Prelude To Marriage



Jerome Turken

Waiting for Sylvia to come from the ladies room, Myron wandered over to a huge wall mirror in the lounge and snapped and brushed the creases from his jacket and straightened his tie, then stepped back a bit to examine his general appearance.  He was of medium height and had the lean build of, say, an avid jogger or bike rider.  He tapped his empty breast pocket.

“I forgot to put a handkerchief in,” he said to himself almost aloud.  Absorbed as he was in his appearance he did not notice Sylvia as she emerged from the ladies room.  She stood outside its door scanning the room, apparently perturbed that he was not positioned where she had left him.  A bit on the plump side, her dress, a brightly flowered print, although tight on her body, seemed to blunt somewhat her female contours.  And with bright blue eyes, small front teeth and straight blonde hair with its fringe of bangs, she evoked the strange sense of a twelve year old matron.

When she spotted Myron she shook her head and marched up to him, a bit unsteady on the heels of her white pumps as she crossed the heavily carpeted room.

“Why do you always wander away, Myron?” she said.

“I just wanted to see how I look in the mirror,” Myron said.

“Well, you look all right,” she said.  “Didn’t I say so when you first called for me?”

“Yeah,” he said.  “But I wanted to see for myself.”

“You’re so foolish sometimes, Myron,” she said.

“Why?” he said.

“Oh, never mind.”  She grasped his hand and leaned into him and gave him a kind of semi-hug.  He smiled and turned red.

“All the while I was in there I was thinking of you waiting, Myron,” she said.

“It was a good picture,” Myron said.  “Did you like it?”

“It was all right,” Sylvia said.  “Except I didn’t like the ending.  There was no reason for Audrey to die.  It would have been a better ending if she lived and married Tom.”

“Well she couldn’t have lived too long with an incurable brain tumor,” Myron said.

“They could have somehow found a miracle cure for it,” Sylvia said.  “Or given her something curable, like pneumonia or TB or something like that.”

“Yeah, well, I guess they could have,” Myron said.  “Could you go for

some Italian food?  That Italian restaurant we passed looked pretty good.”

“It also looked pretty expensive,” Sylvia said.

“Ah, come one, Sylvia,” Myron said.  “Tonight’s supposed to be a special night, isn’t it?  And you like Italian food.”

“But it doesn’t have to be especially expensive,” Sylvia said.  “These restaurants in Manhattan are very expensive.”

“Aah, come on, we only live once.”

“All right,” Sylvia said.  “If you say so.”

Outside it was sweltering, but it was just a few short blocks to the restaurant, where they joined a few groups waiting in the plush ante-room.  They were lucky.  The hostess came in and announced that a reserved a table for two hadn’t shown up and they were the only single couple waiting.

The main dining room was huge.  Large fancy chandeliers of cut glass hung from a high ceiling and there was plenty of brass.  All the tables had white tablecloths.  The silverware was nice and heavy, not that cheap stuff you find in local diners.  When they were seated the hostess put the menus and wine list on the table.

“Boy, fancy ain’t the word,” Sylvia said.  “I don’t know about this.”

When they opened their menus both remained silent a long moment, then Sylvia looked at up at Myron.

“You see these prices?” she said.  “Nothing is under twenty-eight dollars.  Antipasto is sixteen dollars.  Myron, let’s get out of here.”

Myron’s face had lost it’s color.  He didn’t look up.  “We can’t just walk out,” he said.

“Yes we can,” Sylvia said.  She got up.  “Are you coming?”

“Maybe we’ll just get—”

“Maybe we’ll just get nothing,” Sylvia said.  “A glass of seltzer here cost three dollars.”

Myron got up and followed Sylvia out to the street.   “What now?” he said.

“Manhattan is getting on my nerves,” Sylvia said.  “Lets just go back to Brooklyn.  We can grab a bite at the Newlight diner.

“All right,” Myron said.

