Thursday, August 03, 2006

The way we were...

I went to the beach yesterday. If you head east on Rt. 287, take the Port Chester exit, hang a right then a left at the light, and follow the signs, you're there, Rye Beach, Playland, Oakland Beach, the place where the sun meets the sand, where a giant ferris wheel mushrooms to the moon, the place where the horizon seems to stretch and yawn forever. This is the place I met Ed. It is my favorite place in the whole wide world.

He was lying on a blanket in front of the hot-dog stand. On his stomach. Clad in blue swim trunks, not a Speedo, just baggy faded preshrunk cotton. And he was tan--brown as a berry.

George was 9, he wanted a pretzel, I had two quarters.

I said, "Jill, "I'll be right back."

On Rye Beach, no one has a last name. At least not then. I never did learn Jill's other name. But, the summer of '85, she was a friend, the woman who kept one eye on my son, told funny stories, and made me laugh.

I didn't notice Ed spread out on a sheet the color of pumpkin. I didn't notice a sheet fit for a king sized bed. The sand was hot, it burned my feet. I wanted a pretzel, and I needed to get back to my blanket.

There was a voice. "Hi." Again. "Hello."

I looked. And the man on the sheet, in faded blue, asked if I was married, then he introduced himself. And that's how we began.

"I'd like to take you to dinner."

"I don't give out my telephone number."

"Think about it."

It was later, after I'd purchased the pretzel and carried it back to my sandy spot at water's edge, Jill demanded, "Who was that man you were talking to?" that I recounted the words the Ed-man had said.

"Well, you better go out with him," she ordered. "Or I'll embarrass you."

My mind's eye recalled the past day's Jill-event: I swam to the raft and returned to my blanket. My beach bag, my chair, my towel, all my belongings, had been arranged neatly on a strange man's blanket. Jill didn't make idle threats, she made promises.

Yes, Ed came to my blanket. Yes, Jill listened. Yes, I watched her brows beetle, and in a moment of frenzy, I ripped a corner off a page of a Steven King novel, scribbled my number, and handed it to the strange man.

Over dinner two weeks later at Griffon's in Greenwich, Ed asked, "Don't you want to know why I asked you out?"

I sipped white wine, it tasted heavenly. I swallowed a morsel of filet mignon. I looked across the candle-lit table at the man with coal brown eyes, and I nodded, yes.

"There were two reasons I asked you out," he winked. "Actually three."

Then he put his fork down, clasped his hands under his chin, and gazed into my eyes. "Your legs. Your legs and your laugh. Your laughter could be heard all over Rye beach. And I told myself, anyone who could laugh like that, I just had to meet."

It is 1,023 days since Ed's death. People often ask how'd you meet your husband. I start out by saying, "We had no clothes on..." And then I laugh.

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