A Love Story (Sort of): The New York Rendezvous (Pt. 2)

Featured

(This is the fourth and final post of the Cookie & Marty series.  If you’d like to read the other three posts you can find them here in the order they were written:  A Love Story (Sort of),  A Love Story Continues (Sort of), A Love Story (Sort of): The New York Rendezvous (Pt. 1)…)

It’s Thursday and Cookie still hasn’t called.

I don’t know what that means.

I spoke to her on Monday when she first arrived in New York, and she sounded terrible.  She’s only supposed to be there for five days, so is no news good news?  Or is she just too miserable to talk about it?  My imagination is playing out all kinds of scenarios, and most of them aren’t good.

My cell phone finally rings in the afternoon.

“Boy, do I need a drink!”

Oh, no.

But wait…It’s 2:15 p.m. in California, so technically it’s cocktail hour in New York.  Not necessarily a bad sign.

“There’s a diner across the street.  Maybe they’ve got alcohol,” she tells me as she takes the cell phone with her to explore, with me at the other end.  She’s in luck at the diner and quickly orders a Gin & Tonic.

“Look at me – I’m having a Gin & Tonic at a counter surrounded by people eating tuna fish sandwiches.”

“Has it been that bad?!”

She takes a long sip before answering.

“It’s been wonderful!

After the fiasco of the flight-that-never-seemed-to-end, Cookie awoke the next day feeling that the pressure was off her shoulders.

“We met.  We saw each other.  And we lived through it,” she explained. “The hard part was already over!”

It had been 55 years since the two of them had seen each other, and even though they had shared photos in their emails, seeing one another up close was the real deal.

“I didn’t exactly look 15, but he didn’t look 22 either! So it was a draw.”

Marty had arrived at the motel the next morning, picked her up, and they went non-stop all day. Breakfast at a diner.  Beachcombing at the beach.  A ferry ride out to Ocean Beach on Fire Island.  A sudden rainstorm and lots of laughter.  A walk in the village, window shopping, and ice cream cones.  Holding hands, and arms tight around each other.  Non-stop conversation, and a feeling that they had known each other for all of the 55 years they had missed spending together. They did so many activities that first day, Marty called her up later that night.

“I’m exhausted!  You’ve got so much energy! How do you do it?!”

“I’ve got a big personality,” she explains to me.  As if I hadn’t noticed.

The next day Cookie spent with her New York family: two nieces, their husbands, and all of their kids.  It was an amazing family reunion, a trek into Manhattan for Chinese food, while Marty stayed at home.

“Were you nervous that maybe he was ditching you?” I ask.

“No way! I exhausted him!  He needed to rest!”

Sure enough, on Thursday he picked her up bright and early, and confessed, “I missed you yesterday. You’re under my skin.”

Thursday was filled with more beaches, and a visit to a magnificent old lighthouse.

The Lighthouse at Fire Island

Originally lit in 1858, its light still burns bright and steady –  for decades offering the first evidence of land across a vast, oftentimes turbulent Atlantic Ocean.

In the afternoon, they walked further down the beach, collecting seashells.  Her head down, and searching the sand, Cookie’s attention was on the ocean’s beautiful bounty when Marty suddenly stopped her.

“Don’t walk any further or you’ll be on the nude beach.”

Cookie stopped in her tracks. She knew all about this beach because Marty had told her about it when they had talked on the phone.  He was always a beach lover, and so he would walk along this shore for hours, all by himself. One day when he was strolling along he came across the clothing optional beach. He started meeting people there – from all walks of life – nice people, mostly middle-aged, and he liked them.  So he kept going back.  And one day he figured, what the hell: he took off his shirt, and then took the big step and lost his shorts.

“Where’s your beach? Where exactly is it?” Cookie wanted to know.  But Marty wanted her to be comfortable.

“Don’t look up,” he told her.  “I don’t want you to see something that’ll maybe make you uncomfortable.”

Cookie stopped in her tracks and didn’t look up.  But then something wonderful happened – all of Marty’s friends, the ones there on that clothing optional beach, knew about Cookie and they wanted to meet her. They wanted to meet the woman who Marty talked so much about, and who’d made their friend so happy.  So they did something special just for her.  They put on their shirts, reached for a robe or a towel, slipped into their shorts, and they went over to the other side of the beach just to meet her and to say hello.

“I love his friends!!!”

They were all different kinds of people. One guy worked for a trucking firm, another guy had the NY Yankee logo on his bicep (with the year of every series they’d won). One of the women worked on bridges, and another woman was a special needs teacher. They all gathered around Cookie, introducing themselves (now fully dressed), meeting her and hitting it off like long-lost friends. One of the women was scheduled to go to New Hampshire to begin her vacation, but she postponed leaving so she and her husband could throw Cookie and Marty a barbecue and the rest of Marty’s friends could meet Cookie.

