Three Days in New York: Part II
“When you thought you’d be baking pie and living behind your very own white picket fence you’ll find yourself doing something so entirely different you couldn’t have even imagined it a year before. There will be moments when you’ll look around and not even recognize your own life…in a good way.” ~Kate Northrup
On a breezy September night in New York City, I found myself being pulled along excitedly by my Mr. E as he grabbed my hand eagerly and hauled me out of Neptune Diner and into the next chapter of my life. We were both as joyful as children as we walked along, arm in arm, talking a mile a minute as we tried to catch up on a year and a half’s worth of absence in the space of five minutes.
“Wait a minute!” he suddenly stopped. “Gotta make a call.” With a flourish, he whipped out his cell phone. “Excuse me, sir,” he said to whoever was on the other end of the line. “Can you prepare two plates for the lady and I? We are en route.”
I gazed at him quizzically. “Who was THAT?” I asked, wondering what on earth he had up his sleeve. “You’ll see,” he replied, a twinkle in his eye.
A few minutes later, we were passing through a small wrought iron gate and climbing the stairs to the Queens apartment that Mr. E calls home when he’s in NYC on business. A delicious-looking feast of chicken and vegetables awaited us, two glasses of wine already poured. He had enlisted his roommate’s help with preparing a beautiful dinner for us. My stomach rumbled in hunger as we sat down to eat, but the butterflies flapping around and Big’s smile across the table made it hard to concentrate on my food. I got so flustered at one point that I tipped my wine glass over, splashing wine onto the table and into my plate. What was WRONG with me?! I was acting like I had never been on a date before. But something about this night felt…different. I soon discovered why.
“So I was talking to my parents about you earlier,” he said with a curious look on his face. Half mischievous, half trepidatious…like he had a secret that he wasn’t sure he wanted to tell.
“Really? What about?” I asked.
“Well….” He paused. “I wanted to tell them about my surprise for you and get their advice.”
“And? What did they say?”
He looked at me seriously. “They said I shouldn’t do it unless I’m really, really sure.”
My heart flipped over in my chest. “Oh?” I asked. “Well, whatever it is…are you sure?”
His gaze was intense, his eyes never budging from mine. “Let’s go in my room. We need to talk.”
Moments later, we were both settled on the bed, his hand in mine. “Mandy, you know how busy I am with work right now,” he began.
“Yes,” I agreed. Having been in his life for five years, I had never seen him more focused on his career than he had been the past few months.
“And I’m going to be really, really busy through the rest of the winter. I probably won’t even get to go home for Christmas,” he continued.
“Okay…?” I said, not sure where this was leading.
“Things probably aren’t going to slow down for me at all until the spring. I really won’t have time for much of anything besides work,” he went on. “And you know how my life is going to be. I’m going to always be moving around…never staying in the same place very long…”
As a former producer, I understood, perhaps better than anybody, what the life of someone in the world of television production and the news world was like. But why did it sound like he was breaking up with me?
He grabbed both my hands suddenly, looking very at me intently. “You said you would marry me tomorrow if I asked. Knowing how hectic and unsettled my life is going to be…is that still true?”
I awoke with a start, momentarily confused by my surroundings. One glance out the window at the fire escapes across the way and the city skyline in the distance reminded me of where I was…and the strange, intense conversation that had gone on until the wee hours of the morning ran through my mind.
Mr. E’s talk of marriage had shocked me. The “M” word had never really been a part of his vocabulary before, and I had to wonder what it all meant.
Still…I was in the city that I loved and adored, with the man that I loved and adored, and though I was going on about 3 hours of sleep, the sunlight filtering through the window brought joy to my heart and a smile to my face. “It looks like New York outside!” I exclaimed, jumping to my feet and throwing open the curtains as wide as they would go.
My hair appointment was at 2:00, it was already 11:30, so I met up with Mr. E and after a quick stop at Dunkin’ Donuts for a chocolate donut with sprinkles (me), and coffee (him) we headed toward the subway. This was only my second subway ride in my entire life, and I think fate must have been conspiring to make this the perfect day, because a musical quartet boarded the train behind us and immediately broke into a roof-raising rendition of “My Girl.”
A couple of hours later, I arrived for my first-ever NYC fancy salon experience. They rolled out the red carpet for us, and E made sure I was fussed over, with two or three stylists at my beck and call at a time. When I walked out an hour and a half later, I truly did feel like Cinderella on her way to the ball…and we spent the afternoon walking hand in hand through the streets of New York, the promise of my big “surprise” still lingering in the air for later. Sometime that afternoon, my dad called to check in, and a short time after we hung up, my blackberry buzzed with this email from my mom:
“I heard your voice when Daddy called you. I commented to Dad that you sounded so happy. That makes me smile. I know you are really in your element: New York, Times Square, Mr. E.”
Yes, for that afternoon, I was in my element…feeling like I was literally walking through the pages of my own fairytale, come to life. But, like every fairytale, there was a plot twist up ahead that I never in a million years saw coming.
Mr. E’s phone rang around 5:00, and he looked at me with a knowing smile. He chatted with whoever was on the other end for a few minutes then turned to me with a wink. “Did you know that today is Rosh Hashanah? As in Jewish New Year?” he asked.
“Umm, no,” I replied in confusion. “But what does that have to do with anything?”
“My friend who we’re going to go see is Jewish, so he’s off work today for the holiday,” Big explained.
“Oh! Okay, cool. Are we just going to his place to hang out?” I asked.
He laughed. “You could say that.”
We made our way to a fancy apartment building a few blocks away from Times Square. A few minutes later we were standing on the street corner with who I can only describe as the most authentic New Yorker I have ever seen. Short and stocky, with his hair pulled back into a brief ponytail, Mr. E’s friend had a Sopranos-worthy Jersey accent. “How you doin’, dahlin?” the man asked (I’ll call him Tony because I don’t remember his name). “Ready to go look at some stuff?”
I looked over at E in confusion. He just grinned. “Yeah…sure…?”
We walked several blocks in the typical New York hustle that natives favor, quickly and briskly with little conversation, headed for destinations unknown. I had to struggle to keep up in my not-so-street-friendly four inch wedges. Mr. E and Tony walked a little ahead of me, their heads together, conspiring about something that I wasn’t within earshot to hear.
Then, suddenly, we were at a glass door of what looked like the back of a business. Mr. E kept looking back at me with a grin the size of Texas. I still had absolutely no idea where we were or what we were doing, but continued to follow along as we wound our way through a back hallway, up an elevator, and into what I was guessing were Tony’s offices.
“Even though it’s Rosh Hashanah today, I talked Tony into opening up his store just for us,” Big explained, taking my hand and leading me to a chair in front of Tony’s desk. I noticed Tony behind him, unlocking a large safe. This was starting to get really weird.
“And in case you haven’t figured it out yet,” he continued…
“…he sells engagement rings.”
To Be Continued…