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July/August 2018

We met for dinner the following night, at Gibson’s, the steak joint on Rush Street. Two guys who play for the Chicago Blackhawks were at the next table with rather bimboesque women, possibly their wives. A few people came up to their table to ask for autographs.

“You seem a touch on edge,” Laura said. “Anything wrong?”

“Not really,” I said.


“I’ve been thinking about Ted Monroe, the fellow you introduced to me on LaSalle day before yesterday.” A mistake, I decided, but it was out.

“What about him?”

“Nice-looking guy.”

“I suppose he is,” Laura said. “A good Catholic. Married with three kids. Nothing for you to worry about.”

With her good instincts, she instantly spotted my jealousy. I decided to change the subject.

“These Blackhawks, like the Jews in the joke, sure know how to live,” I said nodding over toward the two couples at the next table. Laura didn’t know the joke — it was about a Jewish gent who wished to be buried seated at the wheel of his Cadillac — so I told it to her. She laughed, and the fat, or so I hoped, was out of the fire.

At home, I reviewed my relationship with Laura. Time to face it, I thought, I am unlikely to find a more impressive or more pleasing woman than Ms Ross. She was intelligent, beautiful, good-natured, good-humoured. She was even an excellent cook. If I hadn’t been able to find the killing flaw in her, even if she had such a flaw, how bad could it be? She didn’t like ironing? Paid her bills late? Was frightened of dentistry? Nothing, surely, seriously disqualifying.

Time to face it: if I was to marry, was a better candidate than Laura ever likely to turn up? As for my much-prized bachelorhood, I found I was ready to give it up. Laura, with her own work and life, was not likely to stand in the way of my small freedoms. Enough already. I would be fifty-four next month. Bring it on. Marriage, house in the suburbs, dog, children if need be, the whole gesheft.

The question of when and how to propose was next on the agenda. I thought of suggesting we take off for a longish weekend lark to Paris, where I could listen to what her old teacher described as her perfectly accented French, and pop the question there in my own halting and probably incorrect French: “M’épouserez-vous?” Another thought I had was to propose in a stilted legal brief: “Party of the first party . . .  party of the second part . . . ”

Then I thought, the hell with all that. The next day I dropped in at Tiffany’s on Michigan Avenue and chose an engagement ring, guessing at the ring-size of Laura’s long, slender fingers. The salesperson, a woman I took to be roughly my age, complimented me in my choice for my simple good taste. Simple good taste apparently doesn’t come inexpensively, for the ring cost eighteen grand and change. (With neither a wife nor children to worry about, money hasn’t been a problem for me.) My plan was to set the ring on the table at our next dinner, and ask Laura, in English and straightaway, if she would marry me.
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