The Proposal of Improbability

(It’s been a while. For you repeat readers, I’ve put Trading Blows on the back-burner, because I’m working on flushing it out into a full-length novel. So what follows is a completely new thread.

As always, thanks for reading.)

Sometimes I shiver when I think about the improbability of meeting you. The sheer immensity of the probability that we would pass each other by, just fleeting, ethereal ghosts in each others’ consciousness. I shouldn’t have met you. It makes no sense that I did.

Ok, here’s why. I was supposed to be working a wedding that day. At 11am, my schedule should have consisted of hauling tables into romantic formation, dampening my catering tux with sweat, table grease, and someone else’s love. At 12pm, I should have been setting the happy couple’s silverware, probably two forks on the left, two knives on the right with a soup spoon on the outside, dessert fork and coffee spoon on top. Sucks really, a duet first course with soup and salad is a bitch to serve and clear. Only the happiest, and most ambitious of couples have a duet first course. My day was scheduled; perform menial tasks to help someone else’s big day for $13.50 an hour, and eat a hurried meal of reheated chicken parmesan using my fingers in a kitchen improvised from a hallway.

Where were you supposed to be? Somewhere beautiful, probably. Maybe a fancy lunch downtown, schmoozing with a new client, or being taken out by Bob (fucker). Fuck that guy. Sorry. You know my favorite thing about you? You’re always Light. I know, it’s weird, let me explain. Imagine being in a completely white room, fresh white walls, ceiling, floors. A blonde, tanned beauty in the middle, and unmitigated sunlight cascading through a wall of windows, through skylights, bouncing off the floors, walls, ceilings, every surface possible and it all reflects onto the woman at the center. Her skin is radiant, her teeth flashing, eyes clearer than Portland air. Overwhelmingly fresh. Light.

That’s how I see you. I don’t know how you manage it, but then again I don’t know how you manage anything you do. We would step out of the rain, like that one time into that Korean sushi place, remember, I’m just sopping wet despite my oversized camo-colored umbrella, God that weather sucked, I turn to you, you were in the exact same weather as me, sharing my stupid camo-colored umbrella, and you’re glowing. Light. It’s just pouring out of you, and despite my best efforts, I can’t be pissed about the weather, about you working late, my lack of cab fare. Man oh man, I don’t understand, and that scares me a bit.

We never should have met. That morning I felt the same way as I always do about catering. Aw, screw this, I could be creating something, playing video games, working out. Anything more productive than pouring cheap wine into shoddy goblets en mass. I have one red sir, one white ma’m, get over it. Or tip me, and we’ll see what I can do, maybe I can scrounge up a grigio.

Anyway, I cater because I don’t have the drive to do much else. Just ask my parents. I don’t have the stomach to do things unless I absolutely love them, and in catering it’s easy to barely do anything. A perfect match. But, to my credit, I had never called off. My misplaced sense of pride and ego wouldn’t let me beg off a job to sleep in, to party down, whatever. If I commit to a job, I’m in, no matter how much I hate it.

That morning though, I woke up in front of a mountain. An insurmountable mass of rock and snow stood between me and my tux. So I did the natural thing anyone would do when they discover a new geological formation in their closet; I detoured to the shower to see if I could uncover some climbing equipment in the scalding water. After an hour, I emerged with only one tool to work with, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to use it to climb a mountain. So I danced around the base of the mountain in front of my tux, grabbed some dirty clothes from the bar last night off the floor where I threw them in my inebriation, and stumbled out my front door.

I did something that I never do. While I’m not good at making it, I’m incapable of not thinking about money. Sure, other thoughts intersperse themselves in my brain, but money always re-injects itself. My thoughts look like this:

Where am I gonna make money?

That’s a cute puppy. I want one. Wait…I need money.

OH SUSHI. I have no money. Let’s charge it and feel guilty.

Damn, she’s sexy (money).

I should (money) shave. What? I can’t shave. I need money.

I’d enjoy Argo if Ben Affleck could spare me a couple bucks.


Everything has its season, everything (money) has its time (money)…

Ah, concentrate. Just like, twenty more thrusts. AH. NO. HOLD IT. AHHMONNEEYYYYYAHHHHHHH.

You get the idea.

But as I stumbled down four flights to the busy Chicago morning in yesterday’s alcohol-stained clothes, I forgot about money. I forgot about my work obligations. All I could think about was Light. So I got on the street, and walked to where I knew the most Light was; the beach. It wasn’t a conscious decision, but I knew the sun felt good on my hermit-induced paleness, and after apparently spending the night in front of a mountain, I just needed some warmth. Some Light.

