It's Not Love Unless You Want To Cough Up Blood
Peter Tatara - December 5, 2010
"It's not love unless you want to cough up blood." This is something I told myself during my college days as an angry, pale virgin. While two of the three preceding descriptors no longer apply to me, I still very much want to cough up blood. I believe I first uttered those words to myself in the middle of one of a series of unrequited loves. I thought them noble and pure at the time, when I can see now I was not some chivalrous knight -- instead just stupid. Point being, I believe I said the above to myself when, I think, I was cleaning a girl's vomit out of a toilet and was overcome with emotion and/or nausea.
Sparing additional, less-heart-warming details of this episode, the meaning of this little mantra to myself, beyond protecting my psyche, was that I felt, and still feel, that a deep love is something that will move you, something that will consume you, and something that will ruin you in all the best ways. There are crushes, there are flings, and there are infatuations, but there's a feeling more visceral and more ethereal than all these -- something which once glimpsed can never, ever be forgotten, an amalgam of appreciation and adoration that alters who you are and the world around you.
I've known my girlfriend for six years. We live together in New York City. She's my best friend. This is the story of how we got engaged.
It was November 21, 2010. In Central Park. I had six years to think through how this day would go. For many of those years, I wanted to propose on Governors Island. A tiny green jewel just off the Southern tip of Manhattan, it's a gorgeous place. My original vision was to spend a Sunday in the summer there, the two of us having a picnic, and then me popping the question for dessert. Unfortunately, Governors Island is closed in the winter. Also, the first time the girl went to the island, she didn't care for its mix of green spaces and rusted, crumbling Civil War forts. I think it's romantic.
The next plan, and the plan I almost went forward with was proposing over brunch at a dessert bar we both enjoy, Kyotofu on 9th and 48th. We'd never been to the place for brunch before, and I spent the past month casually mentioning to the girlfriend that we really should try it sometime. She, knowing that I just have a thing for brunch, didn't think anything of it. The plan was to start the day at the Bryant Park Skating Rink, then head to Kyotofu for brunch, then up and across Central Park, and then an early dinner at Alice's Tea Cup. I'd propose at brunch, and then we'd continue on through the day, fingers intertwined, to a few other of her favorite spots. Ultimately, I had two concerns with this agenda. First, it's a lot of stuff. It's a full day of activities, and I wasn't sure we'd actually be able to hit each point. Second, I hope Kyotofu stays in business forever and ever, but I didn't want to propose in a place that might disappear. I want to be able to come back to the spot in five years, ten years, and twenty-five years, and if Kyotofu shuts its doors, who knows if we'll ever be able to return to the space.
So, I modified the plan slightly. We start the day in Bryant Park, share hot cider, and then the girl goes skating while I stay on the sidelines to do "work". After she does a few laps on the rink, I'd wave her over to the edge and propose right there. It's sweet. It's different. It's something you'd see in a movie. What you wouldn't see in a movie is the girl tripping, falling on her back, causing a crowd of other skaters to back up, and the rink's security yelling at the both of us. As such, I shelved this idea.
The ultimate plan pulled a bit from each of the above. We'd start our day in Central Park. We'd set off for the Central Park Zoo and spend an hour or so there. After the zoo, we'd wander about the park and, at an appropriately scenic and romantic spot, I'd propose. We'd then walk down to Kyotofu for brunch. Finally, we'd swing by Bryant Park and share a hot cider. The important wrinkle in all this is she had previously commented to me about her specifically not wanting me to propose to her in a zoo, so my plan was to make her think I was doing just that. I had a brooch for her, and while we were beside the sea lion tank, I said a few words and presented her with the brooch.
"What's this? What's this?" She asked, dumbstruck. There was panic, surprise, excitement, and dread in her face. She didn't really think I was proposing, as she knew the zoo is exactly the kind of place I'd want to propose, and she knew I wouldn't do something so obvious. What she didn't take into account is that I'd use this as misdirection before actually proposing a few hours later. I just gave her a present. There's no way I'd, then, go ahead and give her a ring. But I did.
After the zoo, we set out wandering through Central Park. The plan was to simply walk West, and someplace along the path, serendipity would strike. She had her camera with her, and the set up is that I'd wait for the foliage to catch her eye. Once she put her attention on that, I'd be waiting there behind her with the ring. Only a few minutes after leaving the zoo, we sat down by a duck pond, and there was an outcrop perfect for photographs. I mentioned a few times how she could take some great pictures of the pond and its inhabitants, but she told me back, "I don't like ducks."
Okay. No worries. We then continued our walk. We zigzagged a bit at first, bouncing around a few hills and valleys, me constantly looking for spots that would make a great picture. She didn't lift her camera. We then zigzagged a lot, and ultimately came to the West end of the park. I didn't want to change the plan. I didn't want to propose over brunch. I didn't want to draft a new plan. At the end of the park, I bought us a drink and recommended we take another loop. I said something about wanting to see something we had passed or that there was a better exit for us closer to Kyotofu. Lies.
Just a few steps into the park, we saw a hawk perched atop a tree. This was the first time the girlfriend lifted her camera all day. She snapped a couple pictures of the hawk and I, behind her, readied the ring. At the same time, though, a pack of bikers shot by us followed by a pedicab looking for business. She was distracted, but this space was neither scenic nor romantic. So, we kept on going, and I soon pointed out how the light fell on the trees around one of Central Park's footbridges. The Pine Bank Bridge. It sure was scenic and romantic. She focused her camera lens on it. I wanted to cough up blood.
When she turned around, I was there, a ring in my hand.
"Will you marry me?"
"Are you serious?"
"Are you serious?"
"Are you serious?"
"Will you marry me?"
Immediately, tears were in her eyes, and her head was on my chest. As an added perk of the location, we were adjacent to a row of benches. We sat as she hyperventilated, and I said some true things. I wiped her eyes. I placed the ring on her finger. We kissed.
We took, then, a few photos of the spot and ourselves there and on said bridge. It's a place we can go back to in five years, ten years, and twenty-five years. Leaving the park, she was excited and may or may not have spilled a drink on me. We called friends and family to spread the news on our way to brunch. I had soft-boiled eggs and brioche. She had sake-infused macaroni and cheese.
It was dark outside when we left the restaurant, and, hands held, we walked on down to 42nd Street and over to Bryant Park. There, we got our hot cider and went home.