A modest proposal

Just a little story in honor of my anniversary this week. (I'm a little nervous about this whole heart-on-sleeve storytelling but here goes...) 

wildwood greg and annie.jpg

It was the first time I ever cried in a supermarket, unless you count the time I threw a tantrum for a lollipop when I was three.  But there I was, amidst the harsh flourescent lighting, overly friendly produce men in red polyester jackets, and tear-soaked lettuce.  I missed him, two hours away.  I missed him to distraction. 

I had been dating G for fifteen months--six of those months I was in London and three more I was away at school--so we had endured separations before.  In fact we joked about our feast-or-famine dating. No big deal. But the cold aching gnaw below my heart was telling me differently. I felt bereft and that wasn't good for my plans.  Not good at all.

Love...marriage...all of this was scheduled much later in my life plan, certainly after college graduation. We had talked about how we would wait for any serious plans, despite the increasing undercurrent of certainty about the fact that we would share a future, eventually. Some day. When we were older and had more of our career paths set. When the grad school we both planned was finished.  That was beginning to feel really very distant, the feasts too infrequent, the famines too...famine-y.

When G arrived the next Saturday night for our weekly visit we booked a table to eat at our favorite spot.  But this night the feasting failed.  Halfway through dinner, G seemed distracted, blankly nodding with a glazed look.  Finally he admitted to feeling a little sick. "Maybe the flu" he said so I took him back to my apartment for a place to recover.  An hour later he was still ill so I ran out for some medicine.  The night crawled on until I convinced him off of the sick-couch and took him home to his friend's apartment where he was crashing for the night.

I dropped him off and as he left the car he promised to see me tomorrow. "Don't forget to lock the car, okay?"  These words rang in my ears as I drove back to my place.  Don't forget to lock the avocado green 1971 Toyota Corolla station wagon? Does it even lock?  I had never seen him lock it before.

Once back in my parking lot, one glance in the back seat told me that Greg forgot his duffel bag. Poor guy, first he gets the stomach flu and now he doesn't even have his things for the night.  I grabbed the bag and hefted it up to my lap.  Expecting to find a razor or a towel or books or clothes, I unzipped the turquoise duffel bag and flailed my hand through the dark opening.

The contents clinked together and my hand brushed the velvet covering of a small box.  Curious, I clutched the box and brought it out into the field of the lone streetlight.  In my hand was a light blue jewelry box, much like one...an...engagement...  My mind choked on the thought.

Should I open it? [pause]  Yes.

Slowly I creaked open the box to reveal two gold rings nestled in the furrow, one bearing a gleaming diamond.  Frantically, my heart started beating faster and my mind protested: I thought we had already...oh no...I can't believe this...what am I going to do...does the ring even fit?

Should I try it on? [pause] Um, yeah.

I tugged the ring from the anchor and slipped it over the knuckles of my left ring finger.  A little snug but it fits.  I'll get used to it.

Then the tears started, not the muffled supermarket kind but real, solitary weeping.  It would be a long night.  Tomorrow he'll ask.  What will I say?  As I laid in bed, many things played through my mind: thoughts of expectations (my own and others'), of stories of my cousin turning several proposals down, of overheard conversations about happy relationships and other, distressed marriages.  One last thought drifted before sleep fell: I'll bet I'm the first one in history to propose to herself.

To be continued...
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