MARDIE (Part 4)
The next day’s plan was a rerun of my first full day in New York, except that I didn’t see Mardie for lunch, as she told me she had a prior appointment.
So I spent the day doing the sights of New York and duly ensconced myself in the lobby of Mardie’s office building at the appointed hour.
I waited…. and waited….probably an hour all told, before she finally appeared at the lift door. I could have sworn I saw her swiftly withdraw her hand with the guy standing next to her as they exited the lift, but maybe I had imagined it. My mind had been creating all kinds of painful scenarios while I had been sitting in the lobby wondering what had become of her.
Mardie caught sight of me and scampered over to where I was sitting, full of apologies about working late and also full of smiles, which I hadn’t seen much of since my arrival in the USA.
To my total surprise she actually gave me a public kiss on my lips, most unusual for her, but as I savoured the kiss, licking my lips, I detected the distinct taste of alcohol, and as I made to give her of hug, my suspicions were confirmed; she had been drinking. But not in the office surely – and if she had a drink at lunchtime, it would have long since dissipated from her breath.
I kept my thoughts to myself, but as we walked towards the street exit, I looked around, and asked her if there was more than one block of elevators. Without thinking, she said “yes” and pointed to the other end of the lobby. Then she asked? “Why?”
“Oh…no reason, I just wondered… after all it’s a big building.”
She stopped walking and gave me a long hard look. “Mobi, are you trying to have a fight?”
“Me…no…of course not, come on, it’s nothing.”
Mardie followed me in silence, but as we approached the subway entrance, she informed me that she was feeling very tired and we would go straight back to her apartment tonight, and buy a couple of “TV meals” on the way.
She reverted back to her stony silence, and I was left to my own thoughts. They weren’t very good thoughts either. I decided that she had probably lied to me and had been out for a drink with someone, after work, and had then sneaked back to her office in the other lift, which was out of sight from where I had been sitting. Why else would she smell of alcohol, and why would she turn so angry when I asked her about another elevator in her building.
Even in those far off, naïve days, I understood that for many women, and certainly Mardie, the best form of defence was attack. Had I had got a bit too near the mark for Mardie’s comfort?
We stopped off at a corner grocery storm around the corner from her building, and duly arrived back at her building, still in silence.
When we sat down to eat our meal I couldn’t stand it any longer and broached the subject of her late arrival after work. I suggested that she may have gone out for a drink, as I could smell the alcohol on her breath.
For a long time, she said nothing, but finally she put down her knife and fork, turned to look at me, and gave me a weak smile.
“Mobi, you have to understand that I am not a nun. Surely you cant’ think that I wouldn’t have any dates since I left London and returned to New York?
“Well, no, of course not, but I didn’t expect you would have a date while I was here, and especially when I was waiting for you at your office. I was sitting there, waiting for you and you were out, boozing it up with another man!”
The anger came to the surface again and I could see she was becoming increasingly irritated with the direction of my remarks.
But I couldn’t stop myself.
“Mardie, don’t you understand how much I’ve missed you? How much I love you? I’ve been counting the days to when I would see you again, ever since the very day you left London.
“I’ve flown half way across the world, just to spend a few days with you, and you have barely made me welcome, hardly a kiss – except that drunken one this evening! And now you top it all, you stand me up, go out canoodling with some office hunk and lie to me to boot!”
She was furious.
“OK, I admit I went out for a drink – but I wasn’t boozing it up, nor was I canoodling with an office hunk. If you must know, my boss took me out for a quick drink because he wanted to offer me a new job – a promotion, with more money! OK? you stupid, fucking limey! And by the way, you might think you’re in love with me, but you’re not. You’re too young, too stupid. You know nothing about love! And I tell you buster, I most certainly do not love you!”
With that she stormed into her bedroom and locked the door, leaving her half eaten meal still on the table.
I was distraught – I had screwed up big time and had no idea how to repair the damage.
I spent another sleepless night. The following day was Saturday, and Mardie wouldn’t be going to work. I had no idea what was going to happen between us.
