It happened one night at New York’s Chelsea Hotel. In the Moroccan Bar – Serena’s – in a twinkling basement. A Christmas party circa 2001, snow swirling. Wearing my LBD and Manolo Blahnik ponyskin houndstooth boots (bought specifically in the Jeffreys sale). The scene was set for the moment that would change my life.
In the lead up to the party that day I had had butterflies for an unknown reason. I had left work early, had my hair dyed and blow dried at a glamorous uptown salon, been for an interview at the actual ‘Devil Wears Prada’ building in Times Square. I was feeling optimistic, giddy, excited, like all was right with the world.
I’d been living in New York for a year and a half and just two month’s earlier tragedy had changed the world in every conceivable way – 9/11 eclipsed how I felt in this city. Before, I had merely been one of many transient travellers – here to gulp in the frantic energy, drink cocktails and thrive in the ultimate ‘Sex & the City’. Afterwards, it was like we’d all been turned inside out. Every person in the city was raw with grief, but it manifested with us being kind and generous to each other. Smiling in the street, holding the door open, chatting on the subway, we were bonded.
Up until then I’d been dating in the usual New York style i.e. hedging my bets, and I’d been regularly seeing a very handsome Cuban banker. It was fun, we didn’t talk much and it definitely wasn’t serious.
That night, my ‘lobster’ walked in with a male friend – they were both dark, swarthy, Latin Americans and I wasn’t the only woman in the room to notice. He told me later that he didn’t see me at first but he clocked my footwear, heard my gutteral laugh and told a mutual friend, ‘if that laugh belongs to the girl in those boots then I will marry her.’
We actually spent the rest of that party snogging like 14 year olds, it was exhilarating – the chemistry was intense and uncomplicated. That night he left with my business card and I left with my dignity intact. But I didn’t know if I would see him again.
The next morning I arrived at work to find a poem on my desk. It spoke of love and longing and was housed on paper that looked practically Shakespearean – dipped in tannin tea and scorched on all sides. Later that day a beautiful parcel of bespoke biscuits arrived with an invitation to dinner later that week.
So the dinner went well: he proposed.Six weeks after our first meeting I found out I was pregnant (there was a huge spike in the birth rate a year after September 11, go figure!). The zeitgeist of this emotionally heightened time had definitely fast forwarded our relationship – everything had been intense making us both feel thrillingly alive.
He had pressed me to take a pregnancy test. I was so sure it was nothing I had put it off. But he said ‘You know what I think I would be disappointed if you weren’t pregnant.’The next day when I popped to the pharmacy in my lunch hour to buy shampoo I picked one up. In the office, I peed on the stick and when the blue line appeared you could have knocked me down with a feather. Shell. Shocked.
I went back to my computer, turned it off and walked uptown debating with myself how I should tell him and cursing that I would never ever be able to smoke a cigarette ever again.
By the time he arrived at my apartment four hours later the Bolognese was burnt and I was frazzled. I literally opened the door and blurted it out. He was delighted. I was delighted. I had never been pregnant before and there was no doubt I wanted to be a mum.
Fast forward 15 years and we have a 14 year old son who is our pride and joy.All unions are complex and I have one that doesn’t fit the mould I had anticipated. I like to think we are perfectly imperfect. We have both learnt how to fight fair (or fairer) we try and find resolution, refrain from antagonising and carry on loving even when (and perhaps poignantly especially when) we don’t understand one another. At the end of the day he is the love of my life and I do want to grow old loving only him.