Love on East 13th Street: IV, Ever After

Ross Konikoff

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“I burned most of the day kicking around, eyeing my watch. I passed a few lookers on the way home who, under normal circumstances, might have earned a second or third leer, but I was too tormented to make the effort. When I finally got back, I got comfortable and trickled a dozen ounces of brandy down my throat. Brandy always induces a cool, detached sense of logic and perspective and, Brother, I needed plenty of both. I was about to step off a towering ledge, but I suspected the long glide down might just be worth the hard landing.”—Ross Konikoff

West Side Stories

 By Ross Konikoff

Deborah and Ross, in Monaco, before selfies.

Deborah and Ross, in Monaco, before selfies.

Ross Konikoff

 

MANHATTAN New York—(Weekly Hubris)—June 2018—I burned most of the day kicking around, eyeing my watch. I passed a few lookers on the way home who, under normal circumstances, might have earned a second or third leer, but I was too tormented to make the effort. When I finally got back, I got comfortable and trickled a dozen ounces of brandy down my throat. Brandy always induces a cool, detached sense of logic and perspective and, Brother, I needed plenty of both. I was about to step off a towering ledge, but I suspected the long glide down might just be worth the hard landing.

When it finally agreed to be 7:00, I dialed her number. She picked up on the second ring. I was getting more popular. We kept it short, making a covenant to pair up at 9:30 the following evening at a small trattoria in the east village.

I stayed inside the next day, hoping the rain would end before evening. The fewer the complications, the better. I got lucky and the rain let up, so I showed early, shuffling my feet for ten minutes before she rounded the corner, parading in on beige heels, a light blue coat, and a navy Hermes scarf. I almost heard music. She walked up and kissed me on the cheek, wearing a smile that melted everything inside me that wasn’t already molten. We locked arms and went inside. Some cute little wren nested us in a dimly lit booth in back, and we slid in next to each other.     

“So, last night . . . how did he take it?” I asked.

She took a deep breath.

“He didn’t like it, but it wasn’t a left hook,” she said. “He’ll be alright.”

“That’s a tough call to make,” I said. “Most guys don’t have the guts.”

“Yeah, tell me . . .” she said, and then changed the conversation over to swing music. She spoke about bands from the 20s and 30s, names I’d never heard of. Then she described how sidemen used to be idolized like pro baseball players. “Have you heard? This tenor player just left this band to join that band, and that band just fired this trumpet player and hired a new hot player!” She really knew her stuff. I bluffed along the best I could, nodding and raising my eyebrows, pretending to recognize the names of drummers, sax players, and singers she loved, but I wasn’t kidding anybody. I finally had to come clean when she asked me which Benny Goodman trumpet player was my favorite. I drilled down, but came up empty.

“I never bothered listening to much of anything earlier than bebop from the late 40s. Whenever I did, it usually sounded corny and old fashioned,” I said, immediately regretting my words.

Her eyes caught fire and she seethed.  

“Where in hell do you think your favorite jazz players came from? Don’t you have any interest in learning the history of what you do?” Her rage was quick, volatile, and powerful, equaling the fierce passion she’d shown me over the course of those spectacular nights we’d shared.  

“I never thought about it that way,” I said, looking into her enraged eyes.

“Teach me,” I said, smiling.

Her eyes softened and her mouth relaxed.

“It’s all in the lips,” she said. I pulled her in and gave her a kiss that she felt down to her Ferragamos. We didn’t come up for air until the waiter blundered over, clearing his throat with a roar like a freight train. We ate, drank, and laughed for a couple more hours until we noticed the joint was empty and the waiters were glaring at us, so we paid up, jumped into a cab, and got back to my place, where we barely finished another glass before tearing into each other once again.

I woke up the next morning, my mind racing. The time had come to settle all the family business. The minute her eyes fluttered open, I said, right out loud,

“I want you to move in with me.”

It wasn’t sporting of me to ambush her first thing in the morning, but it couldn’t wait.

She yawned as she mulled over the idea.

“Look, all I do anymore is wait around until the next time I see you, and that’s bad for business. I wanna buy you things, take you places, I want you in my bed every night—”

“I’m not moving in unless we’re married,” she interrupted, which was just as well since I was almost out of things I wanted.

Would you marry me?” I asked, startled that she’d already considered the notion.  

“Would I, or WILL I?” she said, demanding clarification.

“Hell, I’ll marry you. When?”

