Let Us Drink Water Together

We met by chance on a cold day, and as we drank water from paper cups, his presence warmed my spirits (Washington, DC, circa 1969)

Washington, D. C., was cold. As I strolled along on Capitol Hill, my chest and head ached, and I sought immediate relief from a cold remedy I purchased from a street vendor. My next objective was to find water to take the pill, so I entered the closest government building. It was the older Senate Office Building, commonly referred to as the “Old SOB.” After unsuccessfully searching the corridors for a water fountain, I entered an office to ask for assistance. As I crossed the threshold, a magnificent face greeted me, and although I thought he appeared familiar, my aching body dimmed the association. When I asked the receptionist for directions to a water fountain, she told me I would find the water bottle and cups behind the door.

I moved swiftly and filled my paper cup, but before I could raise it to my lips, the man whose face welcomed me upon entry tapped me on the shoulder, extended his gentle hand, and softly said, “Hello, I’m Artur Rubenstein. I play the piano. Let us drink water together.”

I almost thought my condition had caused an illusion, but his strong presence and warm handshake reinforced his greeting. I responded, “Yes, Maestro, and you play it well.” And in a fluid motion, I passed the filled cup to my new acquaintance and quickly filled another. We made eye contact, smiled, toasted two paper cups, and drank water together. He was about to speak when there was a sudden rush into the office. Another man, whom I also recognized, dashed in and shouted, “Maestro, we must rush, they’re waiting for us.” Maestro Rubenstein was literally pulled away, but as he left, he glanced back, gave me another smile and waved. His new escort was Senator Jacob Javits. I had stumbled into the right place at the right time to meet a man who invited me to share a drink of water and a smile. Then both he and the aches were gone.

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