SINGLE. That’s what my train ticket says. It sticks out in the rain like a young tongue between the teeth of an old machine’s slot. Besotted as I am with the tingle to mingle, naturally I snatch it whispering, ‘Thanks a lot.’
Koreans claim a girl is gold till she’s old. Silver tarnishes on the shelf, which itself if left unvarnished will end up driftwood. There I stood, pretty petrified in Manhattan’s Meat Packing District, watching a guy with more hair plugs than spark park his Maserati. Momma was right, nothing good happens after midnight. I took flight, aspiring to retire in Gay Paree with Pinocchio the day he proposed.
A prenuptial meal sealed the deal with the heir’s parents. In scintillating Italian, I sprinted to recite the forgettable motto printed on the spaghetti. Where There’s Barilla, There’s Home. La Mama beamed at me like we’d won the lotto. I was blotto. Not at all the polyglot who swirled in similar circles, but her only son had got a girl. She gushed with glee, ‘Si! The Barillas! You know them too?’
In a few years, the fourth generation pasta multinational was brought to its knees by a boycott thrashing brothers Guido, Luca and Paolo for gay bashing. So maybe their branding should be Where there’s Barilla, There’s a Homo.
Sapience and savagery ensued even as the finer points of European protocol eluded me. There were frequent free-for-alls that called for much wine and few true friends. At the end of such an evening we were down to three when I dashed out for smokes. Zooming back in to our baroque ballroom what did I find? My fidanzato in a bind. The kind that demoted me to a fag hag bragging we’d a new majordomo employed. Rome wasn’t destroyed in a year and I hear Emperor Tiberius too was queer.
St. Theresa said, ‘More tears are shed over answered prayers than those left unanswered’ and I have to agree. See, long before these cards were dealt, I felt quite at home with subcontinental husbands, you understand, none of them mine. The mostly male sales team in Mumbai joked Shiva, their divinity, would deliver me a bloke.
Torches on the porch of a temple barely extoll the size of a drowsy leviathan yawning its jaws wide to swallow women of an ilk willing to wallow in a rainbow riot of silk. I lacked their long black hair powerfully perfumed by flowers. But no slacker, I simply slipped, tight-lipped, right into the river of dimples, hoping to elope.
Inside the candle-lit cavern, my manicured hands slipped sandals off to bare ten professionally pale toes. Posed with new Indian skirts tied high around my thighs, I waded into the ankle deep creamy waters washing around like an albino hurricane had hit this technicolor dreamscape. Two thousand years of time telescoped before me, obscured by fragrant wreaths of incense, illuminated in the half-light. Hordes hankering for a husband, filled vessels of all shapes and size from a fountain somehow flowing with holy cow’s milk. In multiple slaphappy chapels, the onslaught slung their supernatural soup, sowing it from amorous amphorae over obliquely symbolic and cucumbersome stones.
After a first pail, without fail, pre-filled buckets lucked into my hands. I nodded, trodding toward a line of lingams ready for anointing. Disjointed fingers pointed up at big bells dangling while juveniles jangled them. Bollywood Pollyannas tugged ropes thick as tree trunks that terminated with a thud in frayed coils on the floor. More deafening ding-dongs added their clang to the hellish cacophony of peals peppered with lusty squeals of laughter that licked the length and height of tall walls heaving with an insane Samsara sensation. I thanked the banker boys for not leaving when I stumbled out wet to the waist, in a tantric sweat, and betting on a new mantra. Marriage means never having to sell your sari.
I’m no Mata Hari. I never intended to blend in. For better or for worse, my university decreed me a couples counselor. Landing in L.A. like a fish out of water, I was the Episcopalian shiksa slurping down sushi at a Jewish/Catholic wedding. The Zen garden variety… unique to the Hollywood Hills. Thrilled to be a bridesmaid, I saw my friend say I DO in Hebrew. Were it welded to my cupped hand, I couldn’t have held up her huppa any higher. Cross-examined about my own samurai, I had to admit he’d sent me alone. So the bona fide Freudian father of the bride took me aside and specifically advised against pacific playboys. I deployed instead to Hong Kong, toying with a ping-pong plan to wed.
