I have many reasons to write, and most are of the high-minded, creative sort.
But I also like to make my wife cry.
It was a Friday in May, and I was at work. My students were in art class, gone for an hour. My student-teacher and I were sitting at my desk, discussing lesson plans for the coming week.
Just another Friday in a waning school year.
Then my cellphone rang, an exceptionally rare occurrence in the middle of the school day. Though I wouldn’t have normally answered it, the absence of the students, combined with the odd timing of the call, made me check to see who was calling. Whenever my cellphone rings in the middle of the day, I expect the worst, and rarely am I mistaken.
This day I was.
It was Taryn, my agent, with news on SOMETHING MISSING, my first novel. Doubleday had made a preemptive offer. Though my book was slated to go on the market for sale the following week, Taryn had passed a copy on to an editor at Doubleday, and they were now attempting to purchase the book before anyone else had a chance to make a bid.
Their offer was for more than I could have ever dreamed.
In that one moment, my entire life changed. Wedding debt that had saddled us for two years was suddenly erased. My dog’s recent spinal surgery was suddenly paid for. Our dream of purchasing a home and starting a family, one that we thought was at least three and probably five years off, was suddenly within our grasp.
Someone in New York City wanted to pay me for something I made up in my head.
I couldn’t believe it.
Teary-eyed and trapped between laughter and genuine weeping, I thanked Taryn as much as a person can do in one minute, told her to do whatever she thought was best in the ongoing negotiations for the foreign rights, and hung up the phone, almost unable to breathe. I had one thought in mind:
Find my wife.
I stood up, hugged my student teacher, who had been sitting beside me the whole time, and headed for Elysha’s classroom up the hall in order to tell her the news. I couldn’t wait.
But her classroom was empty. Her students were in music class, meaning Elysha could be anywhere, doing anything. Prepping lessons. Trapped in a meeting. Making photocopies. Grabbing a snack. I began a frantic search of the school, looking everywhere. The copy room. The faculty room. The main office. Her colleagues’ classrooms. Even the restrooms. I bumped into friends and coworkers along the way, some of whom saw the wild-eyed look on my face and asked me if I was okay, but I did not tell anyone my news.
I wanted to tell Elysha first.
After more than fifteen frantic minutes, I finally found her walking down a hallway behind the auditorium. I grabbed her shoulders and stopped her midstride. From my appearance, she thought that something was wrong. She asked if I was alright. Then I told her the news.
I thought she would be excited. I did not expect her to collapse to the ground, crying hysterically, but that is what she did. She fell to my feet, back against the wall, cheeks red, tears rolling down her face, weeping into her hands.
Colleagues poked their heads from classrooms, certain that something terrible had just happened.
Some were convinced that I had just broken up with her.
I was so happy. In fact, it’s one of the happiest moments of my life. The phone call from Taryn, and the subsequent calls from her that afternoon, informing me of the increase in the sale price as negotiations concluded, were great, but to knock your wife off her feet with news like that was indescribable.
I’d only done it once before.
Four years earlier, I had proposed to Elysha on the top steps of Grand Central Station, her favorite place in the world. It was three days after Christmas and about a week before her birthday, so she wasn’t expecting the proposal at all. Sprinkled amidst the multitude of holiday shoppers, business people, and the like were about thirty of our friends and family who had traveled to Grand Central ahead of us to take up positions in the crowd.
Exiting the train, we climbed the stairs, and when we reached the top, I grabbed Elysha’s hand and stopped her. The proposal went like this:
Me: I chose this place because I know it’s your favorite room in the world.
Me: And I wanted a place that would always be here, so that someday we could show our kids, so…could you hold my book? (I had a book in my hand and wasn’t smooth enough to drop it to the floor. Elysha took the book and I removed the ring box from my pocket. Just then a policewoman stepped beside us.)
Policewoman: Please keep moving. You can’t block the stairway. (A second later she saw the ring box and smiled.) Oh… (stepping back)
Me: (Dropping to one knee)
Elysha: (Starting to cry)
Me: (On one knee) Elysha Green, I love you with all my heart and want to spend the rest of my life with you. (Opens the ring box) Will you marry me?
Elysha: (Starts crying and reaches out to hug me, NEVER ANSWERING THE QUESTION!)
Friends: (Screaming in the distance, immediately surrounded by National Guard Soldiers)
Me: That’s all of our friends screaming honey…
Elysha: (Continuing to cry)
Friends: After assuring the soldiers that they weren’t in some kind of distress or preparing to commit an act of terrorism, they raced up the stairs, shouting and cheering.
Elysha: Oh my God. Where did you all come from?
The rest was great. After the proposal, we all enjoyed lunch at Ruby Foos and then made our way down to Rockefeller Center to check out the tree. Snow was lightly falling, the streets were abuzz with holiday shoppers, and the day couldn’t have been more perfect.
Elysha, however, has yet to answer my question.
Nevertheless, she is crying in almost every photo taken that day. She would later cry throughout much of our wedding ceremony as well, but I can’t take full credit for those tears. The wedding was more than just me.
Which leads me back to the reason that I write, or at least one of them:
I want to make my wife cry once again. As I work on finishing my second book by the end of December, I have many goals in mind.
1. Finish the book and discover Milo’s fate. I honestly can’t wait to find out what happens.
2. Share my story with readers. I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to know that you’ve brought a little entertainment and insight into a person’s life.
3. Sell the book so we can remodel the kitchen, replace the windows, and increase our options in terms of childcare for the fall.
4. Prove to myself that my first book wasn’t just a fluke.
But I also want to make my wife cry again, like she did that day in the hallway behind the auditorium. To bring so much joy to someone who I love so much might just be the greatest reward of all.
And so I write. With ten days of vacation in my near future, I hope to churn out the last 30,000 words of my latest manuscript.
Fingers crossed that there are more tears in my near future.