The time on my phone said 10:10am, and the screen identified the caller as Blue. Blue Harrison, my cousin who rarely calls, let alone on a weekday morning. I squinted at the phone, suspicious like always. You should know that I despise, detest, and dispose of phone calls from family members before noon. I love my family, without question, and I treasure the effort they make to keep in touch…but it’s never good news if they’re calling before noon.
That’s how I found out my grandmother died. My mother started calling back to back. Never leaving a message, just calling again and again. Actually, she called while I was in an acting class, and somehow I just knew. I ignored it, and kept on with the day’s scenes. I remember standing underneath construction scaffolding sobbing when I returned her call, wishing she had just called to annoy me about a student loan bill like she usually does. But instead, she was telling me to come home. That my grandmother had died, and it would be ok. That was a lie. I have healed and been comforted by the reality of Heaven, but the loss of her bright spirit in my life will never, ever be ok.
“What in the world does he want?”
I answered Blue’s call with a false cheeriness. From time to time I wonder who they will pick to tell me when my father, a person I don’t think I can live without, leaves this earth. Blue would be a good candidate. He’s straight-forward, and not very emotional. The only time I’ve ever seen him cry was when we lost his mother last year. Aunt Bobbi. As sarcastic as he is handsome, Blue doesn’t show or express his love as often as I’d like, or am accustomed to as with the other cousins in our generation. That week he maintained his strength until the very morning of the funeral. The frequency of my own crying only increased at seeing him moved to tears, his father standing beside him. What is it about seeing a man cry that makes me want to throw my arms around them, stranger or not?
He asked me what I was doing thursday night, and I answered that I’d be going with Brandon to see another music show. I believe he told me to cancel my plans– see, straight forward like I told you–, and that he needed me to do something. It turns out no one was dead. Quite the opposite, he was planning to get engaged. I was elated at the news, and agreed to help without even knowing what it was that I was supposed to do. So without further ado, the 3 Keys To Getting Engaged.
These aren’t the only steps you’ll need to take when getting engaged. But they’re vital.
- GET HELP: You need a person, a man, who can carry out the vision you’ve got dancing in your head. Blue selected me, and I half-think he should do some sort of ‘Back To The Future’ shimmy, read this post, and then select someone else because I almost messed this up. All I had to do was make it to his place by 9:45, sprinkle rose petals, light candles, set up champagne, and leave. Sounds simple enough. But here’s what I need you to realize, here’s what I need my future husband to realize, and here’s what I need the guys who work in the deli to realize: things are never simple when it comes to me. Or getting engaged! For one thing, this city never has enough cabs, no matter what time of day or weather we’re faced with! I left the cafe at 9:43 on a brisk evening, and I couldn’t find a single empty car willing to drive me the short distance to his place. I ended up running half of the way there, and yes, I realize I was running late, and that is precisely why I am telling you to select your best buddy and not your best girlfriend, because women are almost always late. We just are. We are also nervous creatures who can over-analyze details, and this woman in particular got distracted thinking about my own engagement. I was so out of breath after running seven blocks that I paused next to a garbage can on West 26th Street to throw up. Nothing came out, so I moved on.
- GET SOME HELP FOR YOUR HELP: The doorman didn’t seem surprised to see me, and he kindly asked the Chinese delivery man to wait while he gathered the Crate and Barrel bags Blue had picked up earlier. I made it into the elevator and into his place with everything I needed. Everything except a second person to help me. Another set of hands would have been great, and I wanted someone else’s opinion on where decorations should go. Everything had to be perfect, like a Boyz II Men video! I hummed “I’ll Make Love To You”, and worked as efficiently as I could. I tidied up a little bit more, closed closet doors, fluffed pillows, and arranged the ice in the bucket as neatly as I could. “Close your eyessss, make a wish..” You should know that spreading rose petals is tedious and messy. And I don’t know what Crate and Barrel uses to make its candles but it must be rat poison, or why else are they so flippin’ hard to unwrap?
- KEEP IT ON THE DOWN LOW: Players gon’ play, and ballers gon’ ball. Not everyone is playin’ or ballin’, and I suggest you keep your engagement between you and the Holy Ghost. Don’t even ask her parents until the day of. Between the helper, the second-string helper, and her parents, I think you’ll have enough people to guide you through any last-minute changes. I was sworn to secrecy about this, and had to verbally pinky-swear that I wouldn’t tell my Dad. He’s a player you see, and he’ll try to talk anyone out of marriage. You want to avoid that type of guy until after you’ve asked her, but make sure you invite him to the wedding. Just don’t let him near the microphone when it’s time to give a toast.
I was beaming when I left Blue’s apartment. I panicked on the way down in the elevator, worried that I’d burn down the house with candles. Or that the candles would melt too quickly and create a huge mess. Who will clean it up? I laughed out loud. The answer was so obvious. His wife will, that’s who.
Written to: The Beach Boys “Surfer Girl”; Kanye West “Say You Will”