She Said “Yes”

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Sonnet 116
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

I am not a rich man. Sure, there was a time when I had some wealth, due to my share in the original Globe Theater, but that burned down long ago, and I have been dead for 400 years, and all my copyrights have long expired, so my income has been quite limited in the centuries past. Alice and I, a graduate student and a teacher these days, must live from paycheck to paycheck.

And so, to you wealthy readers who prate about luxury, who favor champagne and caviar as a midday snack, who fly to Aruba for a weekend in a private jet to battle the ennui, who live in estates with an “east wing” and go for treatments from your personal Swedish masseuse in your personal spa while enjoying food prepared by your personal chef, I declare that you do not know what luxury is. Luxury is too common for you. Luxury is banal and ordinary. You have forgotten how it feels.

Luxury is a rare and precious thing, and when I cradle it in my arms, oft for no more than an hour, I am sure to admire it wholly and completely, to savor it’s warm embrace, to treasure the moment of completeness it brought me. Luxury, much like our lives, is ephemeral and precious. One must never take it for granted.

Alice and I, poor folk though we are, were seeking out this Sunday night an evening of pure luxury. There were many reasons for this quest, chief among them the celebration of our lives together, in honor of St. Valentine, who, against the cruelty of Roman law held secret services between Roman soldiers and their lovers.  We sought as well a rest from the vicissitudes of life—a reward to ourselves for the hard work and the long hours.

Yet I had still another reason for my quest of luxury, unknown to Alice until the moment the truth was unveiled. My true intention this evening—my motivation for a romantic evening and an expensive restaurant and an outpouring of luxury—was to ask of Alice her hand in marriage.

I know what you are thinking. You are remembering something you may have learned in your High School English class—that I had already married—to Ann Hathaway in the 16th Century—and had three children—Hamnet, Judith, and Susanna.  A marriage of convenience, I assure you, from a past life, from which all parties have perished through the passage of cruel time. This is a new eon, and I seek a truer love.

Love, unique among luxuries, does not get stale with age. It grows with each day, and new facets emerge. It is not a single luxury, but a journey of luxuries—like a new glass of wine each day, a new experience in each hour together, a new sensation, pure and perfect, radiating through your life, bringing warmth and joy to each corner of your soul.

Alice and I, through our seven and a half year courtship, have known love in many forms—silly, silly love of youth, the tumultuous love full of struggle and doubt as we fight to make sense of our dreams, and the mature love on the other side of the mountain, sure of itself, perfect and complete, readying us for all that is to come.

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Vin Sur Vingt

We began the evening at Vin Sur Vingt, a Wine Bar on West 11th Street by 7th Avenue. We experienced a delightful wine flight in the intimate, romantic setting while two gentlemen played Flamenco guitar (including an ironically serene and pretty version of the Rolling Stone’s “Paint it Black”). We gazed lovingly into each other’s eyes, and spoke of our lives together.

But that was just the beginning. For the place of the proposal I chose Aureole, Charlie Palmer’s famed French Restaurant in Midtown. Normally I am wary of any restaurant within three blocks of Times Square, but my research into the location promised a romantic, classy setting, different from the tourist traps that define the area, and a prix fixe meal of divers, magical experience, to rival the magic of love.

In case you are wondering the word “aureole,” from the Latin for gold, does not refer to a part of the breast—that is “areola”—but to that golden glow surrounding sacred figures in religious paintings. Since I was seeking such a glow in my own life, it seemed like a fitting destination.

The restaurant did not disappoint. Each course that came was a miracle of science—an ingeniously crafted work of art arranged on the plate to dazzle the eye and offer up to the senses experiences never before known.

It began with a complementary amuse-bouche with egg, ham, and caviar bathed in a savory dash of pork broth. Then came the appetizers—foie gras for me, and butternut squash agnolotti for Alice (short rib and hazelnut and a number of other dazzling flavors arranged carefully on each plate), complemented by the Prosecco I ordered when Alice was off in the bathroom.

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The moment of truth

Then came the main course—Pork Loin with black truffle jus, and aged ribeye. The food was so marvelously arrayed that I insisted Alice take a picture. It was a few moments after the photograph that she noticed the ring in my hand.

And then came the most spectacular, delightful, delicious part of the evening—she said, “yes.”

All that followed was divine, and endowed us with that same aureole that the name of the venue promised—there was indeed a sacred glow about us from that moment on.

Dessert was a chocolate soup and a toffee pudding with Maker’s Mark ice cream each adorned with a candle and the word “congratulations.”

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“How the devil Luxury, with his fat rump and
potato-finger, tickles these together!”
–Troilus and Cressida, Act V, Scene 2

Luxury is all around us. It is in a rich meal in a rich restaurant, in the crackling of a spoon against crème brulee, and in an elegant cappuccino. It is in the feel of satin and velvet under your fingertips. It is in a warm, percolating Jacuzzi that nibbles on your skin. But it is also in the palm of your hand pressed against the palm of the woman you love. Luxury is sharing Darrel Lee mango licorice with someone special while sitting on a futon and watching “The Walking Dead.”

I have Angie (aka “Alice”) in my life, forever, and count myself among the 1%—we few, we happy few, rich in love and luck and luxury, savoring the warm glow (or aureole) that each day brings, treasuring each moment together, and knowing that in the trials of life we shall not stand alone.

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