Please note that for this story, the green font is my voice, Manny; the purple voice is Ruthie’s… otherwise things could get confusing.
The story begins three and a half years ago in Fall of 2010. Sunny Southern California. Universty—where choices are made and lives formed.
We met while taking a class together although I’m fairly certain our introduction was never formal—she simply sat there on one side of the room, and I on the other; her name was Ruthie and she was friends with Stephanie. I remember being impressed with her choice of research paper; I remember knowing of her, but never holding a conversation with her. I remember Manny’s beard, and his friend Hank. I’m embarrassed to admit, nothing of his research paper or his charm. Just his beard. Thankfully, two years later, the earth had revolved around the sun [twice], and my world had shifted.
Our conversations were well-nigh inevitable with my apartment cozily settled midway between her office and home. Daily she would walk past, time and again, and so long as my head weren’t in a book or on a pillow, we would greet each other. I remember on one rainy occasion she attempted to scurry alongside the building beneath the eave only to be arrested by my two Adirondack chairs causing her to burst forth in squeals as she was forced into the deluge. (I ensured to clear the path during the next rainstorm.) To be fair to myself, it was less of a squeal and more of a graceful cry of alarm. It didn’t take much for me to become attracted to her—only opportunity—for she was humorous and witty, she had quick feet, a cute demeanor, and beauty undoubted from soul to face. (And I must confess: I have ever been and yet remain captivated by her gorgeous blue eyes.)
One day Ruthie was on her way to class, and I had just brewed some Ethiopian Sidamo Ardi [coffee] in a Chemex. One of my first encounters with Manny’s love of coffee snobbery. I try not to tell him that I would still microwave day-old coffee if it suited my purposes. Gladly I poured her a cup and wished her an enjoyable class. Later she wrote me a message online. And as a cat chases a laser pointer, I saw wondrous opportunity and pounced! …even if I should be left empty paws. We began conversing with conversations ever-lengthening and affection always gathering.
There was one problem.
Ruthie was a Graduate Assistant, professional employee of the University. I was a traditional undergraduate student.
Romance was forbidden.
So like lovers destined to doom as Romeo and Juliet, this Capulet would coordinate secret rendezvous that our friendship might bloom. Late night hikes. Spontaneous beach trips. Furious board game competitions (many of which, I won). Chance run-ins. These were the fodder that fueled our flame, all preparing a romance built on camaraderie simply awaiting graduation day.
And it came.
Freed from the constraints, we made our affection vocal. I asked her father for permission, and dating ensued under no guise, made official on May 14, 2013. Two days and nine months later I asked her to marry me atop the peak of Mormon Rocks. She said, “Yeah!”
I’m embarrassed. I did say, “Yeah,” complete with a stutter in the middle. But immediately I thought, “No! Say ‘Yes’ like a proper lady!” But let’s start from the beginning.
Valentine’s Day (evening) Manny showed up at my door with an empty shadow box and an intricate map he had drawn himself. It’s important to note that this map was drawn to scale, and I had to use a real compass to navigate myself through the desert. A real compass! The map was for a pirate adventure that we would take on Sunday, and the shadow box would be filled with the things we found... Sunday finally rolled around and he drove us to Mormon Rocks after church, handed me the map and compass, and told me to use my adventuring skills to find where we should start.
I’ll admit, I used that compass like a champ, and soon we were digging up the first treasure box. A box filled with things that signified our beginnings. From there the map led us straight up the side of a rock mountain to a small cave, in which Manny had hidden a journal with a sonnet that he had written (apparently one of the hardest things he has done to date—14 lines in iambic pentameter, written in 4 quatrains). Back down the mountain we went hacking away brush like Lewis and Clark, to the second buried treasure, hidden ten paces North-West of a pirate’s sword. I can honestly say that I’ve never looked so hard for a pirate’s sword in my life! It was so difficult to not lead her directly to the sword, and every time we moved too far north my muscles tensed; every time we moved too far south my teeth clenched… my intestines felt like they were trying to open a locked door.
The second buried treasure held things that represented the intangibles in our relationship (faith, hope, love, etc). The map led from there to buried sustenance (a pineapple and coconuts that he chopped with a machete), never more delicious and finally to the “bulk of the treasure.”
We reached one of the tallest peaks of Mormon Rocks, and I stood there facing out toward the Cajon Valley with the wind blowing in my hair, knowing that once I turned around life would quite literally change forever. For neither one of us takes the decision to join our lives together lightly.
I turned around, Manny dropped to one knee, and several thoughts ran through my head… “I hope no one is taking pictures, we just hiked up a mountain and I look like a ragamuffin,” “What should I say?” “Holy cow, that’s a beautiful ring.” “When do I take it out of the box and put it on?” “Of course I’ll continue this adventure with you!” “This was fun!” … You get the picture. For the record: There was a photographer. It is still a beautiful ring. And I said “yeah.”