I HATE BEING MARRIED
As editor-in-chief of The Miami Journal, he began falling in love with Carolyn Kerner when she knocked on his cubicle and asked, “Rick, ever heard of Kathe Kollwitz?”
He looked up at her from his enormous pile of papers.
“Go on,” he said.
“I was watching Antiques Roadshow, believe it or not, and one of her sketches came on. The Nazis refused to let her show her work anymore. ‘A degenerate,’ they called her."
“Tell me what the sketch looked like,” said Rick, who had a thick swatch of black hair and a salt-and-pepper goatee.”
“These peasants were walking along the road. Bedraggled, right? Looked like they would die any minute, but they kept on trekking!”
“Do it!” he said. “Word limit, uh, 1200.”
“I trust you,” he heard himself saying.
Carolyn reached over and shook his hand. Vigorously.
Two days later the story arrived on his desk. Her eyes had gray circles beneath them, as if someone had punched her.
Thinking, “I’d protect her if someone attacked her,” he began to read:
Her family realized her talent for art when she was twelve. They sent their Kathe Schmidt Kollwitz to a women’s art school in Berlin. The shy woman soon found confidence with fellow artists. With quiet voices, they discussed what was happening in Germany, on the brink of World War I.
A political woman, later becoming a Communist, her famous saying “There has been enough of dying! Let not another man fall!” was published in a column in a German newspaper.
Kathe was later elected a member of the Prussian Academy of Arts, the first woman ever elected.
In 1924 she finished her three most famous posters: “Germany's Children Starving,” “Bread,” and “Never Again War.”
Ironically, the Nazis used the posters as examples of “degenerate” art.
Today, her work can be viewed at “Neue Wache” in Berlin. Against plain brick walls, as if in a prison, her sculpture “Mother with her Dead Son” is a poignant memorial to “Victims of War and Dictatorship.” She lived from 1867 to 1945, dead at 78. She lived as stressful a life under The Fuhrer as can be imagined.
Rick was what is called “an editor’s editor.” The only changes he made in her story were to add a few commas.
The news room at the Miami Journal knew that Richard Harris Briggs, Jr. was a single man.
“I wouldn’t marry him if the nuclear bomb dropped and he was the last guy in the world,” Felicia Rogers said to the woman in the next cubicle.
Within a year, the story was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize from Columbia University in New York.
“Carolyn, I’d like to take you out to celebrate your story.”
She agreed and they went to the posh “Cuban Buena Comida.” They split a plate of Shrimps in Coconut Sauce.
“Oh my God,” said Carolyn. “Perfection!”
Ricky summoned the waiter.
“Champagne,” he said. “Real champagne, amigo.”
Two champagne flutes, with frisky bubbles, were brought over on a silver tray.
“To us!” said Ricky.
As they were leaving into the clear crisp afternoon, Rick asked Carolyn to take a seat on an outdoor bench facing the harbor.
He cleared his throat and looked Carolyn in her eyes.
“Carolyn, I have something to ask you,” he said, smoothing his black hair.
She raised her dark eyebrows and looked at him, his dark, sexy eyes.
Laboriously, he got down on bended knee.
She suppressed a desire to laugh.
“I’d like to marry you. Wilt thou be mine?”
She answered by delivering a passionate kiss.
Rick and Carolyn got married in the Banquet Room at Cuban Buena Comida. The entire news room was invited. The prix fixe included an appetizer, mozzarella sticks; a meal, tamales in corn husks; and a dessert – cinnamon chips in a dipping sauce of either avocado or mustard.
Rick made a champagne toast.
“I know. I know,” he stumbled. “The man who would never marry.”
Everyone laughed. More than a few people teared up.
“Frankly, my dears,” he said, “I have never been so happy in my life.”
“But nothing will change in the news room,” he vowed.
A murmur went through the crowd. “I’ll bet” or “Yeah, right!”
He and Carolyn moved into his ranch home on Biscayne Boulevard.
Rick learned he was a traditional man. He carried his bride across the threshold, then straight into his bedroom, which he had straightened up for the occasion. He simply threw all his clothes behind the double doors of his closet.
“Shall we?” he asked.
“Mais oui,” she answered.
They rolled about on the bed for what seemed like hours. The aroma of their bodies filled the bedroom.
