...a conversation between two people who won't admit they're in love
(printed in Queen's Journal, October 2001)
John: So what are we drinking this time?
Marilyn: It’s a Merlot. I think that means it’s French or something
John: I think you’re wrong--aren’t there Chilean Merlots? The last time I went to
M: ‘To evil’… [clinks glass, sips, swallows, pauses] You liar. You’ve never been to
J: Enough to know half a bottle of this wine will make me horny.
M: Keep yourself zipped--mouth and fly, please.
J: [pauses, sips] Nothing like a little Merlot to cleanse the palette, clear the air, and wipe away the inhibitions. In vino veritas. Check that. I ought to say In vino, ‘chance-for-ass’.
M: You better stop right there, stallion.
J: [pauses, blinks, laughs] God forgive me. I’m already drunk, aren’t I?
M: Yes you are. Behave yourself. I’m a respectable dame, not one of your Mac-Corry floozies.
J: “Floozies”?… Why, how dare you impugn the reputation of those fine ladies of the Daddy-Mac! They study hard, and, dammit, they play hard.
M: [laughing] I’m serious. Behave. I’m whipping out the yellow card--I don’t care if you are an Italian superstar.
J: Oh, c’mon! It’s just a bottle of wine between friends. We’re friends, right? You’re overestimating my depravity, Marilyn. Don’t tell me Todd is gonna get jealous if I slip a little
M: [sips from glass] Shuh-riz?
J: No, Shir-az. It’s for ‘strong, direct, men’. That’s what the wine list says.
M: You, John, are neither strong nor direct. Why would you need an entire bottle of wine to seduce me, if you consider yourself such a man-beast?
J: [laughing] Ohhh, “man-beast”! I like that one. That’s what they used to call me in grade six: Johnny Man-Beast. [pauses, raises glass, sips] Does the wine get you going?
M: No comment. I’m not going to encourage you.
J: But we both enjoy wine! God, Marilyn, we have so much in common--you, me, and the human race. Let’s stop kidding ourselves, and start having babies! C’mon, put your glass down. [makes sweeping movement with his hand] Why wait? This table will do nicely.
M: [blushes, laughs] There it is—the depravity! …As reliable as death and taxis. [laughs] I mean death and taxes.
J:[under his breath] Now who’s getting drunk?
M: I think I am. A clear case of John-induced depravity.
J: Depravity? What depravity?
M: Your depravity.
J: I’m the good Catholic boy, remember? God, Marilyn, for someone of your heathenish background, you sure do blush easily. Don’t you ever have any fun, Ms. Trudy Prude-y?
M: Me, a ‘Trudy Prude-y’? As if. Todd snaps his fingers and I come a-runnin’. No need for vino, Gino. Just a big hunka burnin’ Latino. That’s what gets me going. [barks like a dog]
J: That, my dear, is gross. And you, my dear, are loaded. And now I’m blushing… you probably shouldn't be telling how easy you are.
M: I’m not easy. I’m just hot for my Latino boyfriend! [laughs, clearly drunk].
J: Todd? He’s Latino? You gotta be kidding.
M: [laughing] No, not kidding.
J: No way--I thought for sure that I had the market cornered on Marilyn’s hot-blooded dark-eyed Romance-language love interests. What’s his last name?
M: Get this—it’s Poncedeleone. It’s his great-great-grandfather’s name… Todd Poncedeleone. Can you beat it? He’s one-sixteenth Paraguayan—but I am sure I’ve told you that about Todd before.
J: It’s possible, I suppose. I must have got him confused with all your other fractionally-Paraguayan friends named Ponce de Leon. [grins]
M: Shut up, idiot. [throws crumpled napkin in his direction. It misses by a foot] At least I can remember things about your life that you tell me. [raising her voice] Like how you have to eat the outside crusts of all your sandwhiches before you move on to the middle part of the bread--What did you call it, John? A ‘nervous childhood habit’? Let’s hope that’s the only nervous childhood habit you have left…
J: Lay off my childhood. Are you implying I still wet the bed?
M: [pauses, leans forward] Do you?
J: You’ll find out tomorrow morning, won’t you? Wink wink, nudge nudge.
[they both laugh] Oh my, that’s just gross. [pauses, looks around] But that reminds me, where are the washrooms in this place?
M: In the back, by the round thingy in the corner.
J: [sees the ‘round thingy’ in the corner, gets up] Excuse me, dear. I have to pee. [leaves for washroom]
[At the table, Marilyn tries to straighten out her curly dark hair. She stares at the wine glasses with one eye closed, feeling a definite buzz. As John returns to the table, she smiles at him and refills both glass with the Merlot. John sits down, they clink glasses; he takes a moderate sip]
M: So you broke the seal, eh?
J: Broke the seal? Heck, I practically clubbed it to death and sold the fur to the Dutch Overseas Trading Company! [grins in self-satisfaction]
M: You’re a sick bastard, John.
J: Would you ever go out with me, Marilyn?
M: I could probably marry you, John. But I would never want to be your girlfriend.
J: What’s that supposed to mean? I thought I was the one who spoke in riddles.
M: Is it really a riddle?
