It is the second week of December, 2005. The city has been slapped with a fierce arctic cold. The face of Kong greets New Yorkers everywhere. The transit strike is keeping the city on edge. My mother is in town.
I will remember these things. Markers.
It is Saturday morning and we have been fighting.
Something is wrong deep deep deep at the core. Something somewhere deep in the mechanism is turned wrong and the whole machine is spitting and firing at odd angles. We cannot be in the same room as each other right now.
Something big is about to happen.
She goes out on the stairs to cool off. In the hallway. I follow her.
We stand there for a moment, stunned.
We hear the sounds of our downstairs neighbors, singing songs to their bright little child, Luke. Luke giggles and squeels and they play and play and play. The warmth of their love, their love for one another, their love for their son, wafts upstairs and teases around our heads until the tears come easy, come gently.
"Come back inside," I beg her.
She does. She surrenders.
We sit down on the couch. I get on my knees in front of her. The perspective, the gigantic nature of what we're dealing with here finally has knocked me clean across the room. Pettiness dissolves.
"I love you. I love you. I love you." I tell her over and over again. I need her.
"I love you, too."
"Of course. I need you."
We're crying. We're sorry. I'm kissing her face. I'm kissing all over her face and whispering to her.
"I've never felt like this before. Never. I know it's you. I want to be with you for the rest of my life."
"Of course. You're going to be my wife. You're going to have my children."
Tears. Gentle. She opens her eyes and the look in them is so weak, pure. Her voice reaches feebly towards me.
"If you asked me to marry you I'd say Yes"
"Of course. I love you."
A million thoughts race in 360 directions in my head. Evaluations, reactions, old stories, new stories, the taste of blood, the hope, the faith, the simple, perfect joy of preparing dinner for her.
I realize, what else do you need to know?
What are you waiting for?
"Will you marry me?"
"Yes. Of course."
"Really. I love you."
Somewhere deep within, the mechanism rights itself. All engines fire perfectly and shoot plumes of white smoke a thousand feet into the air.
"Let's get married today!"
"Yes! Let's go to City Hall!!"
We're giggling and excited. Of course. Now that the Beautiful Ivory Dream Moment has faded we're two bad little kids impatiently looking for dessert.
It can't be that easy to get married in New York, can it? I mean, it's not that easy to open a stupid hot dog stand in this city. Surely there is a process.
OK. Wish we had internet. We'll go to the cafe and look it up.
Yeah. Wait. If we're going to do this we really should get rings. OK. I don't need a fancy ring. Me either. I don't care, I've got you. Yeah. Let's buy one for thirty bucks on Canal. Or down the street. I don't care.
Well, maybe we should look it up on Monday and try to get married this week with, like, one or two witnesses. Surprise everybody. Yeah!
OOH! ORRRRR, we could do it on January 1st. A new year for our new life together! Yeah! 2006! Yeah. Kiss off, 2005. Hello new life!! That sounds awesome.
Wait. Hold on. I really can't do this without my brother here. He needs to be my best man. Yeah. I want my sister here. And my parents. Yeah. Mine, too.
But I wanna get married!! Me TOO!!!
OK. We can wait a couple of months. OK. But that's it. Yeah. That's it. YAY!!!!
We meet my mother in her hotel room with her co-worker, Cheryl Lynn, in bed nursing a hangover. We stay overnight. My mother makes a joke about Spring and I getting married so that we can get an awesome present from her millionaire boss. We all laugh laugh laugh.
We invite my mother over for Sunday night dinner. She brings Cheryl Lynn. Cheryl Lynn is a talker. My mother, an otherwise gregarious woman, becomes supine in her presence.
Spring and I have planned for this. She will take Cheryl Lynn out on some bullshit errand after dinner, for more wine or beer or something, and I will take the opportunity to tell my mother without Cheryl Lynn interfering in the moment. Awesome.
I chop up the apples and peppers and mushrooms. I season the chicken. Spring snaps the green beans. We are nervous and overly chatty.
The cats whip around hungrily, screaming at us in their usual, bitchy way. Of our three cats, two are fatties. Even though they've had lunch, they're screaming for dinner like we've starved them for weeks.
My mom can't stop watching them. "Maybe you should go buy some cat food. They're freaking out."
UMM! UHH! UUUHHUUHMUHUUMMMMUHHHH!!
"YES!! CHRIS. MAYBE...I SHOULD...GO GET CAT FOOD...NOW...!"
"UM...HONEY...I WAS THINKING...WE COULD GET CAT FOOD...AFTER WE ATE DINNER..."
We have both forgotten how to blink.
My mom looks around, oblivious. "I don't think they can wait. Look at them! They're going crazy."
Dammit. You goddamned fucking cats are ruining EVERYTHING!
"OK...I GUESS...I'LL GO GET...CAT FOOD NOW..."
"OK. GO...FOR IT."
"Um, OK. Sure!"
"ALRIGHT. We'll just...leave you two alone. Get some alone time with your mom."
They leave. I set the peppers and mushrooms to simmer in the pan. I turn down the burner, in case I'm not back for a while.
I sit on the futon, in the same place I proposed, and face my mother.