“Baby, your body feels so good next to mine,” said Ricky. She compared favorably with his call girls. “Never call them prostitutes. Such an ugly word, unless you’re Mary Magdalene,” he thought.
Ricky was all of thirty-two years old. He’d had sex since an early age, visiting call girls, which he very much enjoyed. “Lady Lilly” was a favorite. Although “Madame Olivia” was a close second.
Carolyn was moaning, over and over again, interspersed with “I love you’s.”
Spent, they lay cuddled together on the wrinkled sheets.
Finally, they called for Japanese take-out.
Miami, since Castro’s revolution, became a cosmopolitan city.
They ate their take-out in the living room, on a glass table, with legs made of bamboo.
Ricky had several photos on the walls, all taken by reporters at the Journal. Prominently displayed was a photo of a marlin, leaping in the air, with its prominent sword-like proboscis, ready to kill whatever came into view. It won the best photo in The National Geographic magazine.
When Ricky pointed at it, Carolyn stood up and went to look at it. Ricky couldn’t believe he took a risk and married this beautiful woman.
“Some day,” she said. “I wanna take an award-winning photo like that.”
“My competitive new wife,” he laughed.
“So? What’s wrong with that?” she said, flouncing away, her black hair bouncing with her.
“Carolyn, my love, where have you gone?”
His wife had failed to clean up the Japanese food and utensils.
He lay his head down on the glass table and promptly fell asleep and began to snore.
“Oh, Carolyn, you scared me!”
He asked her what she enjoyed doing besides screwing.
“Reading! Watching Netflix and You Tube. Let me find the new book I bought at Barnes and Noble,” she said.
He hadn’t realized there was one in Miami.
She held it up. Black background with a sun-bright orange in the center.
“Sue Monk Kidd?” he asked.
“Oh, yes, she’s terribly good! 'The Book of Longings,' her newest. She rubbbed her lips against the shiny cover.
“Ya know, babe,” he said. “We don’t have to sleep in the same bed. If you wanna read, I’ve got a guest bedroom. Have you seen it?”
“I have, with the red checkered sofa-bed. I’ll sleep in there, husband so I don't disturb your beauty sleep," she snickered.
“Fine,” he said, “it’s your call.”
They had taken off two weeks for their honeymoon.
When they returned, Rick stood up and announced they would meet in the conference room. Why were the married couple avoiding eye contact? Not a good sign.
“What does August mean in Florida?”
A chorus of voices said “Hurricane Season.”
He called on Tina Velasquez.
“Yes, Rick, we do have a plan. I will email it to everyone in the news room.”
“Each and every one of you must take no chances,” said Rick. “Don’t endanger your lives by coming in,” he said. “The Journal will print directions for evacuations."
“Few folks heed them,” said Ron Juarez, head of the sports section.
In early August, came the first whispers of the wind.
“Right on time,” thought Rick. He stood out on the deck and watched the palm trees sway like hula girls.
“Carolyn, it’s starting. The hurricane. I don’t want anything to happen to you.” Even though I hate you, he thought.
“Yeah, right,” she said. “I’ll bet you’d throw me into the sea if you didn’t get caught.”
He said nothing.
His ranch home was high off the ground, as many were, due, to high tides and hurricanes.
Quickly, the tsunami of water swirled in the Bay of Biscayne. The noise was like a million rock concerts. Cruise ships anchored in the marina began sailing by themselves, many turning over, again and again. Then came the beach houses. Every color of the rainbow. Were people inside? Or were they too “macho” to evacuate?
A small powder-blue house sailed by with an entire family on the roof. They waved for help.
Next came a yellow house, with two elderly people on the roof. “Help, help!” they mouthed.
“Goddammit,” thought Rick. “Stupidity incarnate!” He felt personally responsible.
He grabbed a towel and rubbed himself dry.
Where was that wife of his?
He searched the house.
There she was in the guest room, reading her Sue Monk Kidd novel.
“What the hell are you doing?” he yelled.
“Jes’ waiting here to die,” she said, not raising her eyes from the book.
“I should let you,” he said.
“But I won’t, goddammit!”
She stared at him.
“Gotta be honest,” he said. “I love you more and more every day. With your competitive nature, the dimple in your chin like Kirk Douglas, and your inexhaustible energy.
“Don’t even think about splitting up,” he said, his voice breaking.
Carolyn walked over and sat down in his lap.
“Still, I hate being married. Period.”
He began twisting the gold ring on his finger.