She asked me to call him Tobby. A plain name like that. I don’t know many Tobbys but I imagine they must be a little chubby, tying their belts by the last hole and fixing the key to their car on the belt side.
Tobby, she said, met a beautiful girl called Claire. That one too, she said, I couldn’t see her photo. But she told me to imagine her as beautiful and charming. She also told me to imagine her as a psycho. She was the kind that drank beers by the bottle and smashes their glass on the counter. She liked going to bars, and dancing. She also liked to be seen and noticed when she went into places.
Tobby met her on one of those nights. She was at the counter. He was in one of the bar corners with his glass and his belt in the last hole and a key popping out of the belt. Claire was the early worm and Tobby the early bird.
They caught each other. And hit up over conversation. She talked about her day and how she hated people who didn’t give her space. He talked about cars and girls. And losing weight – or the failure of it. He also talked about taking her home – his home.
Their romance hit off. One night after another. They’d meet in bars, drink beers. She’d tease him about a key on his belt and he’d tease her back on breaking bottles. They started to finish each other’s sentences. And wear matching T-shirts.
Tobby started to see more than the crazy girl at the bar counter. He started to see her emotions on their range. When she was sad, he felt moved to find out, and talk to her and crack some jokes. When she was happy, he was happy. He started to notice how she treated strangers and how she organized her finances. He’d ask her what her budget for the month was and how he could foot some of it. He attended small garden parties with her. By her side. Carrying her plate of meat and potatoes. And finding sitting places for them. He introduced her to his relatives and they each nodded in agreement.
Claire and Tobby talked about philosophical questions in the deep of the night; questions like; What’s the purpose of life? What does companionship mean?
One morning, Tobby woke to text his friend, she also said, I call him, Kananura.
Kananura lived in the United States but was planning a vacation back home after the hard lockdowns.
Kananura: Tobby with the belt, Speak…
Tobby: This girl Claire….
Kananura: Keep going….
Tobby: She’s ring size 7.
That was a pretty direct order for Kananura. He knew not to ask many questions. So he sent some hearty congratulations with like thirteen heart emojis. Before packing his bag, he did a mental check; Mosquito repellant – check, Thick accent – check, all electronics – check, Tobby’s ring size 7 – check.
Tobby picked out a quiet evening to take Claire to dinner. She already knew something was off because he wore a tuxedo, with a belt tied to the last hole but no key to it.
He had flowers in his hands and he acted too sweet. Claire took a quick mental journey; was it her birthday? No! Was it an anniversary, not that either and then it all hit her when she turned to find him on one knee.
Men make all kinds of speeches for their engagement. Obama told Michelle, and this I read in his biography; “Now this ought to shut you up” as his engagement speech.
The great and mighty Obama with his words chose that.
Tobby chose something shorter.
“If you don’t take this ring early enough, my knee will have a muscle pull”
All things considered, Claire wasn’t strong enough to carry Tobby had he gotten the muscle pull, but Tobby had also been a sweet guy, caring and the thought of life together wasn’t that bad after all – she said yes!
But after a week, she said No!
She texted Tobby and told him.
“I said yes out of impulse” was her explanation. Tobby, his belt and key were all devastated.
You hear many stories about engagement; the good kind, the bad kind but you don’t often hear the kind that start off well and end badly. Tobby’s was that kind of story.
He spent the days wondering what had gone wrong in one week she’d momentarily said yes. He thought about many things but also thought about the awkwardness of it all.
Would he ask for his ring back? How would he do that?
He waited a month, she didn’t return the ring or call him to pick it.
Tobby put in a call. On a hot afternoon; He had thought about his speech so when she picked, he went straight to the point;
“I was wondering if I could have that engagement ring back”
“No Tobby” She replied.
“You gave the ring to me, it is mine now”.
“But you said no”
“I said no to your marriage proposal but I said yes to the ring”
It’s been five months of waiting for the ring to return. Tobby told this story to his friend. Over a pint. He was stressed out. But still confused about what it all meant.
The friend told me the story. She was particular about what names I should use.
Tobby, hombre, wherever you are, and your ring, one day, I hope you are reunited.