Authors: Theresa Alan
“Leave it to a guy in love to make an ass of himself in a public place,” he says. The audience laughs. “I’ll try to make it quick.”
He begins strumming his guitar and sings into the microphone:
I met a girl who has captured my heart.
She’s kind, and funny, and smart.
When I’m with her, I always have a great time.
I met a girl, and I want to make her mine.
She means everything to me…
At this point, Will stops singing, gets down on one knee, pulls a ring box from his pants pocket, opens it, and says, “Eva Lockhart, will you marry me?”
I needn’t have worried about getting teary-eyed when the marriage proposal came. Tears are running down my face and I can barely breathe.
I can’t move or think or do a thing until Mark nudges me. I begin nodding and don’t stop. Finally, a distant part of me remembers how to speak and the words form on my lips, “Yes. Yes, I’ll marry you.” As I walk toward the stage, the audience erupts in thunderous applause. Will helps me climb the couple of feet to the stage and slides the ring onto my trembling finger.
aturally, as soon as we get home, I have to run around telling everyone I know that it’s official, we’re getting hitched.
I call Mom and after she congratulates me, she orders me to take a digital picture of the ring and email it to her. I call Gabrielle and ask her if she can meet me for lunch. She seems kind of distant and out of it, but she says she’ll meet me at noon. I’m bursting to tell her my news, but I force myself to wait until I can tell her in person. Then I run over to Rachel’s shop. Well, not literally run, of course. The last time I ran was when they forced me to in gym class when I was in grade school. But I do amble over at a speedier-than-normal pace.
She’s sitting on her barstool behind the counter reading a newspaper when I get there. There aren’t any customers in the store. I sit beside her, say “Hi,” and try to act natural, but she gives me this odd look.
“What is wrong with you?” she says. “You’ve got the stupid smile of a baby who’s just farted.”
“Will asked me to marry him this weekend.”
She drops her newspaper and snatches my left hand so hard I nearly fall off my stool. “It’s beautiful!”
“It’s antique platinum. Sienna helped him pick it out. She insisted that he buy antique so he wouldn’t be raping the earth for precious metals and contributing to the whole diamond trade business…”
“With the African children losing their limbs in the mines…”
“Yep, all the cheery things you normally associate with marital bliss. But I think she made a good consultant. Apparently, they’ve been emailing each other for the last month, plotting the whole thing.”
I tell her exactly how he proposed, about how he got up on stage and sang me a song, and she clutches her heart and deems it all “so romantic.”
“Why do you think he asked you up on stage?”
“Well, early in our relationship I’d told him this story of one of Sienna’s comedy friends being proposed to by another comedian at the end of one of their shows and how romantic I thought that was, so maybe that’s what gave him the idea. He definitely surprised me anyway, that’s for sure.”
“What date are you thinking of?”
“I was thinking May. May is usually a pretty nice month weatherwise in Colorado. But Will and I haven’t really talked about details yet.”
I go on and on about my blissful, happy, perfect life, and every detail of how my weekend went, then I finally get around to asking Rachel how things are going in her life.
“Well, Jon and I are fighting…”
“Is this still the garage shelves’ fight or is this a new one?”
“It’s a new one. Apparently, he gave Sandy the keys to our place—”
“No way!” When Jon’s sister Sandy had been in the deepest depths of her heroin addiction, she’d stolen a bunch of Jon and Rachel’s stuff (their TV, stereo, and computer to name a few) to sell for money for drugs. Personally, that would have been enough for me to cut off ties with her forever, but Jon and Rachel are better people than I am, and they forgave her. However, to forgive her and to give her the keys to their place are two different things entirely.
“Yes, way. He is just so gullible when it comes to his sisters. He thinks that because she’s been clean for six months, she’ll be clean forever.”
“How did you find out about it?”
“I’ll tell you how I found out about it. First, on Monday I came home and the half gallon of milk I had in the fridge was gone, and there were all these dishes in the sink, as if someone had cooked lunch there. When Jon got home I asked him if he’d come home for lunch, which is not something he usually does, and he just kind of looked sheepish and changed the subject. I
I’d pressed him then, but I didn’t. Then yesterday I was at home with the kids making dinner, and I saw her in the window at our backdoor, so I was going to walk over to the door to let her in, but my hands were wet from rinsing the lettuce, and in the few seconds it took me to dry my hands, I just watched her unlock the door, open it, and march right in.”