There’s no escape. Scraping the sky on the 50th floor with a harbour view, a trusting housewife in this life can’t rise above putting on the gloves. I was just dusting when I paused over a passport page busting him for distorting his age. Shorty’s I.D. reported he was ten years senior to the tall tale he’d told me. With laser-like pupils and no scruples, I skipped the sweeping. What other secret was he keeping? Deposited securely in his closet, sitting up erect, was an anatomically correct bedtime biddy. A hideous golden-haired booby trap, so real she could’ve given you the clap. Tawdry applause for the doll’s bridal veil, a vital tattle-tale on the dilapidated Japanese Dorian Gray. There comes a day when you’ve had enough. This wife-sized effigy was stuffed with promises to miss him. I LOVE YOU signed, Sue.
I knew, unlocking the door, he’d look tired when I inquired, So um, how’s Suzanne? A man frozen with fear can suddenly show ten falsified years. He merely loosened his tie with a sigh, and started to tell the third lie. He’d tarried to marry because he never divorced! Of course, Madame Butterfly desisted to wed a polygamist. You see I was done shadow boxing and even Muhammad Ali would insist the shadow had won.
I’ve heard it’s never as good as the first time. I wouldn’t know, I wasn’t there. My first proposal took place whiIst I sang a Latin cantata in the church choir. Once home, I waltzed in to a Superdome-sized quagmire. My step-mom was on the phone in a fevered pitch about somebody getting hitched. At least she hung up on the family priest before demanding, When did you last see Old Dick? I kicked off my black and white shoes. Dirty ashtray. Used glasses. The usual clues that Dick had dropped by.
Dick was an odd duck. He puttered around muttering in the marina aboard a boat he’d been living on and fixing up for years. Said it had potential and when he was done he’d sail around the world with his battered cat for company. Alongside Dick’s vessel, Dad kept our well-loved wooden skiff. If resolutely, I saluted, Dick hadn’t computed I was jailbait cruising away most summer evenings with thirsty first mates. I rowed right out in skin tight sweaters on winter weekends too.
The sun streaked his tousled tobacco-coloured locks all morning on deck, after which Dick lolled, smoking cigarettes he rolled in the shade. Leathery face immersed in an overdue library volume, he didn’t mind digressing when politely pressed upon. He’d don a corduroy jacket over his dirty denim and with a dab of perfume, come quick, if called to our house for a digestif. He always stayed for dinner but was equally content to stick below, as sailors say, in his boat’s galley. Carefully the thin skipper prepared cosmopolitan picnics of kippers, escargot at his own pace or a hardy foie gras, all of it from tins. Sometimes he shared them with me, as if we were lost at sea, on mismatched plates of chipped china with paper napkins. You couldn’t call it lunch or dinner, nothing definitive but something sinful in-between. Little by little I lingered, for lady fingers and caffè corretto, his crocodile eyes crinkling, without an inkling of the cardiovascular task he was about to ask.
The flask rather empty, I gathered my step-mom not happy the sap had thought long and hard. She not so pleased he sought parental consent to make an honest woman of me and hit the high seas. The crux of it is, Old Dick was banished to Biloxi. The young psych nurse unrehearsed in this sort of mistaken urge to merge, stood her ground. There would be no more messing around. Shaken, she stirred herself a stiff drink. If I was 15, I think, no offense meant, none taken.
Thrice wed in her own proxy war, my workaholic mother swore, ‘You’ll marry more in a minute than you can make in a lifetime.’ In my prime, I put on a skirt and flirt full throttle with a bottle to quiet my constant cogitations about a hodge-podge of wedding invitations lodged in my black mail box.
A petty tom cat can break your heart. Yet, if you’re drawn to pawn it for spare parts you’ll like that even the town bike is recyclable, as typed in this ad sent by dear old Dad: Diamond bridal ring set $4000 Robeline, Louisiana. 14k white gold Total weight 1.5 ct. with 3 bands Size 4. Was wore for a very short time by the devil. Retail price is $8000-$9000 What I’m selling it for is negotiable. My loss is your gain.
Let not what God has joined together be torn asunder by this blushing bard’s unbridled blunders. These undotted I’s and uncrossed T’s are rushingly written. Smitten by time spent under a lime tree, I’m tempted to see the whole world through a glass half empty. And me being not to the Manor bourne but just outside, a stone’s throw from Kilbride.
Feature Image: © Jennifer Hahn