“Can you imagine?  They all put on their clothes just to meet me!”

It was a great week for Cookie.

“Marty is wonderful!”

A real gentleman, she tells me:  always holding open her car door, and taking her hand. They had long conversations, and even the pauses felt right.  After only the first couple of days.

“I stopped wearing makeup after the second day!” she says proudly.

And Cookie always wears makeup.

“I felt like I had been with this man forever. There wasn’t one moment when I wasn’t having a nice time. We’re like an old married couple.”

And?

“And you don’t give something like that up.”

Amen.

“But I’m sorry about your ending,” she tells me, as I hear her finishing the last of her Gin & Tonic, the ice clicking against the glass.

“What ending?” I ask.

“Exactly! There is no ending.”

Marty is comfortable with his life there on Long Island.  He loves his friends, loves to walk his dog, loves his beach (clothing optional), and he loves going back to his home when the day is over.  Cookie is also happy with her life – 3,000 miles away in L.A.

“There’s no kind of ending to our story,” Cookie explains.

I tell her not to worry about it.  Sometimes the best story doesn’t really end – it just stops.  But what matters the most are the feelings you’re left with when it does stop.

Cookie went back to L.A. on Saturday, and she called me once the weekend was over. Her flight home had been just as hectic as the one going out to New York: the flight was cancelled, and she had to spend hours in line at the airport trying to get another one.

“I’ll never book another flight using free mileage!!!” she wails.

She was ecstatic to be home.

“Are you sorry you traveled the 3,000 miles?” I ask her.

“Not at all!” she says without hesitation. “One of the best things I’ve ever done. If anything, this made me and Marty closer.”

Marty still calls promptly at 8 a.m. every morning, and Cookie calls him a couple of times during the day.  They email each other constantly.  And when the snow globe Cookie bought for her granddaughter at Ocean Beach broke, Marty insisted on taking the ferry back out there to buy her another. What the two of them have now, before Cookie schlepped 3000 miles east, are new shared memories.  Before, the only memories they had were 55 years old, intense, youth-filled experiences.  But now there’s that ferry ride to Ocean Beach, the Lighthouse on Fire Island, the sudden thunderstorm, sharing an ice cream cone, collecting seashells on the beach, the good friends who welcomed Cookie like a member of their own family, holding hands and cuddling, and a comfort they share with each other and no one else in this world.  If that ain’t love, what is?

All animals mate, but few mate for life.  With the divorce rate at 40 – 50%, Homo sapiens seem to change partners like the rest of the animal world.  And yet, we try for something different.  We stand up in front of our friends and family and we take vows – for better or worse, in all kinds of bad times, sickness and health, whether we’re rich or we’re poor.  We say those vows because we mean them and we try to stay together for a lifetime. The lucky ones make it, but even if we fail, we still want to try again. The one quality we have that the animals don’t is our need for intimacy. Not just that physical act of reproduction, but that rare connection that happens between two people, that bond uniting two souls that takes away our loneliness, comforting, and soothing us to make those bumps in life a little more tolerable.  It’s hearing another voice, or looking into another pair of eyes, and feeling more comfortable there than you do within yourself.  That’s intimacy, and it can happen with or without sex, in and out of a marriage, with best friends, and with soul mates.  It’s amazing that it even happens at all, but it does.  And when you find another human being with whom you can share that intimacy, you’ve found your home. You recognize it and say, “Yeah, this is it.  I’m safe with this person, and so I’ll stay.”

In those old Hollywood movies you never really see the end of a love story. Instead, the romance is sealed with a kiss, and the audience is sent home happy. That’s all we need to know – that in this oh-too-painful-at-times world, filled with stress and craziness, two people have found one another. That’s all we really need to know about Cookie & Marty: that these two people, living separate lives on two faraway coasts, somehow connected with one another. And they both lived happily ever after.

Because we want them to.

A Love Story (Sort of): The New York Rendezvous (Part One)

Featured

“Oy.”

It’s one word that can mean either good news or bad.  I was hoping this wasn’t bad news but, honestly, Cookie didn’t sound that excited saying it.  She was calling me all the way from Long Island after twelve hours of an aviation marathon: a 6:30 a.m. flight out of LAX, a change of planes in the Midwest, one and a half hours on the tarmac in Minneapolis, and almost an hour circling high above the five boroughs of New York, waiting to land.