“I know. I was like, ‘where did you get a key?’, thinking maybe Jon had lent her his as a one-off or something, but she said he had made her a set. I was so pissed at Jon. We had this big fight. He said she could be trusted now. I said even if she could be trusted, that didn’t mean she needed a key to our house. Then he said that sometimes she watches the kids, which is true, but they always go over to her and Jon’s mother’s place, specifically because I don’t want her in my house. I mean, I’m not even worried about her stealing our stuff…well, maybe I am. But I think what I’m really mad about is her audacity to come over whenever she feels like it and clean us out of milk and eat whatever she wants,” she sighs. “Although, I mean she has been helping us out with the kids, so maybe I was too hard on Jon. But even if I was, he should have
me he gave her the key, he shouldn’t have just
it to her.”
“I think you have a right to be pissed.”
“You do? Thank you for saying that. I’m always worried that I’m being a crazy bitch.”
A female customer enters the store, and then moments later two teenage girls come in. The three of them orbit the store, running their fingers over the clothes, and then taking the folded sweaters, unfolding them, and then doing a half-assed job of refolding them and putting them back all lopsided, a particular pet peeve of Rachel’s.
Rachel and I talk a little more and then I tell her I have to go because I have a lunch date with Gabrielle.
When I get to the restaurant where Gabrielle and I always go for lunch, Gabrielle is already there and sitting at the table with a beer in front of her. It’s not like Gabrielle to drink before five, so as soon I sit across from her I ask her what’s wrong.
“I’m that transparent, am I?”
“Jeremy went back to his ex.”
“What do you mean? He and his ex-wife are back together?”
“Not his ex-wife. His ex-girlfriend.”
“I’m so sorry.”
She nods glumly.
“I don’t think he ever really stopped seeing her.”
“Why do you think that? What did he say?”
“Last night he called me and said he wanted to give it another chance with Susan and that he didn’t think things were working out between us. I wish he could have figured this out before we slept together. God! I feel so stupid!”
“But…how…did he say when he decided to get back together with her? Did you have any idea when they’d broken up?”
The waitress comes to take our orders. We each get the soup and the sandwich deal.
“When we were emailing each other, I asked him when he’d gotten divorced and if he’d dated anyone since then. He said it had been three years since they’d separated and that he’d dated one person seriously in that time. I didn’t ask for any more specifics than that.”
I think about how I grilled Will endlessly about his ex at the beginning of our relationship, and while I didn’t always like to hear his answers, I got a good sense that he was telling the truth. I’ve always made it a habit to do what journalists do—ask the same questions worded differently over and over again to see if I get the same answers. Guys who change their stories are lying about something. Maybe asking lots of questions at the beginning of a relationship isn’t such a bad thing after all.
“So, what did he say last night? Do you know how long they’d been broken up?”
“He didn’t say this outright, but from reading between the lines, I think what happened was that she was getting serious more quickly than he was ready for, so they fought and sort of broke up and about ten minutes later he was looking for somebody new to date, and that somebody new turned out to be me. But then they made up and got back together. I don’t think they’d really been apart at all. He didn’t say that, but that’s what I gather. And I know we only dated a few weeks, but…”
“A lot can happen in a short time,” I finish for her. “I was insane over Will after just two dates. If he’d abruptly dumped me to go back to his ex, I would have been crushed.”
“I was actually proud of letting myself really fall for Jeremy. With the two guys I dated after Dan and I split up, I worked really hard not to let them get too close because I was still in so much pain over the divorce. I don’t know how to strike a balance between being too cautious and opening up too much.”
“I know. It’s so hard.”
“I hate dating. I hate it. I hate Dan for making me go back out into the world and date.”
I keep mumbling useless “I’m sorries,” until the waitress brings our lunches. We eat several bites in silence and then Gabrielle says, “God, I’m so wrapped up in myself, I didn’t even ask you about your weekend in New York. Did you guys have fun?”
“We did, as a matter-of-fact.” This really doesn’t seem like the time to tell her about how Will asked me to marry him, but I feel like if I don’t tell her, I’ll be lying.
“Did you guys do anything interesting?”
“Ah, well, yeah, some interesting things happened. Will asked me to marry him and I said yes.”