As before, I finally fell asleep just before dawn, and by the time I came round, Mardie had been up for ages and was busy cooking breakfast. Her flat mate was also there, helping her.
Mardie behaved as though the previous evening’s row had never happened, and I immediately started to feel a bit better.
She cooked a lovely breakfast and as the three of us sat down to eat, she gave me a warm smile and announced the plans for the day.
We had been invited by a friend, to his house for an early evening meal – following which, he was going to drive us up state to Bear mountain, where we would go ice skating.
This sounded fine to me, except for the fact that I had never been ice skating in my life.
I began to think that we had put the unpleasantness of the previous evening behind us.
Things started quite well, despite the fact that Mardie’s friend was a six foot four, sixteen stone hunk, with a really swish, huge American auto. He looked down on me, literally, and welcomed me to his country and asked me what I did for a living. I told him and returned the query.
He looked at me and smiled, and said carefully in his all New York accent:
“I’m a Lorry driver. That’s what you limeys call them don’t you? Lorries?”
I smiled shyly and agreed he was correct.
Somehow, this little exchange seemed to put me at a psychological disadvantage, and from then on Chuck Jr, (yes of course he had to be a “Chuck Jr”), seemed to take charge of me and the day.
The three of us took the lift to the car park, where I was directed to the back seat and Mardie sat up front with Chuck Jr, even though there would have been more than enough room for the three of us in the front seat of Chuck’s enormous ‘auto’.
But it seemed that Chuck Jr wanted to share some secrets with Mardie and he kept talking to her in a low voice, which I couldn’t make out, and Mardie would respond with delighted giggles.
The first stop was the supermarket, where Chuck Jr did his food shopping for our forthcoming meal. Thence to Chuck’s impressive pad, where he and Mardie got to work on preparing the food.
Of course it couldn’t be anything else but enormous T-Bone steaks and the trimmings. In spite of the freezing weather, Chuck cranked up the Barbeque out on his balcony and braved the elements to cook up our repast.
During the process of overcooking the steaks, Chuck Jr. produced a bottle of malt whiskey from his bar and asked me if I would like a snifter. He said he had bought the bottle especially for me, as he knew I was a limey, and intimated that he would be offended if I didn’t join him.
I was feeling somewhat intimidated, not to say quite miserable, at the way the day was developing. I was was worryingly aware of the obvious chemistry between Chuck Jr. and Mardie; so I actually welcomed the idea of a drink, thinking that it would help to relax me.
Chuck poured an enormous ‘snifter’ into a tumbler with ice, while at the same time telling me that he knew I wouldn’t want anything added to spoil the taste of the pure malt liquor. He had this way of telling me what I should do.
I took a large swig at the snifter, as did Chuck Jr. from his own glass. I wasn’t going to let him get the better of me in the drinking stakes.
That might well have been the biggest single mistake I made on my trip to New York.
I could hold my drink, and as I have written elsewhere, was already on my way to being a serious drinker, but I wasn’t yet in Chuck Jr.’s league. He downed his glass in two gulps, so I did the same. Refill followed refill, with Chuck periodically rushing outside to tend to the steaks for a few minutes, before returning to down yet another “snifter’ and looking at me to do likewise, which of course I did.
By the time the meal was served, I was already well on the way to being extremely pissed, and the wine that was served with the food only added to my already unsteady state.
Chuck Jr. appeared to be stone sober – and probably was, by his drinking standards.
The meal was finally over and we adjourned back to the car for the late afternoon journey to Bear Mountain.
The seating arrangements were the same as before, except that I noticed through my drunken haze that Chuck Jr. kept putting arm around Mardie on the front bench seat, and drove the car with a single hand on the wheel.
I was feeling so drunk by this time that I was almost past caring, and then the combination of a sleepless night; countless snifters of malt whiskey, followed by a belly full of T-bone steak all conspired to send me immediately into a deep drunken sleep.
I awoke as we drove into the car park of the ice skating centre. We were way up in the mountains and the temperature was well below zero, and snow had settled all around.
I felt dreadful. I was still drunk and had a terrible headache.
I staggered after Mardie and Chuck Jr. as they entered the building, and looked forward to finding a suitable seat to lie down on and continue my sleep.