Crossing Tenth Avenue on their way to his car there was a bright red neon DINER sign two blocks downtown.

“You’re hungry, aren’t you, Myron?” Sylvia said.

“Pretty hungry,” Myron said.

“Come on,” Sylvia said.

The prices on a menu in the window were reasonable enough for them to go in.  Sylvia didn’t particularly like the location of their table, the only available one, because it was right off the kitchen, and waitresses and busboys kept rushing past them through swinging doors with dirty dishes, and there were clanking noises and the smells and yelling back and forth in the kitchen.

“This table is getting on my nerves,” she said.

“Just pay no attention,” Myron said.

The waitress came and placed menus and glasses of water on the table.

“I’ll just have a hamburger deluxe and a coke,” Sylvia said.

“The same,” Myron said.

Myron picked up his glass and held it out.  “To us.”

“To us,” Sylvia said and picked up her glass.  “And a change in our lives for the better.”

“And a change in our lives for the better,” Myron said.

They clinked glasses and each took sips of their water and put their glasses back down.

“Are you calmed down now?” Myron said.

“I think so,” she said.  She did appear to relax, and smiled, apparently in appreciation of Myron’s effort to sooth her.  “Just think, Myron,” she said, “on November third we’ll be man and wife.  Last November third we hardly even knew each other.”

Myron smiled and stared at her.

“What?” she said.

He maintained his smile, but his mouth remained closed.

“What is it?” she said.  “I know you already.  You have something to tell me.”

“Maybe the November third after that we’ll be living in a little house like the one we saw in Mayberry, New Jersey,” he said.  “With the little garden.”

“I thought we said that was a possibility in about three years if we save smart.”

“Well, it may be a little sooner than that,” Myron said.

She looked at him.  “Why?”

“I was waiting for tonight to tell you this,” Myron said.  “To add to our celebration.  The day before yesterday Mr. Schwartz made me Assistant Foreman of the press department.”

“No kidding,” Sylvia said.  “That’s wonderful, Myron.  How much more pay will you get?”

“He hasn’t decided on the pay, but he says it’ll be substantially more than I’m getting now.”

“How substantially more?”

“I don’t know.  He said substantially more, and I take his word for it.”

“Myron, why do you always take everyone’s word for it?”

“Why should he lie?”

“You’d be surprised.

When they finished eating Sylvia said: “Don’t leave too high a tip, Myron.”

“This table wasn’t the waitress’s fault, Sylvia,” Myron said.

“Still and all,” Sylvia said.

Myron put a dollar and two quarters on the table.  Sylvia picked up the quarters and slipped them into the pocket of Myron’s jacket.  “Don’t be so free and easy with your money, Myron,” she said.

The weather had changed.  There was brisk breeze now, and the air was noticeably cooler.  She took his arm.

“What a relief to get out of there,” she said.  “What’s that way?”

“The Hudson River.”

“Let’s walk there,” she said.  She took his arm and leaned into him.  “I like to sit and look at water sometimes, don’t you?

“Sometimes,” he said.

“Looking at water does something to me.”


“It makes me feel cozy, like,” Sylvia said, nestling herself further into him.  “Doesn’t it make you feel cozy?”

“Sometimes,” Myron said.

“Especially if there’s a moon out,” Sylvia said.  “Is there a moon out?”

“I don’t think so,” Myron said.  “It looks overcast.”

They came to the river at a defunct wharf.  There was nowhere to sit so they stood at the edge of a decrepit bulkhead looking out over the water.

“Too bad there’s no moon out now,” Sylvia said

“Yeah, too bad,” Myron said.

“Moons make me think.”

“About what?”

“Oh, this and that,” Sylvia said.  “You know, different things at different times, depending on my mood.  I think about us a lot.  It seems my whole life changed.  And all because of you.  You changed my life, Myron.”

“For the better or worse?” Myron said with a big smile.

