Part one. Part two. Part three.
“Who me?” I shrugged and pretended to wipe a piece of lint off my shirt. “Never.” We presented ourselves to Rabbi Saltzman. The pinch hitter sent up by the Padres to hit for their pitcher lined a double to straightaway center. Eight runs, three pitching changes, and 30 minutes later, we had each found our seats again and ordered another round of $10 beers. I had excused myself to take a leak, returning in time to see that final run score and watch as the next batter lifted a fly ball to the ivy-covered wall where it mercilessly settled into the rightfielder’s glove.
Was it an omen? The gods, whoever they were, delaying what shouldn’t happen with the hope I’d come to my senses. Or maybe Chicago might turn to me and with one of those smiles with her eyes downcast, she would say, suddenly shy of me, “I’m sorry, but this isn’t happening.” She would admit finally, “that it was all a silly lark,” brought about by her anger at her fiancé. That it had all gone too far and now mercifully it was over. She would sigh deeply and then shoo me away with her hands.
Instead, the Rabbi told us about how he and his wife had met back in the city – New York City. They had married almost like we were. Hardly knowing each other but desperate to do so before he went off to Vietnam. Whether it was the beers he had drunk, the emotion of the moment and his memories, or just the indigestion from his brats and garlic fries, he even shed a tear as he asked us to rise as soon as the third out was recorded.
It was then that the good Rabbi administered our vows, with our luxury box waitress as our witness.
It was then that I learned Chicago’s real name and decided to stick with Chicago.
It was then that the Rabbi asked what I was doing and she winked at me and said, “Go on.”
It was only a few more breaths later when we were pronounced man and wife, as a desultory crowd of Cubs fans finished the final words of baseball’s seventh inning anthem.
We kissed amidst the rustle of 40,000 returning to their seats and the lights of the stadium beginning to glow in the early evening. I could feel her smile as our lips met and the heat of her body as she pressed into me. I was convinced I had never wanted anything more than to know everything there was to know about this woman in my arms.
“Now I can get some cotton candy,” the rabbi mumbled as he turned away from us. “You two need a room.”
If only it was that easy.
When the game was over, we exited with the rest of the Wrigley throngs and made our way back to our hotel. We hung on each other through the lobby and into the elevator. I confidently hit the button for the 14th floor where her room was and leaned against the back wall, expecting Chicago to settle into my arms.
Instead, she punched the 11 button and stood apart from me. “I owed you a third thing.” I looked at the button for the 11th floor lit up. It was the floor my room was on. When we checked in, Chicago insisted on separate rooms. “Not yet, you tiger,” she said, batting her eyes and kissing me on the cheek, when I looked at her, no doubt with desperation on my face. For the last two nights, I had slept alone, imaging the pleasures and treasures that awaited on the 14th floor.
“What? What are you talking about?”
Chicago wrapped her arms around herself. “At the bar. We never got past cats.” She shivered. I wanted to keep her warm. “Thing is … I’m not that kind of girl.” She swiped a hand through her hair. “I can’t sleep with you tonight. I hardly know you. We haven’t even …”
The doors slid closed. “We just got married!”
“ … really had a first date.” The elevator started moving.
“It’s our wedding night.” I then processed what she had said. “What about the bar?”
“Don’t be silly. That wasn’t a date. That was like a getting to know you get together at a coffee shop after meeting on Match.”
“What about …”
Chicago moved closer to me then and held her finger to my lips. “Ssshhh, my dear. All in good time.” The elevator stopped at the 11th floor and the doors opened. “Have a little patience with me. We just need to get to know each other a little more.” The doors started to slide closed so she reached her hand out to keep them open. “When we get back to Seattle. A couple of dates oughta do it.” She tilted her head at me. “Don’t you think?”
What was I to do? I sighed and walked off the elevator, too damn frustrated to even look back as the doors dinged close. At the door of my room, I fumbled with the key card, dropping it, sliding it in backwards, and then finally getting the door open. In the darkened room, a blinking red light drew me to the phone on the nightstand. A message awaited me. Who left messages on hotel phones these days, I thought as I picked up the phone and followed the instructions.
The mechanical voice of the recorder told me the message had been left at 5:15, while we were at the game. The message began to play. “You silly goose,” came Chicago’s voice. “Get on up here. We’ve got a wedding to celebrate.”
*** END ***