Here's something I'm submitting to the NYT Modern Love column. I'd love feedback!

We won’t have children together. He already had three and I one when we met. Met over ice cream after a 12-step meeting. I wasn’t eating ice cream but he was attempting to feed me his from across the table in a manner I found presumptuous never mind that I don’t share food. He twinkled at me and I frowned. I had no idea of his background although I’d noticed him at meetings, noticed his beautiful blonde hair, his blue eyes, his smile. I thought he was an actor or a waiter or both or a musician or a person who collected unemployment and tried to feed women ice cream assuming they’d find him charming. He will deny this but he followed me outside.

“Where are you going?” he asked.

“Home,” I answered.

This was true but I was also planning to attend a party that was being thrown for someone we both knew.But I didn’t tell him that. I was in a bad mood; a mood I maintained as I slowly divorced my husband, the father of my son, who lived upstairs in a two flat we shared. He had recently moved in his girlfriend and her dog although he denied she was actually living there, denied the dog was living there even though I constantly heard her walking upstairs, heavy on the heels, and the dog yapping. So, I had taken up dating, dating like a Kamikaze flyer, registering on Match.Com and having as many as five dates in a single day, breakfast, lunch, coffee, dinner, more coffee. So far I had met a dozen crazy men, a man who spent his days downtown in court suing people for fun, a man who got incredibly drunk on our second date and dropped to his knees to beg to have sex with me, an unpleasant man who kept name dropping people who were not important and becoming enraged when I denied having heard of any of them. A man who had lived in a commune since Woodstock, a man with a wife who he was finding dull, a man who believed he was being followed by aliens, a man who had a boy my son’s age who asked both boys math questions over brunch when I agreed albeit reluctantly to a quadruple date with our kids. He found my son’s agility on the monkey bars threatening and his healthy refusal to do multiplication over pancakes insubordinate.

After that date all I could say to my six year old was, “Sorry, honey.”

I wasn’t dating anymore. But for some reason this blonde blue-eyed ice cream pushing man seemed like someone I might be able to tolerate.

“Want to come over?” I asked boldly.

“Yes,” he said.

In my kitchen, we talked about family, we talked about living abroad as children and getting lost. We were both the youngest. He told me his family had a maid in Thailand who used to catch his shirts when he threw them in the air. “Her name was Samsi,” he said, his eyes misting over.I told him about living in Ireland and being beaten into learning how to read by my first grade teacher. And how the grandson of Maude Gonne, the sexy sculptor next door, had been my tutor.
“Whose Maude Gonne?” he asked

I told him about Yeats and my father and how I ended up in Chicago getting divorced. He told me about Virginia and his three children and why they weren’t living with him. He wasn’t at all what I thought. He was an ironworker, high steel, the son of a CIA agent and a Norwegian mother who had died from a rare disease. He was very sad about his children and passionate about iron working and I felt dizzy. We moved to the Living Room and talked until two.

“My son is coming in the morning,” I said, about to suggest I give him my phone number.

“Oh,” he said, and then he bolted.

It was not an easy courtship. He got his children, I got divorced. He moved across the street, I sold my novel after thirteen years of unpublished writing. On a trip to New York he charmed my editor and agent and as we gawked at a nearly completed skyscraper listening to him explain how to set steel, I sulked. He wanted me to mother his kids. I wanted nothing to interfere with his return to them. I met his father at a Culvers in Wisconsin and listened to him explain why we’d actually won the Vietnam War.
He met my parents and was subjected to the following exchange:

“Mom, Dad, don’t you want to ask him anything?”

“How much money do you make?” My mother demanded.

“What are your intentions?” My father asked.

I made plans. He spent too much money. Finally, horribly, we broke up for a year. I dated a cool British scientist; he dated a child. I went on book tour in Wisconsin and reading at a store in Oconomowoc I realized my audience consisted of his father, stepmother, aunt, a cousin and his partner, his therapist and the therapist’s patient. The patient seemed slightly confused by the situation. It was sad.

“He’s a Republican,” I hissed to my mother.

“Yes, but not a black-hearted one,” she said. “And he adores you.”

The shelves he had earlier installed in my house started to crash down. One night I called him trying to put together a desk from IKEA. “I can’t do this,” I said. “It’s too complicated.

He came over. I handed him things and we talked about the new condo I had decided to buy. He called me from the job and told me he had just set the steel in my roof. Our roof. We got married. It was a Buddhist Ceremony and the Buddhist woman tossed rice at my father and made fun of how many times I’d been married.

“I’m not Samsi,” I told him that night when he threw his shirt at me.

“I never finished your book,” he said.

Last summer we got the cats. Two gray kittens my son had found. They were tiny twins with big heads and beautiful faces. He came home and both of them climbed up a leg. “Look,” he said, his face glowing, the tiny kitten perched on his shoulder, nuzzling his ear. There is nothing sweeter than a big dirty man with something fuzzy.

Our first night out after the cats came we talk about their latest feats of brilliance; going in bags, purring, sitting in the sink, the way they wait in the hallway for him to come home. How they wake us up at 5am demanding their wet food. We clip their nails and he lets them play on our balcony. I yell at him for being careless and he says I’m overprotective.

We grow silent and then look at one another shyly. They are the best cats in the world,” I say. “I don’t care how stupid we sound.”

He nods. “I miss them,” he says, putting his hand up for the check.


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