The timing was perfect. Or at least, I thought it was perfect. It turns out the timing had actually been perfect for me to propose to my girlfriend Jess about 18 months earlier when we'd been standing together on the top of Table Mountain in Cape Town and she was waiting and expectant but, back then, I missed my cue.
So, as far as I was concerned at least, the timing of this trip to Vietnam was perfect. I would propose to Jess at some point on this holiday. I would ask her to marry me when the time felt just right, when we were sharing a special experience, when we were in a memorable place, when the stars aligned and everything came together and I would be taken by the urge to drop to one knee.
Of course, it's now the final night of the trip, and I still haven't done it. I could have proposed back in the Mekong Delta, when we were cruising around on a scooter and sleeping in a guesthouse, but that didn't feel very romantic. I could have done it in Hoi An, on one of those quaint old streets, but that seemed like too much of a cliché. I could have asked at the fancy restaurant in Saigon, but it felt too public there, too staged.
So now here I am on the final night of our holiday, and I'm panicking. At least we're staying somewhere nice, I figure, at Hanoi's historic Sofitel Metropole, in a junior suite. This place has charm. It will do. It will suffice.
I've been to the front desk to order a bottle of champagne to be sent to the room, but the staff there don't seem too sure about the whole thing. There was some confusion. I'm not convinced it's actually going to turn up.
Then I'm up in the room, and I'm waiting. I'm sweating. Jess has just suggested we go out for a walk, and I've snapped that we have to stay inside. She's confused. I'm nervous. I wait some more.
Finally, the doorbell rings. It's the bottle of champagne, and it's … warm. Great. Jess is baffled. "What's with the champagne?"
"Ah," I mumble, forgetting that I don't have a ring, forgetting that I had a little speech planned and it's just disappeared from my head, forgetting even to get down on one knee in the traditional way and instead just blurting out the question, holding her hand in my own sweaty palm and staring into her eyes and pleading.
As proposals go, it's a complete disaster. Except for one thing: she says yes.
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