Chapter 1: GIDDY!
It was June 1996. I remember it as if it were yesterday. Sometimes I feel as if it were yesterday.
I was sitting on the bed at the Paramount Hotel in Manhattan on the night he asked me to marry him. Complicated and addled New York woman, sitting in a complicated, addled New York hotel, ice available whenever needed or appropriate, is as usual talking on the phone, Vogue on lap, when his words etched the air.
"Will you marry me?" Woodrow asked.
"Yes," I answered without hesitation.
There had been clues. The five-hour phone conversations. The crucial and palpable need to call him during a family wedding to say, "You're not going to believe this, but there are rich people in Scottsdale who don't like Jews." The odd coincidences that we won't go into. The way my insides would puddle when I read anything he wrote.
It took us so long to meet. I had been looking at my watch, humming and tapping my foot for an entire decade. There were two Mr. Wrongs in quick succession. I had given up. We corresponded before we met. One of those Internet billboard systems. I knew he was the right one but I didn't want to meet him because he would be the wrong one. We would look at each other and say, "And who are you?" All that writing, all that talking, and we would look at each other and say, "Heh-heh, gotta go, left the iron on, let's have lunch maybe never." But I finally said I would meet him at a bookstore in Long Beach, and I pulled into the parking lot and there he was. One look and I was fucking dead. I was dead fucked. I knew it and I didn't care.
And it was hours, agonizing hours later when he spilled two quarts of iced coffee on me and I knew, I just knew, he wanted to grab me by the hair. And pull.
By the end of the evening we were finishing each other's sentences. By the end of a week we were on a runaway train slamming blindly through stations at a hundred miles an hour. The passengers waiting on the platform for the train, arms akimbo, mouths agape, started yelling, "Wait! Stop! Are you crazy?" In New York the train sped up. I said yes to him without hesitation.
S. said, "I don't want you to have a boyfriend. I want you to be always available to me."
L. said, "Oh please, you're being just so ridiculous. You don't know what you're doing."
B. said, "I am so jealous, what about me? Will I be the last one alone?"
K. said, "Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you!"
I watched their mouths move as I sped past them.
I flew home to LA. At the airport he was waiting with a dozen red roses and a blue box from Tiffany. He led me to a chair. I stumbled and stared into my lap. I opened the box and found an engagement ring. He got down on his knees.
"Will you marry me?" he asked again.
"Yes," I answered, and he slipped the ring on my finger.
Later he said, "I want to get married very, very, very soon."
"Wait at least six months," said my shrink.
"Okay," I said.
"No, wait at least a year," said my son.
"Okay," I said.
Several days later at 2:00 A.M. the love of my life and I got into the car with a thermos of coffee, a loaf of sourdough bread, and a small dog and headed east on Interstate 15 toward Las Vegas.
Sally sat on my lap, 9.8 pounds of doggie love concentrate. My future groom drove.
We passed through interminable LA suburbs and hit the stone strange Mojave. We drove all night, ignoring the stars while I looked for the glint of coyote eyes.
What would my son think? How would I tell my shrink? My bladder began to chatter. I asked my intended to pull over by an abandoned gas station and got out and peed on a flat rock. Clouds of steam and dust rose up. A big black dog drowsed a few yards away but I did not say hello.
At the Clark County Court House people were checking their guns as they went through the metal detectors. We filled out marriage applications in pencil. I gave myself a new middle initial, what the hell. We didn't have to show driver's licenses or anything. At all.
The block walk to the marriage commissioner was a Bataan Death March Jr. It was 107 degrees. Sally trotted hazily.
The marriage commissioner was a fat man who was enveloped in a cloud of Aqua Velva. His toupee was as big as the Ritz. "Wait right here," he said to us, and went to round up a witness.
Sally and I left the office and went to the ladies' room. I wanted to wash my face, have a drink. I wanted to think.
I stood in the ladies' room with the faucet running, splashing my face while Sally danced around my ankles. I thought of the Mudd Club. I thought of doing so many drugs one night that a friend wanted to drink my urine. I thought of the smell of Lester's coat the last time I hugged him. I thought of Saban and Musto and Peacock and the Odeon and a specific anxiety attack I call the blancmange. I thought of exactly where you can get a cab in Chelsea at 5:30 P.M. I don't know what my betrothed was thinking.
I plucked white dog hair off my black linen shirt as I lost myself in memories of sitting in countless coffee shops on countless Manhattan corners drinking endless cups of coffee with girlfriends endlessly discussing men and how fucked up they were and what did it mean when they said, "I'll call you Thursday." And how we reassured each other stoutly that of course it was the men, of course there was nothing wrong with us, but inside the voice of sabotage was keening, "You are so fat and you are stupid and you're not supposed to smell like that and who are you kidding with that hair and those neurotic thoughts and that hellish neediness that desperation and that huge butt? Do you really think black lipstick is going to help?"
But we were stouthearted with each other, bolstering each other against disappointment and confusion, drinking coffee, drinking more coffee, discussing, discussing. Never realizing that there was nothing wrong with us, that it was, more often than not, the men.
And I thought, "Me, married?"
Copyright © 2002 by Cynthia Heimel