But my nemesis was having none of it. Chuck Jr. and Mardie exhorted me to follow them to the skate hire counter. I protested that I had never skated before, and that I wasn’t feeling too good, but they would have none of it. They more or less pushed me toward the counter and asked me my shoe size, and before I knew it I was putting on my first (and last) pair of ice skates.
(I should add that I had never even been on roller skates, so I had absolutely no skating balance whatsoever.)
I gingerly followed them onto the ice. It was bloody freezing, and no sooner had my skates hit the ice, than I went flying. Bruised but still conscious, Chuck Jr. and Mardie took me by the arms and pulled me up and attempted to skate with me along the perimeter of the rink.
I must have looked absolutely ridiculous as I was being held up by my two companions and my feet were going in every which direction, as though they had lives of their own.
After a few minutes Chuck became weary with this game, and let go of my arm and skated away, showing one and all his skating prowess.
I almost hit the decks again, but Mardie saved me, and gently helped me towards the edge of the ice where I grabbed the barrier as though my life depended on it.
Mardie spent a further few minutes trying to coax me back onto the ice, and gave me some brief instructions on how to stay upright, but every time I let go of the barrier, within seconds I was flat on my back.
Then Mardie grew weary of this inept Englishman, and she too, sped away to join Chuck Jr. who was doing what looked like pirouettes in the middle of the ice.
I tried a few more times to re-commence my career as an ice skater, but each time I achieved the same result, with ever more bruises, so finally I gave up the unequal battle and virtually crawled my way onto dry ground, where I sat down on the nearest bench and heaved an enormous sigh of relief.
Never again, in my whole life would I venture onto an ice skating rink.
I removed my skates, and all of a sudden I felt a pain in my feet that quickly became excruciating. My feet were killing me. Looking down I could see that both feet had blood oozing through two my layers of socks. I was truly in a fine, bloody mess.
I sat there for probably an hour while Chuck Jr. and Mardie enjoyed themselves on the ice, no doubt laughing together at the helpless incompetent limey who had come with them.
By the time they came back to me, my head felt it was about to explode and I was in a pretty bad state. But I still had a bit of British “stiff upper lip” left in my soul, so I didn’t let on that I felt ill, nor did I tell them that my feet were bathed in blood and hurting like hell. I had put my shoes back on and the blood was barely visible.
Unfortunately my nightmare day wasn’t yet over.
I hobbled back to the car, slid into my back seat position and lay down to get some desperately needed sleep.
We must have been about half way home when I woke with a start, and before I knew what was happening, I puked up – all over myself and all over Chuck Jr.’s beautiful, shiny car.
Chuck Jr. was not impressed. Of course it was mainly the booze, plus a stomach full of undigested food plus all the other unpleasant things that had been going on in my body that evening.
But I told them that it was just the food that had somehow disagreed with me, not wishing them to know that on top of all my other failings, I couldn’t hold my booze.
It transpired that Chuck Jr. was more solicitous to my welfare than my erstwhile lover, and he produced tissues and swabs and helped me clean up my mess as best as we were able and then we continued our journey back to Queens and thence to Mardie’s apartment. The smell was overpowering, but no-one was saying anything – especially Mardie, who kept a stony silence throughout the journey.
We finally made it back, and I staggered into the lift, smelling like the worst down and out from the Bowery.
Once back in Mardie’s home, I felt sick again and barely made it to the bathroom before I threw up yet again. I was in a terrible state Most of you have been there at some point in your lives so you will know how I felt. I managed to crawl back into my room, but the room was spinning around and I felt worse than ever.
Then I threw up again, on the floor of the bedroom. Mardie came near the room and asked me if I was OK? I replied in the affirmative, and she slammed the door and disappeared to spend the night with her flat mate.
I lay there in my own mess for a while, and then gathered sufficient strength, to return to the bathroom, get hold of some tissues and clean up the floor as best as I was able. Then I collapsed again and fell into a very long, very drunken sleep.
This romantic holiday that I had been looking forward to for so long had turned into a disastrous nightmare.