She chokes on her bite of sandwich and then forces a smile. “Oh. Congratulations.”
“You don’t seem very excited.”
“No. I’m happy for you.”
I stare at her for a long moment until she continues.
“It’s just, you know, men tend to get more out of marriage then women do. All the surveys show that married men are happier than married women.”
This is really not the reaction I was hoping for. “Why is that? Because women tend to shoulder more of the domestic responsibilities?”
She nods ominously.
“You don’t believe in marriage anymore?” I ask.
“I believe in two people mutually supporting each other, but I don’t think I believe in marriage, no.”
Instead of trying to get her to feel my happiness, I immediately find the doubter in myself, as if I feel the need for the two of us to be in agreement on all that could go wrong.
“Part of me wants to elope secretly just so his friends won’t be able to throw him a bachelor party,” I admit.
“Have you talked to him about it?”
“Oh, he knows my feelings on strippers.”
“Do you really think that if his friends wanted to take him to a strip club, he would say, ‘No, Eva doesn’t want me to’? He’d never hear the end of it. You know how guys are. They act all tough, but secretly they’re gutless. The homosexual taboo is just too strong. Heterosexual men constantly have to prove to their friends just what manly men they are.”
I lose my appetite, mostly because I know Gabrielle is right. Will loves me, but I’m genuinely not sure he’s strong enough to stand up to his friends on this issue, particularly since he doesn’t share my feelings about how the stripping industry is manipulative and degrading to everyone involved. (Plus, it makes me hate men a little bit that they’d squander their money in such a ludicrous way. Hello, they can’t touch you, you can’t touch them or yourself, why would you put yourself into such a situation á là Tantalus—the guy who was condemned to an eternity of hunger and thirst with satisfaction always just out of reach—seems the height of stupidity.)
“Ah, well, I was hoping you’d stand up for me in the wedding,” I say to veer the conversation in a less depressing direction.
“Of course I will,” she says.
“I wasn’t sure what color dresses you guys should wear. It’ll be you and Rachel and Sienna.”
“Whatever color is fine.”
We talk a little more about how Will proposed and what my thoughts for the wedding are, and I leave the majority of my lunch uneaten.
When I come home, I feel incredibly depressed. Why can’t I just believe that now that the man of my dreams has asked me to marry him, my major goal in life has been accomplished and I can now get started on the happily-ever-after portion of my life? I wanted to marry Will, I wanted to get engaged, so what the hell is my problem? Why am I so scared?
In bed that night, just after I turn the lights off, I ask Will about the end of his marriage. “When did things start going wrong?”
“The first few years were pretty good, but then the last year…we fought a lot. About everything. And we couldn’t talk about it. When I tried to talk about things, she just exploded, like I was accusing her, like I was trying to blame things on her. I offered to go to counseling, but she’d had a bad experience with counseling in high school and didn’t trust it.”
“Did you leave her or did she leave you?”
“She came home one day and said she’d rented an apartment and was moving out.”
“How…what was that like for you?”
“It felt like a personal failure. Nobody thinks
marriage is going to end in divorce.”
marriage is going to end in divorce
. I turn these words over in my mind again and again. He was willing to go to counseling. That seems to me a very positive sign for us. But I have to say, I’m extremely curious to hear X’s side of the story about how things ended.
Then I think about my conversation with Gabrielle and I turn on the light beside the bed.
“Ouch,” Will says, shielding his eyes.
“Sorry. I just need to tell you, I feel really strongly that I don’t want strippers at your bachelor party.”
“Who even said there is going to be a bachelor party?”
“I know your friends. There will be a bachelor party, and I don’t want there to be any strippers there.”
His tone is casual when what I really want is a zealous response along the lines of, “I’d sooner have my scrotum pummeled by a sledgehammer than be subjected to the sight of a naked woman other than you!”
“No, Will, I mean it. This is a big deal for me.”
“Okay. I get it.”
But I can tell that he’s just trying to agree with me so I’ll turn off the light and let him sleep. “I don’t think you do get it. It’s not okay with me that you go off and pay a woman to take her clothes off.”
He lets out an exasperated sigh, which infuriates me.
“I’m sure your
wouldn’t have a problem with it.” I hiss. “God, I hate that you were married to a stripper.”