“Somebody gave me five valium to take with me on the trip, thank God!  That’s all I’ve had in my stomach all day.”

“All five?!”

“No, no.  But I was tempted, believe me.”

She sounded terrible. Way past disappointed.

“What happened?” I asked her.

I knew the plan:  Cookie had free miles and was using them for a flight from LAX to JFK, and a trip to spend some time with Marty. Marty was going to meet her at the airport and pick her up. She was planning to spend a week on Long Island, staying at a Best Western located midway between her niece’s apartment and Marty’s house.  It would be a week for visiting her family, and getting to know Marty again after 55 years.  I also knew that if she’d been nervous in L.A about doing this she wasn’t about to disembark from that plane looking calm and poised, like Audrey Hepburn.

“It was horrible!!!” she wailed at the other end of the phone. She was exhausted. “I’ve been up since 3, and I didn’t sleep too good a couple of nights before.” I could hear her at the other end trying to pull herself together.

Who the hell wanted to feel this vulnerable?  She wasn’t a kid anymore; who had the energy for this?  She wasn’t that fifteen-year-old with stars in her eyes coming off of that plane.  And she could see by the look on Marty’s face that was who he had expected to meet at the airport.

“Today was a scratch,” she said, using a term from horseracing when a horse has to be removed from a race. “Let’s just say it was a scratch.”

Maybe this was a bad idea flying 3,000 miles so she and Marty could meet up. There was just too much pressure riding on this New York rendezvous. Who knew it would feel this wrong?  After 55 years the love story of Marty and Cookie was getting another shot.  A chance encounter on the internet (Cookie looked him up on Facebook) connected the two of them for the first time since she was 15 and Marty was 22, when the Army took him away, and the distance and age difference had split them apart. Now, years later, the two had finally reconnected through Facebook, emails, and the phone. Marty and Cookie had rekindled a spark while 3,000 miles away from each other: Marty, living on the east coast, and Cookie (a transplanted New Yorker) now living in L.A. Their new love story (sort of) wasn’t without complications: They were thousands of miles away from each other, and Marty was already taken.  He was married, but it was a marriage of convenience. They were both too old and set in their ways to break apart.  But he had his life, and his wife had hers.  So what did that mean to Cookie and Marty?  They both agreed that they should meet in person and see what would happen.

“I walked off of that plane, and there he was, and I could just tell from the look on his face that he was disappointed,” Cookie told me.

They had both exchanged current photos through email. And both had seemed content with how they now looked in this 21st century.

“Yeah, but it’s different when you’re staring up close, face to face. I didn’t look my best, trust me.”

I tried to cheer her up.  Maybe she was wrong.  Sometimes we’re so anxious our mind plays tricks on us, and it’s so easy to sabotage ourselves when we want something so much.

“Let’s put it this way: It wasn’t exactly love at first sight.”

“What were you wearing?” I asked her.

“Oy.”

There’s that word again.

“Black capris and a white t shirt that was clinging to all the wrong parts of my body.”

Oy.

“My hair was a mess.  My make-up was all over the place. I could just see on his face that this whole thing was one big mistake.”

All Cookie wanted to do was to get to the motel and climb into bed and sleep.  Instead, Marty took her out to a restaurant for hamburgers. They talked, but the words didn’t come as easily as they did when traveling 3,000 miles across phone lines. And when the meal was over all Cookie wanted was for Marty to drive her to the motel. After she had checked in (as quickly as possible), Marty walked her to her room, and Cookie told him she wanted to be alone.

“You’re not expecting to come in, are you?” she asked him.

Marty shook his head no – maybe a little too quickly for Cookie’s taste.  “It was a scratch,” she told me again just in case I hadn’t heard her the first time.

“You need your rest,” Marty told her, and Cookie agreed.

“Maybe it’ll be better tomorrow?” I suggest to her.

“It couldn’t be any worse.”

(TO BE CONTINUED: Tomorrow  (8/10/12) – A Love Story (Sort of): The New York Rendezvous (Pt. 2) 7 p.m. EST, 6 p.m. CST, 4 p.m. PST)

(If you’d like to read the earlier segments of the Cookie & Marty story, follow these links…

A Love Story (Sort of)

A Love Story Continues (Sort of)

A Love Story (sort of)

(Memories will get you into trouble every time, that’s a fact.  Especially when those memories are wrapped around a love story.  This love story started with the fleeting moments of a daydream, the kind that takes you back fifty odd years to a beach, a boy and a girl.  Of course everything is perfect in this daydream – this snapshot from yesterday. The boy is tall and tan, and the girl is simply beautiful – anything less and it wouldn’t be a memory. The fact that they didn’t stay together, that they each went their separate ways soon after that memory snapshot was taken is beside the point. Why spoil a daydream? After 55 years, the only thing that really matters is that the two of them met.)

