A Proposal

What should I tell her and she my hope? As if it were enough to tell and not to be but in the telling calm, in timing, or sincere, in emphasis, or humorous—to tell a joke, or confused—to back it with a moral. How should I compensate for the uncharacteristic nature of my plea? Apologize? Philosophize? How should I give it? In a lilt? With a wink? Should I be kneeling, a Romeo? Or a Don Juan to sweep her in a deep embrace? Should I tell her then of my bad habits? Or would she believe my virtues, modesty among them? Should I claim to be the ideal lover, and attribute my lack of satisfaction in the past to the general fate of perfection in this world? Haven’t I a piece of paper to attest to the level of my intelligence? Are not my parents well-to-do, two testimonies to the benefit of the complete ignorance of finer things? No, that won’t do; they did something right— they made me who I am: idealistic and cynical, generous and possessive, a man with a good sense of humor who takes himself too seriously, an individualist who would tie himself in knots to please a friend, a free thinker easily daunted by crticism, a hard worker for whom things never have come easy, a man made wise by many failures. What could I tell her? What could I say that isn’t obvious at a glance? Aren’t I alone, if not lonely? Aren’t I ready, if not too eager? Are not my good looks purely accidental? What would I tell her? Would I ruin my chance by being honest? Or wouldn’t I tell her everything she wants to hear? Tell her she’s a shining star or anything celestial, a godsend. Tell her she’s beautiful, graceful, and charming, and that oetherwise I wouldn’t have bothered. And tell her that when my heart sets like the sun each night, the meaning of life is limited by her horizon.

10 January 1980