I’ve collected love stories all my life.
My Roumanian grandmother, my occasional childhood roommate, a natural narrator, was the first to tell me hers. She loved only once, the wrong handsome man. They married, had four children, lived in cold Grand Forks, North Dakota, until he died at 39. Was that a happy ending? Still young, she moved to Beverly Hills with her only son, where she lived next door to Rosemary Clooney’s mother. But she never loved that way again.
I don’t write them all down, but I remember most of them.
A man named Michael in a writing class I taught a while ago, in a senior center near my apartment, Michael told the class about his love. He was an unattractive man, pale loose flesh, egg-stained clothes. Only his voice was beautiful. He told us he couldn’t remember having a friend until one day, at an audition, he met an man named Otto.
Michael never once got a part.
He earned his living writing crossword puzzles. Otto was his opposite: handsome and big, many times married, friends in every room he entered. Otto actually sang for a living, opera, musical comedy, liturgy, his own cabaret songs. Once a week, Michael said, he and Otto went out to dinner, for Chinese food. They both ate a lot. Michael did not use the word love. He said he was happy, at last. Then one day they went to buy a dustbuster, for Otto, a man who liked things clean. The dust buster had a defect, so Otto called the Minnesota company, where he talked, for many hours, with the woman in charge of customer service.
He fell in love on the phone.
It wasn’t just her voice. She too, he said, had been married many times, and she was absolutely ready for forever. In a short time they agreed to marry. Otto asked Michael to be his best man, but Michael, who never boarded a plane, wasn’t about to try. “I’ll be back soon with Louise,” Otto said. But it was Louise who called Michael the day of the wedding to say that Otto had a heart attack. He’d died right away. “I knew how much he loved you,” she said. “I had your number for an emergency.” Michael told us he couldn’t think of what to respond. “He loved you too,” was all he said.
Esther Cohen is a contributing blogger for JenningsWire.