Denis Williams doesn't want to drop to his knees to propose marriage to Diana Borden, his former girlfriend. He wants to erect a billboard at one of Alexandria's busiest intersections and pop the question this way:


But Bordon, who lived with him for 3 1/2 years until they broke up two months ago, said yesterday the proposed sign, which she knew nothing about, wouldn't do any good at all. "I have no plans to marry him. I love him, but not the way he wants me to love him. I cry a lot when we're together, but I cry because it's over," said Borden, a computer specialist with a private consulting firm.

That kind of firm rejection is not standing in William's way. This week he wrote a letter to Alexandria Mayor Charles E. Beatley Jr. and other city officials, requesting permission to put a campaign-style sign near the intersection of Duke Street and S. Quaker Lane. But city officials said the slow-moving wheels of bureaucracy may not grind out an answer for at least several months, a time delay Williams says he cannot tolerate.

"I've stopped eating and I've lost 15 pounds since I asked her to move out," said Williams, a $38,000-a-year civilian budget analyist for the Navy. "I can't sleep at night, I started smoking smoking two packs of cigarettes a day, I'm drinking too much, and more than once I've awakened at home not knowing how I got there. I made a mistake when I ended it. I was wrong, and I'm ready to start all over again."

Williams, who coaches the all-women's softball team, the Alexandria Banshees, for which Borden is the star pitcher, says he is now haunted by his missed oportunities to marry Borden, whom he met at a bowling alley. "I kept saying I didn't want to get married, I liked being single, didn't want kids, and then she started saying the same thing. Now I realize she was only echoing me. I feel awful," he said.

Borden agreed, "Last year, I would have married him, but he didn't ask. We drifted apart. Now I'm living with someone else. The idea of a billboard is really crazy," she said.

Williams doesn't think so. "I love her; why not tell her so? Last year for her birthday I took her skiing for two weeks in Austria. The year before that it was Colorado. We could have those times again," he said.

City officials yesterday cautiously sympathetic to Williams, who lives in a two-story brick home in Arlington that he and Borden rehabilatated together. "It would be contrary to normal municipal procedures to give permission for a private sign on public property, despite our great admiration for romances," said City Manager Douglas Harman. "Besides, unlike political signs, I don't think love signs are covered in the city code. uMaybe it would be better for him to hire a skywriter."

Charles O. Everly, the city official who issues permits for signs approved by the City Council, said the inevitable municipal delay "wouldn't be worth it for him. He ought to put up the sign and wait for somebody to take it down. If he gets the okay I'll carry the paper work across the street [for final approval] myself. Anything to help the guy."

Williams said yesterday he is slowly preparing himself for Borden's continual rejection. "She always said I do things in a big way. If the sign doesn't bring her back then I'll just have to get used to it." he sighed.