His smile made Sylvia smile.  “Don’t get smart, Myron,” she said.  “I’m serious.”  She turned her gaze back to the water.

“What are you thinking about now?” Myron said.

“About us in that house in Mayberry, New Jersey.  How many bedrooms it should have.”

“What are you thinking about that for?” Myron said.  “I would say three is enough like we agreed.”

“I think maybe we should add a bedroom.”

“What do we need four bedrooms for?”

“In case we decide to have three or four children instead of only two.” Sylvia said.  “You have to think ahead sometimes.”

“That’s pretty far ahead,” Myron said.

“Well anyway, it’s something to consider,” Sylvia said.  “You never can tell.”

She leaned into him and he took her around and they fell silent, just looking at the water and across it at the dim lights on the New Jersey shore.  After a while Sylvia spoke:

“Can I ask you something, Myron?” she said.  “Were you ever jealous over a girl?”

“What kind of question is that?” Myron said.

“A simple one,” Sylvia said.

“Jesus,” Myron said.

“I mean, you never seemed jealous when I was going with Sam,” Sylvia said, “and I always wondered why.”

“My philosophy is, what’s the use of being jealous,” Myron said.

“Well, if you like a girl and that girl is going with another fellow, it stands to reason you should be jealous,” Sylvia said.  “Don’t it?”

“Well something told me I didn’t have to be jealous,” Myron said.

“You mean to say I’m not worth being jealous over?” Sylvia said.

“Don’t put words in my mouth, Sylvia,” Myron said.  “All I’m saying is, jealousy don’t pay, that’s all.  I learned that a long time ago.  See, I was jealous once, but I got cured of it,” Myron said.

“Jealousy is not a disease, Myron,” Sylvia said.

“You know what I mean,” Myron said.

Sylvia looked at him, waiting for him to continue, but nothing further seemed to be forthcoming.  “Well how did you get cured of it?” she said.

“What’s the difference?”

“You’re always saying what’s the difference,” Sylvia said.  “This is important to me, Myron.”

“I said what’s the difference, Sylvia, and I meant it,” Myron said.  “Don’t you know by now I never say anything unless I mean it?”

“Well excuse me!” Sylvia said.

“Aah, it was a long time ago, Sylvia, ” Myron said, “and I practically forgot all about it.”

“How long ago?” Sylvia said.

He closed his eyes and lifted his head to think and after a moment said: “Twenty-one years ago.”

“Twenty one years ago?” Sylvia said.  “You were only six.”

“That’s right,” Myron said.  When I was in the 1A in P.S. 184 I realized if two people are meant for each other they’ll get together, and if they’re not they won’t, and that’s all there is to it.  Jealousy don’t count.”

“You realized all this when you were six in the 1A,” Sylvia said.

“That’s right,” Myron said.  “And I don’t feel like discussing it further.”

“All right,” Sylvia said.  “So we won’t discuss it further.”

The breeze suddenly intensified to gusts.

“But I don’t know why not,” Sylvia said.

“Because it’s not worth discussing further,” Myron said.

“I’m not so sure I get your reasoning,” Sylvia said.  “Isn’t it worth fighting for a girl you really like?”

There was a flash in the western sky followed by a rumble of thunder.

“I think we’d better get to my car before it starts coming down,” Myron said.  “Come on.” He took her hand and started to hurry toward the car, practically pulling Sylvia along as he quickened his pace.

“You’re going too fast, Myron,” she cried.

They still had several long blocks to go when drops started to smack the pavement.  Myron veered toward the narrow doorway of a tiny leather goods store, but she held him back.

“Look,” she said.

Parked at the curb farther down the block was a bright red wagon with its roof fringed with a yellow valence, its wooden horse shafts resting on the ground.  On its side, printed in old‑style lettering, was BOB HARPER’S NEW YORK TOUR.  As they reached the wagon Myron grabbed the handgrip and quickly stepped up to the footboard under the front seat, then gave Sylvia his hand.  When she got up she made a move to sidle to the rear where there were four sets of double seats, but he held her back as he sat down on the driver’s seat.

