Dear Tom Selleck . . .
We were in the bedroom. I don't remember what we were talking about. If we were even talking at all. I stood up with an armful of dirty laundry, and he turned to face me . . . one hand over his heart, his other arm outstretched. Oh fuck. In my world, men are too old to get down on one knee. He had assumed the position. I saw it in his eyes. It all happened in slow motion, and yet it only took a moment, and I can't even remember most of it.
It went something (or maybe nothing) like this:
"We've known one another, what? Twenty years? We always enjoy spending time together. We're great friends. I like just hanging out with you, whether we're playing cards or having sex. We always have so much to talk about, laugh about, and we always have fun. I'm comfortable with you. Mary's cool. I like it here."
Actually, it was not those words at all. But close, and how I was hearing it, as I slowly sat down on the edge of the bed with a death grip on the pile of dirty laundry. For the only time in my life that I can recall, I was left dumbfounded. Mute and whirling. It was all so surreal.
I knew what he was going to say before he said it, because I had said it out loud, had written it out loud . . . years before. I just didn't see it happening now. Here. In this way. But I should have.
With one hand still planted on his heart, and the other arm still outstretched, looking me directly in the eyes, now cocking his head, he went on:
"I've thought about it and thought about it. All of it. I can't stop thinking about it, ever since you left Tampa. About us. From the very beginning, until now. I've tried to remember every minute we have spent together. Tried to remember every conversation. Reread all of our correspondence. We have something special here. A connection other people don't have. I'm at a crossroads in my life, ready to decide what's next."
I could barely breathe. He knew I didn't want to get married. It's the one thing we could always agree on. For different reasons, but the same end result. Neither of us would ever marry. Again, for him. Ever, for me.
I had just left Tampa on Sunday night. It was the first time in 20 years I had visited him on his turf. On a whim. Because I needed a break from my reality, and a couple of doctors had tipped me a plane ticket on a night I wasn't scheduled to work. I had only been in Tampa for a few days. I spent most of my time sleeping in his recliner, because I had bronchitis. We hadn't even had sex, just an amazing time. I had hopes, but mostly doubts and cried the whole way home. I was THAT girl at the airport and on the plane. I would get over it. I always had.
It was Wednesday. He had called me every morning between the classes he taught, since I had left him just a couple of days before - including that morning. Not long after I turned on our 'Open' sign for lunch, at 11, he walked through the door. I believe my reaction was, "What the fuck are you doing here?! I just talked to you a couple of hours ago and you were in Tampa!" Actually, that was my exact reaction.
He told me that for the first time in 13 years, he had called in a sub. He couldn't sleep the night before, and at 2:00 in the morning, had decided to come see me. The earliest and closest flight he could get, flew into Indianapolis, so he booked it. He drove to the airport at 4 am, flew from Tampa to Indianapolis, rented a car, and drove to our little bistro in Ohio, to be there as early as he could. He had thought to trick me with his call that morning. I had led him directly to me. He had no plan. He had no return flight. He had done it all for me. For the first time in a very long time, I was his destination and not his stopover.
He told me he needed to make some decisions. Had to figure out what was next in his life. Told me he had not seen Mary in years, and wanted to see how they got along. Asked me for a grocery list and a key. Then he kissed me and left. Like that happens every fucking day.
So, I guess I had technically been dumbfounded just hours before. But now, he was about to bring it all home with his bedroom proposal.
No need to point out he was still in 'the position', while I clung to dirty laundry, and he continued:
"Why have we never done this? You and I? Why have we never had a relationship? I can't figure it out. We're great together. I care about you and I know you care about me. Why have we never done anything about this? In 20 years? What are we waiting for?"
If I recall, I may have attempted to answer his rhetorical questions, only to be shushed. He had something to say and was going to say it. And, I was going to listen. I don't know if he planned it, or if it was spontaneous when he saw how cute I am when I do chores. Either way, it was happening.
He popped the question.
It sounded much like this:
"Let's do this. You and I. Let's just try. We'll try it together, and at least we'll know. Let's commit to it. To trying it. I am making a commitment to us, to you, and I just need you to make one too. Please. Commit to trying it. Commit to us. Commit to me. Come on, let's do this. I'm willing to commit to trying, but are you? Will you please?"
It was the exact words I had always wanted to hear. Had dreamed of for years. Had hoped for, but never believed I would hear. It was happening. My heart stopped.
I told him I needed to start the washer. And have a cigarette. And text Beth. And think.
He let me.
I can't remember my exact response when I returned to the bedroom, but it contained questions, the word terrified, and ultimately . . . yes.
After 3 weeks of committed bliss, and just weeks before we were to embark on 'happily ever after', life dropped a shit bomb on us. It blew up his commitment to me. To us. It did not blow up mine to him. To us.
That all happened in April. He spent the only 18 hours he could manage over Christmas with me. He's still completely committed. Clearly. And hopefully I'll get at least one more proposal out of him.
Edie B. Kuhl