Tuesday, April 22, 2008

An Old-Fashioned Romance Story


Maria Fillipachi lived and worked in the Tribeca area of NYC. She was a part-time bartender at “Le Dive”, a bar very popular with the local bohemes. She was also an artist, who worked in various media, ranging from painting to performance art. (In fact, one might say that she was more of a full-time bartender and part-time artist, economic considerations being such as they are for most artists.)

Among the regulars at “Le Dive”, was one Mark Kleinman, a freelance writer of modest and generally local acclaim. Over the summer that Mark and his pals had been going to “Le Dive”, Maria and Mark had become friendly. Indeed, their chemistry was apparent from the moment she first served Mark. On her breaks, Maria would often come to Mark’s table and chat. They’d also go outside and smoke cigarettes and on more than one occasion, Maria would be admonished for taking an extended break. As far as she was concerned, a harangue from the manager was a small price to pay for a communion that was almost rapturous in its intensity and intellectual stimulation.

Maria and Mark’s conversations ranged from music to politics to art and literature. And even family. They both would admit to sometimes feeling alone in the world. Each one was essentially estranged from their family, both discussing how they could never meet their family’s expectations of them. Naturally, this only strengthened their bond.

The casual bar chat led to them hanging out after her shifts, where Maria would get lost in the vast and eclectic music collection in Mark’s small, but decently appointed apartment. He, in turn gave her ideas, inspiration and hands-on help in mounting her first solo show at a SOHO gallery of renown and influence. The opening was a major success and amidst the reception, and drunk on excitement, let alone the wine, Maria found herself kissing Mark.

From that moment on, and into the autumn, Maria and Mark were inseparable. They fed off each other, and their individual pursuits coalesced into a partnership whose work was greater than the sum of its parts. Well on their way to becoming the darlings of the alt-art scene, Mark decided that it was time to make their partnership more profound, more lasting. He was going to ask Maria to marry him.

The plan: He had bought tickets for them to see a rare U.S. appearance by The Sparks, a band that had quickly become one of Maria’s absolute favorites and one whose catalog Mark had endlessly replayed for more than twenty years. From there, they would go to “Le Dive” (which, by the way, Maria had been able to quit, having ascended to a station whereby she was able to make a living solely via shows, commissions, and grants), where Mark had arranged for their friends to meet them. Surrounded by their favorite people in the world, Mark would propose.

And he did. He even got down on one knee. His cynical side told him it would be ironic and fun, but in truth, it felt like the right thing to do. It felt romantic.

Mark proposed. A tear slid down his face as uttered the words. And then Maria replied, “You’re Jewish. What will my family think?”

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