At almost 70, Cookie was content with her life.

A bad marriage fizzled out years ago, and she soon got used to doing everything by herself. Raised the two kids with no help from the ex-Prince Charming while keeping the creditors at bay. It was no easy task, believe me.  It took a bankruptcy and a vegetable garden to keep her in the game. The first helped her start over, and the second kept them alive. They learned to eat zucchinis and tomatoes and so many carrots the baby’s skin turned orange. But that was a long time ago and Cookie doesn’t like to dwell in the past.

“Memories will only get you into trouble,” she’d always say. “You only remember the good stuff, not the bad.” So she planted herself deep in the day: eyes forward, no looking back.

Not until she hit 70.

Suddenly, at 70 her mind would start to wander, thinking back to the old days – before the kids, and before the deadbeat Prince Charming who swept her off her feet in the summer of 63. She blamed this bout of nostalgia on the 70th birthday party she had to throw for herself. She’d waited for one of her kids to throw it, but one was too busy and the other too broke. So Cookie did what she’s been doing her whole life – she took it on herself.  Planned out the menu, bought the wine, the appetizers, booked the backyard of a friend, sent out the invites, and started looking at snapshots.

That was her big mistake.

She wanted to send out a photo on the front of the invitation so she started going through the albums. That’s when she found it – tucked away in the back of the book. Back there with all the doubles of the snapshots, misplaced between the bar mitzvah pictures and her daughter’s handprint mother’s day cards. She found that damn beach photo of the two of them.

Any other time, she would’ve just looked at it, and so what? Maybe a little smile might have snuck out before tucking it back into the photo album. But that would’ve been it. No muss, no fuss. But nowadays? With the internet? And that Facebook thing? How could she not just type in his name innocently?  It’s not like they had this hot and heavy romance. She was 15, for crying out loud. And it was the 50s! There was a lot of kissing, but please, back then they had rules. What harm could there be in just typing in his name?

And that’s what she did.

His name was Marty. Suddenly, there on her computer screen (before she had even finished typing the last few letters) there was Marty staring back at her. No photo, just a name. But Cookie didn’t need a photo. She remembered him just fine, and if even if she didn’t, she held his image there in her hand.

He was good-looking for the time – had that pompadour hair from the fifties.  He was her first boyfriend. They were sitting there on a beach – Long Beach, Long Island – they were the picture of youth. Three weeks later he joined the Army, and summer was over. Cookie went back to school and other boyfriends. Marty went to Alaska.

It was probably for the best, her mother had told her. “He’s a man, almost 22, and what does he want with a girl your age? Nothing good, I can tell you that!” When Cookie wrote him to say she was moving on, it broke his heart. He would tell her this not at the time, but 55 years later after they connected again. First on Faceback, then in emails, and finally over the phone: “You broke my heart, you really did,” Marty would tell her. “Why din’t ya say somethin?’’ Cookie would ask in her thick Bronx accent. “I thought you knew!” was all he could say. “I was 15!” she would laugh. “What the hell does a girl know at 15?!”

So the two of them now have reconnected.

Marty still lives on the east coast, but Cookie’s 3,000 miles away in L.A.  Her kids are there, grown now, but where her kids are, that’s home for Cookie. They know about Marty – she’s filled them in. They just shrug, as grown kids often do – too busy with their own cares to care about hers. But her eleven-year-old granddaughter, Emma, worries that Cookie’s “moving too fast” and had a heart-to-heart with her while helping her prep the brisket for Passover. Marty had called and Cookie’s voice had changed to something so sweet Emma hadn’t even recognized it.

“You talk to him a lot,” Emma probed.

“Not that much.”

“Every day?”

“Every day,” Cookie finally admitted.

“That’s a lot! You don’t even know him!”

“I knew him 55 years already!”

She found herself defensive like she had been with her mother. But now her granddaughter was playing the role.

“But you don’t know him now! He could be something bad now!” Emma insisted.

“He’s 3,000 miles away.”

“He could get on a plane!”

Marty didn’t travel, Cookie told Emma. The last time he was on an airplane it was the one that brought him back from Alaska and the Army. He had puked the whole way back.  That was enough traveling for Marty. They could keep “the flying” – he’d go anywhere he had to go by car, or train, maybe a bus if he had to. But California was way too far for a fella in his almost late 70s.

Plus, there was one little complication (isn’t there always?): Marty had a wife.

