My friend Ellie’s wedding was beautiful. Not in the traditional sense, whatever that is anymore, but in the ‘we did this the way we wanted to’ sense. She and her party wore handmade kimonos (why? I don’t know. She’s Jewish), and the ceremony was presented in both English and Italian to represent the languages of herself and her groom. It was in a park that I’d never been to, and I’d snuck in at the last minute when our mutual friend Mandi said in front of both Ellie and I: “Amanda can come to your wedding, right Ellie?” I had no concept of manners or planning at that point in my life, and she graciously said yes.
While standing in line holding the gift I’d brought – The Thinker bookends purchased with my employee discount at Barnes & Noble, wrapped in a restructured silk negligee my mom had bought me (wtf?) that never really worked with my complexion – I was tapped on the shoulder and a man slightly shorter than me said “do you need help with that?”
Of course I said no, but we chatted and he introduced himself as Ellie’s cousin, out from California. He was cute, small, elfen and very confident. His dad, Ellie’s uncle, came up and whacked him on the shoulder, then introduced himself to me, all pomp and hubris and sparkling humor. He was about two inches taller than me.
I am a short woman.
I loved this family.
We chatted and made fast friends, and when I was sitting with Mandi and the Inner Circle after dinner, Mr. Ruddy and his son came over to say goodbye to me. They shook my hands, hugged me, and Mr. Ruddy told me to please come visit them at their beach house, any time. After they walked away I turned back to the table, beaming, and my friends were staring at me. “What the fuck, Panda? You just make friends wherever you go? Jesus! I’m jealous. Can we come to that beach house too? Huh?”
Shortly after the wedding, which by leaving early, the Ruddy’s missed my performance in the reception Soul Train line, Son Ruddy showed up at my work. True to form, I didn’t recognize him. Apparently I’d told him where I worked. Apparently we’d had all kinds of conversations, but fuck if I could remember…it was an open bar, for crying out loud! He, however, was not a drinker, and had an excellent memory.
I don’t remember how we got cozy, but we did. I found myself driving to his parent’s beach house, where we walked on the Lake Michigan coast and ate lovely dinners and I walked around the ‘cottage’ dragging my forefinger across the shabby chic tables before shabby chic was a ‘thing’.
One afternoon we went to the movies and ran into an old classmate of Son Ruddy. He was about 12 feet tall (or so it seemed to me). Mr. Ruddy strode up to him, shook his hand, remembered his name, asked about his parents. Son Ruddy followed suit, catching up – Tall Guy was working downtown; Son Ruddy was working in LA in the movie industry. The Ruddy’s exuded a confidence and joviality and ease of character that I’d never experienced before.
That night Son Ruddy and I made out on the screened-in porch that was serving as the guest room, listening to the roar of crickets with the weighty moon shining onto our summer skin.
When I moved to California, I visited Son Ruddy one time. I drove from Monterey to LA with a girlfriend from work and we parted ways in a Starbucks when her boyfriend picked her up, and Son Ruddy came to fetch me. It was awkward. He had a jealous Asian girlfriend who tut-tutted at his small belly and said “you haven’t been working out!” before leaving the room to comb out her long black hair. We went to dinner where he watched what he ate and then I slept on his couch. The next day, I drove the 8 hours home alone because my friend had bailed early.
After I moved to Oakland and was living on my friend Dave’s couch, Son Ruddy came to visit me. He was single again. On the first morning he was there, my alarm went off for work and I bolted out of bed, as usual. He said “whoa! Whoa…whoa. You need to relax!” I said “well I have to go to work, what am I supposed to do?”
He arranged with my employer for a few days off, and took me north. We took mud baths and got massages in Calistoga, had an amazing dinner in St. Helena, and stayed at a lovely Bed & Breakfast where he took nude photos of me from behind while I sat on the edge of the hot bath. Then we smoked pot and for the first time ever I reacted to it by loosening up and laughing instead of just falling asleep. The next day as I was getting dressed he said “damn, girl, I don’t know anyone who looks as good in a pair of jeans as you do.” Like I said, he lived in LA.
We had a long-distance relationship for a little bit. I went to visit him again in LA and he took me to all of the touristy places: Hollywood Bowl, The Brady House, the place with all the handprints…can’t remember what it’s called right now.
At some point I met someone else. I started dating this person. I decided after a couple of weeks that this person was more interested in something more concrete with me than Son Ruddy was. So I told this person “I’ve been long-distance dating this other guy, but haven’t seen him in a while. And now I’m going to break up with him.” I wish I’d read this person’s reaction of “what the hell, why didn’t you tell me that?!” as the controlling, manipulative ticking timebomb he’d turn out to be. But instead I broke up with Son Ruddy.
I told him the news and he wished me the best. I wanted more. Finally I called him and said “but, how do you feel about this? Is this okay?” and he said “what do you want me to say, Amanda?” and I didn’t say “I want you to say ‘NO – you are mine, fuck that guy, come here and be with me!” I didn’t say “I want someone to want me enough to fight for me!”
I was very young then, and thought this was how all romance worked. Fight for the girl. Run that Passionate Love Run. I’m afraid this will always be my undoing.