A chorus, howling. I can't wear my wedding ring before the ceremony. Of course I can't. Jesus Christ, man. Are you loopy?
Eric shakes his head in disapproval. "If you could just DO that, why would you need the ceremony?" And he should know--he is, after all, conducting the ceremony.
Can't help it. The other day I went grocery shopping for us with it on my finger just to see what it felt like. Can't stop looking at it.
I'm reaching across her lap and I've got my other arm around her and there are other couples on this subway train, of course, and this being Sunday we are all being sweet, of course, but she and I are sweeter. More intimate. We're barreling home.
My finger drifts around, over, on either side of the stone in her engagement ring. I keep pawing at it to see if it'll disappear into a cloud of grey smoke.
Nope. It's still there.
I tell her that this is too big to be real. To weird. I feel older, even though I will continue to look and dress like a child.
She was asked, the other night, if she was scared. She said No. "You will be. Once it gets closer and you're there with your bridesmaids and it's time."
She tells me this and we both kind of chuckle to ourselves. "No," she says. We agree on this. Not nervous at all. Impatient, in fact. Want to get to it.
"You know, some brides take A YEAR to plan their wedding."
"How do they do that?"
"I don't know."
"I mean, we're too impatient. I want to get to it. I can't imagine waiting a year to get married. How awful."
We're walking on the subway platform joyously. The idea of a jinx is laughable to us at this point. Too many hours in hospital waiting rooms. Too many long, dark nights.
We get home and light our candles to cover up the smell of the ammonia in the cat box. We watch The Wizard of Oz and curl against each other in the dark. I take her to bed early.
Perhaps there is a reason the word "fiancee" is so difficult to put your mouth around. I don't like the word much. I don't like saying it.
I practice calling her my wife. I look at her and say, "My wife" -- testing the association.
When I practice I use one sentence:
"Get your goddamned hands off my wife!!"
That sentence I've got down. It's fun.
Saturday. She's been sick as hell all day long and I've been cleaning the apartment around her. I make her a lunch of grilled cheese and tomato soup. Orange juice. Sudafed. She might not make it.
She's watching Antique Road Show on PBS. An elderly woman brings in her husband's guitar. He was a cowboy. He used to play for the other "dudes" on the trail. The appraiser admits a shiver. "I wish I was on the trail with those 'dudes', being from New Jersey."
It turns out the guitar, a 1938 Martin, is worth about $20,000.
We had been complaining about something about this show that we don't like, and this woman is the only one who does the right thing.
"Oh, oh my. Well, it's not for sale. It was my husband's guitar. But that's very interesting."
We both tear up. I kiss her face. "Don't you dare sell my guitar when I die."
She laughs. "You know what would happen? You know I'd bring it to the appraiser and he'd say, 'Well, ma'am, if this was in good condition it would be worth something but...what did your husband DO to this? It looks almost like he threw it over and over again!'"
Spring makes a valiant recovery and we head off to Laura and Eric's for the big holiday extravaganza. We're in good spirits. I have worries in the back of my mind, but they're not too grand. We're all civilized people.
Laura greets us at the door and she's already nice and toasty. HEy HEY!! Jimmy and Christine arrive at the same time, and the five of us go up together. They admire the ring and offer congratulations.
Bina is on the couch with Travis when we walk in. They are both quiet when I go to them. Travis leaves early. I don't see him much any more.
Eric is as jolly as his wife. It's a good night--good vibes pulsating in every corner. It takes us a moment to get settled, with our eggnog and wine and beer, and when we do it's all good good good.
Spring spends most of the party with Sharon while I mingle back and forth. I'm glad to feel totally comfortable. Celebrating your engagement in the same room as your ex-girfriend could prove to be tricky business, but I'm grateful to see everyone handling it with joy and respect all around. The enthusiasm and curiosity is genuine. It's sweet. It's good to have such good, sweet friends.
Before long the party is thumping and Laura and Eric are wild-eyed and giddy. Eric pulls out his Santa suit and enters the room to applause. (Soon he laments to Spring and I, "You know, putting this on is kind of the Christmas party equivalent of wearing a lampshade on my head.")
I call a Boy's Meeting and we discuss the parameters of the bachelor party. Only one thing is important to me: No Dames. I tell Jimmy that I want to have it someplace where no one will hear the gunshots. We may need to take this thing out to the open water.
But no dames. This will be a classless affair, with men drinking liquor and playing cards and smoking cigars. And we'll watch the Spurs game. And then we'll all cuddle.
And nobody better take the Sinatra records off the turntable. That's what the gun's for.
We leave the party with Jeremy and Sharon in tow and head out to the Turkey's Nest, our new favorite place to play pool. The guy on the table is an asshole. I hope to beat him soundly.
Turns out we don't get the chance. He and his partner are taken down by four balls. Their opponents are gentlemen and we have a lovely time being beaten (barely). It comes down to the 8. I screw up a perfectly good shot after an otherwise acceptable outing. Spring leaves it shy of the pocket, but enough to where a stiff wind or a glass falling would knock it in. No dice. Handshakes.
Jeremy plays partners with the asshole. He does not look pleased when he returns to us.
It's too early to fish when the cats wake us up. They do this now. We see the factions developing--the fat asshole cats have come together in their fat assholeness. The small, cute one has turned shy. He stays in the bedroom mostly.
Spring's fatty, Bug, has taken to leaping on us to wake us up. It looks cute when Garfield does it, but it isn't.
We're insane. Too much booze. Oh, Christ. You people.
