He proposed in a garden, standing up. He liked the symbolism of standing over kneeling, the two of us journeying life side-by-side. So he proposed while standing, in a wild part of a plantation in Charleston. And then he got on one knee.
“Martin…stop. Stop. STOP.”
He turned his head and saw the tram of sun-glassed tourists halted twenty feet behind him. He was blocking its path. I didn’t want a public proposal. So he got up and we walked to the side of the path and along the untamed grass, as far from the tram as possible, avoiding eye contact. Nobody clapped. They thought they had witnessed a rejection.
I said yes, of course. And maybe a few other things. And there was sunlight and water and we walked and I stared at the ring and we took photos of peacocks and photos of ourselves and listened to Judy Collins and if our faces didn’t hurt from smiling, they should have.
When we discussed it before we were engaged, I was worried about getting married. I was worried because as a single person, everything was open. I had infinite paths, infinite options. I could move to the south of France and finally learn French. I could work on a cruise ship for nine months. I could spend my summers in Hollywood auditioning for films. I could join a commune. I could make documentaries, volunteer at orphanages, spend winters in the Middle East.
More than that though, I wanted to live a significant percentage of my adult life overseas – and he was a U.S. boy with a hometown and a love of American football. He enjoyed traveling, but he had never lived in another country for long enough to be considered a TB threat (three months, as it turns out). I insisted that seeing a place meant living in it, not playing tourist for a week or two or seven. And maybe it seems dramatic – but going through the jolt of a new place, the gestures and laughs of communicating in another language, the weeks of waiting for a shipment; all the navigating and exploring and perspective: these are embedded in me as surely as the peace he feels when he returns to his hometown.
He told me he wanted to live overseas. He told me loved me and wanted me to be happy. And there was a sincerity in his voice and an eagerness in his eyes, and I realized he wouldn’t make my world smaller. He would open it up.
And then a few days later I freaked out again and accused him of trying to trap me in Middle America for the rest of my life. (Because my mind is not as tidy as a neatly concluded essay.) Eventually, though, I realized I would rather discuss my hopes and dreams and fears with him in a random American city than wander the world by myself with them rattling around in my head.
And also, I felt like this:
LISTEN WHEN I LOOK AT YOU MY BRAIN LOOKS ALL STUPID AND I JUST WANT TO KISS YOUR FACE AND CUT PAPER SNOWFLAKES TOGETHER.
-Letters to Crushes