"Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand . . ."
Once, a man asked me to marry him.
The sun was setting on a necklace of longtail fishing boats docked in the shallow surf of a beach in Ko Phangnan, Thailand. We were sitting on some boulders and watching the water recede over the ash white rocks. Almost anyone would have been moved by the moment.
What I remember about the proposal was which word of the sentence he chose to stress. I almost said, "Yes," because of his syntax.
In movies. In fictional proposals, a man bends down on one knee and asks, "Would you marry me?" The emphasis is on the action -- the thrust of the question is a proposal for action. You could insert any verb and the intent would be the same -- Would you swordfight me? Would you undress me? Would you do this thing with me?
Sometimes, as a point of sincerity, the man will accent his personal pronoun. Perhaps this is a way of admitting to the woman that she could marry any man. But, "Would you marry me?"
One hopes, the asker does not choose to highlight the second word of the proposal. The inference here denotes exasperation as though the person proposing has already asked many before and hopes beyond hope that this one will finally say yes. "Would you marry me?!?!"
The scenario I am remembering today was different in a way I never expected. The man who asked me said, "Would you marry me?" Usually, it seems, a person will not ask another person this question unless they are almost certain the answer will be in the affirmative.
However, that day, on those rocks, under that setting sun, the man in question truly seemed to be in question. "Would you. . . ?" The structure begs for a tentative delivery. It seemed as though he were asking me if he could ask me the question. Even though I have known him since we were small children. Even though we dated as teenagers, separated for five years and chose each other again later on down the line. Despite the fact that we have lived together in different cities in different apartments for over five years and still choose to do so.
The question seemed to remain in his question.
And for a moment, this unexpectedly courageous act of true wonder gave me certain pause. I questioned the one thing I have known with more certainty than almost any other thing -- I do not wish to marry.
". . .Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand."
--edna st. vincent millay
I am not the first person to wonder about love.
I am not the first to wonder
If, when passions subside to memories of passions,
And the warm settling of time,
Comfortably suffocates the lovers with days and days,
If, the heart will cease to long
For unknowable longing.
--"Untitled," C. Marisol de la Rosa