||Angie - a Niagara Falls ending
She dumped me in the Honeymoon Capital of the World. It was March, the month when nothing good happens. Outside it was cold enough to shatter steel, windscreens and hearts. Mine stopped beating, cracked, split, and shattered into shards like a porcelain globe dropped from the Empire State Building. Or a melon on a motorway.
One syllable, a bullet to the core.
A breath, just.
Who was it that said “it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”? Either they never truly loved or never truly lost.
I’d rather lose anything than love.
An FA Cup Final. A major limb, say a leg, hand, or head. Control of my bowels. A million in crisp red fifty pound notes. My sanity. A world war, my autographed Kevin Keegan photo, my job (if I had one), my house (if I had one), my Yamaha Clavinova PF p100 (I have one, it’s expensive, and I’d miss it very much).
All of these would I have gladly foregone if I could have won The Canadian’s heart.
But I lost it.
I asked her to marry me.
She looked at me with pity but not love and said;
At least she had the decency to cry.
Unlike men, when it comes to crying, women are always decent.
It had started seven years ago, magically, in the south of France where everything seems romantic because it’s hot and sunny and beautiful, but mainly because most of the time you’re drunk on cheap rosé. We met, hit it off, had more fun than is usually allowed when you first start going out with someone.
Angie was beautiful, funny, caring. She was tall, dark, of Italian descent, and had the sort of curly hair that I first drew when I was five. She made me laugh a lot. I made her laugh sometimes. We both liked Al Pacino, basketball and watching the sun set with alcohol in hand.
Everything about her was new, strange, and enticing. She talked of a world I’d only dreamed of, of snowstorms and baseball, of drive-in cinemas and bears that lived in the woods. Her references were baffling - Howdy Doody, Hundred Grand chocolate bars, Oatmeal Cream Pies, the Toronto Maple Leafs. I was swept up, wrapped up, laid to bed and ravished by her exoticness.
In return, I tried to be cool and detached because I thought that would intrigue her, but I blew it when I cancelled a round-the-world trip to go and see her when she returned to Canada. I fell in love with Canada as I fell in love with her - the space, the extremes of climate, the maple syrup.
It was a wonderful time. We agreed we were made for each other. Small happy birds sang around our heads.
Then things started to go wrong. She decided to move to London to be with me, which I didn’t think much of at the time, but afterwards, when it was too late, realised was a huge step on her part, since she didn’t know anyone and had no money. She came, I convinced myself at the time, to study photography, but really she came because she loved me and wanted to be with me.
She had a bad time in London, partly because it was cold and damp and unfriendly, but mainly because I was cold and damp and unfriendly.
Because I’d decided to be a writer. And to write you had to be tormented. Which meant, I thought, much self-pitying introspection, added to a blatant disregard for the feelings and thoughts of those closest to you.
So she returned to Canada and gradually I realised torment only produces great works of art when allied with great talent. Looking back on it, her return to the frozen north was probably the turning point. I had rejected her love. And that, I now know, is something you should try to avoid doing if you want to end up marrying someone.
For the next three years we carried on a transatlantic relationship involving constant heart-ache and lots of air miles. Then, finally, I got the courage, after a couple of false starts, to ask her to marry me. I had never been so excited. Not only was I a Titanium-Mileage Plus member of Canadian Airlines, but I knew for the first time where I wanted to be when I was seventy.
Sipping frozen margaritas, watching the sun set with Angie by my side.
All those doubts - you’ll never again be able to date other women, never know what it’s like to wake up next to Uma Thurman, never be able to feed Emmanuelle Béart asparagus tips with your toes - these delusions had ceased. Suddenly they seemed bygone testosterone dreams of twenties adolescence. I had finally grown up.
I wanted to sleep with Angie until eternity. I wanted only her. Of that, and only that, I was utterly certain.
She was caring, good, talented and heart-warmingly gorgeous in a way reminiscent of the Italian women in Cornetto advertisements. There is a scene in ‘Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid’ in which Sundance (Robert Redford) goes off to find a woman who turns out to be Etta Place (Katherine Ross).
“Shouldn’t be too hard,” says Redford. “I’m not picky. Just so she’s pretty and sweet and gentle and soft and quiet and smart and refined.”
Angie was my Katherine Ross. And she made me feel like the Sundance Kid.
In some ways we were opposites. She was bubbly, outgoing, vivacious. A born optimist who always saw beauty in the world. I am quiet, and sometimes introverted. If she was Italianate, I was, well, English. I expect the worst, so as not to be disappointed.
“Will you marry me?”
The cornerstones of the English language. You, me. Will. Marry.
The worst. I was more than disappointed.