would you marry me, Courtney?" John asked, looking deep into my eyes from
across the table.
"I don't know what to say," I stammered. "I'm... I'm touched."
"I'm serious. I want to get married to you. It'd be brilliant."
We were at Orsino's, a trendy and expensive restaurant in West London,
drinking overpriced Barbera and trying to navigate our way through three
courses. Like most social occasions in this part of the world, it was well
lubricated with various beverages: champagne, aperitifs, beer, and now wine.
John had moved quickly through the first rounds, and now his eyes had entered
the glassy stage, his smile had become beatific and goofy.
"You don't know what you're saying, John. It's the wine talking," I said, looking at my friend Sally, who was John's girlfriend of eight years. She laughed.
"Marry me, and I'll make you an honest woman." He started to rise out of his
chair, grasping his wine glass. "You think I'm joking. I'm not. Will you marry
me? I'm going to stand on the table until you say yes.
"Do say yes, Courtney," Sally chimed in. "Think of the party we would have!
It'd be such fun!"
I looked at Magda, who was unsuccessfully trying to wrest the glass from
John. "You might as well,"she said. "I can't think of any other way."
John climbed on top of his chair. "Marry me, Courtney. It will be the answer
to all your problems "
"You see how serious he is? You better say yes," said Sally.
" and I'll never ask a thing from you"
"Sit down John," I said. "People are staring."
" except the odd conjugal visit, now and again." He put a foot on the
"Say yes, love," shouted a man two tables down. "Give 'im something to live
"Here is the woman I love," declared John, to anyone who would listen. "The
woman I'd give up my freedom for, the woman upon whom the sun rises and sets,"
Sally rose to fill his glass. "The woman even my girlfriend loves! Marry me
Courtney! Say yes!"
"Jesus, John. If I say yes, you'll sit down, right? Okay. Yes. Yes. I'll
"Lovely! It'll be a brilliant party," he burped, and fell off the table.
A cheer went up around us. Magda and I breathed a sigh of relief. A waiter
approached Sally with a whisper, wondering if we wanted to order a bottle a
"Will you really do it?" asked Sally the next day. We were on the phone,
sipping tea. I heard John groan in agony next to her. "I think you should.
It's the only way, Courtney. They'd throw you out of the country otherwise, if
you try to stay here and work. You could move in with us, we have room."
"I don't know, Sally," I said. "Maybe I'm more old-fashioned than I like to
think. But it seems weird, even to me. And it might, well, taint your
"No, you don't understand," she said. "Hardly any of our friends get married
anymore. They live together, you see, and they buy houses together. John and I
don't want to get married, we never have. Marriage means nothing to us, it's
just not something we'd ever do, even if we have kids. We've talked about it.
Isn't that right, Johnny?" she asked. "I'm rubbing his head. He has a terrible
Would I marry to stay in England? Marriage has never held that much
attraction to me either, but it would be so, well, anarchistic to marry for
papers. Would it not be the height of cynicism? Would it be like that movie,
"Green Card," where John and I would have to memorize every detail about our
lives, the immigration officials asking us separately which was the favorite
sexual position of the other?
Meanwhile, now at a family friend's house in Ireland, I put this question to
my newly discovered love. Like most Irish men, Daniel is charming, witty,
attractive, intelligent and extremely chatty. He takes a great interest in the
arts. When I wake up in the morning and race down to the kitchen, he sits at
the breakfast table, eagerly waiting for me. Unfortunately, he happens to be
five years old.
"I would marry you, Daniel," I said, as he showed me his newly acquired
coloring book. "What do you think? Maybe by the time you're legal age, I'll
finally be accustomed to the idea."