Have you ever found yourself in a situation beyond all comprehension? I mean something so out there that it defies all logic and you end up sitting there, unable to act, rendered mute by your inability to grasp what had happened?
I sat there as Mariann walked away, unable to hear the tittering of the crowd around me. Some tried to ignore the scene of a grown man with a bowl of spaghetti on his head. I wish I could say I tried to remain dignified, but there’s no dignity to be found while spaghetti sauce drips off your nose and runs into your mouth. I registered that the sauce was delicious, and it brought me out of my stunned stupor and I began to clean myself up. My server helped as well, failing to disguise the laughter in his eyes.
I hate Valentine’s Day. I really, really do. I don’t know what else to say to be even more emphatic about my loathing for the day. I wish I could ignore the day. I wish I would’ve taken Mariann’s advice and tried not to make a big deal of it, but I’m not so foolish enough to heed her advice. No man is. What I had hoped to do was to have a quiet dinner, followed by a movie of her choosing. Dinner and a movie. What could possibly go wrong?
I picked her up at home, and she looked absolutely stunning. Mariann is a petite young woman who if you don’t know her, has you believing that she’s helpless and vulnerable. She’s a formidable person, with a big personality and a cutting wit. That was what attracted me to her in the first place. Fiery, as redheads are wont to be.
We didn’t talk much on the drive to the restaurant, an Italian bistro, if you haven’t already deduced by the image of my pasta-topped noggin. We ordered a bottle of wine, she was in the mood for a Moscato, and then enjoyed a Caesar salad while we waited for the main. She was quiet, which I found odd since she’s one of the most talkative persons I know.
“Did I do something wrong?” I asked, unable to help myself.
“Hmm? Oh, no,” she shook her head. “I’m just lost in thought.”
“Okay,” I said as I took another bite of my salad. I glanced up and saw that she was looking at the table beside us where some jackass had gotten on one knee and proposed to his girlfriend. God! I hate Valentine’s Day! I really didn’t need that kind of pressure.
“That’s what I’m talking about,” she sighed wistfully. “Everyone I know is married, getting married, having kids…. When will it be my turn?”
See what I’m saying? How did I respond? I didn’t. I was a lout with a mouthful of salad, and it’s all I could do not to choke as I tried to swallow. I finally managed to do so and I took a steadying drink of my wine as I attempted to say something, but there was nothing for me to say. I had missed my opportunity to do so.
“Have you given any thought to us?” She said casually, still looking at the recently engaged couple beside us, locked in a passionate embrace while all those around us applauded them.
“Well, you know I…” I mumbled, trying to find something to hold on to as I witnessed our date spiraling out of control.
“Not that I’m asking for a commitment,” she hastily added as she realized my discomfort. “I don’t want you to think I’m trying to strong-arm you into anything.”
“No, I never thought you were,” I laugh, the relief in my tone all too noticeable. I chuckle again as I take another sip of wine. “Yeah, I guess I have thought about us, if you must know. You’re the first person in a long time that I feel I could spend my life with. You are my cuddle bunny, after all.”
“Yeah, I guess. I know I’m not making any sense. I’ve always prided myself at being independent, at not needing any man to take care of me. I don’t need you and if you were to leave it wouldn’t hurt all that much.”
“Oh,” I say, my wounded pride escaping her notice as she looked over to the bastards seated at the table next to us. I hoped they would choke on the complementary gelato, which I don’t know if it’s really possible.
“All the same,” she smiled at me, “you’re the first person ever that has made me think that giving up my independence might not be such a bad thing.”
“Why should you give up your independence for me?” I ask as our server brings out a large bowl of spaghetti, drenched in their delectable red sauce. “I would never ask you to give up anything for me? That’s just plain stupid!”
Next thing you know, Mariann threw herself out of her chair, grabbed the bowl out of the unsuspecting server and dropped the contents over my head, along with the bowl, before stomping away in a huff. I think I just found out what I said wrong. Poor choice of words.
As I was dabbing the last of the sauce off my new white shirt, one that I’ll never wear again, when she emerged from her hiding place, looking rather contrite. “I shouldn’t have done that,” she apologized in a small voice.
“And I shouldn’t have answered the way I did. I’m sorry.”
“Why don’t we go back to my place and while you wash up, I’ll make us something to eat.”
“It’s probably best,” I answered. I paid for our abortive night out, and we headed on over to her place, all eyes on us as we walked out, a story for them to share at work on Monday.
I wash out all the spaghetti sauce out of my hair and ears and I get out of the shower. I put on a clean, albeit old and faded pair of jeans, and a thread-worn t-shirt. I walk downstairs as Mariann throws a frozen lasagna into the oven. I’m still a little angry at her for her outburst, but I can’t resist putting my arms around her and kissing her on the top of her head.
“I love you, crazy woman.”
“I love you, too,” she purrs happily.
“As I was trying to say, before I was so rudely assaulted, is that I wouldn’t expect you to give up anything for me. I think that makes for a bad marriage.”
“I agree. Go on.”
“If we do get married, I want to be with the girl I fell in love with, with all her baggage, the good and the bad, the passion and the fire. I don’t want some trophy wife in a cage to pull out and show everyone. ‘Look at me! I got the girl!’ No. I want you. I love you, insanity and all.”
“Good. Then yes, I’ll marry you.”
“I don’t remember asking,” I say.
“Then maybe you should consider asking. A girl like me doesn’t come around very often, you know.”
“Thank goodness.” I joke, earning a deserved punch on my arm. “Ow! What was that for?”
“Your impossible,” Mariann responds as she shoves me playfully away.”
“Poor way to treat your fiancée, don’t you think?”
“But you haven’t asked.”
“Bah, formalities,” I argue, but I go down on one knee and take her hand. “Mariann, will you marry me?”
“Wow! I didn’t expect this. I’ll have to think about it. Get back to you later?”
“Who’s impossible now?”
“Still you, but that’s why I love you. And I think I already gave you my answer, before you asked. There is one thing we’re going to have to give up for each other.”
“No there isn’t, but I’ll ask anyway. What?”
“I don’t want you to date or sleep with other women, and I think it would be best if I don’t date or sleep with other men.”
“You’re right. That’s a good idea. But I can still date and sleep with other men?” I joke.
“Nope! You’re mine now, and I’m yours. Oh, and by the way. You need to see this. My friend text this to me while you were in the shower. I’m going to have it printed and framed.”
I take her phone and her friend snapped a photo of me, looking bewildered with the bowl of spaghetti on my head. “It’s perfect,” I laugh. “Is that going out with the wedding invites?”
She kisses me and laughs. “I love you,” she says but she doesn’t answer the question. She doesn’t need to, and frankly I don’t want her to. I’d rather enjoy the surprise.