Hours before leaving for Italy with his fiancée, Andrew Tolve has the jitters.
The clock on my desktop just ticked 12:29 a.m. On the floor around me lie sweaters, jeans, shoes, and socks. A duffel bag and a rolly suitcase sit on the bed, open and empty.
In less than 24 hours, Ali and I leave for 12 days in the north of Italy, a time we plan to spend hunting for truffles and cozying up to fires in hearty agriturismos. This is a trip I’ve been anticipating for two, three, four months, crossing off the days on my calendar. And now it’s here, and all my bags are empty, all my clothes unfolded, and rather than doing something about it, I’m sitting here at my computer, tapping my fingers on the keys while the minutes tick away.
Sometimes compulsions are like that, I guess. They crop up at the strangest moments. After all, this has nothing to do with a change of heart about the trip or a fight with Ali or anything dramatic like that. It’s just that I find myself needing to admit—right now of all times and really to no one other than myself—that six months after I messed up my proposal to Ali, I’m still not over it. Not even close.
It’s like a bad break-up I can’t move past. I keep returning to it, the horror of the experience and my maddening inability to express how much Ali meant to me at the time. Why then, of all moments, should those words have escaped me? For a long time I held out hope that writing this column would help. I would grapple with what had gone wrong and put words to my regret, and the whole thing would act as one big cathartic flush.
The truth? It hasn’t done a thing. At least not for me. I’m still pissed about it. Embarrassed about it. Mad that of all times for life to conspire against me, it had to choose right then.
I know, of course, that in the grand scheme of things this shouldn’t matter anymore. It’s far more important that Ali and I make each other laugh every day (that’s the truth); that after six years she still finds ways to surprise me, and I her; that for as adventurous and satisfying as our life has been in the past, we’re more excited to see what it brings in the future—like in Italy, for instance.
And yet I can’t help but think that only once in a while does life grant you that rare opportunity to celebrate the importance of the most important person in your life—to move beyond the daily I love yous into some deeper, higher meaning. That’s what a proposal should be—or at least what I wish mine had been—a celebration. The ring, the room, the flowers, the sunset, all the details we get tripped up in (and which doomed me) don’t matter at all in comparison.
—Andrew Tolve is a columnist for the Good Men Project Magazine. Want to know when his next piece is published? Sign up for our email mailing list.