He got an antique ring off ebay using my account. I forwarded him the emails verifying the purchase. You can see if you like it; I don’t have to keep it, he said. It’s not very expensive. So what, I said. It’s cool. It’s a brown-pink champagne diamond set in filigreed white gold. It’s me. Just surprise me some other way.

He said ok, and tried to convince me that it was romantic, knowing everything ahead of time. He asked if I wanted to go to Spokane Saturday to eat out. I said no, I didn’t; I didn’t want to waste gas knowing full well what would be on the dinner plate. I said I was going to my sister’s birthday party instead.

In the meantime, I contemplated running away to Kazakhstan, the Czech Republic, Mozambique, Portland. I considered the unknown of these places. I considered the wildness they promised, the romance. The bike paths, the horses, the trains, the dusty foot trails. Winding. Not straight ahead. Never just straight ahead.

I hinted this to him. We talked. We argued, in fact, all weekend. He was leaving for the east coast Monday. The chill of autumn came, suddenly, and I buried myself under blankets and slept.

He came in late Sunday afternoon and found me sleeping. It’s about to rain, he said; I have to go drop stuff off at the dump for my mom before the roads get muddy. Do you want to come with me?

I considered saying no, but remembered that I had been researching our latest theological debate and needed to finish it before he took off. So I came. I brought my wallet in case we broke up and I felt the need to repay him for anything.

We were arguing, sure enough, all the way to the dump; the neighbor’s private dump, he said, hence the muddy roads and the need to traverse them before it rained. I was barely paying attention, such was the heat of our dialogue, but I vaguely saw the path we had traveled once the first day he had held my hand. It was very awkward, that day. Now, he stopped at a gate in the road and jumped out to unlock it, just as our argument dissipated.

He came back from the trunk, not with trash, but with a volume of Shakespeare, as it began to rain in earnest onto the car windshield. He read me sonnet 29. This, unknown to him, I had heard from the cradle. He interjected and then gave me his own words: that the ideal proposal would be one where everything that lead up to it converged on the necessity of its acceptance.

“like so many things of the world,” he said “the state in which I make you this offer is, itself, quite imperfect…”

It seems ironic: I remember, years ago, expressing disgust at particularly smarmy proposals. I want it to be like real life, I had said. I want it to be interesting, but I want it to be real. Real real real.

Real like intellectual anger, rain, mud, and an old book. Real like a sheet of paper with the ripped-off hole fragments still attached, stained with the soul of a man. Real like tears and like a coat donned for the dump, not for romance.

He first offered his hand imperfectly in this spot, in this twisted muddy path, and here again I accepted with the imperfections of my own. The ebay ring surrounds my finger now as I type, as pragmatic and graceful as I could wish for. So I’m getting married. Surprise.