“I don’t know if that’s . . .” I started, but I wasn’t sure how to finish. “this is about you and me. are you saying you don’t want to do this?”
“No!” he said. “I’m just . . . maybe we shouldn’t be doing this right now.”
“I cannot believe you.” I thought I was going to leave it at that, but the words kept coming out of my mouth. “I didn’t make you propose to me. I wasn’t the one who suggested we get married in the first place. this was all your doing! I have been telling you for months to tell your mother! so how the f**k do I end up two hours outside of las vegas jilted in a Burger king, huh? explain that to me.”
“You don’t understand!” He was starting to get animated and upset.
“Why don’t I understand? What part of this don’t I understand? you asked me to marry you. I said yes. I suggested we elope. you said yes. We got in the car. We’re halfway to nevada and you’re calling it off while you’re eating a f**king Whopper.”
Ben shook his head. “I can’t expect you to understand, elsie.” our voices were starting to attract attention, so Ben got up from the table and I followed him outside.
“What does that mean?” I yelled at him, pushing the door out of my way like it was the one doing this to me.
“It means you don’t have a family!” He turned to face me. “you don’t even try to get along with your parents. you don’t understand how I feel about my mom.”
“You’re kidding me, right?” I couldn’t believe he’d said that. I wished I could have time-traveled back to five seconds before so I could have stopped him from saying that and we could have continued on with our lives without him ever having said that to me.
“No! I’m not kidding. you don’t get it.”
“Oh, I get it, Ben. I get it. I get that you’re a coward who hasn’t had the balls to tell his mom he’s even dating someone and now, and now I’m getting screwed for it.that’s what I get.”
“It’s not like that,” he said, but his voice was resigned. It wasn’t passionate.
“What is it then?”
“Can we just get in the car?”
“I’m not getting in the car with you,” I said as I crossed my arms. It was colder outside than I would have liked and my jacket was lying on the front seat, but I didn’t want to go near that car, even if I had to suffer for it.
“Please? don’t make a scene out here. I’m not saying we shouldn’t get married. I want to marry you. I just . . . want to tell my mom first. there’s no need for us to rush this.”
“You’ve had six months to tell your mom! and you always come up with a reason why not. How many times I have heard ‘now I’m really going to tell my mom’? But you know what? she’s not a part of this relationship. this is about you and me. It’s about what you want and what I want. and what I want is to be with the kind of man that wants to marry me so bad, nothing will stop him. I want to be loved by someone who loves me so much he can’t think straight. I want you to love me in a way that makes you stupid and impractical. I want to rush into this. rushing into it is romantic. It makes me feel alive. It makes me feel like I am jumping off a cliff and I know I’ll be fine because that is how much I trust you. and I deserve you jumping off a cliff for me because I am prepared to do it for you.you think I don’t know anything about family because I don’t get along with my parents? ana is my family. I love her more than I could possibly love another person, other than you. and I thought about her and I thought, no, I don’t need her here for this. I just need Ben. so f**k you, I don’t know family. that’s not what’s happening here at all. What’s happening here is that I am ready to risk everything for you.and you are not ready to do it for me.”
Ben was quiet for a long time. He had started to cry. I thought that it was a manly cry and couldn’t help wanting to hold him despite my furor.
“How do things get f**ked up so quickly?” he said. His voice was quiet. It wasn’t a whisper. It was just sad. It lacked the confidence I was used to hearing in him.
“What?” I said. My tone was curt and pissed.
“I just don’t understand how things can go from great to shitty so quickly. I don’t know how I got us here. I love you so much, and I should have told my mom earlier, and I didn’t and . . . all of those things you just talked about, I want those. I want that with you. I want to give that to you. I love you the way you want to be loved. I’m telling you that. I am the man to do that for you. I just don’t know how I derailed so quickly from showing you that.”
He turned to me, his eyes drying up but still pleading. “I want to marry you,” he said.
“No, Ben,” I said and I started to turn away from him, but he grabbed my arm. He grabbed it hard. “I don’t want you to—”
“You are right,” he said. “you are right. I want that. I want you. I want what you said. I want to risk everything for you. I want to be stupid with you and reckless with you. I will figure out a way to tell my mom. We’ll tell her together and she’ll love you.and . . . I want you.”
“No, it’s not . . . it shouldn’t be . . .” I said, trying to find the words that meant “I don’t want to do this now because it’s all ruined.” I settled on “you don’t have to do this. I’ll calm down and we can wait until we tell your mom.” the minute I said it, I believed it. It softened me to see that I needed to be there for him as much as I needed him to be there for me.
Ben listened to me, but he was unmoved. “no! I was wrong! I got scared. But I want you. please.” He got down on one knee. “Marry me.”
I was silent and unsure. Was this good for him? Was it what he wanted? He seemed so genuine now. His eyes were pleading with me to listen to him, to marry him. But I didn’t want to have forced his hand. I didn’t want this to be something he did because I made him do it. and yet, Ben looked so in love with me, truthfully. He looked like all he wanted in the world was me. It looked so real. It was real. Ben yelled from the base of his throat. “Marry me, Elsie Porter! Marry me!”
I pulled him up from the pavement and held him. “I don’t want you to do anything that—” I stopped myself and asked what I felt. “are you sure?”
“I’m sure. I’m so sorry. I’m sure.”
A smile crept onto my face faster than I could stop it. “okay!” I exclaimed.
“Really?” he asked as he spun me around. I nodded. “oh my God,” he said. He buried his head in my shoulder. “I love you so much. I love you so much.”
“I love you too. I’m sorry,” I said. “I shouldn’t have said those things. I just . . . I didn’t realize how much I wanted to marry you until . . . It doesn’t matter,” I said. “I’m sorry. We can take all the time you need.”
“No,” he said. “I don’t need any time at all. Get in the car. We’re going to vegas.”
He opened my car door and then got into his side. Before he started the engine, he grabbed my face and kissed me, hard.
“Okay,” he said, breathing in deeply.“nevada, here we come.”
It was my fault,” I say to her. “He wanted to tell you before we got married. He was ready to call it off, actually, until he had time to tell you. But I convinced him not to.”
“Oh,” susan says. she is quiet and thoughtful.“When was this?” “We were on our way to las vegas. He wanted to turn around and drive home. He wanted to wait until you knew. Give you the chance to be there.”
“Oh,” she says. “I didn’t realize you were married in las vegas.” the tone in her voice isn’t judgmental necessarily, but it certainly brings out any insecurity I might have over having been married in the tackiest place on earth.
“But I didn’t want to. He said I didn’t understand family, and at the time I told him that was a terrible thing to say to me, but I think he might have had a point.”