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December 04, 2016
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An engaging column

I was nervous as Emily and I left our apartment and headed to the Union Square subway stop to catch the Q train up to the Paris Theater. We were headed to the theater under the guise of a test screening for the crime documentary I’ve been editing forever. I had a DVD in my backpack—along with an engagement ring.

The DVD did not have the crime documentary on it but instead had a cute little movie I made about my trip to get said engagement ring. Save for Emily and me, the theater would be empty, and when the seven-minute movie was over I was going to propose.

To be honest, the crime doc would have been more appropriate (albeit dark) than it seems, since Emily’s and my first date was to the movies to see the fairly gruesome documentary “The Cove.” (I still maintain that it was a perfectly reasonable first date, though Emily chides me about it.)

The engagement ring is an heirloom from Emily’s Aunt Mary, which I needed to pick up from her in Cincinnati, OH. I’ve met her a handful of times, and she is an amazing woman. She’s 98 years old but still very with it.

Having already come up with the movie-theater plan, I enlisted a dear friend, Rabi, to help record my journey. We would drive instead of fly to pick up the ring. It would be much more cinematic that way.

Avid readers may remember the joint column written with Rabi, about a road trip with fast food and arguing about writing. (Ten points to those who remember, five points to those who go read it now.) You may remember (or you will learn) that I did not reveal where we were headed or what we were doing.

Well, now you know.

Emily and I walked toward the theater. My mind obviously buzzing elsewhere, and trying my best to look normal and calm, I had run out of things to say. All I could think about was how desperately I wanted to be sitting in the theater.

“When’s the last time you were up at the park?” I hear myself say.

Emily shoots me a look. “I run up here all the time.”

We arrive at the Paris and swing open the heavy door.

“Are you here for the test screening?” the projectionist asks, as directed.

I nod, handing off the DVD.

“Thank you,” the projectionist says, “You can have a seat inside.”

We walk into the theater, empty, as planned.

“Where is everyone?” Emily says.

“I’m not sure. Maybe we are the first ones here.” We sit down as the screen is revealed from behind a curtain and the lights dim.

“What’s going on?” Emily asks.

“Maybe they are just going to test the DVD,” I offer.

The cute little movie starts with a false beginning, building on the crime documentary screening: first a title card that says “Test Screening” and the date, then a song as a postman walks down the street.

Suddenly the music skips and the image distorts, then vanishes into silence. Then darkness. Emily says nothing.

“That’s not good,” I say, looking over my shoulder.

Now there’s an image of a cell phone and “Aunt Mary’s address.” Emily looks at me and smiles.

“I’m going to make a movie of my trip for Emily, and then tell her we are going to see a different movie and surprise her with this movie,” my voice echoes through the theater.

A huge Aunt Mary laughs and then says, “That’s cute.”

The movie climaxes with a tearjerker moment as Aunt Mary kisses the ring goodbye and ends with a fun montage of the three of us going to lunch at Skyline Chili.

And then it is over and my stomach is in nervous knots. Time is in slow motion. My mind is racing.

Why hadn’t I gotten the ring out before the movie was over? And why hadn’t I been paying attention when we sat down? Should I now step out into the aisle or just kneel in the row?

I take a deep breath and reach into my backpack, feeling for the ring box. I got it and kneeled down in the row.

“Will you marry me?” I say as calmly and clearly as I can.

Emily says, “yes.” Thank goodness.

I slip the ring onto her finger—it fits.