Sharon and Jeremy have ordered us to see King Kong. We decide to make a date of it. We're about to get married but we haven't been on a date in months.
I call Fandango to buy tickets. I hate talking to these stupid computers. I feel stupid. Telling some computer that I want to go to the 4:00 show. Talking to a machine. I'm a highly evolved organism, thank you!! I was intelligently designed!!
I yell at it. Yelling at the Fandango computer feels as useless as it sounds.
We listen to some insane nu classical composition I stole from Twyla but it's too much. We instead lay in the dark to Elvis Costello's 'North'. I can't take my eyes off her.
King Kong. Eh. I'd like a shot at editing the thing, taking out any slow-motion shots, references to Jimmy the Young Sea Pup, a few sweeping shots of compter-generated vistas, and that horribly embarrassing shot of Naomi Watts walking towards Kong backlit in slow motion (people were cackling with laughter in our theatre).
But otherwise, yeah. Good stuff. Spring and I liked when the worm ate that guy.
OOH. And the part where the typewriter hammered out the word "Skull". That was dumb. I could go on and on. The point is there was some really miraculous stuff all over that movie but lots of directorial choices bugged me. OOH! The bugs. I liked the bugs.
But, really. Have we not reached a point in our civilization where we all know not to talk on our goddamned phone? Why doesn't something go off in your head when you say the words, "Yeah--we're in the movie right now." I tapped the guy's shoulder while at least two other people turned around and told him to shut up and he still kept on. And the kids next to me thought any scenes where Kong wasn't smashing stuff were "gay". And the people behind us were having full-blown conversations in their nasal Brooklyn accents.
But people applauded when Kong smashed the dinosaur's head, so that was pretty cool.
"I...I feel like Elaine when she didn't like 'The English Patient.'"
Of all the people I know, I should have guessed that Pam would be the most understanding. She reaches an understanding hand across the lunch table. "It's OK not to like The Thing."
Pam should know. She's made a career out of not liking The Thing, or rather, of smartly lampooning The Thing. Spare the snark, spoil the Academy Award winning director.
"Hey, I haven't seen any of Peter Jackson's movies."
"Really? Not even the one's with the little people?"
"Nope. I saw the first half hour of the first one and started getting lost. You shouldn't need to take notes to watch a movie."
"OK. I thought I was insane."
Pam and I haven't sat down and talked with each other in...well, ever? There's always other people around or, like, a wedding surrounding us. Other obnoxious theatre/comedy people.
We talk about careers and love and other fun stuff. Things are, obviously, going very well for her. She's worked her ass off.
I'm stalled, but I'm OK with that. Pam tells me it's OK to be OK with that, which is good to hear. Although, talking about it with Spring I feel strange. I feel like I've had such an unproductive year. And yeah. All I did was record an album, write a play and perform in a children's theatre show where I played the lead and produced the soundtrack album. That's all. Quiet, but not desolate.
Pam and I talk about marriage, and she introduces this idea of the title "Husband" and "Wife" and how that can affect your brain, even when you don't expect it to. I tell her that I'm not at all scared, not about Spring not being the one (that's the only thing I'm certain of). It's everything else. What will happen once this whole exhilerating thing is over with?
"I think the mistake people make is assuming that it's this Finish Line, like you're completing something. It's just another...thing in the relationship." She makes the hand motion of a speed bump. She compares it to an actor getting an agent and assuming they're on easy street now.
"No," I say. "I already said, you know, that we shouldn't pretend that getting married is going to solve any of our problems. It's not why we're getting married; to fix something. We're getting married because we want to. It's time."
I wonder about all sides of it. What do Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon know all these years later that we don't?
We return to the subject of careers. Pam's mulling her options right now. Whatever the next project is. I laugh and look down at the table. "I can't wait to be famous. Getting famous is going to solve all of my problems."
"I...I don't want to be the one to spoil your good time...it just brings a whole new set of problems. Things you never really thought about before."
"No. Not me. All of my problems are going to be solved. You're just doing it wrong, Pam."
I laugh at her when we get back on the street. As she's pointed out to me, you can tell she's not from New York. Her coat is not black.
I recognize Adam's black coat from far away, as he giddily works his way up to our place on the bridge. We've come up here to stake it out for the wedding--figure out exactly where we're going to stand to do this thing. Pick the best backdrop. Figure out the logistics.
We realize what assholes we are as the wind slaps us repeatedly. Tonight it is all the way up to 40 degrees, but it's got to be twenty degrees colder on this bridge, high up and above the water. This is going to be painful.
Adam sets up his tripod. He has to get his shot. "Every photographer has this shot of the Brooklyn Bridge and I need mine, too."
"It's like a guitarist with Stairway to Heaven."
"Yeah--I can pluck that one out."
Spring sheepishly asks him to take a picture of us. He adjusts and directs us. I blow the first one. I hate posing for pictures. For the second one I decide just to look at her. And then, y'know, make bug-eyed faces.
We walk down to the base and begin our search for the perfect place to hold the reception. Eventually we find one that we like and we return to the car. But we make a quick stop first.
We stand at the base of the bridge and soak it all in while Adam fills his camera. "Is that where we're going to get married?" "Yup." "We're insane."
Whitman sings to us:
Stand up, tall masts of Mannahatta!—stand up, beautiful hills of Brooklyn!
Throb, baffled and curious brain! throw out questions and answers!
We kiss and breathe in, breathe out out out out. It's early, yet. More trouble to get into tonight. Plenty of time for mischief. But we want to go home. No more mischief tonight. Take us home, sir. Take us home and put us in bed.