Cookie didn’t admit this to Emma, or to anyone else for that matter. The old Cookie would have seen that one coming. But the new Cookie couldn’t care less. It’s not like Marty had tried to cover it up.  It was right there on the Facebook for all the whole world to see.  “Married” is what he put there so it wasn’t like he was trying to pull anything funny. Marty had brought it up right from the beginning, from their very first phone call, and it all made sense:

It was a loveless marriage for a long time. Separate bedrooms (and lives) as soon as the kids moved out.  The kids had kept them together at first, and now it was the money.They didn’t have much, but much less it would be if they went their separate ways. Besides, they belonged together – like the couch and the matching armchair they got for their wedding. Faded in the same way, well worn by the same use, they were too much of a set to split apart now. But she did her thing, and Marty did his.

Marty told Cookie all this. He asked her to think about it but she didn’t need much time to think at all.  She liked things just the way they were. Marty was the first person she spoke to in the morning, and the last one at night.  At 8 sharp, with that first cup of coffee, the phone would ring, before she headed off to work. Yeah, she still worked at 70. She would work until she dropped, this she was sure of. But like clockwork, the phone would ring at 8, and it would be Marty. Every day, including the weekends. He’d always just start talking – no hello, hi, or how are you. He just picked up the conversation from the email that she had sent him the night before. So her days were book ended by Marty: from her first cup of coffee to her last moments awake. There are married folks that don’t even have that. That’s something, Cookie would say.

It was changing her.

And maybe that’s what Emma didn’t like, and didn’t really understand. Her grandmother was turning into somebody she didn’t know – that 15-year-old girl back on that Long Island beach. For the first time, in a long time, the possibility of romance had entered Cookie’s life. Cookie Florsheim, at almost 71, was falling in love (sort of).  Who’d have thought it?

Slowly, even Emma started to come around to the idea.

When she had wanted her grandmother to buy her tickets to a concert, and Cookie had bought the wrong tickets, it was Marty who called up and said, “I got my finger on the buy button on the Ticketmaster website. Two for next month at Universal Amphitheater. You want?” And when Cookie’s car broke down and she had to call the Triple A for a tow, it was Marty who called her up the next morning; “I got three stores running specials on car batteries. I checked on the Google map and Sears looks to be the closest.”

Nobody had ever taken care of Cookie in such a way as Marty did. Not the slacker Prince Charming she had married who got lost in a coke habit and ran off with one of his acting students – after he got a series and started to make some money. Finally. Not that Cookie saw any of it.  After years of supporting him while he laid on the couch and refused to do a dish, straighten the house, or pick up a screaming baby, now after he left, he suddenly has money? Life’s not perfect, you know. It wasn’t exactly perfect. And even her own father had let her down, a man who died too young to be there when she really needed him. It wasn’t exactly perfect at all.

She didn’t know such men existed like Marty. He had given Cookie a reason to believe again. And more than that she didn’t need.  She would be fine with things just the way they were.  There was Facebook, and the phone. Maybe they’d even learn that Skype thing.  Or maybe not. Why risk a chance to find something wrong? Maybe he didn’t look so good, you know? Once you get past  65-70, it all goes to hell anyway. Nothing you can do about it. And besides, things were fine the way they were – It worked! Why fix something that wasn’t broken? Maybe if they stayed on their own side of the country, this could last forever. So Marty and Cookie continued with the emails and the phone calls –  living their own individual lives three time zones apart.

Until the weekend.

On Sundays, Marty sleeps late, and then packs himself a little lunch to go. A thermos of iced tea, some sunblock, and the New York Times, he tosses them all in the backseat of his Buick and heads off to Jones Beach.

Cookie meets her kids at the Farmers Market every Sunday for banana nut pancakes – thirty minutes max of family time. And then, picking up a large bottle of Aquafina, a granola bar, and fresh fruit, she heads to the magazine stall to pick up her copy of the New York Times. She’s off to spend the day on the sands of Venice Beach.

On Sundays Cookie and Marty go to the beach.

They read their New York Times, and eat their lunch, tossing crumbs to the seagulls. Sitting in beach chairs, and staring out at the water, they text message each other now and then, reminding one another to put on sunblock, and to find some shade when it gets too hot.  3,000 miles away from each other, Cookie and Marty are back on the beach together again.

And it’s perfect.

© 2012 Written by Darlene Craviotto

If you liked this, please read the other posts in the Cookie & Marty series:  

A Love Story Continues (Sort of)

A Love Story (Sort of): The New York Rendezvous (Pt.1)

A Love Story (Sort of): The New York Rendezvous (Pt. 2)