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Delicious Activism | 2013 | Beers' Night Out


Yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will yes.  

-James Joyce


The Pen Is Mightier Than the Moment

"Yes, when you ask properly."

It has sat on the table in our kitchen for days before I prod Amber about it.

"It's your anniversary present," she says.

"I noticed that. I'm a very nosy person and the envelope was open. May I have it?"

After expressing disappointment that the packaging is so austere given what she spent on it, she hands me the plastic case. Within is a carbon fiber pen with two inks and a mechanical pencil built-in, because she feels it is exactly the sort of pen an author ought to have.

As I examine she says, "I was going to propose with the pen, but then I didn't."

"That would have been sweet," I say, clicking between the inks and scribbling on paper to test it out. "What was your proposal plan?"

She shrugs. "Dangle it over your head until you agreed to marry me?"

"I am much taller than you. Also, I could have just picked you up and shook you until the pen came loose, then where would you be? No pen, no agreement that I would get hitched. You'd need to get me a whole new pen before you could try again."

"Or I could steal that one away from you when you least expect it and propose with it anyway."

I hide it in my pocket and glare at the very idea she would purloin my favorite pen in the world.

She then unfurls her actual plan, which involved a picnic set up in a field while I was at work. She mentions having scouted the location and weighed the respective difficulties in getting everything there and keeping it safe from curious parties, the weather, and passing deer until I arrived. She had previously mentioned wanting to plan with her circle to propose at the bonfire where we met two years ago with a party to follow, but she could not bring herself to follow through with it, though she considered that I might coincidentally chose this occasion to propose and wouldn't it have been the height of awkwardness when she had to decline me because I had stepped on her metaphorical and matrimonial toes?

I find myself slightly nervous by all this talk of proposals, though I of course want to be married to Amber. It is the transition that fills me with queasy butterflies, the idea of forking over money I don't have to feed people who have nothing to do with our relationship. Furthermore, I want my proposal to be perfect (for I have asked a dozen times and had my proposals ruled "improper" owing to a lack of planning or clothes), I want the ring (which is more or less a placeholder, since Amber the Artist is intent to design a ring through an Etsy seller) to be amazing, I want everything to be memorable and find myself unable to figure out how that might happen.

I was engaged once before. Granted, that was a premature mistake, because I had been with her for five years and it was nigh about time I express a more serious commitment than continuing to shack up, but I didn't then want to be married in general or specific. It was the next act in the show and I played my part. Realistically, Emily and I should not have considered marriage and it is a retroactive blessing that she ended it when she did (though ending it even sooner would have been a greater blessing). All that said, it was a damn fine proposal up to the point where she threatened my life if I happened to be playing a practical joke on here using a diamond ring.

And, yes, like any bachelor of thirty odd years, the notion of someone relying on me and my relying on her for the rest of my life is unsettling. There would have been a time, a few years ago, when I would have wanted nothing more than a woman as devoted to me as Amber, before I finally grasped that I could be alone and still lead a fulfilling life.

To be clear, there is little about Amber that is less than fantastic. Yes, I have sometimes wished she desired any sort of steady job, aside from sporadic and frantic bracelet orders and overthrowing the dominant paradigm via free stores and gardening, and that she and I agreed on the cleanliness of the apartment, but these are relatively small things. She could be taller, I suppose, but there is a charm in cuddling up with a pixie in size as nearly as current hairstyle and demeanor.

This is the purest I have ever been in a relationship. I have not felt actual temptation or wanting toward another person. There have been no crushes. I have been increasingly happy, the more I get to know about Amber. I would not rather be with anyone (though I retain a slight mooniness toward Regina Spektor and the members of Garfunkel and Oates, whom Amber has informed me I am not allow to snog).

I so desperately want never to hurt Amber. When she sniffles because I teased her, I feel as though I have slaughtered a fawn and used its carcass to bludgeon bunnies. There will be strife and hardship, I know. Rare is the relationship that gets by without them. But I want her continued contentment. I want to know for certain that I am the one to give it to her.

I ask her several times a week why she loves me, why she wants to marry me. It isn't a need for reassurance as much as a game we play, akin to asking my niece Alyssah which of us loves the other more today (Alyssah has worked out an every other day schedule, though I suspect she favors Amber loving me more when asked. On Sundays, we love one another equally). She defaults to "Because you're pretty" but will give expansive reasons when pressed, saying I am a good man and that she always wanted to love a writer or that I simply feel right to her in a way no one else has come close to.

I know the moment I first took marrying Amber seriously. We were pausing at a playground during a run, playing on a standing seesaw. I bounced her into the air and the moonlight glinted off her eyes and I knew. I could continue to love this woman. I wouldn't get bored of her or tired. We could work our way through problems, if we wanted to. She didn't need me to be more or other than I was. This was well before she began to shed her social anxiety, before she became a woman passionate about homesteading and anarchism. Looking back, it seems like that night happened before I even knew her, though of course I did. There is a theory that there is no real time, only one moment immediately after creation where God asked humanity to join Him. What humanity perceives as time, all of history, is the hesitation in saying "Yes." From the first moment I held her hand for a dance, I knew her and it feels like every second since then has been a pause to justify my answer.

Soon in Xenology: Guys' Night Out

last watched: Igby Goes Down
reading: Sex and Rockets
listening: Ingrid Michaelson

Delicious Activism | 2013 | Beers' Night Out

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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