchalant and laughed,
"not at all. i have plenty of them", meaning girl friends.
and so began the courtship of s. and jean bennett.
but how this came about is worth recounting. because s. would never have met jean if it hadn't been for a little exercise that l.p. had given earlier in the week.
to try to 'like what "it" doesn't like', to put a stick in the spokes of the wheel of automatic behavior.
now s. had just got a job in accounts receivable at "tiffany's" on fifth avenue. his new boss, after introducing him to samir el ansary, privately mentioned that s. was there to fill samir's position. samir didn't know this. it was his task to teach s. all the routines of daily tabulation and posting of sales.
a little aside here… s. was astounded around christmas time much later that year to read the receipts of one super rich family.they spent over a million dollars in one day. the mother bought some necklaces and ruby brooches and the oldest son, shopping for his friends no doubt, paid for ten watches, all the same, for ten thousand dollar apiece. s. wondered what it must be like to have to consider one's friends so fairly. but mostly he was impressed by this magnificent generosity.
s. didn't like samir. he didn't like his red hair, his protruding teeth, somewhat buck, his manner or his accent. so he invited him to lunch. when he had found out more about him his aversion to samir dissolved and a real friendship developed.
samir explained once that 'samir' means smiling one, and he did have a very natural and winning smile. both his parents were professors in lebanon, but they were egyptians.
one night, working overtime, samir invited s. to a dinner party.
an indian friend of his had canceled and since the dinner was at the apartment of two roomates, samir needed to balance the gender inequity; hence the invitation. bear in mind that s. was fully aware that this was a direct consequence of his going against his natural inclinations on the basis of like/dislike.
he met jean and susanna that night. susanna pesciera was a peruvian aristocrat working as a secretary for a senior editor at doubleday. jean bennett was an associate editor under the same boss; she had graduated summa cum laude in english from hiram in ohio where she was from.
both girls, in their twenties were delightful conversationalists. the atmosphere was convivial. the candlelight dinner was an epicurean delight, spaghetti carbonera, with a tasty soup to start, french cut string beans with almond slivers and some french bread drenched in garlic, herbs and olive oil.
after dinner samir suggested they take a ride up riverside drive. susanna declined. samir had one of those wide buicks and the three fit comfortably in the front seat.
jean lived on second ave. near 21st st. and s's high school was a few blocks away on 18th st. s. took advantage of this proximity and quickly got into the habit of going over after school. jean and susanna always seemed happy to see him. they fed him and jean even helped by typing some of his papers. she was so fast she could transcribe his handwriting in twenty minutes. whereas, if he did it, it would be hours.
s. was sharing an apartment on the upper east side with richard hafke, who had a masters degree in nuclear physics. (richard never did get a job in nuclear physics). it was an easy shot on the first ave. bus to 62nd st. but as often as not he just stayed the night on the couch. for six months it was an avid courtship there on the couch and it took that long to get past the virginal defences. twenty years later, after being married for fourteen years jean admitted to a mutual friend that she didn't like s. at first.
but s. was persistent and even if she needed convincing, he was sure she was the girl for him.