When I tell her, I start crying tears of joy.
"You know people are going to think we're insane."
"Yeah. Some of them will. But only the people who don't really know us. The ones who only see us when we're, like, asshole drunk. Our real friends won't think we're crazy. They know what we're really like together."
"Yeah. My brother won't think we're crazy."
"Hold on," my brother says. "Shawn and I want to say something to you."
There is a pause. Then they both scream "CONGRATULATIONS!!"
"Thank you!! Hold on. Tell Spring."
I hand the phone to Spring and wait. The smile sweeps across her face.
It becomes a Rorschach test.
My mother: "But WHY can't you have it in San Antonio?? You could have it in my backyard!!"
Her father: "You mean I've got to go back to stupid New York?"
My father: "ALRIGHT!! CONGRATULATIONS MY SON! I'll see if I can get off work."
Her mother: "I'll be at a flower show in Atlanta for the first two weeks in February, but you can have it after that."
The important thing, though, is that all four of our parents have given their blessing and are very happy for us. They are all excited and have said some incredibly sweet things. Even my mother, who I was most nervous about.
She says, "I've gotten to know Spring better over the last few days and I really, really like her. I see how you're good for each other." She is a little nervous, and she admits it, but she trusts me when I tell her that I'm completely certain about this.
When she leaves, she wraps up Spring tightly. "Welcome to the family, Mrs. Alonzo."
We invite a small group over for drinks on Monday. Eric, Laura, Jeremy, Sharon, Carrie. Our closest friends, the ones who have spent the most time with us as a couple.
Carrie arrives early. She's already sniffed it out. She digs nosily at Spring's left hand.
All the wine is uncorked. We're all telling stories. Carrie is off and running. Sharon, still recovering from surgery, rests uncomfortably on the couch. Jeremy cradles his body against hers.
Spring sits now next to me at our dinner table. Is it time, is it time? I get the rings and put them in my pocket to show them off. We've been playing with them all day, this gorgeous set from a jeweler on Canal. They are a matching set. Spring is quick to point out to anyone that they are the result of my bitchiness, because I didn't like anything we looked at and, in her mind, didn't show an interest in her ring choices.
I just hadn't seen anything right yet. Everything felt wrong. I'm nothing without my instincts.
We decide it's time. I ring out a note on the glockenspiel we keep on our fireplace mantle. "Announcement!"
Laura doesn't see it coming. "Wait, before the announcement, what's with that skull on the top of your bookshel--"
"But the skull--OK. It can wait."
Spring can't take any more. "Maybe I'll just tell them by way of showing them this." And she extends her left hand under the light.
Our friends erupt in applause.
Rorschach part II
Jeremy and Sharon melt with joy. Jeremy can't stop smiling and patting my back. Sharon is proud that she figured it out.
Carrie celebrates that she figured it out first and hugs us both.
Eric immediately begins offering advice.
Laura immediately mocks her husband for offering advice.
I make some calls. Begin sending out e-mails.
Junebug is happy beyond reason. Happy for us, happy to be a part of this.
Sleazy is knocked off his chair and expresses awe and happiness. And then he says something stupid that pisses me off and we bicker, but decide that's a whole other conversation and tonight is about Joy Joy Joy!
My BFF from New York Theatre Workshop, Aya, cannot believe the news. I write her a simple message. She's been there from the beginning, offering advice and a sympathetic ear.
sixth_sword was the first to figure it out. She writes to me, "I actually knew a few months back that this was the lady you'd propose to. Gold is precious."
I write to Michael Arthur and ask him if he knows anyone who's a minister. He's the kind of guy who tends to know things like that. He advises us that maybe we'd want to just ask one of our friends to get ordained and certified, so we can be married by someone we know.
Spring's office explodes with the shrieks of women.
Laura from Manhattan Children's Theatre sends excited congratulations from herself and from Libby, the Only Sane Redhead I Know, who is sitting beside her in the MCT office. I've written to Laura because I'm in the next show and, yeah, I'm gonna need a day off in February.
Laura advises me that it would be best to get married before we open or, perhaps, after I get out of the afternoon matinee at 3:30. I tell her that, yeah, probably I'd like an understudy just for that day.
I can't help laughing. Of COURSE we have to plan our wedding around my rehearsal schedule. Of course.
I ask Laura if there is a place for Spring on the crew of the show. I want her to be a part of this theatrical family. She says, Of course.
We spend our days e-mailing back and forth. We have great plans.
Because I'm anal, we've already got a wedding file. All the permits we need. All the possibilities printed out orderly so we can make our choices. All the deadlines in order. Letters to the Department of Transportation.
Right now we're looking at the third weekend in February. We will be married on the Brooklyn Bridge.
It will be cold. The bride will wear a long white coat and a vintage veil. The groom will wear a floor-length pea coat and a new pinstriped suit.
We will, two weeks later, fly down to Texas to have my mother's party in her backyard with my scores of cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents and old friends.
We plan every detail. We want simplicity, we want style. We want a wedding that is like us: unconventional, simple, fun. Classic.
We are happy. We are good. There is a calm we have never felt before in our lives together. The joy of certainty.
Alright. Enough of all that. Let the party begin.