Monday, June 7, 2010
Shortened Version appears in the June/July 2010 issue of Maniac Magazine
It was the summer of 2007 and I was participating in Pittsburgh’s 50 Finest Singles fundraising campaign for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. I was working for a real estate development company based in the South Side as a property manager for high-end units while I continued to freelance for the Post-Gazette as a music journalist. As a side project I was also working on a column about adventures in dating. In my short bio for the fundraising campaign Whirl Magazine deemed me the “Carrie Bradshaw of Pittsburgh.”
Thanks to my dedication to my job I took a Sunday appointment to show an apartment to a visiting doctor transferring from Seattle. He had an accent that I couldn’t place and I happen to have a soft spot for imports. When I walked out of the apartment door to look for Dr. Patrick Filip I was greeted by man wearing a Newsboy Cap looking up at me. “Wow,” I heard him say and then I turned to smile to myself.
He took the apartment and we started a long distance email relationship. He was from Romania and I had an even softer spot for Eastern European men after having lived in the Czech Republic.
Then I did something crazy; I flew out to meet him in Seattle for a real date. I had a cousin out there so I had a back-up plan if I needed to escape his clutches. As it turned out I didn’t need one. I liked his clutches.
When he finally arrived in Pittsburgh it was the day of the awards ceremony for 50 Finest. He found a seat at the front of the stage in the Omni William Penn ball room with my dad, also a doctor. It was a great night, so great I got plastered and told him all my deepest darkest secrets. In the morning I was afraid to open my eyes for fear he was gone. He was still there and he laughed at me when I confessed my fears.
In my illustrious dating career that spanned countries and religious beliefs I had always been a curiosity to men, not a treasure. When I turned 31 years old that year I decided that I would only date men that I would seriously consider as a life partner and not just an adventure. Patrick was in a similar state of mind and we agreed to assess our progress at our six-month anniversary.
At the four month marker of our relationship, we dressed up for the Halloween Masquerade Ball at the Armory and ended the night making intimate mistakes. The next day we decided it might be a good idea to take the morning-after pill. Then I forgot on Monday and remembered on Tuesday, but left work to late to pick it up at the pharmacy. Technically, I had 72 hours to take it so I still felt confident that I was in the black. Wednesday was actually Halloween and I showed Patrick how to carve his first pumpkin. I took the pill before bed.
I guess you already know it didn’t work. A couple of weeks past and nothing happened except my boobs got really firm and tender. Patrick, the doctor, was confident the pill worked. I wasn’t.
We waited another week and then he brought home a hospital pregnancy exam. We had a couple glasses of wine and then huddled in his bathroom to take the test. It immediately turned positive and my heart jumped in my chest as I screamed “Oh my God!?”
Still staring at the test he screamed, “Wait, wait, wait. It could change!”
“Not for nine months it won’t,” I muttered.
“How did this happen?” He replied and I looked at him in disbelief that he had actually said that.
“Are you sure you are a doctor?” I uttered while my mind started to recover from the flash of lighting that had just struck it.
The next day I went to work with my eyeballs feeling like they were going to pop out of my head because I had been staring at the ceiling all night. I was old enough not to have made this decision and, I also figured, I was mature enough to be responsible for it. When I met Patrick that evening I told him there was no way I was terminating the pregnancy.
Patrick had done his own freaking out that day and called his friend who works in pediatrics to ask him if it was even safe that I had gotten pregnant while I was drunk. Of course, his friend said that if I didn’t carry on getting drunk the fetus would be fine. I had to giggle at this. I mean everyone I knew who had become accidental parents had created them while intoxicated.
After a lot of tears he looked at me and he said, “Okay, let’s have a baby,” and we high-fived each other. No kidding.
“Oh, no! You just didn’t say that! Take it back! That is not a proposal!” I exclaimed and I meant it. All my life I had daydreamed about how a man might propose to me and this was not what I had in mind. Although to tell the truth, nothing in my life had gone according to plan I was certain I was worth a little more.
I told my dad at Thanksgiving and then my mom, down in Kentucky, for Christmas. My dad proceeded to tell everyone I was getting married even though he knew that was not the case. It was his unsubtle way of hinting at his wishes. However, my mother didn’t do any better. Her first reaction was to lean across the dinner table and whisper “Are you sure he is the father?” I was speechless. I assured her that there was no doubt and that we were leaving for Romania to tell his parents in a few days on New Years.
I was ten weeks pregnant and I was not only nauseated in the morning, but the entire day. To get to his town in Western Romania we had to fly to Prague, then fly to Budapest, then take a three hour carpool across the Hungarian border to Arad. I left a trail of vomit where ever we went. Throughout the trip I held onto the idea that if my life was a movie that this might be funny.
