A Strange Ask E. Jean Question
....and an even stranger answer
The bridge to the Ask E. Jean cabin.
I’m not at my brightest and most dazzling in the morning…
….yet I’m at breakfast in my cabin on my little island in the Tranquility Mountains, some seventy miles north of Manhattan, caulking a rack of toast with a stick of butter, looking at my iPad, going through my Ask E. Jean emails, and throwing bits of jam to Guff, the dog, when what to my wondering eye should appear, but the name "Mr. Darcy.”
I stop scrolling.
Mr. Darcy, as we all know, is the haughty millionaire chap in Jane Austen’s novel, Pride and Prejudice, whom the dingy gods of literature have declared the most dashing man in the English language.
Being a woman of the nicest scruple, and having—weirdly—a small collection of Ask E. Jean letters which mention Mr. Darcy—I wipe my hands on my ruffle-sleeved, Alexander McQueen sweatshirt, and begin reading immediately:
Dear E. Jean:
I am a 27-year old woman with a great job as deputy head of communications for a major company. I have a sense of humor and a brain. When people hear I haven’t had a real date in seven months they can’t believe it, but it’s true. I live in New York City where there are four million men. But despite my being on all the dating apps, my volunteer work with the ASPCA, my friend group and book club, I haven’t even met a decent possibility!
Part of the problem may be that I’ve been in love with the most attractive, but unattainable, man for several years now. He’s rich. He’s aloof, and when I come home from drinks with colleagues, or coffee with a Bumble prospect, I climb into bed with a big bowl of popcorn, open the book, and embrace my love until I fall asleep.
I’ve tried everything--staying away from him, hating him, spending so much time with him, I get bored with him--but nothing works.
I know it’s insane. I know I’m nuts, but I am hopelessly in love, and I feel that I am wasting my life pining for a man I’ll never be able to have. No one else interests me. And I’m starting to worry that Mr. Darcy is so perfect, that I will never fall in love with another man.
P.S. Yes, that Mr. Darcy, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, of Pemberley. I know, I know....I’m pathetic!
After reading and re-reading the last lines, I begin devising the answer to Ms. Desperate in my head, and am looking around for a piece of paper to jot down my main idea, because the first thing an advice columnist learns is that it’s disastrous to trust your brain to remember anything these days, which is why The New York Times now has six advice columns—apparently nobody can remember anything—and just as I’m ripping the top off an Amazon box to jot my notes on..... the phone rings.
It’s Allison, from our village library.
“E. Jean!” she says. “Do you know Melissa Gilbert?”
“….Uhhhh….Melissa . . . Tiny House on the Prairie?”
“President of the Screen Actor’s Guild?”
“Has a new book out?’
“Activist? Do-Gooder? Married to Timothy Busfield?”
“Yeah,” says Allison.
“No,” I say.
“E. Jean!” cries Allison.
“Never met her,” I say.
“We’re dying,” cries Allison, “for her to come and speak at the library!”
Allison is our “Marian the Librarian,” and nobody says no to Allison. My neighbor once said “no” to Allison, and every single one of her brass doorknobs lost their luster. Plus her roof blew off.
“Wellll,” I say. “I could DM Melissa on Twitter.”
“Ohhhhhh! Would you?”
“She won’t reply.”
“Oh, she’ll reply,” says Allison.
An administrative assistant in the White House once called Allison and asked her to make Stephen King show up at a gala on the South Lawn celebrating something called “Young Artists.” Allison not only made Stephen King arrive early with four boxes of his books to give away, she also somehow got Margaret Atwood to show up, and the White House assistant went into shock, and a doctor had to be called.
“Ok, I’ll DM Melissa Gilbert,” I say to Allison, and, just as we’re about to hang up, I add: “but you have to do me a favor.”
“Anything you want,” says Allison.
“Send me Mr. Darcy.”
“You heard me.”
“Ha ha ha ha ha ha.”
“Allison, just.....Seriously, Allison, send me Mr Darcy. . . Allison? Yo! Allison . . . .”
“Mr. Darcy is reserved,” says Allison, laughing, and hangs up.
So, by now, of course, I’ve completely forgotten the note I wanted to write so I wouldn’t forget the answer I had in mind for the correspondent in love with Mr. Darcy, so, I figure I may as well DM Melissa Gilbert. Here’s a screen shot:
Then I go make myself a fried egg-and-mayonnaise sandwich, then I make a second fried egg-and mayonnaise sandwich, then I read the paper, and just as I’m seeing my DMs light up with . . .
….Guff, my dog, starts barking, and I look out my kitchen window, and, as I say, I live on a small island—about the size of a mattress—and what do I see on the foot bridge?
I see Guff, a pit bull shaped like a shipping container, working himself into a frenzy of slobbering and howling; and I also see a tall dark stranger who looks like he’s dressed for Ascot, giving Guff such a look of civil distain that Guff sits---SITS!!
Hardly believing what I’m seeing, I step outside for a better look, and observe the stranger coming up the gravel path towards me.
✺ ✺ ✺
His great height, his powerful, supple form, the tightness of his riding breeches, the shine of his boots, his dark good looks, his noble mien, I recognize him, I know him, I finger him.
He approaches, gives a slight bow of silent indignation after eyeing my outfit, and says, with grave propriety:
“Do I have the honor of addressing Miss Carroll?”
I can’t believe this.
He is so devastating-looking I have to clutch the door frame to keep from falling to the ground.
“. . . Miss Carroll . . . ?”
“HEAVENS TO FUCKING BETSY!” I shout.
“Permit me to introduce myself,” he says.
He’s here. It’s him.
“Oh!” I cry. “I know who you are!”