I told him to save the proposal for Valentine's Day. I told him to buy me chocolate hearts and a bouquet of roses. I told him to make up a poem about how much he loved me. I told him I wanted proof of his devotion, and he gave it to me.
In his poem, he said that he couldn’t wait until Valentine's Day, that he cared too much and too deeply. That, like swans, he’d die of a broken heart if I ever left him.
I had told him a proposal was out of the question; our love was that of the body, not that of the mind. I wanted him to show me that I was beautiful enough to have sex with.
When he proposed, he told me he’d already bought tickets to a couples massage. He said that I was like art. You could love the body, the colours and lines, but knowing the meaning made it even better.
I made him promise to marry me decades ago, when we were both children. Our wedding was going to be in a castle. We’d dance among fairies and hear the songs of mermaids, ours would be a fairy tale. But castles crumbled and fell, fairies grew tired, mermaids became hoarse and sore; fairy tales weren’t real. We went on separate paths and stopped talking. I needed him to show me I deserved to be a princess. I wanted to be safe inside castle walls.
He found me again in a cafe, led me to a limousine and proposed to me at his grand house. He said that, like rivers to the ocean, he’d always find his way back to me.
We never discussed proposing, I didn’t even realise he knew what a wedding was. I needed him to show me I was smart and independent. With an IQ of 59, I was a genius in comparison. I needed to be a genius, at least to one person.
I visited him in his care home, and he kneeled down right at the entrance, he said that I was like his doll, I always listened and loved.
He proposed to me on Christmas Eve. I wanted him to propose, but I didn’t think he would. I think he was just as surprised as I was.
I used him to prove that I was easier to love than others. He had no one; no one loved him, not his parents, and he had no friends. I wanted to see his face when he realised that I, the last person left, didn’t love him either.
Five seconds before midnight, he told me he wanted to start a new and better year with me as his companion. He said that, like stars, I helped him find his way when he was drowning in the ocean.
I rejected their proposals.
To 1, I said he was too romantic. That he tried too hard and too often, that, obviously, writing a poem would be too much. I told him he overwhelmed me, that, like a swan, he swatted away anything that came near his mate. Even if that thing was requested by the mate herself.
To 2, I told him he wasn’t romantic enough. I told him I needed grand gestures, castles, fairies, and mermaids. I told him that like bad art, some people have no soul, they have no symbolism and no meaning. He was one of those people.
To 3, I said he was too deluded, stuck in a fantastical dream. I blamed him for being too safe. I wanted an adventure. I told him he pampered me like a princess, that he was trying to spoil me to keep my love. “You’re building a castle around me,” I said, “A majestic but stuffy castle. Let me out.” I said, finally, that like the oceans, he surrounded rivers until they had no choice but to merge. That lack of choice led to bad decisions.
To 4, I said he was too stupid. I wanted him to realise that any smart human being would know I was tired of him. I told him that, like dolls, he got worn and boring after time; people outgrow dolls. I told him that like a doll, he was only a decoration to me.
To 5, I said that he used me to feel better about himself, that he would never be romantic enough, smart enough, realistic enough, rich enough, anything enough for me. I told him that like stars, I was far away and distant, out of his league in every aspect. I told him that no one would ever love him.
I never wanted to see them again.
Three years later, 1 read a different poem at a wedding altar, to a woman who’d actually appreciate it.
2 went out on a date the next year. He didn’t have sex, he didn’t need to.
Decades later, 3 started a successful business and used the money he earned to start a non-profit to take care of the elderly.
4 never did leave the care home, but he made friends, friends who appreciated him, despite his IQ.
5 wrote a book that sold millions of copies, and through it, he met people who respected him.
When I met 1 again, he was kissing a woman on a public bench; I spotted a ring on the woman's finger. The woman could be cheating, I thought, and I went on my way.
I saw 2 on Tinder, three months after I rejected him. It said he was looking for a connection, not physical beauty. I scoffed, surely he was a liar. I ignored him. He’d never get a date.
3 moved to another country with his parents. He posted about it on his social media. He said he didn’t need romance, he was satisfied with his family. He just can’t get another woman, I thought. Sore loser.
I never saw 4 again, but I basked in the thought that he’d never leave his care home.
5 wrote a book. It was given to me on my birthday the following year. I didn’t bother to read it, he wasn’t talented enough to write anything worth reading.
Next year, I’d meet new people.
Next Christ Eve, it would all be different.