“I’m off on Friday.”

“OK. We’ll get married Friday.”

“OK.”

“OK.”

Between work and making plans, we didn’t see much of each other for the next couple of days. To be espoused in New York State you had to make with the blood tests, proof of ID, $30 bucks for the license, and then wait 24 hours. After watching a shaky-handed, elderly RN repeatedly stab all around a viable vein, finally leeching out 100 cubic centimeters worth of me-juice, Xeroxing my nativity cert, and then waiting out the 24-hour “sober up and rethink your proposal” requirement, I was at peace and ready to go. The time apart did us both good, allowing for an easier transition from two neurotic singles to one neurotic couple. The next sight we had of each other was Friday at noon, when I picked her up at her apartment, following which we rode downtown together and closed the deal. A kiss for luck, and we were on our way.

Fast forward 28 years to last Sunday morning, with the two of us tangled up in the sheets, slowly regaining consciousness. She stretched her arms and legs, practically pushing me off the bed. I grabbed her and pulled her in close and held tight. Still a good fit. A few minutes later, she groaned,

“Coffee . . . somebody get me coffee . . .”

I laughed, and then she laughed.

I still get a kick out of that.

Editor’s Note: Read Parts I [http://weeklyhubris.com/love-on-east-13th-street/], II [http://weeklyhubris.com/love-on-east-13th-street-ii-the-pursuit/] and III[http://weeklyhubris.com/love-on-east-13th-street-iii-interplay/] of “Love on 13th Street” here.

Ross Konikoff

About Ross Konikoff

Ross Konikoff, freelance New York City trumpet player, states he is delighted and honored to have his work put before the highly discriminating readers of Weekly Hubris, published and edited by his friend and mentor, Elizabeth Boleman-Herring. Konikoff was born in Buffalo, New York, a cold environment; surrounded by desperate people, out of work, out of money, and out of opportunity. And that was just in his house. Determined to pull himself up by his mute straps, Ross quickly ascended from his first job as a seven-year-old paperboy to his second job as an eight-year-old paperboy. Eventually, he taught himself how to play the trumpet and learned many songs; managed to make something of himself; and accumulated a Manhattan condo, a trophy wife, and a phalanx of deadbeat friends along the way. The trumpet requires hours of daily maintenance to stay in tip-top shape, but Ross’s desire to write things that make people laugh also requires hours of work. Splitting his time between his lips and his laptop, he humbly presents to you his first efforts at getting some laughs and, most importantly, some attention: Breaking Even Every Time; and You've Got To Be Carefully Taught.
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9 Responses to Love on East 13th Street: IV, Ever After

  1. Jean says:

    Ah, Ross, further proof that heat, common interests, a shared sense of the ridiculous and being friends are the magic charms by which long term relationships are nurtured. This series has been wonderful. Thank you.

  2. Ross Konikoff says:

    Jean,
    How nice of you to write such a lovely compliment. I’m so glad you liked it. It’s my favorite too!

  3. a fan says:

    It’s about time the rest of the world is able to enjoy the mind of Ross Konikoff. Humor that keeps you on your toes, word pictures that enhance the landscape, and stories you long to be a part of. Reading his work is pure pleasure.

  4. Ross Konikoff says:

    I’m blushing from nose to chin. Too kind, whoever you are!

  5. Jerry Zimmerman says:

    Hi Ross…
    You had me at the Nude Beach and I’ve been laughing ever since!

    I’ve loved being on East Thirteenth Street with you while you stumbled into your great romance, hung on for dear life while being swallowed whole and settled in for the long haul of delicious joy, an excellent choice!

    Your writing is a hotel-sized pot of love, seasoned with wit and wickedness – what could be better?!

  6. Ross Konikoff says:

    Jerry,
    You’re so kind to write such flattery! Your comments themselves are so beautifully written that first thing tonight I’m rushing over to your posts and enjoy your writing too. Thank you.

  7. Luciano says:

    Wow! Brilliant story telling. Makes me want to play the trumpet and meet a beautiful girl.

  8. Ross Konikoff says:

    Luciano, I highly recommend both. Then write about it!

  9. Larry Lange says:

    Hath ye no knowledge of the great 1930’s sax player Shep Fields and His Rippling Rhythm” orchestra? He could blow air through a soda straw in a glass of water at the mic better than anyone of the big band era.
    Hey, you could have just split for Vegas, avoided the blood draw, and had Elvis at your wedding.

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