“It’s Christmas Eve and this beautiful country is blanketed in snow, and I am absolutely charged up over Williamsport legalizing marriage equality today!” I gush, half-smirking, into my smartphone. I’ve been up since 5 waiting for this news to be confirmed, so I could be the first influencer to post about it. I linger on the warmth that spreads in my chest when I picture my fans sharing my post abundantly. I’ll have hundreds of new followers by noon.
When I open the curtains in the kitchen, I see a pristine layer of snow settling meekly on top of the sidewalk, the fence, the mailbox. I’ve already seen snow this morning on Instagram, and of course it looked more brilliant there, but I know the snow is disappearing year after year, and so I resist the urge to immediately walk away. I try to really see it, but after a few seconds I still feel nothing, and so I give up and start the coffee machine. I’ve got some planning to do while Robbie’s at the pool.
I bite the inside of my lip as I imagine what Robbie will do after I’ve said it. He’ll look from my eyes to the ring and back. Then he’ll lift his eyebrows and jut his chin forward and his hand will – the doorbell rings. Jerry from next-door is eyeing me frostily through the window. When I open the door, he has his newspaper under his arm. I wonder if he’s left his hands empty in case he decides to throttle me. I'm empathetic, though. It must be hard living next-door to a celebrity.
“Jacob, your car is parked in my spot again,” he declares.
“Jerry, good morning! Would you like a coffee?” His grimace accentuates the deep vertical and horizontal lines between his eyebrows and beanie. For a moment I wonder if there’s beauty in ageing. Probably not.
“Move your car out of my spot, or I’m calling the police.”
The tremors he attempts to produce as he stomps down my driveway are dulled by the doughy snow. I suppress a laugh as I picture a bored police officer taking Jerry’s call. Perhaps it’ll be the same officer who picked up the phone when Jerry tried to get us arrested for not mowing our lawn often enough.
“Great seeing you!” I smile and wave as though I’m on a parade float.
I walk past the full-length mirror in the hallway and flex my calves, an act which always makes me a little calmer. Then I practice my expression for tonight’s video. The earnestness is all in the top half of the face – I crinkle my forehead, then curl the left side of my mouth upwards. I’m irresistible, like a puppy, but sexy. Tonight will be a masterpiece. I could crack 500,000 likes!
After I’ve eaten my breakfast burrito, I wrap myself in a downy blanket on the couch and call Artie.
“Artie, it’s an emergency. I still haven’t decided whether I’m gonna to do it in front of the tree, or at the dinner table.”
I hear fumbling, perhaps something being knocked over.
“Jake, can I call you back? I’m a little busy.”
“Artie, I said it’s an emergency! I need you.”
I can hear him moving things around, and then closing a door.
“All right, fine. Do it in front of the tree. That way you can hashtag Christmas and double your engagement.”
“Oh my god, did you mean that pun? You’re a genius, Artie. Love you, bye.”
I check my socials. My notifications are in the hundreds. I don’t know what the internet loves more: marriage equality, or me.
Scrolling through my Tiktok comments – I try to ‘like’ all of them, but who has the time? - I’m surprised to find that three of them contain proposals:
Finally we can get married😉
Jacob, I’ll be your husband! #loveislove
At first I feel a warm glow, then a prickle of antipathy. It’s kind of pathetic to propose to a stranger, even if it’s intended as a joke.
After my afternoon gym session, I run into Coop in the change rooms, and this time it hardly feels awkward at all. Coincidentally, we both happen to be toweling down and changing after our workouts.
“What are you doing now?” He asks. “Come get a coffee?”
I agree out of curiosity. He leads me down the road to The Roastery, where we used to go together most Sundays after a heavy gym session. We sit by the familiar amber-tinted window and ask about each other’s fitness progress until the coffee arrives.
“I saw your post this morning,” he says.
6 months ago I would’ve checked if he’d ‘liked’ it, but it hardly even occurs to me anymore that he follows me.
“Isn’t it the best news?”
He grins and his jaw muscles pop. My friends used to call him Ken Doll, and I used to love it.
He takes a long sip of his cappuccino. “Hey, remember we said we’d get married in Paris?”
My smile wanes. I scramble for a different topic – what’s his new job again? I can’t remember. Oh – I’ll ask about his tropical fish. I’m about to formulate a question when he reaches for my hand.
“What are we waiting for?”
I manage to spill about a third of my coffee onto the table, and have to run to the counter to ask for napkins.
“Sorry,” I mutter. Coop shrugs and waits while I clean my mess.
“Jake, we were phenomenal together.”
“Coop, are you serious?” I gaze out the window. “I’m asking Robbie to marry me tonight.”
I should offer some form of comfort, maybe a hug, but instead I leave $5 on the table and walk out of the cafe. Then I buy my first pack of Lucky Strikes since February and smoke two on my way home.
Dusk is looming outside when I pop a bottle of Taittinger and pour it neatly into two flutes. My heartbeat is the loudest noise in the room, even though The Weeknd is popping through the speakers.
“Robbie, let’s get a video of us with the tree.” I turn off the music.
“Okay, in a sec. But first, there’s something I want to say.”
Robbie takes my champagne glass out of my hand and places it down on the table.
I pick it up again. “It can wait.”
“No, come on, listen.”
Robbie takes a shaky breath.
“Jake, you’re the brightest light I know. Will you do me the honor of being my husband?”
He reaches into his pocket and produces a ring box.
Silence lodges between us like a canyon.
I inhale deeply and look away. How did I not see this coming?
“I know, you’re shocked.” He searches my eyes for validation.
My heart hammers against my chest. Finally I meet Robbie’s gaze.
“You’ve stolen my moment.”
I pick up my phone, then turn around and run out the door, into the blustery night, into anonymity.