The Birthday Proposal
So I wake up to a flood of texts on my birthday. People wanting to treat me to a drink, to coffee, to a movie, wow, the works. I reject them all, of course. I'm busy. Big project. I'm saving up for what happens after I get that ring I was going to give to Sophie. We've been together for three years, and I feel, since it's also my birthday, it's time. The perfect birthday gift to myself. So my reply to everyone: no.
I put my phone on silent mode before I go on to my big project—yes, on my birthday—planning some house for Mr. Ludovico, this millionaire house collector. Crazy client. The design he wanted was super impractical. That's how it is with people with the money. At least they pay well. I'll need it, when I design my dream house for Sophie and me.
Three freaking hours with Mr. Ludovico. It's one thing to be impractical, it's another to make me design a perennial neighborhood hazard. Unbelievable. But he's willing to pay more. I'll just swallow my pride. I promise Mr. Ludovico that what he was asking for could be done. How? I'll figure it out later. For Sophie.
I'm late for lunch, for everything else. I'll just improvise. I grab a banh mi sandwich—redundant, I know—something I can eat on the go. Done. I look at the phone to call the jeweler. Another flood of texts. Wishing me to stay strong, that they'll be here for me in case I need anything... Uh, thanks, I guess? It's just a birthday, no need to be sentimental.
So I go to the jewelry store to the ring for Sophie, and... This is the unbelievable part: I call the saleslady, see, and she turns and... Hmmm... It's kind of hard to describe. I kinda feel... Guilty? It was just a moment, and then I thought, wow! What's this nice saleslady doing in a jewelry store like this? Red plastic framed glasses that matches her lipstick, her black hair with those subtle brownish streaks... I stop myself, right then and there. I'm about to propose to Sophie, for crying out loud! I can't ogle at the girl who's selling me a ring!
"Proposing, sir, or choosing for a friend?"
"Proposing," I replied.
"She's a lucky girl," Natasha tells me.
Natasha. That's the name on her name tag. I wonder what she meant by saying that. Of course, Sophie's lucky. I love her. I never did anything she wouldn't want me to do. Sophie's a stickler for success. I take it back, then. Sophie's not lucky. She's self-made. Not like that chick dating… what’s his name? “Carlos”? Anyway, I hated that story. Just saying. But, hey, it’s a free world, especially here online. So, yeah…
So, going back to my story: Natasha packs up the ring, and I pay her the amount that would scandalize a minimum wage earner.
"Good luck, sir. Wishing you the best."
Natasha smiles and shakes my hand. She has soft hands. Lovely smile. Soft hands. I let go. My God, I hope I didn't linger. I hurriedly walk out of the jewelry store, avoiding Natasha's gaze. Sophie. I'm proposing to Sophie tonight.
I ignore all the unread messages on my phone. Sophie comes first. I call Sophie. Her phone rings. She's not answering. She's probably busy. As she usually is. She's going to be promoted anytime now, she said. I send her a text message. Dinner tonight. Steak. On me. Wink emoticon. Sent.
Last step for today. Secure a table for tonight. I know, I should have done that earlier, but I've been busy. Heck, I've hardly had time to check text messages! Anyway I'm here, and I'll make do with whatever spot is left.
Hmmm... Not the best table around, but it'll do. In my dream house with Sophie, we can have any spot we want. I give the ring to the head waiter. I tell him to bring it out along with the dessert. Nice guy, this head waiter. Very game for these sorts of things. I think of Sophie, before my mind wanders back to Natasha. I mustn't think of Natasha. Especially not now. Not ever. Heck, I just met her for a few minutes, not even an hour.
I take my seat. I bring out my phone. Time to check the text messages. Oh, Sophie texted just now.
"Oh ok. I'll see you then, I guess."
She's under a lot of stress. So much stress she even forgot to greet me happy birthday. Either that or she has a big surprise. I guess the latter.
All this excitement has gotten me thirsty. I ask the waiter for a glass of water. Finally. After three long weeks, I actually have time to reply to text messages.
My phone rings. It's mom.
"Are you okay?" she asks me.
"I'm fine, Mom."
"Oh God!" she exclaims. "People have been asking me if you're all right. If you haven't... You know..."
"Mom, what are you talking about? I'm fine. I'm about to propose to Sophie tonight. On my birthday."
I hear Mom sniffling.
"You really have to take time to read your inbox, son. I'm just glad you're alive and well. Enjoy your dinner and happy birthday." Mom hangs up.
Wait. Alive and well?
I quickly go to my social networking account. Wow. Two weeks single. I've been two weeks single and I didn't even know. No wonder everyone was asking if I was all right. I open my email and see Sophie's breakup letter. I was wrong. I've been single for three weeks, not two. How could I have been so neglectful and not notice?
In her email, Sophie told me... It doesn't matter what she told me. Except that it was over and that she really tried her best. That I shouldn't blame myself for what happened. The usual stuff. As if the wording would have made things different.
The waiter arrives and asks if I need anything. I tell him the dinner rolls are fine. He can refill the water for me.
What now? Sophie's coming, probably thinking that I'm looking for closure. Or that I'll beg her to give us another chance. Do I even want that, at this point?
Natasha comes back to memory. Her black hair with those subtle brownish streaks. Her red lips that matched her red plastic framed glasses. No need to feel guilty anymore. Perhaps I should bring the ring to Natasha tomorrow and propose to her instead. Or wait a week or two. Or a month.
Now, all of a sudden, during my annual victory against Father Time, I have all the time in the world. The fact I can contribute to a silly website as exesanonymous.com, yes: I have time.