People would stare at us all over Manhattan; me, 5 foot 8 – him, 4 foot 2.
I was afraid when he’d cross Madison Avenue by himself, and I once saw a quick flit of fear on his face when we took the subway and he got jostled over to the center where couldn’t reach the overhead bar. I had to learn his PIN at Citibank because he couldn’t get to the keypad on the ATM’s. He could jump up pretty well to the cash dispenser, though.
When there were lots of stairs he would kind of dance upwards, flinging one leg straight out to the right and then the other to the left—the risers too high for him to bend at the knee.
We partnered up at the ad agency whenever we could and even got to travel some—ok, it was to Indiana—but we did do lunch and 4 o’clock chocolate together every day.
He was sharp and smart and kind of religious and proper-- a little prudish-- and judgmental in the best possible way.
Nobody in my life has ever made me laugh more.
We shared a secretary, Stephanie. She was an enormous young woman from the West Indies, and she called her husband Junior. She ordered fried food every single day from “Snowpea may I help you?” the Chinese restaurant all the way on 9th avenue.
Tony tortured her. Stephanie, you should eat something more healthy. Stephanie, why don’t you call your husband by his real name. Stephanie, try to catch me.
That last one would sometimes get a rise out of her. She would gird herself up, slide her shoes back on, roll back her chair—and BAM!
Tony, who had been teetering a few safe feet from her desk, his mouth down and open in slightly frightened delight would fly down the halls of Doyle Dane Bernbach, “aiiiiiiii!” with Stephanie huffing in hot pursuit.
“I’m gonna get you, Toooooooooooony!”
She never caught him.
About a year later, the game stopped because she was trying to get pregnant with Junior Junior and all that fried food had messed up her cervix and even Tooooony felt sorry for her.
When I got pregnant, Tony barely left my side. He was a good and jealous friend. He made sure I downed the quart of skim I plopped on the top of my desk every morning and wouldn’t let Elizabeth G. smoke near me.
When I brought Zachary in for the grand agency look-see at 2 months, Tony came running down the hall first. “Oh my God it’s Lisa and her baby!”
Zachary’s baby head whipped around in total recognition of that voice. I will never forget it. Tony’s mouth had been belly-level for nine loquacious months.
By the time I gave birth to Aaron, 5 years later, we weren’t working at the same agency but we spoke pretty often.
I was at Beth Israel Hospital. “Howabout I take you out?” he offered.
I looked down at my wristband. “I’m kind of a prisoner, “ I said. “Howabout you come over with some milk and cookies?”
I hung up and turned to my roommate—a pretty black 20-year-old whose newborn son’s name my mother had helped her spell: Tyrece.
“Now listen,” I said, over the gaggle of girlfriends she had round her bed.
“My little friend Tony’s coming—and please don’t be staring at him or anything.” I actually said that, verbatim.
20 minutes later I heard a chorus. “Tooooooony!” “Toooooooony!” In here, yo! Tooooooony!”
He had arrived, blushing slightly at the sisters, with milk and cookies for everyone. OU Dairy.
Shortly afterwards, I guess, we lost touch.
Tony has a form of dwarfism called Achondroplasia. He is what is called a short statured person. It’s not like you just took a man and pressed 50% on the copier. He has different proportions.
He used to joke that he could afford to dress so well because he bought his stuff in the Brooks Brother’s boy’s department.
He took stands on dwarf tossing, munchkin calling, staring unnecessarily and anything else to “stand up for the little guy,” a slogan he rode to victory as an elected councilman in Hoboken.
He has a big stature mouth.
Facebook helped us reconnect. I went to his Father’s wake, (his mother’s had been my first) and he was really touched.
A few years later he told me that he had flirted with Mormonism but balked when he had to go back and posthumously convert his parents. He had been a devoted son all his life.
“I couldn’t do it. I mean, what if they wake up and find themselves someplace and they can’t even get a good cup of coffee?” I cracked up.
Tony has since left advertising and become a successful boutique real estate guy. He looks handsome and seems happy.
I’ve never written about Tony, but something hit me when my 50th birthday hit, back in July, and then Tony’s in August.
Tony once told me that dwarves don’t live very long. He told me he expected to make it to about 55. We were 26 at the time and we both laughed.
I’m not laughing now.
However many years we both have, Toooooony, (and Google now says that actuarially, you will have a normal life span minus 10 years so that’s not so terrible) I will always be enormously grateful for all those jokes, and all that loyalty.
I will always remember the way you used to imitate Elizabeth G. smoking at her desk with one hand holding the cigarette and the other on her hip as she read the New York Times aggressively, looking for any signs of Republicanism.
And the year we went to Diet Center together and made everybody in the creative department’s birthday party anyway, serving Wasa crackers instead of pecan sandies.
And all the teasing you did because you thought I was jonesing for Charlie T., but you got it wrong, baby, and I will never tell you who it really was.
And because you gave me the best compliment the night I won my Clio and it had nothing to do with my Clio: “Wow, you don’t look like you had a baby five months ago!”
I am grateful for the way you dealt with my being Kosher and only eating the tuna fish at Hamburger Heaven. Oh, and leaving early on Fridays when everyone else had to work the whole weekend.
And how you defended me when I finally got Friday’s off to be a Mommy and everyone was jealous and you told them I took a salary cut even though you knew it wasn’t true.
And how you always came by my office with useful gossip and how you actually threw your head back when you laughed.
And I hope you forgive me for all those times I put your name plaque on your office door upside down because I knew you couldn’t reach it.
And because we were young and cool and living a dreamy corporate life together and making a lot of money and I totally trusted you and you totally trusted me.
And I still wish you had married that beautiful short-statured girl from Norway, Mary Magdalena—see? I remember her name. Your mother also hoped. I never told you that.
I find myself tearing up lately, thinking of you.
Of course, you’re still here and I’m still here, and maybe the only thing that’s not still here is our youth.
Maybe I’ll Facebook you later. Maybe we should get together in Hoboken. Maybe we shouldn’t wait too long this time, to re-reconnect.
Life is short you know, Tooooooony.