It was Sunday 29 April 1973 that Stephen Cox and I exchanged rings. Stephen and I would have celebrated our 41st anniversary this year had Stephen not died from throat cancer three years ago.
Stephen and I lived together for a couple of years in his small Manhattan studio on Waverly Place. He had painted the walls an elegant dark brown—a colour one of our friends later dubbed ‘international Cox brown.’ We painted nearly every place we lived after Stephen’s studio this colour.
When we moved to our first place renting together, a one-bedroom on lower Fifth Avenue with two receptions and a library/guest room (slightly beyond our means, but we didn’t care) we chose dark charcoal with gloss black wood trim for the colours and bought the paint one weekend. During the week I thought I’d surprise Stephen by painting the flat. I worked from the flat; Stephen worked in mid-town. I took a day out from work and had almost finished painting the entire flat by the time Stephen came home from work. All he said was, ‘Let’s go for coffee.’ I was astonished and more than slightly angry, but we went out for coffee and cake at Sutter’s, where you regularly got a cup and half of coffee (the half in the saucer) and ‘cookie-boy Tony’ would sneak us the occasional free cake. When we went back to the flat and opened the door I saw that I had painted the walls robin’s egg blue with deep purple trim.
That Saturday we went back for grey paint, checking the colour half a dozen times as we made the guy who mixed it add more and more black tint. We schlepped gallons of the stuff back to the flat. On Sunday, 29 April, we got up at a normal 11am, had our regular breakfast of black coffee, me with some juice and Stephen with cigarettes. We had bought gold hexagonal wedding rings with cheque number 001 from our first joint account and Stephen and I put the rings on without any particular ceremony.
We thought we’d paint for a while; we had no plans and the blue walls screamed ‘Paint me!’ When we finally stopped it was 4:00am Monday morning. We hadn’t taken any breaks and hadn’t eaten. There was no food in the flat. At that hour only Emilio’s Pizza on Sixth Avenue was open. Our wedding dinner was an Emilio’s special, no anchovies, with a bottle of Valpolicella. Sadly Emilio’s has been replaced by a large discount pharmacy, but while it remained, Stephen and I had the same dinner many times. We even learned to like pizza with anchovies.
Stephen Robert Cox
26 November 1942, Edmonton, Alberta – 11 May 2011, London, UK
I miss him every day.
Our thanks as always to Ralph. For more on property, living in London, home decor (in international Cox brown or otherwise) and the occasional story of life and love, remember to keep reading our blog, and also sign up for updates.