It happened exactly one hundred days after I married Andy, almost to the minute of our half-past-three-o’clock ceremony. I know this fact not so much because I was an overeager newlywed keen on observing trivial relationship landmarks, but because I have a mild case of OCD that compels me to keep track of things. Typically, I count insignificant things, like the steps from my apartment to the nearest subway (341 in comfortable shoes, a dozen more in heels); the comically high occurrence of the phrase “amazing connection” in any given episode of The Bachelor (always in the double digits); the guys I’ve kissed in my thirty-three years (nine). Or, as it was on that rainy, cold afternoon in January, the number of days I had been married before I saw him smack-dab in the middle of the crosswalk of Eleventh and Broadway.
From the outside, say if you were a cabdriver watching frantic jaywalkers scramble to cross the street in the final seconds before the light changed, it was only a mundane, urban snapshot: two seeming strangers, with little in common but their flimsy black umbrellas, passing in an intersection, making fleeting eye contact, and exchanging stiff but not unfriendly hellos before moving on their way.
But inside was a very different story. Inside, I was reeling, churning, breathless as I made it onto the safety of the curb and into a virtually empty diner near Union Square. Like seeing a ghost, I thought, one of those expressions I’ve heard a thousand times but never fully registered until that moment. I closed my umbrella and unzipped my coat, my heart still pounding. As I watched a waitress wipe down a table with hard, expert strokes, I wondered why I was so startled by the encounter when there was something that seemed utterly inevitable about the moment. Not in any grand, destined sense; just in the quiet, stubborn way that unfinished business has of imposing its will on the unwilling.
After what seemed like a long time, the waitress noticed me standing behind the Please Wait to Be Seated sign and said, “Oh. I didn’t see you there. Should’ve taken that sign down after the lunch crowd. Go ahead and sit anywhere.”
Her expression struck me as so oddly empathetic that I wondered if she were a moonlighting clairvoyant, and actually considered confiding in her. Instead, I slid into a red vinyl booth in the back corner of the restaurant and vowed never to speak of it. To share my feelings with a friend would constitute an act of disloyalty to my husband. To tell my older and very cynical sister, Suzanne, might unleash a storm of caustic remarks about marriage and monogamy. To write of it in my journal would elevate its importance, something I was determined not to do. And to tell Andy would be some combination of stupid, self-destructive, and hurtful. I was bothered by the lie of omission, a black mark on our fledging marriage, but decided it was for the best.
“What can I get you?” the waitress, whose name tag read Annie, asked me. She had curly red hair and a smattering of freckles, and I thought, The sun will come out tomorrow.
I only wanted a coffee, but as a former waitress, remembered how deflating it was when people only ordered a beverage, even in a lull between meals, so I asked for a coffee and a poppy seed bagel with cream cheese.
“Sure thing,” she said, giving me a pleasant nod.
I smiled and thanked her. Then, as she turned toward the kitchen, I exhaled and closed my eyes, focusing on one thing: how much I loved Andy. I loved everything about him, including the things that would have exasperated most girls. I found it endearing the way he had trouble remembering people’s names (he routinely called my former boss Fred, instead of Frank) or the lyrics to even the most iconic songs (“Billie Jean is not my mother”). And I only shook my head and smiled when he gave the same bum in Bryant Park a dollar a day for nearly a year—a bum who was likely a Range Rover–driving con artist. I loved Andy’s confidence and compassion. I loved his sunny personality that matched his boy-next-door, blond, blue-eyed good looks. I felt lucky to be with a man who, after six long years with me, still did the half-stand upon my return from the ladies’ room and drew sloppy, asymmetrical hearts in the condensation of our bathroom mirror. Andy loved me, and I’m not ashamed to say that this topped my reasons of why we were together, of why I loved him back.
“Did you want your bagel toasted?” Annie shouted from behind the counter.
“Sure,” I said, although I had no real preference.
I let my mind drift to the night of Andy’s proposal in Vail, how he had pretended to drop his wallet so that he could, in what clearly had been a much-rehearsed maneuver, retrieve it and appear on bended knee. I remember sipping champagne, my ring sparkling in the firelight, as I thought, This is it. This is the moment every girl dreams of. This is the moment I have been dreaming of and planning for and counting on.