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The Man I Might Have Married

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The Man I Might Have Married

The internet date that was over before it started.

The Man I Might Have Married

The internet date that was over before it started.

By Carrie Cohen

Before he died, I met the man I might have married on J-date.

I'd decided to give the matchmaking site a try in an effort to catch up. A few of my girlfriends had already scored Harry Winstons and blue boxes from Tiffany, although I had to admit they weren't necessarily happy with their mates. My best friend from grad school had a child she loved, but often Googled domestic violence shelters in her area. So I knew that marriage wasn't a cakewalk, but if anything, I could get a few free dinners out of the J-date membership. And if I did meet someone I could stand, I could finally fulfill my fantasy of gift registering. I had long dreamed of running around Bloomies, zapping each and every object I desired. Dinner sets and Jimmy Choos that would magically appear in my home for the low price of saying, "I do." A J-date membership seemed a worthwhile investment.  

It was June 2009 and I, along with 10% of America, was out of work. I was interviewing for positions in New York City, so I optimistically set my search criteria for men in the Big Apple. When it came to customizing my ideal match, I felt height and eye color were unimportant. I was concerned with income, education, whether the eligible bachelors wished to have children, and the size of the anatomy necessary for that endeavor. J-date did not provide a category for this last preference. Eventually, this led me to Jeremy.

Jeremy looked handsome enough in his business casual attire and boasted an Ivy League pedigree. Once we began chatting, I shared that I had a cat and he sent me pictures of his ex-girlfriend's dog that he said he missed far more than her. Together, we planned elaborate rouses to clone or dognap the rare Bedlington terrier which looked not unlike a lamb.

A JDate membership seemed a worthwhile investment.

CarrieC: Have you thought of trying to sue for custody of the terrier? You could try to prove she is an unfit parent. did she ever forget to walk him, feed him, did he go to the vet for regular check-ups? You could call the ASPCA and file neglect charges.  Was he ever witness to the "primal scene?"

JeremyM: The primal scene?  Yikes!  Yes, he watched all the time. But he seemed to enjoy it.

CarrieC: Hmm, well you would have trouble proving you were a more fit parent if you took part in the very act you would claim traumatized him.  

Jeremy shared he had done the MBA thing and worked in the business world — a hedge fund to be precise — for many years, but it wasn't for him. Instead, he was moving into my chosen field, taking post-Bachelors courses in Psychology at my alma mater with plans of applying to a Ph.D. or Psy.D. Program. HBO's new series In Treatment had inspired him.

Meanwhile, my own psychotherapy career felt stagnant. I was tired of interviewing, meeting the same dowdy, fifty-something-year-old woman who would tiredly ask me about my strengths and weaknesses, where I saw myself in five years, why do you want to work at the non-profit de jour.

If I was answering truthfully, I would have said, "I want to work here because I need money. I also want as much vacation time as possible because I would much rather be traveling and lying out on a beach than actually working. We could sit here all day discussing my weaknesses, but what if I just signed a consent form and you talked to my shrink? She could both be one of my references and tell you all about my proclivity for bad boys (which relates back to my father).  In five years I seriously hope I still look young. It would also be good if my cat were healthy."

But I always refrained, and my most recent in a string of interviews appeared to have gone well, which is to say the interviewer did not switch over to perfectly fluent Spanish mid-interview to test my skills or have me role play a scenario wherein he is a woman being battered by a violent spouse. On the day Jeremy and I would not meet, the interviewer had introduced me to the caseworkers I would be supervising were I to work there, as well as the woman who would be my cohort.

"Are you in a rush or do you have time to complete a writing sample?" she asked. I thought of my conversation with Jeremy the day before.

JeremyM: Did u see what the market did yesterday? i can't spend all this money by myself

CarrieC: Ok. Then why don't u send a limo to the Bronx 2 whisk me away 2 Asia de Cuba, Balthazars or Etats-Unis?

To my surprise and delight he chose a French wine bar on the Upper East Side.

CarrieC: There's a 30% chance of rain tomorrow. Ugh. I'll plan to meet you at 4 at the wine bar. If Im running late remember I can't call b/c you didnt give me your digits and I dont have a crackberry. If it's closed we can always walk over to Pets on Lex and peruse the puppies.