J: Is that the question?
M: You just got your answer.
J: Marry me? You sound like you’re ninety-five percent serious about that.
M: Nope. Off by three.
M: Guess again. Ninety-eight.
[they both pause]
J: Off by two per cent. Dammit. I was almost perfect.
M: And why are you so worried about being perfect?
J: Why do I want to be perfect? Isn’t it obvious? Why would anyone like anyone, unless they were perfect?
M: Perfection is boring.
J: You are not boring, that’s for certain.
M: And you certainly are not perfect.
J: I know, I know. Say it again. [grins stupidly] It’s just so hard to believe
M: [serious] You’re not perfect, John.
J: Ok, don’t rub it in.
M: You aren’t perfect, and I think it bothers you.
J: Are you being serious?
M: One hundred per cent
J: I wish you wouldn’t be. I’m trying to get you drunk.
M: I wish you had more faith in yourself. I’m trying to help you.
J: Is this still about me forgetting Todd Poncedeleone’s last name? You have to forgive me, please. I have a horrible memory for the life details of individuals whom I utterly despise. So what if I forgot Todd’s genealogical heritage. It’s a mistake, I admit… but one I am completely content with.
M: [completely serious] Christ, John, will you please stop carrying on like a jackass? And why do you always have to bring up Todd every time you try to get me drunk? It’s a horrible way to ruin a girl’s evening.
J: But at least it's a surefire way to keep myself outta trouble.
J: You know, by talking about your boyfriend all the time. It keeps everyone on the right side of the fence.
M: Why safe? What happened to depravity?
J: Christ, Marilyn, do you honestly think I would let you cheat on your boyfriend? I am just joking.
M: How serious are you about that?
J: You want a percentage?
M: Sure, why not. Give me a number.
J: Go to hell, Marilyn. I’m not reducing our relationship to arithmetic.
M: This mock seduction of yours could get out of hand, John. The wine doesn’t help.
J: That’s pretty ominous. But who’s mocking who? You’re constantly trying to make a fool out of me. I’m not as stupid as I look, Marilyn.
M: Exactly. I‘m always a little afraid of you, John. Despite your drunken ramblings, I’ve always felt that you know exactly what you’re doing.
J: [genuinely surprised] Hey, if I knew what I was doing, would I waste my time hanging out with a girl who’s already taken? [pauses] Huh?… [ exasperated] Listen. Do you think I could ever respect you again if I made you do something you would regret?
M: That’s a dangerous thing to say. I won’t even touch it.
J: You’ve been teasing me since day one.
M: You love it. And I would have no respect for you if you never did anything about it.
J: That’s a dangerous thing to say. It might make me want to touch you.
M: Hands off, John. We’re in public.
J: Relax, I’m no animal.
M: Just a man-beast, right? [smiles]
J: [ignoring her, takes another sip of wine] I would marry you too. But I could never date you. Why date any one person? It’s such an arbitrary thing to do.
M: I don’t know what that word means.
J: ‘Arbitrary’. It’s a good word. I like it.
M: If it’s such a good word, then why don’t you date it?
J: [firing back] If I can date a word, then why won’t you marry Todd?
M: That’s a stupid comeback, and a stupid question. The answer is that I always know what Todd’s thinking. I need somebody who keeps me on my toes.
J: Todd is kind of a lummox, isn’t he?
M: Leave him alone. I’m going to break up with him someday.
J: Stop teasing me, Marilyn.
M: Don’t kid yourself, John. It has nothing to do with you. [pause] Will you ever get married?
J: Married. Oh yeah. I’ll get married so often, I’ll die with rice marks on my face*. [they laugh]
[he pauses, sighs] Nothing ruins a romantic evening so easily as talk about love or marriage.
M: That’s a cheesy cliched thing to say—it’s gonna give me gas.
J: Cheese makes you gassy? Oh, that’s right. You’re lactose-intolerant... I had forgotten you were a lactard.
M: Yes indeed, I am a lactard. I’m impressed that you remembered.
J: [looks over to the round thingy in the corner, thinking it might be a clock] What’s the time? [looks at the bottle of Merlot, now empty] What happened to the wine?
M: Are you still talking about wine? “Errazuriz. Irresistible, it is.”
J: We’re not talking about wine. I thought you were whining about cheese. [grins]
M: Stop being clever, John.
J: You wanna get out of here?
M: Yes, let’s get out of here.
J: Waitress, cheque please! .
[waitress comes over with blil. John pays it.] Wine’s on me. No arguments.
M: No argument here.
J: Let’s take this outside.
M: Good suggestion.
[they stand up. Marilyn takes last look at the table ]
M: You’ve got good taste in wine, John, but I would never want to be your waitress.
J: Why’s that? Wouldn’t I keep you on your toes?
M: No no no. It’s nothing to do with that
J: What is it then?
M: [smiles, pauses, whispers in his ear] You’re a lousy goddamn tipper. Plus, you know... you kinda smell.
J: Go to hell, Marilyn.
M: Hee hee…there’s my boy. Let’s get a cab …
(when I was 22 I knew everything.)
*line inspired by Tom Waits, Nighthawks at the Diner