“Hey, can you hold this for a sec?” I turned around to find him down on one knee, smiling hopefully, holding a ring in his outstretched hand.
The flashy lights of the arcade came to a stop, at the peak of their brilliance. The beeps and bops of the video games were silenced; the only sound was the whooshing of every molecule of air being sucked out of the building, and out of my lungs. Even pac-man stopped eating. My vision blurred, my head swirled and my throat opened up only long enough to bark “Fuck off” as I marched away.
Smartass and I had been seeing each other about a month, long enough for him to be well aware of my commitment issues. Words like ‘date’ or ‘relationship’ were immediately banished from our ‘dynamic encounters’. Still, he loved to torment me with cruel threats of sweeping me away for a romantic weekend, delicious dinners, sensational adventures. He’s rather despicable.
I’m not sure how it happened; he must have caught me in a moment of weakness when I agreed to a night in Niagara Falls. I must not have been paying attention. He must have tucked it in amongst words like “chocolate” and “road trip”. Clearly I was off my game.
Despite my horror and regular grumbling about the entire situation, he was able to distract me with bright lights, flashy colours and many buttons to press. He started gently, easing me into the Fallsview Casino, on a quest to play games with only kittens or frogs and other non-threatening creatures. There are a surprisingly abundant collection of kitten themed slot machines – it’s rather unsettling.
Every so often we would catch a whiff of something delightful wafting across the casino floor, a savory scent overpowering the pungent stink of old lady perfume. We followed the demands of our stomach to the casino’s buffet. Smartass and I were both pretending to be vegetarians at that point. He too, is limited to gluten-free choices. With great difficulty I was able to pass by grilled hunks of meat, and a drool-worthy slab of beast. The build-your-own pasta and variety of veggies offered made it slightly less heart breaking. Smartass had enough options to fill up without leaving room for dessert.
We escaped into the night, up an entire 25 cents. He distracted me once again with funny stories of his youth spent roaming the Falls wreaking havoc on hapless tourist girls. Clearly not much had changed… I barely noticed that he was holding my hand as we walked through the icy mist of the falls, taking in the night-show lights on the thundering, tumbling waters. Sneaky bastard.
Soon enough I figured out what he was up to. I cleverly pieced it all together – holding hands, delicious food, laughing and swapping stories – this was a date. How dare he! The nerve! So, when we stepped into the Great Canadian Midway arcade, there was no option but to kick his ass. I, of course, was gentle about it at first, revealing that I hadn’t played skeeball in decades. (Sadly, I’m that old). I made him go first, allowed him a moment to gloat about his high score, securing his ‘I am man, grrr’ ego. I pummeled him. While I hadn’t played skeeball in ages, I’m a bit of a skeeball rock star. He suggested it was a fluke, and pulled out more quarters. So, I pummeled him again. I won’t even mention the humiliation at the air hockey table. He asked for it, stealthy romantic dater. Together we won a mile of prize tickets.
Cashing in the tickets was a challenge – so many cheeseball souvenirs, it took us ages to narrow it down to our two selections – a gummy bunny slingshot (proven to be very popular at the office, flying rabbits from one cubicle to the next) and an alien skull mood ring. What better to propose with?
After I settled down from my post-proposal heart attack, and picked him up off the floor from laughing, we escaped into the night. I figured there were children around, they didn’t need to hear me curse him out. I didn’t say yes to the proposal, but eventually I let him hold my hand.