Helen Zuman’s memoir, MATING IN CAPTIVITY, in which a Harvard grad joins a cult, learns its mating rituals, endures exile, and – finally – mates in the wild, is kickstarting through April 9, 2017. In this excerpt from the last chapter, Helen, a Brooklyn native and committed pedestrian, shows up at RR, in September 2008, to interview for a job as a cargo courier.
“Do you know your way around the city?” Gregg asked.
“Of course. I grew up here.”
“Okay. How about if you come back Monday.” A veteran driver would train me to ride the trike in the RR parking lot; then Gregg would take me out for a road test.
On Monday afternoon, after I’d mastered the basics, Gregg glided through the gate on his Brompton, looking sharp in wingtips, slacks, and a dress shirt. He flipped the bike’s rear wheel forward to park it, and pulled out one of the pedicabs lined up along the fence. He hadn’t worn shorts because he’d be in the passenger seat. I’d be driving.
Feigning calm, I pedaled, as directed, up Eighth Avenue to 36th Street, and turned east.
“Now go back to 31st.”
“Does Broadway go south? Or should I take Seventh?”
“I thought you knew your way around,” he said, teasing me for my I’m-a-New-Yorker arrogance.
“I do. But there’s no such thing as a one-way sidewalk.”
Back at RR, Gregg cleared me for the next step towards employment – filling out W-2 and I-9 forms at the old shop on Ninth Avenue. He released his bike from park and grabbed the handlebars. “I’ll walk over with you.”
On the way, one of us – probably me – brought up the bailout. A House vote on TARP had been set for that afternoon, and I’d adopted the view of writers on sites like Prison Planet and Blacklisted News that its true purpose was to speed the country towards tyranny by grabbing power for President Bush and his cabal. It had to fail.
At the shop, Gregg slid into a seat behind the office iMac, and pulled up a news article on the vote. “The House of Representatives rejected the bailout package by a vote of two-twenty-eight to two-oh-five,” he read.
“Yes!” I said.
His eyes continued across the screen. “An hour later, President Bush and his entire cabinet were seen boarding a plane to Toronto.”
A smile tugged at his mouth. His gaze stayed on the screen. “Bush said he feared for his life, now that his fascist ambitions have been exposed. A rotten tomato hit him in the back as he stepped through a metal detector.”
The smile won out. When his eyes met mine, they twinkled with mischief.
“You’re kidding,” I said, smiling back.
“Yeah.” He glanced down at the keyboard, in mock contrition. “I made up the part about the tomato.”
That was the first time Gregg made me laugh.