For most of my life I’ve not been the type of person given to being particularly emotional. I cry at neither weddings or funerals, I rarely lose my temper, and rarely am I happy to the point of jubilation or sad to the point of depression. Feelings and emotions for me have always been completely controllable; tools I use to generate desired responses from individuals I’m in contact with. I’ve been called ‘heartless’ more than a few times in my life, mostly by folks with whom I’ve been romantically involved; when they’ve said it they meant it not as a dig or as something hurtful, but simply as an observation.
I thought about that as I walked into the empty restaurant. The chairs and stools were turned over on the tops of their respective tables, the lights were off, the bar was empty and if I tried, I could probably ice skate on the film of dust covering the floor. Despite all of this, it looked exactly as I’d remembered. I found a broom in one of the closets and began sweeping up as much of the dust as I could. I placed candles along the bar and on all of the tables whose tops weren’t covered by chairs. Finally, placing candles side by side along the floor, I made an aisle that lead from the front door all the way to the center of the restaurant. At the end of the aisle, I pulled down two chairs, placed them next to each other and sat. Looking around at all the lit candles, I was pleased; the place looked exactly as I imagined it would.
Sitting in that chair, I thought about how all those years earlier on a Friday night not unlike this, I sat in the exact same spot fiddling with my phone until she came and sat down next to me. We chatted for an hour or so and as she left I made sure to ask for her phone number. I would not have believed you if you told me then that a few years later I’d be sitting in the same spot at the same restaurant, waiting for her to come sit down next to me, but that this time instead of asking for her phone number, I’d be asking her to marry me. I especially would not have believed you if you told me that this would be possible despite the fact that the restaurant had recently closed.
But here I was. Two weeks earlier I called the restaurant to make a reservation for dinner; at that dinner, I planned to propose. But when I called I got the voice-mail. I called back a couple days later and still, no answer. Finally, after a week of talking to voice-mail, I decided to go there to make the reservation in person. I was shocked to find that Mad28 – the restaurant where I met my soon to be fiancé, had closed. The awning was still there, and the inside was still as it had been, but it was dark and empty. In the window hung a realtor’s sign that said “space for rent” with a phone number. I was disappointed, but already moving on to plan B. Our first date had been to Justin’s (Diddy’s old restaurant) and so I figured I’d carry out the same plan there instead. On a whim, I took down the realtor’s number. Monday morning came, I called the realtor and, of course, got his voice-mail. I left a detailed message saying that I’d met my girlfriend at this restaurant and wanted to propose to her there, but that it was now closed. The next day, he called back. To my surprise, he said he thought this was awesome and that he wanted to help anyway he could. He called the building’s super, convinced him to stay late to open the doors, let me do my thing, and then lock up when I was finished. God is good.
Finally, Friday arrives and everything is in place. I told her we were going to a friend’s birthday party and to meet me on the corner of 29th and Madison Ave to grab something to eat before the party. My phone rang.
Her: Hey, you said 29th and Madison right?
Her: Ummm, I’m here, and I don’t see you.
She was clearly annoyed.
Me: Oh, my bad, I’m actually one block down … just walk down to 28th.
Her: Urrgghh, o.k.
I hung up and figured she would walk down the block, pass the restaurant, remember that we met there, look inside, see all the candles and then realize what was going on. Not my baby though, blinded into obliviousness by her annoyance, I watch as she walks right past the restaurant without even flinching. My phone rings.
Her: O.K. I’m on 28th and Madison … where are you?
Me: You just walked past me, walk back up.
I hang up the phone before she can respond. Again, I watch as she angrily storms back up the block, right past the restaurant. Picking up my phone, I call her.
Me: Yo, you just walked past me again.
Again, I hang up before she can respond. Sitting in my chair, I watch her as she walks toward the restaurant door, then she stops, looks inside and I see it happen. I see her realize that this is where we met, and that this is where she’s supposed to be. All annoyance instantly vanishes and I can see the nervousness begin to creep from way down deep inside her all the way up into her face. She enters, walks down the aisle of candles and sits in her seat next to me just as she had in our memory. Our words to one another from here are our own so you’ll have to forgive me for not sharing. All you really need to know is that I got down on one knee and she said yes.
After that, we grabbed a quick bite to eat at a restaurant not too far. While eating I asked her if she wanted to swing by Justin’s and have a drink since we’d had our first date there and since it wasn’t too far from where we were.
We got to Justin’s, walked through the door, and just as I planned, all of our friends and family are there to share the moment with us at our surprise engagement party. It was an awesome night.
My last post was about a woman for whom I’ll always be a villain. Today’s post is about being a hero. And while I felt like a hero putting together such an awesome proposal and surprise engagement party, the true hero is my wife. By saying “yes” that day and then eight months later saying “I do,” she saved from my villainy all the Nicole’s I might have known and disappeared on; and she saved me from the abject life one leads when they’re completely disconnected from their ability to feel. Marriage has its ups and downs. Sometimes I’m great, and sometimes I fail. Sometimes she’s great, and sometimes she fails. And while I’m still generally closed when it comes to emotions, she is the conduit through which I am able to experience joy, pain, anger, disappointment, fear, hope, and sometimes … love. Without her, these would all be things I could conceptualize but never really touch or grasp. She saved me, she is my hero.
Do you have a hero in your life? Or maybe you’re someone’s hero. Doesn’t have to be related to a romantic relationship, could be your mom or dad or younger sibling. Or maybe it was someone you loved for a time. Someone that got you through a rough period, or just made you happy. Feel free to share.
See y’all in two Fridays … till then:
stay low and keep firing.