Written by: John Tellegen
“No, no, no,” I explained to the assistant manager at Bed Bath & Beyond, “they have to be floating candles because I want to float them in the tub.”
“Why do you want candles in the tub?” she said, perplexed, her perfume almost making me vomit.
“Romance. Don’t women love that stuff?” I asked, unsure of myself.
“Not really,” she shot back, “I prefer he just do the dishes once a year.”
She smiled. I nodded. It started to feel awkward.
“So…what’s the occasion?” she asked.
“I’m going to ask Shelby to marry me,” I proudly proclaimed.
“Good for you. Just remember to do the dishes once a year!” She grabbed some long stemmed, taper candles and held them up. “Which of these candles do you like? They’re scented.”
“I dunno. Maybe the pine forest or the aqua blast…the cinnamon?” I kept hemming and hawing. She was getting annoyed.
“They’re candles. They’re not life changing.”
“I guess I’ll go with the cinnamon,” I stuttered.
“This Shelby of yours must have the patience of Job,” she muttered to herself.
By the time I got home my nerves were fried, well more fried than usual. I wanted the night to be perfect. I wanted fireworks when I proclaimed my love for my beloved.
I rushed around my apartment, setting the scene, but I was having a terrible time making decisions. What should I wear? Should I use paper napkins because they’re more sanitary or the checkerboard cloth napkins from my picnic basket? What music would be just perfect to set the stage for her gleeful acceptance?
I could use some help.
“God I wish Martha Stewart was dead!” I yelled to the cosmos. I needed some famous dead designers to intervene and help me get this dumpy apartment in the proper romantic state. I grabbed my laptop and Googled famous dead designers. A bunch of fashion designers popped up.
“Hey, Versace! You here? What should I wear tonight???” I asked to nobody in particular. Funny enough, nobody in particular replied. I switched gears and Googled dead interior decorators. Someone named Michael Taylor popped up on my screen. I had no idea who he was but apparently he was best known for creating the ‘‘California Look.’’ That sounded inspired.
“Michael Taylor! Show yourself! Give me some decorating magic!”
The irony wasn’t lost on me. I don’t want dead people around and they’re all over me. I want them to help in a time of need and they can’t be bothered. Kyle luck I called it.
“Fine, screw it, I’ll do it myself!” I sneered.
I started to set up the candles but I only had two candleholders and I had six candles. It was time to improvise. I gathered up some glass Coke bottles I kept from when I took Shelby to the fair. The candles were a bit loose and hanging to the side so they didn’t look great but I figured I would score some points with the romantic aspect.
I finished setting the table, showered up, got dressed, started the music, stuck Nana’s diamond ring in my pocket, and waited for my true love to arrive. My soul was on fire.
When Shelby finally knocked, I leapt off the couch and skipped through the living room.
As I opened the door, she looked amazing. “Welcome back to my humble abode,” I said. “Can I interest you in a glass of wine?” I was laying it on a little thick but this was my night and I never wanted to forget it. Shelby looked a little spooked by my demeanor but I was sure she had no idea what was coming.
“Wow,” she said with less enthusiasm than I expected. “You really set the place up.”
“Nothing is too good for my sweet.” Then I realized I forgot to light the candles. “Oh, shit!” I grabbed a lighter and quickly lit all six candles in the living room. “There. Perfect.”
“Stop right there. Don’t say a word. I was planning on waiting until after dinner but I can’t contain myself.” I dropped to my knee and pulled the ring from my pocket. “Will you, Shelby, marry me and spend the rest of your life……with me…as my wife… you and me……forever……” Okay, maybe I should have practiced my delivery.
She exhaled deeply as her face seemed to drop.
“‘Oh, Kyle’?” I said from my knee. “Is that a, ‘oh, Kyle I would love to be your wife,’ ‘oh, Kyle’?”
She slowly shook her head. “No,” Shelby said as she sniffed her nose. Her eyes started to tear up.
I rose from my knee. It was starting to hurt as much as my soul. “No? What’s wrong?” I asked. Shelby crossed to the couch and sat.
“I can’t believe you ask me to marry you on the night I was planning on breaking up with you.”
“Breaking up with me??? Why?”
“It’s just not working out—”
“I knew it! You’re screwing that rich guy from work, aren’t you!” I accused.
“No,” she said, offended.
“Then you’re going back to your ex, the guy from Applebees. Or even worse, Chazz!”
“No, Kyle. I’m not seeing anyone.”
“You’re leaving me for no one… How is that even possible? Then someone told you what happened at the strip club…” I sheepishly confessed.
“…What happened at the strip club?”
“………Nothing, why do you ask?”
“Look,” she continued, “it just feels like we want different things in life. I thought I could get over the fact that you work in a simple electronics store, drive a simple beater, always act so neurotic, mumbling into thin air…..but it turns out I can’t. I don’t know what it is but there is just something…off. I guess, I’m just not that into you, Kyle.”
And with that she left.
And I chased after her, bounding through the living room, knocking over a chair, the sofa, and a hat rack in the process. I wasn’t going to let my love get away that easily. As I slammed the door I heard the picture of us from our second date at mini-golf fall off the wall.
I darted after her and grabbed her arm as she was crossing the street in front of my apartment building.
“Shelby, please. What can I do? I’ll change. I’ll be different. I’ll do dishes! I can’t believe you’re ditching me for nobody!”
Her face told the story; she was standing in front of me but she was already gone.
“I just need to move on and you should too.” She jumped in her car and screeched away, leaving me standing in the street. I felt like I had been run over by a truck and as I turned to walk back to my apartment, what I saw made me wish a big rig would just finish me off.
Smoke and flames were billowing out the windows of my unit. The entire building would soon be engulfed. People fled out fire exit doors holding their pets and yanking up their underwear.
We all stood in the street watching as the firemen bravely battled the blaze but it was no use, the building was a goner. I could hear other tenants grumbling around me.
“How do you think it started?” one asked.
“I smell cinnamon,” another barked.
“It’s definitely electrical!” the know-it-all from 3-B declared.
Just then, two firemen walked past. “Wasn’t electrical. Some dumbass was using Coke bottles as candleholders.”
I swallowed hard and inched away from the angry mob, bumping into a well-dressed man in a collared shirt.
“You should have used votive candles,” the man said.
“Yeah, what makes you such an expert,” I shot back. “And how do you know it was me?—”
“I’m Michael Taylor. Best known for creating the ‘California Look.’” He smiled like a man who just hit a hole in one. I immediately hated him.
“Listen here, ‘Michael Taylor the California look guy,’ I may have Googled you in a moment of weakness but I only accept visits from A-listers like Elvis and Michael Jackson. So beat it!”
Just then, the angry man from the mob pointed at me. “Where’s that guy slinking off to? I bet he’s the candle man!” The rest of the mob seemed to agree with him. They started to surround me. The Bloated Banker who always takes up two parking spaces cocked a bat from his Little League days.
“Let’s burn his ass!” yelled the old bag from 2-F.
“It seems to me it is you who better beat it!” Michael Taylor said through a smile.
And beat it I did. Off into the night…