“The next day, sure enough, he called. ‘Shelby gave me your number,’ he said. Shelby’s a friend of mine and a Vanderbilt grandson. I can be rude, but only up to a point. ‘I didn’t know you knew Shelby,’ I said. ‘Su-u-re,’ he said. ‘Since kindergarten.’
“I should have never gotten started with him. Before I knew it. I was telling him all about my breakup with Dominique and the next day, he sent flowers ‘because a beautiful girl shouldn’t be depressed about being dumped.’ Shelby called. ‘Dudley’s a great guy,’ he said.
“‘His family owns half of Nantucket.’
“Dudley was persistent. He sent gifts—stuffed bears and one time, a Vermont cheese basket. He called three or four times a day. At first, he set my teeth on edge. But after a while, I got used to his bad sense of humor and almost looked forward to his calls. He listened with fascination to any spoiled, mundane detail of my day: you know, like how I was pissed because Yvonne had bought a new Chanel suit and I couldn’t afford one; how a taxi driver kicked me out of the cab for smoking; how I cut my ankle again after shaving. He was setting a trap for me and I knew it—but I still thought that I, of all people, could get out of it.
“And then came the weekend invitation, via Shelby, who called me and said, ‘Dudley wants us to go to his house in Nantucket with him.’
“‘Not on your life,’ I said.
“‘His house is beautiful. Antique. Main Street.’
“‘If it’s one of the brick houses, I’ll think about it.’
“Ten minutes later, Dudley called. ‘Yeah, it’s one of the brick houses’
“I still have no explanation for what happened that weekend. Maybe it was the alcohol, the marijuana. Or maybe it was just the house itself. As a kid, my family had spent summers on Nantucket. I say that, but the reality is, we spent two weeks at a rooming house. I shared a room with my brothers, and my parents boiled lobsters for dinner on a hot plate.
“I slept with Dudley that weekend. I didn’t want to. We were on the landing of the staircase, saying good night, when he leaned over and started to kiss me. I didn’t refuse. We went to his bed, and as he lay on top of me, I remembered at first feeling suffocated, which probably wasn’t in my imagination since Dudley was 6 feet 1 inch and over 250 pounds.
“But for the first time in my life, the sex was great. I had a sort of epiphany: Maybe if I was with a guy because he was nice and adored me, I would be happy. But still I was afraid to look at Dudley when we woke up, afraid that I’d be repulsed.
“Two weeks after we got back to the city, we attended an Upper East Side museum benefit. It was our first official event together as a couple. And, in what would become typical of our relationship, it was a series of mishaps. He was an hour late, then we couldn’t find a cab because it was 105 degrees, we had to walk, and Dudley nearly passed out and someone had to get him glasses of ice water. Then he insisted on dancing, which basically consisted of flinging me into other couples. Then he smoked a cigar and threw up. Meanwhile, everyone kept telling me what a great guy he was.
“Except my friends. Amalita said, ‘You can do better. This is ridiculous.’
“I said, ‘But he’s great in bed.’
“She said, ‘Please don’t make me puke.’
“A month later, Dudley unofficially asked me to marry him, and I said Yes. I had this feeling of shame about Dudley, but I kept thinking I would get over it. Plus, Dudley kept me busy. We were always shopping. For apartments. Engagement rings. Antiques. Oriental rugs. Silver. Wine. And then there were weekend trips to Nantucket, and trips to Maine to visit my parents, but Dudley was perniciously late and always unorganized, so that we were always missing trains and ferries.
“The turning point came the night we missed a ferry to Nantucket for the fourth time. We had to spend the night at a motel, and Dudley went out to get Chinese food. The food was disgusting, and I refused to eat it, but Dudley, of course, would eat anything. While I lay in bed, trying to block out the noise of a couple screwing in the next room, Dudley sat at a Formica table in his boxers. He was only 30 but had the kind of beer belly you’d expect to see on a 45-year old.