It happened exactly one hundred days after I married Andy,
almost to the minute of our half-past-three o’clock ceremony.
I know this fact not so much because I was an
overeager newlywed keen on observing trivial relationship landmarks,
but because I have a mild case of OCD that compels me to
keep track of things. Typically, I count insignificant things, like the
steps from my apartment to the nearest subway (341 in comfortable
shoes, a dozen more in heels); the comically high occurrence of the
phrase “amazing connection” in any given episode of The Bachelor
(always in the double digits); the guys I’ve kissed in my thirty-three
years (nine). Or, as it was on that rainy, cold afternoon in January,
the number of days I had been married before I saw him smack-dab
in the middle of the crosswalk of Eleventh and Broadway.
From the outside, say if you were a cabdriver watching frantic
jaywalkers scramble to cross the street in the final seconds before the
light changed, it was only a mundane, urban snapshot: two seeming
strangers, with little in common but their flimsy black umbrellas,
passing in an intersection, making fleeting eye contact, and exchanging
stiff but not unfriendly hellos before moving on their way.
But inside was a very different story. Inside, I was reeling, churning,
breathless as I made it onto the safety of the curb and into a
virtually empty diner near Union Square. Like seeing a ghost, I
thought, one of those expressions I’ve heard a thousand times but
never fully registered until that moment. I closed my umbrella and
unzipped my coat, my heart still pounding. As I watched a waitress
wipe down a table with hard, expert strokes, I wondered why I was
so startled by the encounter when there was something that seemed
utterly inevitable about the moment. Not in any grand, destined
sense; just in the quiet, stubborn way that unfinished business has
of imposing its will on the unwilling.
After what seemed like a long time, the waitress noticed me
standing behind the Please Wait to Be Seated sign and said, “Oh. I
didn’t see you there. Should’ve taken that sign down after the lunch
crowd. Go ahead and sit anywhere.”
Her expression struck me as so oddly empathetic that I wondered
if she were a moonlighting clairvoyant, and actually considered confiding
in her. Instead, I slid into a red vinyl booth in the back corner
of the restaurant and vowed never to speak of it. To share my feelings
with a friend would constitute an act of disloyalty to my husband. To
tell my older and very cynical sister, Suzanne, might unleash a storm
of caustic remarks about marriage and monogamy. To write of it in
my journal would elevate its importance, something I was determined
not to do. And to tell Andy would be some combination of stupid,
self-destructive, and hurtful. I was bothered by the lie of omission, a
black mark on our fledging marriage, but decided it was for the best.
“What can I get you?” the waitress, whose name tag read Annie,
asked me. She had curly red hair and a smattering of freckles, and I
thought, The sun will come out tomorrow.
I only wanted a coffee, but as a former waitress, remembered how
deflating it was when people only ordered a beverage, even in a lull
between meals, so I asked for a coffee and a poppy seed bagel with
“Sure thing,” she said, giving me a pleasant nod.
I smiled and thanked her. Then, as she turned toward the
kitchen, I exhaled and closed my eyes, focusing on one thing: how
much I loved Andy. I loved everything about him, including the
things that would have exasperated most girls. I found it endearing
the way he had trouble remembering people’s names (he routinely
called my former boss Fred, instead of Frank) or the lyrics to even
the most iconic songs (“Billie Jean is not my mother”). And I only
shook my head and smiled when he gave the same bum in Bryant
Park a dollar a day for nearly a year—a bum who was likely a Range
Rover–driving con artist. I loved Andy’s confidence and compassion.
I loved his sunny personality that matched his boy-next-door,
blond, blue-eyed good looks. I felt lucky to be with a man who, after
six long years with me, still did the half-stand upon my return
from the ladies’ room and drew sloppy, asymmetrical hearts in the
condensation of our bathroom mirror. Andy loved me, and I’m not
ashamed to say that this topped my reasons of why we were together,
of why I loved him back.
“Did you want your bagel toasted?” Annie shouted from behind
“Sure,” I said, although I had no real preference.
I let my mind drift to the night of Andy’s proposal in Vail, how
he had pretended to drop his wallet so that he could, in what clearly
had been a much-rehearsed maneuver, retrieve it and appear on
bended knee. I remember sipping champagne, my ring sparkling in
the firelight, as I thought, This is it. This is the moment every girl
dreams of. This is the moment I have been dreaming of and planning
for and counting on.
Annie brought my coffee, and I wrapped my hands around the
hot, heavy mug. I raised it to my lips, took a long sip, and thought
of our year-long engagement—a year of parties and showers and
whirlwind wedding plans. Talk of tulle and tuxedos, of waltzes and
white chocolate cake. All leading up to that magical night. I thought
of our misty-eyed vows. Our first dance to “What a Wonderful
World.” The warm, witty toasts to us—speeches filled with clichés
that were actually true in our case: perfect for each other . . . true
love . . . meant to be.
I remembered our flight to Hawaii the following morning, how
Andy and I had held hands in our first-class seats, laughing at all the
small things that had gone awry on our big day: What part of “blend
into the background” didn’t the videographer get? Could it have rained
any harder on the way to the reception? Had we ever seen his brother,
James, so wasted? I thought of our sunset honeymoon strolls, the
candlelit dinners, and one particularly vivid morning that Andy and
I had spent lounging on a secluded, half-moon beach called Lumahai
on the north shore of Kauai. With soft white sand and dramatic
lava rocks protruding from turquoise water, it was the most breathtaking
piece of earth I had ever seen. At one point, as I was admiring
the view, Andy rested his Stephen Ambrose book on our
oversized beach towel, took both of my hands in his, and kissed me.
I kissed him back, memorizing the moment. The sound of the waves
crashing, the feel of the cool sea breeze on my face, the scent of
lemons mixed with our coconut suntan lotion. When we separated,
I told Andy that I had never been so happy. It was the truth.
But the best part came after the wedding, after the honeymoon,
after our practical gifts were unpacked in our tiny apartment in
Murray Hill—and the impractical, fancy ones were relegated to our
downtown storage unit. It came as we settled into our husband and wife routine.
Casual, easy, and real. It came every morning, as we
sipped our coffee and talked as we got ready for work. It came when
his name popped into my inbox every few hours. It came at night as
we shuffled through our delivery menus, contemplating what to
have for dinner and proclaiming that one day soon we’d actually use
our stove. It came with every foot massage, every kiss, every time we
undressed together in the dark. I trained my mind on these details.
All the details that comprised our first one hundred days together.
Yet by the time Annie brought my coffee, I was back in that intersection, my heart thudding again. I suddenly knew that in spite
of how happy I was to be spending my life with Andy, I wouldn’t
soon forget that moment, that tightness in my throat as I saw his
face again. Even though I desperately wanted to forget it. Especially
because I wanted to.
I sheepishly glanced at my reflection in the mirrored wall beside
my booth. I had no business worrying about my appearance, and
even less business feeling triumphant upon the discovery that I was,
against all odds on an afternoon of running errands in the rain, having
an extraordinarily good hair day. I also had a rosy glow, but I
told myself that it was only the cold that had flushed my cheeks.
And that’s when my cell phone rang and I heard his voice. A
voice I hadn’t heard in eight years and sixteen days.
“Was that really you?” he asked me. His voice was even deeper
than I remembered, but otherwise it was like stepping back in time.
Like finishing a conversation only hours old.
“Yes,” I said.
“So,” he said. “You still have the same cell number.”
Then, after a considerable silence, one I stubbornly refused to fill,
he added, “I guess some things don’t change.”
“Yes,” I said again.
Because as much as I didn’t want to admit it, he was sure right
# # #
Goosebumps? You're telling me!
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