"Go all the way down to New York? For a play?"
"What? So you can look at Mr. Flapjack Tits?" He was getting wound up.
"It played in London last year. The West End. It killed."
He looked at me like I'd stopped speaking English. "Train tickets. Hotel. Food." He held up fingers as he talked. "Plus the tickets for the play, which are what?"
"This would cost more than a mortgage payment."
"He's a true stage actor. You have to see him in person."
"We were going to buy a couch with that money."
"It's Broadway, honey. It'll be fun."
That was that for a few weeks. I continued to talk about The Seafarer as though we were going to go, and to this Larry generally offered to make pancakes, saying, "You can look at those and pretend they're your boyfriend's tits."
The strike hit in November and no plays opened for three weeks. During this time I checked out all of the Conor McPherson plays from the library and read them and read them out loud and followed Larry all around the house talking about them, about the long monologues and supernatural touches, the Catholicism, the drinking and drinking, the yearning, the hopelessly bad sex. Larry informed me that my fake Irish brogue is dreadful, painful. We entertained a lengthy discussion about the appropriate way to drop the f-bomb in an Irish accent. He voted for fah-king. I went for foh-king. Although we never agreed, I knew his resolve had cracked.
The day the strike ended, he caved. We picked a date well after Christmas, right after his March deadline, found a time when his mother could watch the kids. Third week of January, when it's bitterly cold in New York and the hotels are dead. He called from work to say that he bought tickets in the second row. "Not going to throw your panties on stage, are you?" Funny guy.
I had six weeks to wait. I read all the plays and all about them. I like especially the early ones with the endless monologues that read like short stories. I began to tell anecdotes about them at dinner, about the actor who fainted on stage after he forgot his lines, about the actor who drank actual whisky onstage instead of apple juice. Although he got through the play, after some substantial pauses at the end, he then went on a bender, invited himself home with several women and nearly got himself beaten to death by their boyfriends. I told these stories as though they had been told to me by the playwright, not as though I'd read them in a book. I talked about Brian Cox as though we were pals. Larry took all this patiently, poor man. He showed interest--or faked it--right along. They talk about the cornerstone of a good marriage being the love and commitment, the trust. No. It's looking across the dinner table at the deeply, deeply crazy person you've married and just nodding at whatever she says no matter how bored you are. Men do this a lot and they don't get nearly enough credit for it.
THE EXERCISE: Gorge yourself on a single writer in any gnere. Read every scrap. Leave nothing on the table. Imitate the writer's style in your journal, slip anecdotes about his or her life into conversations. Become an authority on a voice that's utterly different from your own.