Short Story: The Proposal
Since my second Mac crashed and I had to back everything onto my external hard drive, I started to peruse some old files already on there from the Pro’s predecessor (the ol’ G3).
I used to write short stories relatively frequently while in college. Not sure why I stopped – it was cathartic. It’s interesting when you reach a point where your former self seems like a stranger… but after sifting through a lot of really bizarre reads, I found one (a very short one) that was most interesting to me because I’m at a point in my life where everyone’s either engaged or soon-to-be engaged and I’m the odd-ball.
Here is my story from eight years ago. It is not auto-biographical, but I can say that this character was based on myself (at that point in my life) in a fictional situation.
I’m desperately attempting (and dismally failing) to hold my breath as long as possible — hoping that my lungs might collapse and save me from the shame I’m experiencing. I want to induce a coma, but I’ll settle for an old-fashioned fainting. Really, at this point, any medical condition that might relieve me of this formulaic charade is welcomed.
It’s difficult to simultaneously act surprised and elated when, in reality, I knew it was coming from the instant my counterpart’s conspicuous wink towards our waitress induced an abnormal eagerness to bring champagne; instead of butterflies fluttering with bliss in my stomach, there’s a churning austereness — distracting itself by digesting my over-priced filet. But, despite the seemingly perilous situation occurring in my head (I have a tendency to over-dramatize things), I’ve managed to coordinate salty tears. Let them drop one by one ever so delicately onto my cheeks and with minimal strain, slowly force my dimples to appear. With a short sigh and a pseudo fervent, “Yes,” I’ve become a puppet.
The candlelit room spins with the blurred images of the strangers around me clapping and cooing like pigeons at the spectacle. My life, the miniature and insignificant circus that was once my confidential playground, has suddenly transformed into a public display where I am the chimp, banging cymbals and dancing for pennies — pining for acceptance from a phony empathetic audience. In private, I may have been able to, but in the spotlight I couldn’t tell him “no.” I quickly chose, from the moment he pushed his chair back, that I would not break his heart in public. I refuse to strip him of pride in front of aged vultures who will aimlessly pass along the story of a poor boy they saw rejected last week at dinner. But, how can I tell him, despite all his good, that he isn’t good enough. Why did I wait for things to come to this?
My potential life, embodied in the patient smile still kneeling in front of me, fumbles to remove the object from the tiny box glimmering with my perfect future: a picket fence, a golden retriever and a never quiet two-story house for eighteen years. My perfect moment has flopped. It’s become a cliché magazine ad for Ben Bridges. This is why you aren’t good enough, boy – you don’t know me.
Doesn’t he know me well enough to know that public humiliation is not my idea of a proposal? Sure, the sixty-year-old couple sitting next to us (dining on their ten thousand, nine hundred and fiftieth meal together) smiles, gazes into each others eyes and after thirty years and only one act of infidelity between the two, fondly remembers their moment. But the idea that their perfect moment occurred in the same monotonous manner that I just experienced makes mine seem less special.
I’m pathetic. I know. How can I be thinking all of this in the one moment that every little girl waits her whole life for? The fifteen minutes of immortality that can only to be topped by the actual glory of the white-day itself. Maybe that’s the problem – why is this the pinnacle to wait for? I’m not a feminist. I’m not against marriage. I’m not against motherhood. I’m against myself – what I’ve become.
The usually comforting, but now overwhelming smell of his cologne surrounds me and I’m suddenly claustrophobic and nauseous. I need air. Trapped in his embrace and crying real tears this time, I wonder where it’s all gone. He used to be perfect. There used to be passion and a tumultuous day-to-day experience that left all my scenes heightened and thirsty for more. People aren’t supposed to lose that in less than two years… are they? Now I sit aimlessly at my desk, reading endless proofs about a mathematics that doesn’t even exist in a three-dimensional world. I linger through my work in the hopes that he might turn away from the sports channel to ask me if I always look that sexy in my reading glasses.
I talk to my dog instead. I talk to my cat. Hell, I even talk to myself, now. I don’t talk to my mother.
Luckily, he thinks I’m crying out of some feminine, emotional overload because the entire episode is just so damn, unbelievably beautiful.
Well, it’s not. It’s a let down. But it’s not his fault and I don’t blame him and I don’t plan on telling him how unhappy I am with his attempt to sweep me off my feet. Unfortunately however, that’s where I stand: I can’t even fight for my own happiness anymore.
Again, it’s pathetic. I’m pathetic.
The karat feels heavy on my finger — and awkward. But it’s beautiful. He got one thing right. Everything I had asked for: a solitaire, brilliant cut, colorless and flawless one-karat diamond set in platinum. And that oversized, weighted mess falling side to side just adds to my frustration. How unoriginal, traditional, plain and boring I’ve become to ask for the most modernly coveted, but superfluous, symbol of love. I used to swear I’d never own a diamond ring, but instead tattoo around my finger: Omnia Vincit Amor.
Not in this life.