A Tenth Anniversary Re-Post: August, 2006
[This past week would've been my parents' 68th wedding anniversary. My dad passed away 5 years ago, and my mom, 90, is now a single woman. This tribute to the couple once known as the Merry Mernits - written, I should note, before I met the love of my life - is a stylized evocation of the cute meet (or "meet cute") that led to me being alive to tell their tale.]
So as the story goes, Dad was never supposed to be there that night. He was just picking his friend Tony Lipkin up from the party, picking him up from one Christmas party on the way to another. It had been arranged before, the way a couple guys arrange these things, like: I'll pick you up over there 'round nine o'clock, listen for the horn around nine, I'll be outside--and then we can go to the other party, the big bash, the where we're gonna get really loaded or lucky or both party, so— nine o'clock, right?
As the story goes, Dad was out there like they'd planned, nine o'clock, toot-toot and he had the motor running, but no Tony. Jeez, Tony, come on! and he waited, hit the horn again maybe, but of course--maybe on account of it was cold? I never got more details on what could have been a snowy night (it would definitely be snowing in the movie version) or maybe it was impatience because he knew who was going to be at this other party -- but we certainly never heard about that detail, on account of he went in.
Dad went inside to fetch Tony Lipkin, into this house where he hardly knew anybody, he was just going in there to get Tony out of there, when it happened. You know how it goes, you know: across a crowded room? There she was. The eyes, the beat, the silent meeting, the accidental instant that meant everything--I mean, that's why I'm here telling you this, because Dad went to pick up Tony Lipkin on the way to somewhere else--so okay, maybe you can understand this thing about me and invitations, about me and parties and social events in general, it's said I'll go anywhere, "He'll go to the opening of an envelope" someone said about me once.
But can you blame me? Over fifty years of happy married life, while couples crashed and burned around them with the frequency of car wrecks, fifty-plus years still young and in love to this day. I actually caught them making out, giggling and rolling around fully clothed on their bed in the middle of the afternoon, and this was the week of Dad's seventy-sixth birthday.
Parties? I go.
...Of course, there's always the anxiety over whether this is the party I'm supposed to be at, or whether it was the one I just stopped by on the way to this one. It can really get confusing, which accounts for the odd scenes, like:
"What's with that guy?"
"The guy who's standing outside in the driveway, why doesn't he come in?"
"I dunno. Yo, guy! The party's in here!"
"Weird, he's just standing out there, he must be waiting for someone--oh, here he comes, yo guy, have a beer!"
And then, like five minutes later, it's: "What's with that guy?"
"The guy who was standing outside in the driveway until he finally came in."
"Oh, that guy, yeah, so?"
"He just left."
"Yeah, looked around the room and boom--he was outta here, dude, what's up with that?"
Across so many crowded rooms I have cast my fevered gaze. It's the hope, the hope, the hope that burns eternal, despite all the gazes that have met with glazed indifference, the looks that went nowhere or worse, some place truly awful: the affairs that were really like one long morning after, hung over, thinking what was I thinking?
The dances with the hats on, the landing in heaps, the things that got broken, the stains that never came out, the lingering smell of smoke in the air, the damn song that was ours (and ours, and ours) that I can't hear again without grinding my teeth. The cars I've gone through, speeding from one gathering to another, with hope the bright headlights... The disappointments I can deal with, it's the hope that drives me crazy.
But maybe the worst was that party I had: martinis in the fall, colored lights in the trees. It was late in the evening and we were down to the party core, sitting on the front steps in the woozy dregs, when a car pulled up and this woman got out--sweet pale face swathed in tender blonde hair--peering at us there, uncertain by the gate, "Is this Pete's party?" and no, amidst laughter, some confusion about addresses, oh it must be down the block (one of my guests had noticed the cars parked at someone else's gathering) and with a smile at me, our eyes meeting for a moment, she backed away even as a drink was offered, then she was in her car and pulling off. Because I'd been too slow to get it.
And I've been looking for her everywhere, for years and years since. That woman! She was the love of my life.
(c) 2006 Billy Mernit (all rights reserved)