It’s 12:37 am, and I’m not quite ready to go to bed. So I’ll tell the story of how I proposed.
It was February 2001, and I was working as a baseball writer for Sports Illustrated. Catherine and I had been dating for about 1 1/2 years, and I knew I loved her and wanted to spend the rest of my life with her (in hindsight, we sometimes laugh over how little we actually knew one another at the time). At the time, I had my own apartment on 64th and York, and Catherine lived on 15th and Third, by Union Square Park. We’d shuttle back and forth, spend nights together, etc—but Catherine was insistent that she wouldn’t co-habitate sans commitment. Her grandma always used to say, “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free.”
Anyhow, I spent a night at Catherine’s with the idea that, the next morning, I would be leaving for three weeks of Florida spring training. I brought my packed suitcase to her house, set the alarm for early the next morning, slept, woke up and, as far as she knew, caught a cab for Laguardia.
Only I didn’t.
I took the subway back to my pad, plopped down the suitcase, picked up a suit and tie. I spent the day acquiring my laundry list of goods—about two dozen small candles, a ton of roses, sparkling grape juice, some food, etc. When I knew Catherine was gone for work, I entered her apartment (I had earned key privileges) and made a path of roses and candles from the front door to the bedroom. I darkened all the lights, laid out the food in the kitchen, etc.
Catherine’s sister, Leah, also lived in the city (with her now-ex-husband, Reggie). She was in on the plan, and had Catherine come to her place after work. When Catherine decided to return home, Reggie said, “I’ll walk over with you.” The idea was simple: I needed a guide to make sure she didn’t, say, go catch a movie or hang in a coffee shop.
When Catherine entered her lobby, the doorwoman, a wonderful woman named Slava, rang up to the apartment. “She’s here!” she said.
Holy shit. My heart started pumping incredibly fast. My hands, as they tend to do, began to sweat. I ran into the bedroom and plopped down on one knee.
The door opened, and there was a pause.
“Earl?” she said. (my nickname is “Earl”—long story)
“Earl?” I replied (her nickname is “Earl”—long story)
“Is this my apartment?” she said.
“I’m in here,” I said.
She walked down the path of roses and candles, turned a small corner and entered the room. I was in my suit, on my knee. “What are you doing?” she said.
“You know,” I replied.
I’m not sure I ever asked. I’m not sure she ever said Yes.
I do know, without that moment, my life isn’t 1/1,000,000,000,000th of what it’s become.