Richard is not a tall man, but he's solid and his voice and presentation made him larger than life. He might have had a point; he certainly sounded as if he were on the side of the angels.
Richard's last name ends in a vowel. He grew up in on de upper eas' side. He sounds more North Jersey than Manhattan. He has beautifully thick well-shaped eyebrows, a handsome jaw and chin, and his skin, soft, smooth and unwrinkled, fascinates me. He, like Jack M, often went head to head with Then Boss. I was less afraid of him than I was simply tired of his speeches.
Richard was finally compelled to attend the required meeting where I sat taking notes. He was accompanied and silently controlled by his wife. All was surprisingly jolly; Rich got his approval. On the way out, he turned around, eyes fastening on me for one last word. His wife stopped him. "Whattaya doin'? Don't go in that office yelling at her anymore. Go in and say something nice . . . 'Your hair looks nice today.'"
For years afterward, every time Richard was in the building for any reason, he would come to the door of my office, gaze at me for a few moments, and inquire softly and engagingly, "Did you do something to your hair? It looks beautiful!"
And we'd laugh. He'd come in and we'd shoot the breeze for a while. He's a spellbinding storyteller, and oh! the stories he can tell!
A few months ago I left Morning Job at noon. I stepped out into the hall. Taped to the stairway door was an 8-1/2 x 11 sheet of paper with a handwritten note:
HAVE YOU SEEN JUNE'S HAIR?
IT IS SUPERB!
A few days later all three of us in Morning Office were folding and stuffing, mailing out bills. It happened that my pile of bills included Rich's. I applied fresh lipstick and put a kiss mark on the bill, folded it, stuffed it, smiling to myself. I didn't tell anybody. It was, I am sure, the first time anything left Jane's office with a smooch mark on it.
One afternoon weeks later, a commotion of laughter and voices down the hall . . . and Rich appeared in my door, followed closely by wide-eyed Jane, hands over half her face, laughing. He had been to Jane's office to pay his water bill.
"Did you put lipstick on his bill?" Jane asked.
"Yes," I said.
"His wife opened it!"
"'What's dis?' she says t'me. 'I got 'em all over,' I told her," Rich said, with a complacent look and an off-and-away motion of his hand.
Rich and I were grinning. Jane was still laughing, scandalized.
Last winter, several weeks after Afternoon Job had moved to the first floor, the door flew open. There stood Rich, his face wide open. He flung his arms wide. "Here you are!" I went upstairs and opened the door and . . . I'ma so surprise! I didn' know where I was! Den they told me you were down here! And here y'se are!"
I love My Public.