He removed his hand from his worn, pleasantly snug jeans…and it held something small. Holy Lord, I said to myself. What in the name of kingdom come is going on here? His face wore a sweet, sweet smile.
I stood there completely frozen. “Um…what?” I asked. I could formulate no words but these.
He didn’t respond immediately. Instead he took my left hand in his, opened up my fingers, and placed a diamond ring onto my palm, which was, by now, beginning to sweat.
“I said,” he closed my hand tightly around the ring. “I want you to marry me.” He paused for a moment. “If you need time to think about it, I’ll understand.” His hands were still wrapped around my knuckles. He touched his forehead to mine, and the ligaments of my knees turned to spaghetti.
Marry you? My mind raced a mile a minute. Ten miles a second. I had three million thoughts all at once, and my heart thumped wildly in my chest.
Marry you? But then I’d have to cut my hair short. Married women have short hair, and they get it fixed at the beauty shop.
Marry you? But then I’d have to make casseroles.
Marry you? But then I’d have to wear yellow rubber gloves to do the dishes.
Marry you? As in, move out to the country and actually live with you? In your house? In the country? But I…I…I don’t live in the country. I don’t know how. I can’t ride a horse. I’m scared of spiders.
I forced myself to speak again. “Um…what?” I repeated, a touch of frantic urgency to my voice.
“You heard me,” Marlboro Man said, still smiling. He knew this would catch me by surprise.
Just then my brother Mike laid on the horn again. He leaned out of the window and yelled at the top of his lungs, “C’mon! I am gonna b-b-be late for lunch!” Mike didn’t like being late.
Marlboro Man laughed. “Be right there, Mike!” I would have laughed, too, at the hilarious scene playing out before my eyes. A ring. A proposal. My developmentally disabled and highly impatient brother Mike, waiting for Marlboro Man to drive him to the mall. The horn of the diesel pickup. Normally, I would have laughed. But this time I was way, way too stunned.
“I’d better go,” Marlboro Man said, leaning forward and kissing my cheek. I still grasped the diamond ring in my warm, sweaty hand. “I don’t want Mike to burst a blood vessel.” He laughed out loud, clearly enjoying it all.
I tried to speak but couldn’t. I’d been rendered totally mute. Nothing could have prepared me for those ten minutes of my life. The last thing I remember, I’d awakened at eleven. Moments later, I was hiding in my bathroom, trying, in all my early-morning ugliness, to avoid being seen by Marlboro Man, who’d dropped by unexpectedly. Now I was standing on the front porch, a diamond ring in my hand. It was all completely surreal.
Marlboro Man turned to leave. “You can give me your answer later,” he said, grinning, his Wranglers waving good-bye to me in the bright noonday sun.
But then it all came flashing across my line of sight. The boots in the bar, the icy blue-green eyes, the starched shirt, the Wranglers…the first date, the long talks, my breakdown in his kitchen, the movies, the nights on his porch, the kisses, the long drives, the hugs…the all-encompassing, mind-numbing passion I felt. It played frame by frame in my mind in a steady stream.
“Hey,” I said, walking toward him and effortlessly sliding the ring on my finger. I wrapped my arms around his neck as his arms, instinctively, wrapped around my waist and raised me off the ground in our all-too-familiar pose. “Yep,” I said effortlessly. He smiled and hugged me tightly. Mike, once again, laid on the horn, oblivious to what had just happened. Marlboro Man said nothing more. He simply kissed me, smiled, then drove my brother to the mall.