It was New Year’s Eve so Patrick had planned for us to meet up with his friends as soon as we got in. His parents’ house was surrounded by a high brick wall. Inside were rows of fruit trees and a path that lead to the front door. It was dark and spooky. I clung to an illegible piece of paper that had the Romanian translation of ‘Nice to meet you’ scribbled on it. I couldn’t get my tongue to pronounce any of it, regardless the two elderly white haired figures smiled at me.
No sooner had we arrived then we left in the taxi of a family friend, Attila. This man would eventually spread the word around town that Patrick had come home with a funny American woman who resembled Madonna. To explain: Romanians love cheesy pop music set to the cheesiest form of House Beats I had ever heard. The songs on the radio were most always in English so while Patrick sat in front conversing with Attila I would bounce around in the back pretending I was Brittany Spears.
Anyway, that evening we were headed to a big contemporary home with heated tiles and dynamic modern architecture. The house was warm and full of guests curious about the new arrival. Amongst the children running in and out of the kitchen with goodies there was a large Russian woman who kept doling out endless dishes of food. She took a break only to grab one of the younger guests to translate a conversation with me.
In front of many listening guests she laid her eyes on me suspiciously and gave the translator her questions. The appointed translator looked at me and said, “She wants to know why a Romanian man? Is there something wrong with American man?”
In my mind I was laughing, but instead I smiled and simply said, “Of course, there is.”
Both women spent the night telling me all the things that were wrong with Romanian men and to tell the truth it translated into every American man I knew. By the time midnight came around, the consensus was that women everywhere were doomed.
The next day Patrick’s sister Olivia begged him to tell his parents that I was pregnant. When he did I couldn’t understand a single word, but I saw the look on his parents’ faces. His mother gasped and his father smiled with glee. As Patrick and his mother continued a conversation of concern, his dad poured me a drink of his best cherry brandy and kissed me on the forehead. That was exactly what I needed and I was enjoying the glass until his mom swiped it from me.
After a week of listening to conversations that were oblivious to me I begged Patrick to take me out and see Romania, like Dracula’s castle! So we boarded a Communist Era train with a sack of food from his mom to Brasov. We stayed in a simple pension with a bed that was a little more than foam on a board.
The next day we awoke to sunshine on the snow. Patrick was full of happiness and energy, while I was in the mood to cut his balls off. We rented a car to drive to Bran Castle that took us up many icy, windy roads. At the top of a mountain that overlooked the castle he stopped the car. He got out in a snow covered sheep field and beckoned me to follow. I dragged my feet out into that icy field cursing Romanian beds.
I was in a daze staring out at the sheep, still wishing I was watching the movie of my life instead experiencing it, when he said something that pushed my final button.
“You Americans don’t know anything about bedding.”
“That’s it I am going back to the car.”
“But wait if you go I can’t give you this!” He grabbed my arm and flung a small open box around into my face. The box was empty.
“Oh, no!” he screamed and immediately started to search the snow. “I can’t afford another ring!”
My mind froze and all I could think was ‘That was it!! The moment I had been dreaming about was lost in a sheep field!’ I got down on my knees and scoured the snow praying to Saint Tony, God, the devil, and my deceased grandma. After an hour, I admitted defeat and got to my feet to say the words I knew I must.
“I don’t need a diamond when I have you.” We kissed and he insisted on taking my photo next to a statue of the crucifix that was randomly situated in the field. Ugh, I never want to see that photo I thought.
We spent the rest of the day at Bran Castle peering out at the mountain that swallowed my ring. I spent the remaining time in Romania transfixed on the ring that Dracula’s sheep were probably going to eat.
Our Romanian trip was over; a day later we took the taxi back to Budapest and took a plane back to Prague for a couple of days. I was so happy to be back in some place familiar that I made an appointment at a spa. Afterwards, Patrick and I met up at the clock in Old Town Square. At a restaurant somewhere down a romantic alley he got down on his knees with a garnet butterfly ring.
“Well, ya gonna?”
“No, no, no that’s not the way you do it!” I said with tears in my eyes. “You have to say ‘Will you marry me?!’”
“Yes,” he replied.
I admitted defeat and said, “Okay, me too.”
Patrick’s forest ranger buddy Ronny took the photo of me in the sheep field next to Jesus and searched for the ring for three days. As he was about to give up he found it and sent it back to the States with a Kentucky priest. When we finally received it I made Patrick propose to me yet again.