Because you love animals – but hate to see them captive – I would have proposed to you somewhere that was reflective of that. Maybe the African Savannah, where they run free. Or maybe that would be too risky. We’d be looking over our shoulder, watching out for the rabid hyenas and monkeys. We also wouldn’t be alone; our safari guides would be surrounding us, rifles cocked and ready. They’d be wearing Pepsi-Cola t-shirts and trucker hats in an unironic way, that is, from a UNICEF drop or something.
Maybe at the ocean, in the Maldives. But although you love animals, I don’t think you ever cared about the kind that live in the sea. Maybe dolphins because I can see you humanizing them. You like animals that have the ability to smile, or at least look like they’re smiling, like bulldogs. Maldives would be romantic but it would also be too rich. I don’t like it when the world is too textured with money or things of monetary value. I’m not pretentious (or reverse-pretentious) about it, I just like things the way The People can enjoy them. (Am I against elitism?)
Or I would have proposed to you at a place we’ve already been to. We created lots of memories everywhere. From the obscure (Guayaquil) to the bucket list-deemed (Galapagos) to the historic (Angkor Wat) to the dangerous (Acapulco) to the cuddly (Ubud Monkey Forest) to the relaxing (Haad Rin beach) to the delicious (coconut ice cream lady, Ko Samui). These are all holy places, even if only to us.
What’s our most special place? Maybe my old apartment in Toronto. That sad, downtrodden place that I lived in for a few years too long. I started being the loud one, then the years went by and I became the tenant that calls the cops on the kids making noise downstairs. I almost hit that guy, that one time. Maybe the park beside the apartment, the one sandwiched between my front door and the subway entrance. That park wasn’t meaningful while we dated but it became its own character afterwards. That might’ve been the place we were the most honest, most raw with each other. In that fucking park with hobos slumped over the chess tables.
I can’t see it happening in the normal way. The one-knee, professing-my-love way. Not that it’s too banal or too boring – though it is that – I just think I would want to mean more than that, more than everyone else, and so to do it the same way as everyone else would ground it from taking flight. I always think I’m special.
Sometime I would tell you, I love you. And then I would try to explain, but you would ignore me because what’s there to explain? But I wanted to explain:
“I don’t mean ‘I love you’ like ‘Hey, I’m off to work so I love you.’ I don’t mean it as a reflex. I just want you to know that. I don’t mean it as a reflex. I mean to say that I love you, that you’ve changed everything, that I will think of nothing else this entire day other than you and how to keep you happy and warm and safe and nothing else matters more to me than you do. That’s what I mean with ‘I love you’ okay? Not a reflex.” But instead it was, “Love ya, too.”
Maybe it would’ve been best to propose on the way back from a trip, after that 15-hour flight from Hong Kong to Toronto. We would be exhausted stepping off the plane. You wouldn’t expect it. I wouldn’t desire it. But it would be perfect because we would be returning back to reality, but I would fuck up that reality with this new one: end of a trip, beginning of another.
Because who wants to come back to reality? Who cares, no one cares. Let’s just fuck around with it, see how far we can push it and stay sane.
Maybe I would have proposed on one of our walks. That was something that was ours. It wasn’t mine and I let you into it. We discovered those together. When we walked, we were alone. Did you notice that? We weren’t in a rush, we hardly had a destination. It was just to walk. That might’ve been the perfect time to do it. It was our time.
But what I do know is that it would be simple. I think it would’ve been simple and probably in private. We never needed other people to see us. We were the only people that we cared about. The only one I’d need to call to give the news to is you. So perhaps I would’ve proposed on my driveway, in the middle of February, during a snowstorm, when the snowflakes are enormous and absorb all of the sound and make everything seem profound and dreamlike.
That silent winter night where the air is crispy and breathing feels good. Breathing feels like cleansing. Streetlights glimmer. I hate winter, but for some reason, that seems like the perfect environment and I don’t know why.
We wouldn’t make a big deal of it because it’s just the first step and we’re more interested in what comes after. Not the news or the wedding or the parties or the joining of families. The boring things. The falling asleep on each other. The bonding. When a couple melts into each other and becomes one. As Joseph Campbell would say, the rejoining of the duality.
I would lie on you. I would be too heavy for you but I would lie on you, where your collarbone meets your neck, where you have that mark. I would strangely feel light on top of you so you would let me lie there and we would exhale more than inhale and melt into each other and into the bed and onto the floor.
And we would stay like that listening to each other breathe and the world would keep spinning and we would miss everything and we would not care.
We wouldn’t make it.