I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever)
She said yes.
The question, it could be argued, was a long time coming. The concept, it could be argued, has inspired almost every song, every blog entry, and damn near every conversation prior to this one. For me, it was never a question of whether I’d get married; my parent’s divorce hadn’t sullied the institution altogether, and plenty of sane people I know have seemed to pull it off. Instead, it was the obvious — when, and to whom — and, more essentially, how will I know for sure?
Somehow, over the course of the last few months, the former has become superfluous. I love being with Abbigail. We run in Central Park, then prowl local dives for burgers and wings. We order sushi, use an ottoman for a dining room table, watch “Heroes,” and never once does she bristle when I ask for the third time, “Now who’s that character again?” I love watching her ably navigate my idiosyncratic family. I love watching her with Ethan and Edward. I love watching her sleep. And I love watching her read, or write email, or solve a crossword puzzle. There is something natural, simple, and comfortable between us. I know for sure because I feel it in the furthest corner of my heart, in the stillness of my pulse, in the depth of my bones.
And everyone can see it. My father said, “There’s been a sparkle in your eye and a bounce in your step since you two met.” My sister-in-law Jennifer said, “If you don’t hurry up and marry her, Ethan will.” Even my mother chimed in approvingly.
And so, the first weekend in January found us trolling for apartments. The following weekend found us browsing rings at Tiffany & Co. A few weeks later, this Thursday morning around six o’clock, to be exact, found me here in my apartment writing this (then deciding not to post it until the deed was done):
I woke up startled. My heart was pounding in my chest. My stomach was churning. Outside my window, a gauzy, waning moon was setting. The clock read 4:39.
I lay there a while rolling everything over in my head. I picked up the ring at lunchtime. I didn’t want to hold onto it for more than a day. I knew it would burn a hole in my pocket. And I didn’t want to blow the plan. I’ve been arranging it for weeks. I’ve been readying myself for months. Years. My whole life. This is it. Today is the day.
In just over an hour, we will meet at Bethesda Fountain as we have for dozens of morning runs prior. There — where east meets west, where Central Park’s formal lower third meets its wilder upper reaches, there below Bethesda, Angel of the Waters — I will drop to one knee, and ask Abbigail to marry me. Later, when it’s settled in, I will whisk her off to Rose Hall, Jamaica, for the weekend.
The plan, hatched over months with legions of advisors (my parents, my brother, CJ, Jon, Jason, Michael, Ron, Fish, Rob, and Josh), co-conspirators (Rosalie, Stewart, and Nidhi) and support crew (Jonathan, Jacki), came together with Rube Goldbergian precision.
I left my apartment as dawn broke, and ran through The Ramble towards Bethesda. At 7:15, as the sun peaked over the East Side, she jogged into view. I took a deep breath and reminded myself, ‘Kneel, then ask. Kneel, then ask.”
It was, on the face of it, a quick jog like a hundred jogs before.
“How far do do you want to run?” I asked.
“Not far,” she said. “I have to be at work early.”
“Actually,” I said, “You don’t have to be at work at all today. Or tomorrow.”
She looked confused. Then she spotted the glimmer of the ring between my thumb and forefinger. I dropped to my right knee, and spoke…
I don’t know what I said, exactly. And I might not tell you if I did. We agreed afterwards that it was semi-coherent, and maybe even somewhat articulate.
Either way, she said yes. Twice. (I wanted to be sure.)
Then I told her we were going away to Jamaica (chosen for its non-stop proximity and afternoon flights) for the weekend.
Standing there together, hugging in the morning’s first light, a woman walked by and said, smiling, “What a nice way to start the morning.”
Best part of it all?
Abbi still wanted to go for that run.
A few hours later, we’d spoken to our parents (all of whom knew the plan), packed our bags, been driven to the airport, climbed aboard Air Jamaica, and jetted off for Rose Hall. Upon arrival, we are greeted with the musky smell of paradise, and whisked off in black Town Car complete with a fully-chilled bottle of champagne. By the time we hit the Ritz Carlton, we are giddy and giggling. The head of PR and Chief Concierge greet us at the door, and usher us through the place like rock stars. Our room is a club level, ocean view suit with two decks overlooking the Carribean.
We spend four days and three nights eating jerk chicken, drinking Red Stripe, playing Crazy Eights, and trying on the word “fiance.”
We were — we are — very, very happy.
* * *
On the beach, I discover that I am the only person at the resort not reading a best-selling murder mystery. Instead, I’ve opted for Chuck Klosterman’s “Sex, Drugs & Cocoa Puffs,” a title which drew its fair share of raised eyebrows, and, it could be argued, hits a little close to the day job for a beach read. Why not just pack Season One of The Real World into my carry on and lock myself away on the air conditioned fifth floor club lounge?
Klosterman cracks me up, though, and so I find myself sitting in a chez lounge a few feet from the ocean laughing out loud. Example:
The Empire Strikes Back” is the only blockbuster of the modern era to celebrate the abysmal failure of its protagonists. This is important; this is why “The Empire Strikes Back” set the philosophical template for all the slackers who would come of age ten years later. George Lucas built an army of clones that would eventually be led by Richard Linklater.
The Ritz Carlton brochure reads, “First we make the world revolve around you, and then we gently slow it down.” Which they do. In spades. So most of the time, I don’t really think many Klostermanesque thoughts. Instead, I close my eyes, and take it all in: The slow, steady rush of the waves; the rustle of the wind through the palms; the ringing of a sail lines on a mast; the ruffle of a billowing beach umbrella; the low, throbbing bass of a distant raggae tune; the dull thump of a pickup volleyball game; a dozen meaningless conversations; a baby’s cry; laughter; and the distant roar of a jet carrying sunburned passengers back to their chilly hinterlands.
In Jamaica, I come to discover, grown, local men walk around singing to themselves. I like that. I think it speaks strongly of them, and their culture. After a few days, I began to join them in spontaneous song.
Later, en route to the airport, our driver inquires, “You know the word, ‘irie?'”
I tell him that I don’t.
“It means, ‘Everything is fine, mon.’
And it is.
* * *
In the seconds, hours, and days following my engagement to Abbigail, I am somewhat surprised to find that not much has really changed. I love being with her. I love running with her. I love watching her sleep. There is something natural, simple, and comfortable between us. And I know for sure because I feel it in the furthest corner of my heart, in the stillness of my pulse, in the depth of my bones.
Still, there is a new groundedness, a new centeredness, a new quietness that I couldn’t have anticipated. I know that we have no idea what we’re in for. But I know that everything is fine. Everything is irie; I have a partner in crime, a teammate, a roommate, and a friend.
In fact, she’s asleep in the bed behind me right now. So if you’ll excuse me…