Back in the early 1990’s, I met Craig at the Samaritans — a suicide hotline. He was a trainer and I was a volunteer.
Sometimes on Friday nights, a group of us Sams would go bowling at University Lanes in Greenwich Village which is still there but it’s now the very retro-trendy, Bowl- Mor. Back then it was a normal bowling alley and could have been anywhere. Then we’d go to the Old Town Tavern, the one that used to be featured in the opening credits of David Letterman’ s show back when it was on NBC.
I liked Craig, and thought that maybe he kind of liked me, but he never asked me out. Then he was going to go on vacation, and I was determined that when he came back I would make my move and finally suggest that we — just the two of us — do something together.
Only when he came back it was too late. Something was now going on between him and another Sam-gal recently separated with whom he’d had a longstanding friendship.
Suicide hotlines — hotbeds of romance and intrigue. Who knew? (Years later I worked at the Crisis Clinic in Seattle,which brought more people together than E-Harmony.)
I let it go. I became good friends with both Craig and his girlfriend.
Two years later I finished grad school and got my first social work job in Burlington, Vermont. I wanted to start fresh and was getting rid of most of the stuff in my little apartment in pre-gentrified Williamsburg. (You want to know details don’t you? Bedford between North 11th and North 12th, $250 a month when I moved in, and the neighbors thought I was being ripped off. Probably now ten times what I was paying then.)
The place was crammed with books. I would regularly shop at Strand Books where it was easy to find everything in the 5 for $2 or 48 cent each bins, so there were just too many to move. I decided to have an ongoing book sale. These were the days before Craigslist and Facebook, so I just told my friends and they told their friends and people would call me and come over and leave with boxes of books for which I might get $5 or $10.
Craig was one of those people. Because he was a good friend, I allowed him to take some of my favorites, books I was pleased he’d chosen and wanted him to read. But I confess it was hard to let some of them go. His take included: Gissing’s New Grub Street, Peter S. Beagle’s supernatural tale A Fine and Private Place, a Flannery O’Connor collection as well as one of Grace Paley’s, a couple of novels by Anita Brookner, La Batarde by Valerie Leduc (which I never actually read but was supposed to have for a class), A Recent Martyr by Valerie Martin, Up the Junction by Nell Dunn, and several more.
Cut to about sixteen, seventeen years later. Coming on Christmas 2003. Craig is between girlfriends and I haven’t had a date in years.
We are at a Pisticci’s, an Italian place up in Morningside Heights where, having returned to New York in 2001, I now live.
Craig starts talking about his dating issues. I interrupt and say, “Have you ever thought about dating me?”
It wasn’t spontaneous. I’d been thinking about broaching the subject for weeks, months, possibly years.
There’s a stunned silence that feels very, very long and finally he admits that it had crossed his mind.
In 2007, I finally told him that I really, really wanted to quit my job and while I believed I could afford to be unemployed for a bit and would find something, I couldn’t afford it paying my full monthly apartment maintenance and COBRA (health benefits). He agreed we should marry. We ran off to Niagara Falls to do the deed. It was another month to unpaper-train and properly housebreak his dog (Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks). And then he finally moved in.
We bought a few things together — night tables and dressers from Ikea. He gave all his furniture away and some of his many books were donated to a local church. He still brought box loads to what is now our apartment. These included — Gissing’s New Grub Street, a Flannery O’Connor collection, Peter S. Beagle’s A Fine and Private Place, Grace Paley’s Little Disturbances of Man, a couple of novels by Anita Brookner, La Batarde by Valerie Leduc, A Recent Martyr by Valerie Martin and Up the Junction by Nell Dunn which I’m just starting to re-read.