As soon as I meet my husband and he proposes, I’m going to walk up to him and punch him in the chest. I will then cry, “You have no idea what I went through, hoping it was you!”
At least, I used to claim I would do that when I was in college.
I went to college to learn about Socrates, Plato, and Euclid. I don’t know why entirely. I think I liked their Greek names. But in college I actually learned how to fall into unrequited love and see it redeemed.
Today I happily report I will never have to repeat the unrequited-love adventure again. I’ve learned its lessons, sustained its wounds, cried its tears, and written its words. It’s time for a redemptive chapter. When the man I am going to marry proposed last Friday, I forgot all about punching him in the chest.
On Friday afternoon we had perfect sunshine when everyone expected rain. We drove to Buttermilk Falls in Ithaca, N.Y., the exact place we began to fall in love exactly a year before. We climbed the gorge.
I had prepared myself for the possibility of a proposal. The night before, I had fulfilled a childhood dream by buying all the clothes off of a mannequin. I had new perfume I planned to associate ever afterward with engagement. Thursday night I laid in bed, wearing a pink shower cap and pink pajamas, eating yogurt, and trying to convince myself he wouldn’t propose tomorrow but at Christmas.
Because if I had misread the signs, and didn’t prepare myself, I might die of disappointment. And shame, since I had confidently told my new chiropractor that day that I’d be betrothed by our next visit.
“It won’t be tomorrow, it will be Christmas,” I thought. Because, as we all know, sometimes hoping hard backfires, and that hurts too much.
Jonathan had refashioned an old copy of my favorite book, Alice in Wonderland, for the occasion. He wrote, “I love you, Chelsea” on the front with seashells, and each page had one reason why. I flipped through the book as we sat beside the top of the waterfall, smiling. Jonathan had hollowed out the end of the book with his mother’s X-Acto knife and filled the compartment with sand and shells. I lifted the last page and saw the ring nestled into the sand.
After a while of being loved, it is hard to remember what it felt like when you weren’t. The old hunger disappears. You have new hungers. But now you have an outlet to pour love into, like clean water you have in excess.
He knelt before me saying, “Chelsea Kolz, will you marry me?”
I said yes. It is hard to contemplate the miracle Jonathan has been, given to me to be tender to. It is his dignity I am assigned to celebrate and uphold and enjoy. It is a hard and joyful assignment.
He proved he knows me better than I think when he responded, “You didn’t even punch me in the chest!”
I laughed. At that moment, I would never have dreamed of it.