Victor’s Proposal, by Carla Sarett
Professor Victor Long, pensive index finger on goatee, remarked, “Far too many marriages end in divorce, and that’s a national tragedy.”
With these gloomy words, he availed himself of a slither of Manchego. At the Sociology Department’s Christmas Party, pickings were slim.
“Well, since Victor and I aren’t married, we don’t have to worry about that particular tragedy, do we?” said his long-time partner, Professor Gail Johnson, rather cheerfully.
Another sociology professor, taller than Victor Long and far more dashing, eyed pretty Gail appreciatively. “If you’re not married, the two of you can’t technically commit adultery or can you?”
“It would be labeled infidelity and I guess it would not qualify as a tragedy,” Gail replied with her gift for clarity, and a bit of coyness besides.
This innocuous exchange alerted Professor Victor Long to the practicality, as opposed to the virtue, of marriage. Another man might have proposed then and there. But Victor felt that a proposal must have, as it were, a certain dramatic flourish.
And so, on Valentine’s Day, he donned an ascot and escorted Gail to a dimly-lit eatery. Champagne and caviar had been ordered for, as he put it, “this very special night.”
“This is lovely,” said Gail, munching away. “I’m starved. I think the whole-grain bread’s fantastic here.”
“Tonight is not merely about whole-grain breads.” Victor blinked several times at his manly declamation
“No, the steak’s exceptional too – the aging process makes the difference.” Gail examined the menu like an epicurean scholar. “Ah, wild halibut, so many decisions, really.”
“Decisions!” thundered Victor, terrifying a bespectacled couple who sat nearby.
Gail re-filled his champagne to calm his nerves. “Restaurants do involve decisions, but it’s not a big deal,” she said in a soothing tone. “We always manage and most of the time, we’re fine, aren’t we?”
“Important decisions,” he continued, undeterred. “The future, that’s what this night is about.”
“Metaphorically, I guess,” Gail said as she studied the lengthy wine list. “It’s tricky following champagne with wine, especially a good wine. You might call it a metaphor for the future, in its way.”
Victor’s voice became shrill. “No, it’s not a metaphor. I’ve decided that you and I, the two of us, that is, should form a permanent relationship.”
Gail signaled the waiter. “A few crab-cakes while we’re deciding about the main course, and please, sauce on the side.” She turned to Victor, “I thought we already had a relationship, Victor. Isn’t that what we are celebrating, tonight, our relationship?”
“Marriage is what I meant.” Victor took out a sheet of paper on which he had typed a list.
“Ah, you want to discuss the prospect of marriage in our future. Is that correct?”
“Exactly, and I’ve prepared a statement— it’s a list of the qualities that I feel make you an outstanding candidate for marriage, in my humble view, of course.”
“A woman really doesn’t require flowers, I guess,” said Gail, heaping caviar on a slice of bread.
Victor forged ahead. “To start, you are a high-achievement personality with a stable financial record. Not that your earnings played a role in my thinking, but earnings can’t be ignored in today’s world, and you’re well aware that they enhance your desirability. Plus, your academic tenure, well, that speaks for itself.” He chuckled at his own wit.
“As does your own, Victor,” Gail noted.
“Thank you, Gail, I appreciate the sentiment. Now, on the domestic side, some might even call you messy or sloppy or worse. But with your advanced culinary skills, I feel that you balance out the picture and on trade-off, it’s a more valued asset. In any event, we have a great house-keeper.”
“I adore Nelly,” agreed Gail, emphasizing the word adore like a patient teacher.
“You are also a highly social person with a wide network of contacts that will serve you well. Naturally, not all of your friends can be to my liking — as why should they be?” Here, he nodded, agreeing with himself. “Still social relationships in themselves are a positive thing, and you are well-liked.”
Gail sighed, perhaps relieved by the sight of crab-cakes or by her perceived virtues.
Victor went on. “On the other hand, I do not enjoy your family. This has been a concern since they are not interesting people. In fact, I’d go so far as to call them boring. But it speaks well of you that you tolerate them. I give you high marks for that since I suppose you’re related to them and it’s not your fault.”
Gail said, in a false-bright tone, “Shiraz would be a welcome change, especially if I do the salmon and you do steak. There’s a nice spicy one on the list.”
“I have more, Gail, including some comments on your physical person,” Victor said, tapping his list.
To his surprise, Gail grabbed the page and ripped it into tiny shreds, which flew in all direction, causing a commotion among the waiters.
“You need to be in therapy, Victor, long-term intensive therapy. This is the world’s most horrible proposal.” Gail sobbed.
Victor gulped. “I guess it needed more revision.”
“First of all, men are supposed to buy jewelry for the woman– it’s called a ring. They are widely available at local retailers.”
“A ring,” he said as if considering the rings of Saturn.
“Second of all, it’s customary to begin with a declaration of love, Victor.” She dried her eyes, handed him a crab-cake, and the two ate in silence.
“I think these crab-cakes would work for the reception,” Victor said after a while. “And you can write the wedding speeches because that’s another strength of yours, always knowing the right thing to say and the right thing to do.”
“I do?” Gail asked.
Victor nodded. “That part about love, for example, that is really an excellent addition. Maybe you add something about happiness too.”
Gail waved to the waiter again. “We’re ready now.”
She smiled. “Absolutely, Victor– yes.”
Carla Sarett is a cheerful refugee from academia who has worked in TV, film and market research; and for reasons unknown, decided to add fiction writing to the mix. Her short story collection Nine Romantic Stories is now available.
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Tags: carla sarett, proposals, relationships, weddings