He picked me up for dinner at the two-story gray Craftsman on Sixth Ave West. The one with the expectant magnolia in the front yard. It was his late father’s birthday, he said. And don’t forget to bring comfortable shoes.
It was cold but not rainy, going down the south end of Queen Anne Hill towards the Space Needle and lights on a wintery bay. Parking somewhere on First, walking somewhere down Post Alley until we got to it – you can’t miss it – until we came to a stuccoed pink door.
Candles low, voices hushed and remixed with tinkling glass, the trapeze artists floating in gauze. Pasta and mesclun. Bagna cauda after two G&Ts. He passed me notes posing as cream-colored scrolls tied with ribbed cranberry ribbon, sequential. Consequential. One after the other, a slow reveal and a yes / no question.
We finished our dessert on the velvet bench, leaving white napkins smeared with chocolate and smiles as we slipped away. Back up the stairs and out the pink door into the very famous market on Pike Place. Comfortable shoes on cobbled stones, we walked down the street, under that famous sign, across the bridge to the fluorescent-lit terminal, where we waited in line for the Bainbridge Island ferry. A receipt for two walk-ons hangs on my wall: February 2, 2003, $9.80, 7:06 p.m.
I don’t remember what we talked about on the way across the Salish Sea. But it looked and sounded like it still does today: inky dark with sparkling lights reflected on the deep churning waves, white caps swished on the surface. The muted roar of the propulsion engines underwater and encased in steel. Island breasts on the horizon paneled with dark silhouettes of a thousand sitka and spruce. Imagined echos of whale calls from the Orcas that swim beneath you. State-issued fiberglass chairs and vinyl-padded booths, hosting tired people with bad coffee in styrofoam cups.
A ferry at this time of night is not too crowded: we had the bow to ourselves on the way back. Cold, invigorating winds when we headed east toward Seattle: our beloved Emerald City a twinkling display across the Puget Sound. He read the last scroll himself this time, then bowed on his knee, putting that shiny diamond on my finger. I did it on the ferry, he said. Because jumping overboard would have been a ready option had you said no.