I walked 1.35326 miles to reach you. I know, because I’ve become obsessed with that route. I google-mapped, I’ve used the car’s odometer; I even took one of those wheel measure things and walked the route. I’ve retraced it hundreds of times. Why did I walk that exact distance? A step more, a step less, I would have missed you, two ships in the night, that kind of thing. Hell, if I would have blinked, squinted in the sun, stepped in dog stuff, anything, we would have wandered past each other and then its endgame for us.

I don’t believe in destiny. It doesn’t exist. There is no God-laid grand scheme to things. I can’t accept that our lives are programmed by the step. Which makes this all the freakier.

What the hell were you doing there anyways? I know, Bob (that fucker) canceled on your lunch, you had no client meetings, the gallery is closed on Saturdays, but you’re the most popular person I know. You had ledgers full of backup men that are still chasing you, waiting for a free meal slot to pounce. You have clients calling nonstop for your representation, and who can blame them, but why didn’t one of them call? Why didn’t you call a girlfriend, why didn’t you lunch at home, at a restaurant, why did you skip lunch?! I know you. You are a hungry, hungry person. You don’t skip meals.

Man oh man. Thinking about this messes with my brains.

In Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer compared each human’s existence to the Sahara Desert. The dad was talking to his son, and the son didn’t understand what life was about, and that clever-as-hell dad said something like, ‘every person is like a grain of sand in the Sahara. What happens when you move?’ And the boy was all excited, and a little mentally challenged, which made it sweeter, and he goes ‘I changed the Sahara!’ Or something like that. Honestly, I don’t really remember, and I took it in the opposite direction anyways. Being a grain of sand means there are gazillions of other people just like you, and your location doesn’t really fucking matter. Life’s still going to look the same, boring and featureless.

But. But.

I was just a grain of sand, you were a sexier grain of sand, and you were on the grassy knoll before the beach, and so was I, I took the final step of the 1.35326 miles, and there was no blinking, and you picked that weed flower thing, the one with the white puffy ball on top, and a singular gust of wind blew, and I did not blink, and you held the flower weed thing out just so, and of the million tiny-ass seeds that blew in that singular gust of wind, one flew on a path of purpose, to a destiny which I don’t believe in, and I didn’t blink, and it smacked me right between my unclosed lids, into my right eyeball gazing at the sun, with my brain behind it unable to comprehend money or work, just Light, and the seed, so much like a grain of sand, just planted itself right into my eyeball.

FUCK, I shouted, I staggered blind, reaching for my eyeball, and I tripped over my saggy, alcohol-soaked jeans, falling all over myself, collapsing into a heap at your feet. Where, I have to say, I probably belong.

The improbability of all this really screws with my brain.

Why were you there? Why are you filled with so much compassion, so much love, so much Light that you would feel compelled to bend over an incomplete, smelly stranger, take his face in your hands, and ask him if he was alright?

I will never be able to describe what it felt like when you touched me. But I’ll sure as hell try. My reality…shifted. It’s like the world turned up a notch, the world goes to eleven now, you can’t just make ten better, it goes to eleven. It’s like I was struck by that alien light thing from Phenomenon, but the gift I got was seeing you. So much better than telekinesis and John Travolta. I imagine that it’s like the Wizard of Oz, when reality switches from black and white to Technicolor, a Technicolor romance. But imagine that you lived completely in black and white, like you lived with Dorothy on her hallucinogenic journey, and you were fully present when suddenly the world started dripping with color. You’ve never seen color before, and suddenly the world is just bursting with it, everything, even your hands are a vibrant pink instead of a dusty grey. Just try to imagine that shit. That’s what I felt. That’s how I still feel.

Point is, you’re everything I never knew I was missing. I’ll never understand why you were on that hill, why the hell I was there, why it seems like some big equation that I absolutely don’t believe in was solved by you lifting me from that crumpled heap of my life.

What I accept is this; I love you more. You’re amazing, and beat me in every category of life, but the amount of love you draw from me will never be equaled. So don’t even try, Jessica. Don’t even. I don’t accept destiny, but I believe in color, in grains of sand, in Light.

(Special note. Make sure you’re on your knee before you do this.)

Jessica. You’ve given me everything, and I want to spend the rest of my life trying to give even a grain of sand back.

Will you marry me?

Published by Neil Stratman

I'm an actor currently based in Chicago. Woot.

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