Right Down The Line

During my trip to Ely in December 2011, Tara and I were shopping at Ridley’s supermarket one evening, and a song started playing over the loudspeakers. It was an old 70s pop classic – Gerry Rafferty‘s “Right Down The Line.” One of my favorite mellow pop hits from that decade. I turned to Tara and and said, “You will never forget this song now. Whenever you hear it, you’ll think of this moment.” And then we kissed.

Sure enough, over the intervening months, hearing that song always transported us back to that moment in time. But now it’s taken on a much deeper meaning, and will forever remind us of a different moment in time.

Because I borrowed the first verse to propose to Tara on Friday night. And she said yes.


Holy shit. I have never been happier. And as incredible as our relationship has been, I still wondered if she would ever actually say yes. Right up until the second she spoke that word, as a matter of fact. You see, Tara had been anti-marriage when I met her. Extremely so. The first time I drove out to see her – this was in September, 2011 – we were sitting on her front porch one crisp morning, drinking coffee while the sun ascended the eastern sky, talking about life, love, and relationships. We weren’t even “together” yet, though we obviously liked each other (driving 840 miles on a lark after spending one evening together is a pretty good sign of that). The subject turned to marriage, and I asked her if she’d ever do it again. “I don’t ever see it happening,” she replied. “It would take a very special man to make me change my mind.” In retrospect, I think I was feeling her out early. Even though we weren’t a couple yet, and I didn’t even know if we were going to give a long-distance relationship a chance, in the back of my mind I couldn’t help but entertain the wildest scenario possible. I knew that IF we started dating and IF things went well, then eventually marriage would be a possibility. Those negative words of hers echoed in my brain for a long time, and I wondered if there was any man who could change her mind. Wondered if that “magic” person might ever be me.

It didn’t help matters that last May, even after she moved in with me, we were spending the weekend on the Oregon coast for a romantic little getaway and decided to walk down to the beach to catch the sunset. There was a guy setting out luminary candles on the sand, and he was planning a proposal to his girlfriend that evening. How romantic, I thought. “Sucker,” Tara muttered beneath her breath. “Don’t do it.”

Given this attitude, is it any wonder I was nervous as hell proposing to her? Think about it. Two occasions – once the sun was coming up, the other time it was going down – but still the same negativity toward the institution of marriage. I figured I had no chance.

I understood the reason for her anti-marriage bias, of course. She hadn’t had the greatest marriage the first time around, and was pretty jaded over the whole thing. Divorce will do that to a person. And she had only been divorced a year and a half when we had that first conversation in September, whereas it had been closer to five years for me. But even right after my marriage ended, I figured some day I would do it all again. Her divorce made her cynical about marriage, while I was simply anti-ex spouse. She wasn’t The One for me, but somebody else out there was. That’s a crucial difference. I have always been an extremely optimistic person, too. I’m not saying Tara isn’t, but I have never met anybody so “everything-will-work-out-great!” as me.

The months slipped by, and we had a great time together. Always. Even the mundane felt special. I’d never had a relationship that made me feel so complete before, and so happy all the time. Tara felt the same. A few months ago her attitude toward marriage began to soften, and one night, she told me she was open to the idea. There was only one little problem.

She was drunk at the time.

Still, I knew in my heart it was time to seriously explore the idea. We were at the point where we started talking about buying a house together and maybe, possibly, who knows, even trying to start a family. It was clear she wasn’t going anywhere, and neither was I. Might as well make it all official, right? So then I had to come up with the perfect proposal, of course. It had to be unique and creative and come when she was least expecting it. We had tickets to see Built To Spill in concert Friday night, and were staying in a hotel in Portland right next to the venue so we could drink and stay out late and not have to worry about driving home. This is a really cool hotel called the Jupiter, and it’s got a retro 60s mod theme. A few weeks ago I was looking at the place online, and discovered that each room has a chalkboard on the door.

Just like that, inspiration struck. I would surprise Tara with a marriage proposal written in chalk on our hotel room door. It was perfect. 

Only, I was pretty clueless about proposing to women. I’d done it once in my life, and I was still practically a kid then. I needed a woman’s advice, and decided to contact Monica, a friend I have known for almost a dozen years now. Over the years, she and I have gone through similar life circumstances, and confided in each other often. So I emailed her on January 8 and asked, “how do I find out Tara’s ring size without her knowing?” From that point, we were in contact with each other pretty much nonstop. Two hours before the proposal, even – she was trying to distract me from my nervousness Friday afternoon at work. Monica offered many helpful suggestions to me. She said not to stress over having a ring beforehand, that picking it out together would be every bit as romantic; gave a big thumbs-up to the chalkboard idea; suggested I add her name to the chalkboard somewhere; and basically told me all along that Tara and I are perfect together and there was no way she wouldn’t say yes.

