I almost married Christopher Bailey. I loved him: his inability to whistle yet refusal to stop trying, his propensity to hiccup when inebriated, and the relative ease he could rattle off every statistic about Cal Ripken, Jr. It should have been no surprise that he proposed at a baseball game, in front of thousands of people with the two of us imposters of ourselves on the big screen, but I never saw it coming.
It was the last Sunday in August with an unrelenting sun overhead. Chris and I held hands despite the sticky sweat coating our palms. In the bottom of the fifth inning, the shortstop's bat connected with the ball. Home run. I missed the play entirely, I was too busy pondering how baseball diamond was a misnomer since the baseline angles created a perfect square. “Great hit,” I mumbled to Chris. The next batter struck out, thundering music signaled the end of the inning. Chris flagged down the beer vendor. We toasted our plastic cups together, I was in the middle of my first sip when he grabbed my arm. Beer spilled onto my lap, drizzled down my leg and puddled into my flip-flop. “Look!” He pointed to the string of bright blue words scrolling across the giant television screen–
Amelia, will you marry me?
He was on his way down to one knee, never mind the peanut shells and beer. I could feel the crawling sensation of so many eyes on me. Us. There we were on the screen. My shoulders were redder than I thought, sunburned, but the rest of me was too pale. Who was that girl? His hands shook as he opened the box to reveal a diamond perched on a yellow gold band. I hated yellow gold. How could he not know that? He grabbed my still wet hand and I suppressed the urge to pull it out of his grasp. My head felt like a balloon, detached and threatening to float away. He wanted an answer, needed me to say something but when I opened my mouth it refused to cooperate. I had no idea what to say. Yes? A hard, sharp knot in my stomach told me different.
He leaned in, so close I could feel his warm breath on my ear. “Are you okay?” he asked.
“Yes,” I whispered. When he sprang up from his knee and wrapped me in a hug I realized, he thought I meant yes to everything. He pushed the ring on my finger. People around us clapped. The mascot, a large oriole with vacant eyes, wandered over to dance. The diamond glittered in the late afternoon sunlight, staring at it made my whole body ache. Two weeks later in my hospital bed, this is the moment I would replay over and over in my mind. By then I couldn't stop calculating the various permutations of what if, obsessing over how every small choice and one “almost” had changed everything.