“We can sit right up here in the front seat,” he said. “We won’t get wet.”

“You sure?” she said, but sat down next to him.  “I think I feel drops.”

“Aa, it’s nothing,” he said.  “We won’t get wet.”  He took hold of a pair of imaginary reins and snapped them.  “Giddap!” and he bounced to the rhythm of an imaginary horse.  “When I was a kid we always used to play cowboys and Indians.  I was always the stagecoach driver.  I used to knock off the Indians or outlaws trying to rob the gold.”  He dropped the reins and picked up an imaginary rifle.  “Pow!  Pow!  They used to drop like flies and I’d bring the mail with the gold safely into Dodge City.”

“Don’t get carried away, Myron,” Sylvia said.

“This reminds me of the old days when I was a kid,” Myron said.

A commotion was coming up the street.  Scurrying through the rain were two couples in some kind of squabble over whether or not they should have left someplace to get someplace else.  They looked to be in their thirties.

“I told you we shouldn’t of made a run for it!”

“Come on, stupid!”

“You’re the one who’s stupid!”

“Look, there’s a wagon there!” one of the men yelled and came running over. “Come on, let’s climb in!”

“It looks like we have passengers,” Sylvia said.

“Can we have a lift?” the man said to Sylvia, who was sitting on the inside, nearest the curb.  He was short and squat and was wearing a loud black and white checkered sports jacket.  Sylvia sidled toward Myron to make room for the man to climb up and over the front seat.

The other three were drenched and out of breath when they reached the wagon.  One of the woman stepped up on the foot rest and the man in the wagon grabbed her hand and tried to pull her in.  The man still in the rain stooped and put both his palms under her buttocks and gave her such a heave that she almost landed on Sylvia’s lap.  Sylvia took hold of her and held her until she was stabilized, her knees resting on the seat.  Her eyes were blackened with smudges and specks of wet mascara.

The man on the ground turned to look at the other woman, who seemed reluctant to let him help her.  She was short and chubby.  The man in the wagon grabbed her hand and was trying to tug her up but she was busy trying to fend off the man on the ground, who was trying to get his palms under her buttocks to heave her up as he did the other woman.

“Stop it, Herbie!” she yelled.  Come on stop it!  Don’t do to me what you just did to Angie!”

“Come on, Minnie,” Herbie, the man on the ground said.  “Let’s go!  We’re getting soaked, so don’t do a Snow White on me right now!”

Holding a hand behind her to protect her buttocks, Minnie grabbed the upright and tried to step up to the foot support but fell backwards, right into the hands of the man.  Squinting to keep water out of her eyes, she looked up at Sylvia and Myron. “This is terrible.”

Herbie, his hands now gripping Minnie’s large waist at the sides, straightened her up and was trying to lift her.  Completely out of control of her body now, she was just letting herself be manipulated, her limbs going wherever they were being pushed, pulled, drawn or dragged by the two men plus gravity, like a plump rag doll’s.  The only thing she seemed to be attending to was trying to keep her dress down, which had climbed to reveal two balloons of thigh above her stocking tops.  Finally the men managed to get her up and over the front seat.  When Herbie got into the wagon himself he looked as though he had just climbed out of a lake.  His head was soaked and water was dripping from his nose, chin and ear lobes.

The couples settled themselves in the compartment behind the driver’s seat so that the men were on the same bench back to back with Sylvia and Myron and the women were on the bench opposite facing them.

“I have mascara in my eye, Angie said.  “Give me your handkerchief,


Herbie rolled the damp handkerchief he was using into a ball.  “Here!” He threw it at her.  It hit her chest and fell to her lap.  She gave him a look.

“I’m married to an animal,” she said.  She unrolled the handkerchief and started to dab her eye.  “I’m starting to shiver.  Go get the car, Herbie, I want to go home.”

