by Stephen Amidon
I was wandering my small southern college's theater building in a state of despair, having just fled a disastrous rehearsal of my play. Unable to face my unruly actors and doubting that I could ever be a writer, I found a hiding place backstage in the main theater. And suddenly there she was, stepping onstage through the curtain, dressed in a black gown, her long red hair falling over white shoulders. Who was this beautiful creature?
…Opening night came and, amazingly, it wasn't so bad. More amazingly, there she was again, seated in the back row. I tried to find her afterward, but she'd vanished. The next day, I came upon her yet again, reading in the Indian summer warmth of a magnolia-shaded clearing on campus. This time I wasn't about to let her go. She was from London; she'd worked in theater; she thought my play had potential. Somehow talking to her made me feel as if I could be a writer after all…Twenty-five years later, Caryl's presence in my life is still tinged with the miraculous, the unexpected.
Stephen Amidon's most recent novel is Human Capital (Farrar, Straus and Giroux).
by Jacki Lynden
I'd been to more than 50 countries; he'd never gotten a passport. So our meeting—on the balcony of a Washington, D.C., hotel in a rainstorm—was an instant nonstarter: This man is certainly not for me, I thought…I was looking for a dashing intellectual who read Derrida in his spare time—like my last boyfriend. He swears I flirted shamelessly with him, but I was thinking, What girlfriend could I introduce this sweet naïf to?
Next week he sent a hand-colored postcard of me on the balcony. I needed a head shot for NPR's lobby, or I wouldn't have phoned back. At the shoot, he came over and smoothed my hair—and he was so hot! Oh well, I thought, maybe we could have a fling! To my amazement, my friends took one look and started telling me how great he'd be for me…
He loves all my friends. Listens to my dramas. Phoned me in Gaza, Jerusalem, Pakistan, Kabul, and New York City on 9/11. Our first foreign country was Ireland; we got engaged in Baghdad. How could I not marry Will O'Leary?
The wedding was in my ancestral town, Clifden, Ireland, on October 16, 2004—with guests from 13 countries, including his Irish O'Leary clan. Designer Alexander Julian milled us a tweed in Donegal. I've kept my Brooklyn loft! Privately, call me Mrs. O'Leary. Forever.
Jacki Lyden is a host/correspondent for NPR.
by Elissa Schappell
Friday after work, I headed to Penn Station. It was a mob scene. Milling beneath the departures and arrivals sign I spotted an intense-looking guy with unevenly cropped blondish-brown hair that stood up on end. He was wearing a torn-up Harris tweed coat, safety-orange socks, high-tops, black pants, and a turtleneck sweater. Sticking out of his pocket was a biography of Jean Cocteau.
I barely had time to check him out before they called my train. Walking down the steps to the platform, I heard a voice say, "This is hell, isn't it?"
It was the boy in the Harris tweed coat.
"It is," I said, my heart beating fast. I was suddenly aware of the large, dorky, tortoiseshell barrette holding back my ponytail, the stripe of white hair hanging in my eyes, my untucked turtleneck and linty black pants. I looked really awful.
He sat across from me on the train—a move I thought rather bold. I don't talk to strangers, I thought, my cheeks and ears burning. On our way south, the train broke down repeatedly. During our six-hour journey, he told me he was a writer, that he'd bailed out of graduate school a few weeks earlier, and that he now worked in an art postcard factory. To illustrate this point, he reached into his bag and pulled out a postcard, a Robert Doisneau image of a French couple kissing. I blushed. It was so corny, and so forward, and so…sigh.
"Take it," he said, when I handed it back to him. "It's for you."
BOOM. It was like a bag of flour fell on my head, and in that moment I thought, I will either marry this man or kill him, because no one else is ever going to have him.
Elissa Schappell is the author of Use Me, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, and editor at large of Tin House.
by Jill Rosenberg
In early 2002, Ralph and Chris, the night doormen at my apartment building, took it upon themselves to assume a second job—as matchmakers. They started by trying to talk me into a blind date with a guy on the 19th floor.
Then they told me the man they had in mind was named Sonny. "That's weird," I said. "I knew a Sonny in Hebrew school on Long Island 15 years ago. Ask him if his real name is Philip."
A few days later, Ralph and Chris practically assaulted me. "It's him! It's him!" I was about to tell them that Sonny just wasn't my type—he was shy and quiet, with an ugly eighties bowl haircut—when they proudly announced that they'd already given him my phone number.
One night I was talking to Ralph when I noticed this really cute guy at the door with Chris. I asked Ralph who he was, and he got so excited that he scrambled up on the lobby desk and started waving at Chris, who dragged the poor guy over. It was Sonny—a tall, gorgeous version of the guy I knew on Long Island. He was still shy; I was mortified. We mumbled hello and then went upstairs to our apartments.
When the Jewish High Holidays rolled around, I told Ralph and Chris that I was driving home to Long Island and joked that they should ask Sonny if he wanted a ride. They did. Sonny took the invitation seriously; he picked up the phone the next week.
We talked for two hours. We went out for drinks. We talked some more; we went bowling, to the movies, to a gazillion restaurants. We were instantly inseparable. Eventually, we moved out of the building, and then one day I got a call from the old address, saying they had a package with my name on it. Sonny offered to walk over with me. Ralph was at the door, not in his uniform (later I found out it was his day off and that Chris was desperate to be there, too, but had to be at a family party). I hugged Ralph.
As I opened the package, I didn't notice that Sonny and Ralph had maneuvered me to the very spot where we'd re-met. Sonny got down on one knee.
I started screaming, "No, no, no" when, of course, I meant yes! We're getting married November 26.
Jill Rosenberg is the production manager of O, The Oprah Magazine.