So I set it all up with the manager of the hotel. Arranged to have the first verse of “Right Down The Line” written in chalk on our door, along with the actual proposal, and a chilled bottle of champagne waiting for us on the table. It was almost go time, and there was no turning back now!

All week I was nervous, though I hid it pretty well from Tara. Actually, I hid it all from everybody, except Monica. She was the only person I told about any of this. I’m proud of myself for that, because I tend to be terrible at keeping secrets…even my own. Thursday evening we were cooking dinner, and Tara decided to play a record. She pulled out City To City by none other than Gerry Rafferty, and almost 24 hours to the second that we walked into our hotel room, we were listening to “Right Down The Line.” To say that was uncanny is an understatement. But I couldn’t say anything. Mum’s the word.

Friday afternoon, Monica messaged me.

AHHHHHH!!!! Eeeek!
You know what I love?

Driving into Portland Friday after work, I was a nervous wreck, my heart beating like crazy. But I had to play it cool. Checking into the room, I swore the guy at the front desk was giving me a knowing look and a smile, and I nearly withered under the pressure, so I had to walk around the lobby and pretend to look at the art on the walls. And then we had the key to our room. Our room number? 140. And THAT was Fate telling me everything was going to be okay, because remember my post about the significance of the number 14 in our relationship? So many great things happen to us involving that number, and come on, 140?? It couldn’t be more perfect.

We walked to our room. (My heart? BOOM. BOOM. BOOM. I was afraid she would hear it and think I was about to die). Turn the key. Open the door. She steps inside first. It’s dark, and she doesn’t immediately see the door, but I glance at it to make sure everything is in place. It is. Ten seconds pass.

“Oh, they have a chalkboard,” she says. And then she pauses to actually read it. I watch her face as the message sinks in.

My proposal.

Tears fill her eyes, and she says the magic word I never thought I’d hear.


The rest of the evening was incredible. Champagne and rock ‘n roll and kisses and about a thousand comments on Facebook, after our parents and kids were notified by phone. Everybody is happy for us…but I don’t think anybody else in the whole world is happier than the two of us right now.


Published by Mark Petruska

I'm a professional writer and editor living my best life in south central Wisconsin.

30 thoughts on “Right Down The Line

  1. OMG….I’m jumping up and down right now, clapping and screaming!!!!


    CONGRATULATIONS you two!!!!! I had a feeling it was going to happen!

    And Mark, I LOVED the way you purposed to Tara!


    I am soooooooooooooooooooooo happy for you guys!!!!


    P.S. great video clip!


  2. Congratulations once again and welcome to this family!! I can’t believe you kept this a secret and Tara had no idea…well done!!

    Thankful that HE brought two wonderful people together.


  3. This entry made me smile SO HARD.

    I’m so happy for the both of you and I wish you the best. A+ for creativity btw, and that’s awesome that you pulled it off without her having a clue!


  4. Oh, FUCK! So glad I didn’t miss this post! I’m so damn glad for you! Jeez, this is huge news!

    (By the way, Sara and I also plan to marry before we leave for Ecuador. Maybe we’ll go to DC.)

    Congrats to both of you!

    Hugs from Kathy and Sara!


  5. “Holy shit. I have never been happier.” I want to wake up every morning and make this the motto for my days. Brilliant. Such a clever, sweet proposal. And SUCH a perfect answer. So happy for you two 🙂


  6. Congratulations to Mark and Tara. I’ve been reading your love story unfold like everyone else who reads your blog regulalry. I am so happy for you both. It brought tears to my eyes. I am in my second marraige 16 years this summer and I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world. You and Tara make a super couple. All the best and wishing you many happy years together.


  7. Look how late I am! I heard about it on Facebook & sent congrats already though, so I don’t feel so bad. Congrats again! When is the big day or have you even set a date?


  8. WOW! Mark, congratulations! I’m so so happy for you and Tara! I think all your readers have been waiting for this moment, you guys are like an adorable sitcom couple who go to concerts and eat really good looking food! I had to tune in! LOL. I truly couldn’t be happier for you both!

    Well, unless you tell me you’re getting married by Cat Daddy inside Voodoo Donut. Eh? Eh? 😀


Add Your Two Cents!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: