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July/August 2018

We had dinner that night at Le Noumade on Ontario Street, a quiet place, good food, whose owner imposed a strict rule against table-hopping. I waited through the meal, which seemed unconscionably long. We both, as usual, passed on dessert, and after our coffee was brought and the waiter departed, I reached into my jacket pocket, took out and set the plush Tiffany ring box on the table, pushing it slowly toward Laura.

She looked at me, said nothing, though her eyebrows went up, quizzically.

“What you are witnessing, dear girl,” I said, “is the brief prelude to a marriage proposal. Will you marry me?”

An inauspicuously long silence greeted my question.

“Apologies,” Laura said, “but I’m afraid I can’t, or I guess I mean I won’t.” Without opening the Tiffany box she gently pushed it back to my side of the table.

“I don’t understand,” I heard myself say.

“Sorry,” she said. “I thought I was fairly clear. I have no interest in marrying you, or any one else for that matter, certainly not now.”

“Why not now?”

“Two reasons: first, I wish to concentrate on my career. I’m shooting for a senior partnership, and don’t want anything to stand in the way. Second, I like my life the way it is, and have no wish to share it fully with anyone else.”

“I thought we got on well,” I said, “marvellously, in fact.”

“We get along just fine. But I like the way we are just as it is. I’d hate to spoil it all by marrying.”

I was knock-down astonished. What was I thinking? Or, better, not thinking? I guess I thought of myself as a great prize in the marriage sweepstakes, a view it turns out distinctly not shared by the one woman I decided good enough for me to marry.

Neither of us so much as sipped our coffee, I paid the check, drove Laura back to her apartment in silence, went home, and fell asleep wondering if Tiffany would take back the ring. (The store did.)

Laura and I were to meet for dinner not the next night but the night after that. I called her office at a time when I knew she wouldn’t be in to leave a message that something had come up and I couldn’t make that evening’s dinner meeting. She called me the next day, but I decided not to take the call. She was too smart not to get the message in my not answering her call. This may seem curt, even cruel, but, somehow, with marriage no longer at stake, I found I lost all further interest in our relationship. I felt no need to see her again. I wasn’t worried about hurting Laura. She was an attractive woman. Other men would call.

I’m about to walk over to Wrigley Field, where the Cubs are playing the Texas Rangers in an interleague game. The night is coolish, in the 60s. I’ll pick up a ticket from a scalper, grab a hot dog and a beer inside the ballpark, which will do me for dinner. It’s the bachelor life. Free. Easy. You can’t beat it. 
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