JeremyM: I threw my cell phone in the hudson back in Jan.  Just be there at 4, after all, I think people met up on time before cell phones were invented. I will wait around 20 minutes before getting angry at you…  There is a 70% chance of no rain!

I pushed aside thoughts of its chocolate soufflé and turned to my potential supervisor-to-be. "I have all the time in the world. But," I said, "do you mind if I use the restroom first?"

I will wait around twenty minutes before getting angry with you.

"Oh no, of course not. As a matter of fact, I need to use it, too."  Foiled! I'd hoped to leave a message for Jeremy with the restaurant, but that was impossible to do with her in the next stall. I hurriedly typed out a text to my best friend of twelve years, giving her my email password, and asked her to explain to Jeremy what had happened.

I flushed the toilet and met maybe-supervisor lady at the sink where she was washing her hands. I lathered up then ran my hands over the automatic paper towel dispenser.

"Ready for that writing sample?" she asked.

I gave her my brightest, interview smile. "Definitely!"

And I began. What skills would you bring to this company? I knew they would probably not be impressed that I am always up to date on the latest celebrity gossip. Tell you about a time I had to work through a conflict with a co-worker and how I was able to do that? Well that would obviously be the time my ex co-worker ran her mouth off to our supervisor about how I thought we could nominate her for the next season of The Biggest Loser, which I am fairly sure got me fired. I resolved this conflict by telling the director how sexually inappropriate this coworker was in the office. I also went onto suggest in my exit interview that they do random drug tests.

I completed my writing sample, which ended up feeling closer to fiction than fact. As she walked me out of the building the supervisor said, "I'd like to call your references.  Please tell them I will be doing so." I smiled, shook her hand, and thanked her for her time.  Inwardly, I remained suspicious, flashbacking to an interview at a charter school a year earlier. The first graders preparing sushi had looked exquisite and those exact words about references had been uttered.

I climbed the steps to the 4 train and texted my best friend. No word from Jeremy. I contemplated taking the 4 to 86th, but I was over an hour late. He'd said he would only wait twenty minutes. Disappointed, I took Metro North back to CT. Over email I learned he had waited for over an hour. He had left word with the restaurant in case I called that he was across the street at Starbucks. We agree to be Facebook friends as I explore my job prospects and to wait to meet until I knew for sure whether I would be returning to the city.

The week following the seemingly good interview, I was standing in line at JFK, about to board a plane to Raleigh, N.C. for another interview, when I got the call. It was the supervisor. She was speaking of numbers, very high numbers for a social work salary. My head began flashing, "Alert! Alert! Job offer approaching!"

Somehow I managed to sound half-way sane as we settled on a salary and start date. And then, because nothing ever seems to be certain, I boarded the plane.

When I returned from the South, I signed onto Facebook, excited to tell Jeremy I would be returned the city. I saw his now familiar picture and read his status message; he said he was off studying in Central Park. It was when I read the messages his friends had written that I became very confused.

"Jeremy what happened?"

"Baruch Dayan Emet. Rest in peace brother."

"I am so terribly saddened by this news. I can only say many prayers for your family."

I typed out quick, frantic e-mails to his friends. What news? What has happened? Rest in peace? One by one, they respond. It was early Tuesday morning or late Tuesday night. It was either a heart attack, or a brain aneurysm, or he took his own life. The funeral is Thursday in Los Angeles. I wondered how they were getting the body back there so soon and if an autopsy was being done.

Over the next several days his friends post old pictures of him. A class trip to Israel in the late 80s. He was awkward, fifteen-years-old with glasses, dark hair, and white tube socks, lying on a bunk, staring up at the ceiling.

Now he remains permanently at Central Park, while friends continue to ask whether this is a joke and where they can send flowers. Months have passed. I'm living back in the city now, only eight blocks from the restaurant we were supposed to meet. It's on a very pretty tree lined street. When I walk by, I think about how he loved to write. I think about how he wanted a career in psychology. I think about this man I never met, who still somehow I remember.