“Are you ok? You look like you’re getting sick. I told you not to have the calamari that fisherman offered you.”
Alyssa looked at Eric with concern as he nodded silently, his face damp with sweat. They were walking hand-in-hand down shallow stairs carved into the beautiful cliffs of the Amalfi Coast. It was a balmy 72 degrees, and the moon, nearly full, was hanging over the ocean as if placed just for them. It was, in short, the perfect evening. Of course, Eric noticed none of that over the sound of his internal monologue freaking the fuck out.
“Holy shit, I can’t believe I’m about to propose. Fuck, I wish I didn’t have to wait until after dinner. Why did I make a reservation for 8:30pm instead of just getting it over with? Fucking Italians and their absurd eating schedule. Should I just do it before we get to the restaurant?”
He glanced at his watch, oblivious to Alyssa’s one-sided conversation about whether there were dolphins in the Mediterranean or if the splashes she was seeing were seals.
“8:24pm. Nope, no time do it before dinner. We still have to walk like a mile down these damn stairs. Who builds a whole city on a cliffside? Relax, Eric, you’re turning into the grinch. This town is beautiful. That’s why you came here to propose. Speaking of the proposal, what’s your game plan? Are you doing a speech? You kind of have to, right? You can’t just be like ‘here’s your ring, bitch.’”
He chuckled at that idea, garnering a strange sideways glance from his girlfriend, who had given up on asking if he was ok and just assumed he was having some kind of strange stroke. He gave her an unconvincing smile and breathed deeply in an attempt to soothe his nerves, allowing the salty sea air to fill his lungs as he continued to think.
“Why didn’t I plan out a speech beforehand? Fuuuuck. I was so caught up in where I was gonna do it, I didn’t think about how. Ok, calm down. Luckily, we still have a million stairs to go before we get to this oceanside restaurant. I mean, I can keep it pretty simple, right? From everything I’ve heard, the girl was too excited to even remember what the guy said. I’ll just talk about how I love her, how I want to spend the rest of my life with her, and then hit one knee. Maybe I’ll talk about how beautiful it is out here and how she’s beautiful? There’s a simile in there somewhere. I can probably wing it. Sweet-talking has always been a strength of mine.”
He smiled cockily, feeling a little bit of confidence overtake his nerves as he pumped himself up. They reached the bottom of the stairs and watched as the restaurant appeared in view a few hundred yards down a promenade. It was lit with hundreds of candles and set overlooking a pristinely white beach that glowed in the moonlight. Next to him, Alyssa gasped and squeezed his arm.
“Crushed it.” He thought to himself, looking down at his girlfriend’s face as she stared, wide-eyed, transfixed by the view. “This proposal story is going to blow all of her friend’s dumb stories out of the water. I can already feel their future fiancés hating me, and I love it.”
He ran through his mental checklist one last time. Just one final question. “Should I use her full name when I propose? I feel like that’s what I see in movies, but I don’t know if people do that in real life. Shit, what’s her middle name? I should know this. I know it’s something basic. Is it her mom’s maiden name? Alright, no time to figure that out now, I’m just going to go with her first name. Simple and modern.”
He was jerked from his thoughts by the feeling of Alyssa, who had been walking silently with him, tugging on his arm. “Babe, can we go put our feet in the water? The sand looks so pretty!”
“Uhh,” he responded, glancing at his watch and then down to the restaurant. “I think we should just go to dinner, we’re already a little late for our reservation.” Alyssa smiled up at him devilishly and pulled him by his hand. “Aw, come on. We’ll just be a bit. We can relax for a bit before dinner. Plus, it’s Italy. Being on time is rude here.”
Eric resisted her pull, his stress building, and with it, annoyance. “Alyssa, let’s just go to dinner on time for once. We can walk on the beach after, ok?” He saw the expression that crossed her face, but ignored it as she relented and walked the rest of the way in silence. He knew that he just had to get through dinner and the proposal, and then it would all make sense to her. She would understand why he’d been acting weird and everything would be great.
He slowly unclenched his hand from the ring it had been holding in his pocket for the last 20 minutes and wiped the sweat on his slacks as they approached the host stand.
“Buongiorno! Table for two for Eric?”