Husband proposed to me on January 8, 1992. We married on July 18 that same year.
Every story has two sides. This week, I tell mine.
“We’re here,” Boyfriend said. “You can look now.”
I peeled off the bandana blindfold. The University of Minnesota, St. Paul campus.
He hopped out of the driver’s seat and came around to the passenger side to open my door. He guided me through January’s winds into the student center, down the stairs, and into the bowling alley in the basement. Then he plunked down cash for one game and two pairs of shoes. I frowned, eyeing my too-snug dress.
When I had taken the day off from my job at the Marie Sandvik Center at Boyfriend’s request, it was for a visit to a special exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. For some reason, though, the plan had fizzled. Was this the alternative? Bowling?
Boyfriend waved a hand for me to throw the first ball. One, two, three, slide—just like the old 1950s instructional video in gym class, only 100% less impressive. Unable to bend over much in my dress, I squatted awkwardly, and as I released the ball, I remembered my thumb, its skin bubbled from a run-in with a searing pan of curly fries the previous night at Kids’ Club at work. The blister ripped away, and I gasped. Gutter ball.
“No big deal,” Boyfriend said, gazing at my still-standing pins.
“I don’t really care about my score.” I raised my raw thumb for him to see.
He sucked air through his teeth. “Ouch.”
For nine more frames, I tried to bowl without using the finger holes, and he tried to play while walking on eggshells.
“Let’s go to dinner,” he said, his tone flat.
Our reserved table at Muffuletta in the Park was dim and intimate. Music from a violinist and a cellist soothed my stinging thumb, and the decadent food spirited away the evening’s bumpy start.
I dabbed my mouth and gazed at Boyfriend over the flickering candle. We had talked about marrying in the near future. Would tonight be the night for the proposal? Should I chew more carefully to avoid chomping down on an engagement ring in the dessert?
“Too bad things started out the way they did,” I said.
“You weren’t too happy.”
“I wish I had known about the bowling. I could’ve dressed for it.”
“You told me you wanted to dress up and go bowling sometime.” He set down his glass. “Remember?”
I narrowed my eyes. “When?”
“Forget it.” Boyfriend waved down our server and asked for our check and for a to-go box for the dessert I was too full to finish. “Maybe we call it a night?”
A museum trip canceled in favor of bowling, and now a beautiful dinner that seemed like a precursor to a gift of jewelry, but no proposal? Was he canceling that too?
“Already? It’s too early to go home.”
The server returned with a tinfoil swan that had swallowed my carrot cake.
“So what then? A movie?”
I shrugged. “I guess.”
But on the way to the movie theater, the car filled with old and new thorns, and the more we struggled through them, the more they tore at our attitudes. My thumb throbbed.
At the theater, Boyfriend shoved some cash under the little window. “Two tickets for The Last Boy Scout,” he said, not looking at me.
On the screen, Bruce Willis strutted around with a gun, doing something heroic for almost two hours, but I rewound the mental footage from our date. Maybe Boyfriend’s request that I take the day off from work on a Wednesday for a day full of surprises didn’t have any special meaning attached to it. Maybe it was just a date.
On the ride home, silence blasted us. We pulled into the driveway of my house in Dinkytown. Regret—heavier than my winter coat—settled on my shoulders. The thorns from earlier were really only prickles, and I should’ve seen it then.
Boyfriend came around to my side again and opened the door. He held out a gloved hand, and I took it. He scooped me up into his arms.
“So you won’t ruin your shoes,” he said.
And I thought of his nice shoes as he carried me through the driveway’s slushy snow.
Inside the house, he set me down in the foyer and kissed me. He opened the door to my room, letting me enter first. Candlelight warmed the space. By the window was a painting—of me.
My vision blurred. “You did this?” I spun to face him.
But he was already on one knee, offering me his future.
A week before our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, Husband told me not to schedule anything on the big day.
“I have plans. And don’t even try guessing,” he said, “but pick a dress you can move in.”
I tried to nibble away a smile. “I think I know where this is going.”
The morning of our anniversary, we bowled a game at the student center at the University of Minnesota, St. Paul campus. My dress felt good—and so did my thumb. Lunch at Muffuletta was just right, and the movie Lost in Paris made us laugh. We drove by my old place in Dinkytown and asked the renter’s permission to snap a picture in the driveway. Husband scooped me up in his arms again.
When we returned home, Husband kissed me and opened the door to our house, letting me enter first. No candles needed today; our years together warmed the space. On the wall was a new painting—of me.
“I had it commissioned,” he said. “This was the inspiration.”
He showed me a photo on his cell phone. Me in the purple dress from our twenty-fourth wedding anniversary.
My vision blurred. Life was bigger and better than the too-tight skirts, the blisters, the thorns, and the prickles along the way.
I turned to face him. And there he was, still offering me his future.