Herbie gave her a hard look.

“Herbie goes deaf when it’s convenient,” Angie said.

“She’s crazy,” Herbie said.

“If I don’t get into the car soon I’m going to catch pneumonia,” Angie said.

“Aah, go ahead and catch pneumonia,” Herbie said.

“Did you hear that?” Angie said.  “You’d love that, wouldn’t you?  Well, maybe you’ll get your wish.”  She got up and climbed onto the seat where the two men were sitting and put a leg over the back onto the front seat beside Sylvia.

“Where are you going, Angie?” Herbie said.

“Home, if it makes any difference to you.”

“How are you going to get home, Angie?”

“I heard a rumor there are subways in New York.”

“Sit down, Angie.”  Herbie grabbed the back of her blouse.

“Myron,” Sylvia whispered, “Let’s get out of here.”

“What are you getting so upset for?” Myron said. “They’re only having a little family squabble.’

“Family squabble?” Sylvia said.  “In two minutes they’re going to kill each other.  Let’s get down.”

“We’ll get wet,” Myron said.  “Look how it’s still raining.”

“I don’t care if I drown,” Sylvia said. “I don’t like what’s going on here.  I want to get away from these people.  Myron, are you listening to me?”

“Aah, come on, Angie,” the other man said.  “Be reasonable. Can’t you see how hard it’s raining?  If you go out there you’ll really catch pneumonia.”

“Let her catch pneumonia” Herbie said.  “Go ahead, go catch pneumonia.”  He jumped up and lifted Angie bodily and swung her over the side and lowered her onto the curb.  “Go catch pneumonia.  Let’s see you catch pneumonia.”

Angie looked stunned for a moment then started screaming at the top of her lungs.

“Go ahead, what are you waiting for?” Herbie said.  “Well?  Go catch pneumonia!”

Angie stood there in the rain wailing a moment longer then started to run up the street.  Herbie yelled at her:  “Come back here, you fuckin moron!”

“I’m getting scared, Myron,” Sylvia whispered. “The language and all.”

“Just relax,” Myron whispered back. “Nothing’ll happen.”

Herbie hopped over the side of the wagon and caught up to Angie and grabbed her arm and pulled her back to the wagon, with Angie still wailing to beat the band.  He lifted her and practically threw her over the side into the arms of the other man, who was standing at the railing to receive her.

“Nothing’ll happen?” Sylvia said.  “Look at that.”

Walking up the street Herbie yelled to no on in particular: “Never marry

an Italian!”

“I won’t,” Myron said.

Sylvia leaned into Myron aid said, “You had to answer him?”

“You suffocate!”  Herbie yelled.

“I was just being sociable,” Myron said.

“Now’s not the time to be sociable, Myron,” Sylvia said.  “Now’s the time to get out of here.”

“Break your Jewish leg!” Angie screeched after Herbie.

Sylvia gave Myron a nudge. “The rain stopped,” she said. “Let’s go.  Right now.”

“All right,” Myron said.  He got up and sidled past Sylvia and jumped to the curb and supported her as she climbed down.  “Well, goodbye folks, it was a pleasure.  Say goodbye to Herbie for us.”

“Don’t act like you enjoyed their company,” Sylvia said, taking Myron’s arm.  After walking a while in silence she said: “I don’t know about this institution of marriage.  I’ll bet hanging on a wall someplace at home is a wedding picture of them in gown and tuxedo sitting on a rug looking into each other’s eyes adoringly.”

“They must still feel something for each other,” Myron said.

“Yeah, hate,” Sylvia said.

“You can never tell,” Myron said.  “Maybe they still love each other for all we know.”

“Well, if they do it’s awful funny love, let me tell you,” Sylvia said.  “I don’t know, after watching that spectacle I think maybe marriage isn’t such a good idea after all,” Sylvia said.

“Aah, don’t say that, Sylvia,” Myron said.