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I'm evidence Cupid still exists. You know Cupid. Cute little guy from Roman mythology, son of the gods Venus and Mars. Winged, carries a bow and arrows, top matchmaker in history.

Well, my Cupid happened to be a Long Islander from Commack named Carmine, an Al Pacino look-alike -- short, stocky, with thick hair and eyes like a beagle puppy. Cupid-like, really.

I got to know Carmine soon after I moved into a studio apartment in Manhattan. He lived on the floor below me with his girlfriend Diane, a native of Lindenhurst.

One Friday night, Carmine knocked on my door and woke me from a nap. "Come out with us tonight," he said. "Me and Diane and her girlfriend, Elvira."

Groggy and in no mood to socialize, much less go on a blind date with another couple, I declined.

"Oh, come on," Carmine persisted. "We'll have fun."

I had no reason to question him. Carmine knew more about fun than I ever would. I once saw him grab a vertical pole in a subway car and hoist himself sideways, acrobatically, all without seeming self-conscious.

So I changed my mind and out we went on our double date.

We hit a restaurant in Little Italy, Puglia's on Hester Street. Fettuccine, garlic bread, house wine, red-and-white checkered tablecloths. A waiter played spoons percussively on his lap as a floor show.

I found myself taken with Elvira. She was 23, Italian, from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, with bangs and doe-like brown eyes. She was adorable and smart and, if only because she consented to go out with me, clearly had a good and generous heart as well.

The next day, I invited Elvira out again, and she accepted. We kept going out together, seeing no one else, and I met her relatives in Bethpage. Thirteen months later, we moved in together in Queens. Eight months after that we got engaged, and the next year we got married. We had a son and a daughter. Next month will be our 33rd anniversary. Michael is now 28 and Caroline 23.

Thanks to Carmine, nature took its course -- but only because he got us going in the first place. So every Valentine's Day I'm grateful to him. I also ponder questions that cut me to the quick. What if he had never invited me out that night? What if he had failed to convince me to join him? What if he had never introduced me to Elvira?

It haunts me to realize all the opportunities we would have missed -- love never gained, a wedding never held, children never born. The knock on my door from Carmine that night, waking me from a nap, turned out to be my Great Awakening.

Since then, of course, Cupid has relocated to cyberspace. More and more people meet each other through online dating services, some using so-called compatibility algorithms, rather than meeting face to face. To meet Elvira now, I would probably have to post a comment on her Facebook page, or some such.

Luckily, we met courtesy of an independent third party who sensed the possibilities of bringing us together, and cared enough to take the time to do it. So let me raise a glass to all the Carmines out there. Without our Cupids, many of us would never have met.

 

 

Bob Brody, an executive and essayist, lives in Forest Hills and blogs at letterstomykids.org.