“Will you marry me?”
Alan was on one knee, proposing to me.
We were in Gilettos, the fanciest, most expensive restaurant in this deadbeat town. The hob-knobs of society dine here like drunk 20-something’s dine at Denny’s when the bar closes. The beautiful, Italian-styled room was dimly lit with candles as the main source of light from a massive, hanging chandelier reminiscent of a medieval cathedral. Paintings of luscious red wine were on one side of the restaurant, and the rolling hills of the Tuscan landscape encompassed by an Italian sunset were displayed on the walls closest to our table. I loved coming here. This place inspired me. The decor, the food, the people, the live piano music – all of it inspired me. It gave me hope for life, for a happy future that maybe one day could be mine.
“One day” I always told myself. And I knew that day would never come as long as I was with the boy who was proposing to me now.
One other aspect I love about this restaurant is the bathroom. The bathroom is possibly even more gorgeous than the dining room. The Tuscan sandstone colored tiles with the sparkling granite countertops. The ivory sink with the golden faucet. It was a wonderful sight for the eyes.
But that’s not the main reason I love Giletto’s bathroom. The bathroom is located on the second floor while the dining level is on the first floor. A gorgeous, iron-wrought spiral staircase leads to the upstairs. It takes a good two minutes to travel to the bathroom and another two minutes to travel back, giving me time to myself. Alone. To escape this world, if only for a minute, and if only in my mind.
And, most importantly, to escape from Alan.
We’ve come to Giletto’s three or four times in our years together, and I plan out my bathroom break while he’s still looking for the vegetarian options on the menu. I walk slowly up the flight of stairs – “I’m afraid of heights” I reply to him when he asks what has taken me so long on my bathroom trip – and I escape to my secret world. But mainly, I escape from my boyfriend.
The boyfriend who is asking me to spend the rest of my life with him.
There’s someone else. It’s on the tip of my tongue. It’s at the front door of my mind, slowly turning the doorknob to open up to the world outside. I am so close to saying it.
But I’m conflicted. My moral self is debating with my survival instincts. There is a back-and-forth tennis match happening inside my head, while Alan is one knee with a beautiful ring in his hand and a hopeful expression on his face. The tennis match is a tie, it is anyone’s game. This is the finale, the play off, the match to win the World Championship. This match has been playing in my mind for months. And one side was about to be defeated.
My Moral Mind thinks its best to do what’s right. To come clean. Tell Alan the complete truth as to why I’m hesitating and not crying with joy at the sight of him there on Giletto’s floor. “You’re a good person Laura” Ms. Moral-Minded says. “No more lies”.
Besides, it’s not like I was cheating on Alan. Heavens no, that would be awful. I simply fell in love with a coworker and have been lying to Alan about hanging out with him. The most I’ve done with John was hug him, and that’s only been three times now. And I could explain to him I had to put John as a contact in my phone under the name “Jane” cause Alan doesn’t like me talking to guys and even gets territorial when I talk to gay guys.
Alan might understand if I explained all this to him. And I’d probably get a one-way ticket into Heaven for being so darn moral. That would make my parents happy, if they knew I got into Heaven, or at least if I cared about eternal life with God. That’d make them proud of me. For once.
There’s someone else. My tongue touches the roof of my mouth, lips are parted and my vocal chords are ready to pronounce the “th” sound to begin my proclamation.
Suddenly, Survival Instinct dives and whacks the tennis ball just in time, as if to say “This game has just begun!”.
Survival instincts are innate within humans. Whenever our life is threatened, hundreds of thousands of years of evolution have taught us to be alert and react accordingly in these dangerous situations in order to preserve ourselves.
Thank. Fucking. Goodness.
I suddenly saw it all play out in my mind: I would tell Alan there is someone else. Alan would stay in his kneeling position, frozen. Then he would say in a such a voice that could only be fueled by the devil himself: “I knew it”.
Alan would not lose eye contact with me, nor blink, while his face twitched and he put the ring back in his pocket. If it were any other object he’d crush it in his hand, but he wouldn’t dare harm something he could earn money from. He would slowly stand up and take his seat back next to me in the booth. He would grab both of my wrists in one of his large, strong hands, very tightly, disallowing me to move. As he has done so many times before. With his free hand he would grab the butter knife and stab me. Or, he’d take the wine glass of water and hit me over the head with it.
Regardless of how the scene played out, there would be bloodshed. My A- blood would ruin the perfect while linen tablecloth and could very possibly splatter the beautiful Tuscan landscape painting. Talk about a red sunset.
I knew this for a fact, because I have lost blood before by the anger in his hands, the jaws of his mouth, and the venom in his heart.
A monster was asking for my hand in marriage.
Ms. Moral Mind stopped hustling back and forth in the tennis match. Drenched in sweat, she finally stood still, breathing heavily. She dropped her racket, and said with exasperation: “Fuck morals”.
Alan’s hopeful expression turned wary as my mouth closed without saying a word. His outstretched arm with the beautiful diamond ring, dancing in the candlelight, lowered slightly with a sense of disappointment.
And then came the rage.
I saw the furious gleam pass through his eyes that I knew so well. Only in his eyes. To onlookers, he would seem like a normal young man, proposing to the girl he thought he loved. That is, if anyone with a black mohawk and two lip piercings could look normal in a sophisticated Italian restaurant.
He knew my answer was not “yes”.
Standing up slowly, without taking his eyes off of me, he closed the red velvet box with a loud “snap”.
There would still be bloodshed tonight.