For those of you that have not been tracking my bleary-eyed announcements on Facebook in the wee hours of this morning as sleep eluded me due to nervous excitement: ladies and gentlemen, yesterday I got engaged.
In about five million ways I never really thought I would get married, in the same way I never really thought I would live past the age of 16, mostly because it's what I always wanted for my life. Family is the only thing that has ever seemed truly important to me, and the nagging feeling that it was all going to come to a halt in my name was... well...
Anyway, that's not what I'm writing about here. Suffice it to say I've felt very surreal for the past 36 hours. Like suddenly someone opened a curtain and said, "Congratulations, you won a brand new life!"
That sounds kind of creepy and unhealthy, but please believe I have no other way of describing it, and I know this surreal feeling will fade into a normal level of excitement soon, but at this moment when it is all still so fresh, I feel a bit like I've been dreaming and tomorrow I'll wake up.
The funny thing is, it wasn't a particularly fantastical moment, there were no unicorns, no chorus of angels, no swell of music, but somehow that made it exactly what it should have been for me. And I'll explain that statement at the end.
I've been dating Paul for about a year and a half now. I met him through Wildclaw Theatre, that little horror company here in Chicago. And this sounds dumb, but it really was sort of immediately right with him. I'm not going to gush about how I've struggled in past relationships for the smallest shred of pseudo-happiness and how easy it has been to find myself completely overjoyed with Paul all the time, so let me just say that I feel great. I met this guy and immediately thought I would marry him.
A year and a half later, we have our own apartment together, our two cats are learning to get along, and we joke about getting married so frequently it's like we're already married. At least I thought it felt like that. Until I actually heard the words and said yes to them. And then suddenly it was like a brand new relationship. I said to Paul tonight, "Do you feel like we just started dating, somehow? Like everything is completely and stupidly new?" He giggled really hard and I knew he'd been thinking it too. I joked, "Hell, we should get engaged every year!"
So, like I said, we'd joked about it. A lot. And lately it had been not so much joking as "Hey, wanna go ring shopping on Saturday?" That was from Paul, met with my mock horror, "No, that takes all the surprise out of it! You're supposed to surprise me, dammit!" Of course, I secretly believed he didn't have a snowball's chance in hell of actually surprising me because I can read his body language so well I would spot a proposal coming from a mile away.
Saturday comes and the weather is amazing, so we decide to run all our errands on our bikes. It's great. We go to a frame shop, the dollar store, and then Paul says he needs to check his phone to see if someone texted him back. He's usually not secretive in any way, so when I ask what he's hoping to find out and he pretends not to hear me, I figure something is up. He seems pleased to see whatever he was looking for on his phone, and our next stop takes us to:
A jewelers. It's the jeweler that Paul's best friend used for his wedding rings last August. Apparently the text he was waiting for was the address of the place.
We walk in, the woman says, "Hi, what can I do for you today?" and Paul sort of stumbles out the words, "Well, I guess we should say it out loud: we're getting married!"
This is the first I've heard of it as an official thing, so I'm slightly dumb struck, both wondering if that was supposed to be my official proposal and wondering if this is all just an elaborate joke.
So we sit down and I'm pressed to design an engagement ring for myself. After wading through several options, the woman finally cottons to the fact that I wasn't ready for this, and had my heart set on being surprised, so she suggests, "Ok, now that I know what you like and what you don't like, why don't you just let Paul come back later and he and I will finish the ring's design so you can truly be surprised by the time you see it."
Perfect. So, we make our departure and I'm all giggley and stupid and Paul keeps teasing me, saying, "What are you giggling about? It's like you think I proposed or something. Well I didn't, you know. Maybe I'm getting this ring for some other chick I've got on the side that has the same size finger as you." It's cute. I'm still a bit confounded, but it's cute. We decide to go about the rest of our errands.
Toys R Us is next on our list, and we're looking for plastic Easter eggs. After talking to a clerk, we're directed to them. As I turn I hear Paul ask the clerk something about a ring. He waves me away when I glance back, and I figure he's just going to put plastic jewelry in the eggs before we hide them for each other, just to be cute. So I walk away to let him have his "surprise."
The store is packed with hickish families of obnoxious children pumping quarters into rubber ball machines and dragging plastic dinosaurs around by the tails. We check out, and suddenly, at the end of the check-out line, Paul reaches into the bag and pulls out a Ring Pop.
And gets down on one knee.
At the end of the check-out line.
I am suddenly painfullly aware of everyone that has seen Paul make this very classic movement, and a red light goes off behind my eyes as my social phobias kick in.
Before he can say anything I stage-whisper, "Nonononono, not here not here not here not here!!!!!" and literally drag him to his feet. He's wearing a look on his face somewhere between just having maniacally shot a kitten, and realizing he's maniacally shot a kitten, and before he can protest I feel myself fleeing the store.
He stumbles out behind me, as we're both guffawing, unable to breath we're laughing so hard, and his first words to me are, "I've been spurned!"
Finally I collect myself and we go back to our bikes, Paul laughing and admitting that maybe not all his ideas are great, and as we're unlocking our bikes from the trash can they're chained to, he grabs me up and says, "But this time I mean it - Krista, will you marry me?"
Before I can answer he's crying because he knows I will say yes, and when I say yes he's crying even harder, and we hug, his sunglasses fall off, my hat tumbles to the ground, and ten million years pass in my head as I realize I'm going to be this man's wife.
Then to break the tension I say, over his shoulder, "I've just been proposed to over a trash can outside of a Payless Shoes. This is the happiest day of my life."
I put on the Ring Pop. And suddenly I feel like a completely different person. "I need a drink," I admit. "My girl," says Paul, who is visibly shaking.
And that's when it hits me. He really DID manage to surprise me. So much so, in fact, that my first gut reaction was vehemently negative! That is the first sign for me that I had just received the perfect proposal. Why hadn't I realized it before? Of course the only way to surprise me would be an action so embarrassingly inappropriate I would never see it coming. The perfection is as blinding as it is simple.
We spent the rest of the day in a daze, texting and calling various people (our folks both already knew, incidentally, that it would happen some time this weekend, savvy as they are) and my second sign that this was the perfect proposal came when my two best and oldest friends in the world independently asked me in their own respective ways, before I'd even told the Toys R US/trash can story, if the proposal had been appropriately lame/weird/silly like I always thought it would be. Mark asked if it had been over a flaming barrel. Debi asked if he'd used a paper napkin ring. The fact that I then got to tell a true story of a Ring Pop over a trash can filled me with limitless joy.
Incidentally, my ring is strawberry flavored, and I spent the rest of the day nervously licking at it, so the remainder of my "engagement ring" is now in the freezer to prevent me from finishing it.
This is as far as this story has gotten currently, and I'll update as we figure out details. But for right now we're still clutching each other and giggling and turning uncontrollably red at the words "engagement" and "fiance." Fun.
I think I like this whole "life" thing. It certainly makes for a good story.