Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Taking It Slow, Until She Took Charge

They didn’t plan for things to turn out this way: both of them well past 50, both living with a parent in the houses they grew up in, never married, no children. Most people don’t.

They thought, growing up where Brooklyn is more snug suburb than freewheeling city, that there would be romance, weddings, independence. She thought she would marry a man she met while working for the Coast Guard, but he was transferred to Los Angeles. He thought he might settle down with a woman who worked at the pharmacy around a decade ago, but a jealous ex-husband got in the way.

Even now, after decades of waiting, Ann Iervolino, 57, and Peter Cipolla, 58, are learning patience.

But love is no less sweet for coming to them late.

Summer 2007: On weekends or after work at American Express, where Ms. Iervolino was an auditor, she would ride her bike from her house in Homecrest, Brooklyn, over to Marine Park, where a swirl of young men blurred the basketball courts and those for whom life had slowed down tarried at the bocce courts. She would stop to chat with a few friends, the wives of the bocce players. Mr. Cipolla would be sitting there on a bench in shorts and a white T-shirt, close-cropped hair paling, a man of no particular outward distinction except that he was the youngest around.

She thought he was a sanitation worker. Then she thought, “Gee, he must be married, and I’m not looking to fool around.”

Not that she was looking for somebody. And anyway, he never talked to her, just sat there watching the balls hop and skid. After long days of work at a Long Island lab, it was his time for letting his mind empty out.

But when she failed to appear a few days running, “I’d say, Where’s the girl on the bike? I don’t know — she had nice legs. I like athleticism,” he explained, in his slow, earnest way. She was good-looking. Dark and petite. Nice body. A good head on her shoulders.

“You know, Ann,” said Terry, one of the park regulars, “you and Peter have a lot in common. You guys should talk.”

The list of parallels was short, pared down to the essentials. They were both single. Both never married. Both taking care of an aging parent. Both Italian.

“Just those things alone,” Terry predicted, “you could probably be in tune with each other.”

The advice fell on skeptical ears. “He’s so frickin’ shy that he doesn’t talk to me,” Ms. Iervolino retorted.

Eight years later, Mr. Cipolla was explaining himself over egg creams. “I’m methodical,” he said recently at the Floridian Diner in Marine Park. “I’m analytical.” She had finished her egg cream in short, deft slurps; his straw was still half-submerged.

He hit on a secret scheme — and, it must be acknowledged, an awfully slow one — for helping things along. She wanted to watch Larry David on “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” but she did not have HBO. She surveyed the Marine Park Bocce Club: Could anyone record it for her?

He volunteered to tape every episode on VHS every Sunday night. He would call her and say, “Ann, is it on HBO or HBO West?” He didn’t need to know. He just wanted to call her. (...)

In September, Ms. Iervolino went by herself to the bocce club’s annual dinner, where she danced with Vito, with Vinny, with Ben.

The others missed nothing. Word on the bocce court was that “Ann was dancing up a storm with these older gentlemen, that Vito really liked her,” Mr. Cipolla recalled. “I didn’t get jealous, but I got a little hot under the collar. I move like a snail.”

He had the advantage in age, he consoled himself. In money. In education. He had a doctorate in forensic anthropology from St. John’s University. “I said, I could beat him out.”

Ms. Iervolino protests to this day that Vito was never in the picture. “Vito’s a nicer, older gentleman,” she said calmly. “He was very cordial. But I don’t want somebody old. I’m not Anna Nicole Smith.”

Even so, things advanced sluggishly. By October, Larry David was off the air, and still no official declarations had been made.

“Now what do I do?” Mr. Cipolla said. “I have to get flowers. I can’t just get any flowers. I go to Marine Florists. They ask, ‘Who are they for?’ I say, ‘A potential girlfriend.’  ”

They asked what he wanted to write on the card.

“I’ve got to remember the saying,” she said at this point in the retelling, though one suspects it would be difficult to forget what he wrote: “I thought I had everything,” the card said, “and then I met you.”

by Vivian Yee, NY Times |  Read more:
Image: Damon Winter