Mao, my sweet and beautiful Colombian friend, was curious about relationships between men and women. He was intrigued with the rituals and rites of romance and courtship. He startled me one day by asking how does a man propose to a woman, does the man really get down on bended knee. I said not always, though my husband did when he asked me.
Mao reflected on that. "When a man offers a woman a ring, she usually says yes. Even if she doesn't want the man; she wants to flash around the diamond ring."
"Not me. I said no."
Mao's black eyes flashed. "You are supposed to say, yes, Kah-thee! It is bad manners to say no. It takes a lot of courage for the man to propose."
"Perhaps, but I never, ever wanted to be married."
Mao gave me his brightest smile, eyes sparkling. "But you married him."
I signed. "Yes, he wore me down until I said yes."
"That's how it should be." He grunted in final approval.
I smiled at his Latin machismo. Perhaps in his culture that was the way. This little old Yankee girl had different ideas.
"I read somewhere that in everyone's life there is one perfect romantic moment. What was your most romantic moment? Was it with your husband?"
I thought back. How much do I share? "My husband was an intellectual, Mao, a good man in many, many ways. He didn't have a sense of humor and he really wasn't romantic, but I knew I was loved. He just showed it in different ways. But there was a time after that, when I was in college..." I drifted off, embarrassed. "After my Daniel died, I decided to go back to college and pursue a degree in English. I was taking a poetry class and as part of our grade, the class had to present original poetry to the entire college. There was a man there, a classmate, who presented his poems after mine, and they were all love poems. I didn't know it at the time, but they were written for me."
"Why aren't you with him! That is very romantic! That took a lot of courage to stand up there in front of everyone!! Kah-thee!! Women love a man to do that for them!"
"You're right. When I finally understood his poetry was meant for me and not just a homework assignment to pass the course, I was extremely flattered. And it truly was one of the finest moments of my life. But I had to turn him away and tell him he could only be my friend. I had to." I could feel Mao sizzle in disapproval and disappointment. "He was married. He had children. We're still friends. That is enough."
Mao slumped a little, saddened by my story of unrequited love, and I gave him a quick hug and a laugh and forgot about the conversation. Days later when I went to pick him up for work (we commuted to work together and I drove), Mao called me from the second-story porch of his apartment. "Kah-tee!" he yelled down. "I need you to come and stand under the porch." I was running a little late and felt impatient that he was delaying me even longer, but I did as I was bid. "Wait, stand right there!" he instructed as I was about to step onto the first floor porch deck. I need to be able to see you!." He disappeared for a moment, and gave me a beatific smile. "I have something I want to give you!" He held a long-stem yellow rose in his hand. "I want to give you a romantic moment! I am going to toss this rose down to you and I want you to catch it?"
"Does it have thorns?" I teased.
"Kah-thee, this is the perfect romantic moment, like in the movies. I am doing this for you," he gently chided. "You do not ask about thorns in the perfect romantic moment! It is not right!"
The rose fell from his hand and sashayed through the air, dipping and twirling, until I caught it over my head.
I clasped the rose and brought it to my nose and sniffed its delicate fragrance. "Mao, this is beautiful! Thank you! I shall remember this forever!"
"I wanted to be the one to give you the perfect moment!" he said triumphantly.
I smiled. How fortunate and blessed I am. Love, even misguided, is a gift. Two perfect romantic moments that could make the world stop: love poems that filled my heart, spoken in a filled auditorium, by a married man, and a yellow rose tossed from a second story porch by a man who shared my love of men.