THE Engagement Story
I had no idea the proposal was coming. After a sixteen hour trip from Los Angeles to New York, and then a frustrating day of becoming lost and stuck in the bowels of New York City’s dirty subway, we woke up on Saturday morning with one goal in mind: to make it to Brooklyn by 4pm. After all, that was the time our best friend Rana’s housewarming party began, the ultimate reason we had traveled to New York in the first place (or so I thought).
After grabbing a quick breakfast at our hotel restaurant near Times Square, we headed east towards the closest accessible subway station, or a subway station that had a functioning elevator, a rarity among the island. Along the way we came across a Street Market on 6th and decided to take advantage of it, immediately changing our plans and route to a different subway station. According to the map, the next station accessible for me was Grand Central Station. So together, we walked down the middle of 6th street hand in hand, enjoying the sweet smells of grilled corn, funnel cakes, kebabs and kettle corn. I stopped at a booth to buy some trinkets, one for me, one for the guest of honor Rana and one for Colette, the person brave enough to stay with our animals all weekend, a St. Bernard name Riley and a manx cat named Zola. We took our picture in front of Radio City Hall. I took a picture of just Cory, and then laughed when I nearly dropped my iPhone onto the road doing so. Next we casually strolled down the middle of the street for nearly ten blocks, again hand in hand, weaving in and out of strangers, until eventually the tents and vendors stopped and we were left standing (sitting) in front of Bryant Park.
The beauty of Bryant Park struck up this conversation:
Me: “Wow. If I was homeless, I think I’d want to live here.”
Cory: “Not if it was winter. It’d be too cold for you.”
Me. “True. You’re so right. I guess that’s when I’d fly to Venice Beach.”
Cory: [Laughs] “That’d be smart. That’s what the ultimate homeless person would do, or at least should do. They’d take advantage of the beautiful park in the summer, save their money until they get $500, and then fly to Venice for the winter. That’s not a bad life. It’s almost as awesome as our lives.”
These are the kind of hypothetical conversations we seem to automatically delve into, the kind that end with us talking about our awesomeness. Upon finding the closest ramp, we took a minute to explore the inside of the park. We took pictures. I made Cory sit with that statue of Mr. William Bryant that overlooks the grassy knoll. I took more pictures, because I always take at least three shots of every scene. I’m notorious for shooting blurry photos. This photo is one of my favorites:
Just as we decided to continue our journey to the subway, the armrest of my wheelchair detached itself and crashed to the ground breaking into two pieces. I hadn’t done anything to contribute to the breakage. I had simply started driving towards the exit of the park. “Well that’s something that hasn’t happened before,” I said, staring at the ground confused. I looked up to see Cory’s response, and he was in hysterics laughing. I started laughing too, and then stated the obvious. “It’s always an adventure, huh babe?”
“Yes it is. But it’s one of the reasons why I love you,” he answered.
“Right answer!” I yelled, and then added, “But Jesus. What’s next? Is my wheel gonna fall off?” I had no idea a ring was inside his pocket.
Succumbing to the conclusion that my wheelchair was unfixable thanks to missing screws we made our way to Grand Central Station. In between the incredibly tall high-rise buildings, we could see a storm was brewing. The clouds were gray and thick and beginning to swallow the buildings underneath them. “Remember that rain jacket you packed?” I asked Cory, we were on the corner of a sidewalk waiting to cross the street.
“Yeah,” he answered.
“You realize that’s going to be for my battery pack and not you, right?”
“That’s why I brought it.”
“You really are the best,” I told him.
“I know,” he replied. Like I mentioned before, giving ourselves compliments is something that comes naturally for us.
The main part of Grand Central Station is a site that could be described in pages, hundreds of them. If you’ve been there, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t been there, put it on your to-do list. The building’s architecture, the size, the staircases, the familiarity, the amount of people taking photographs—all of these features are admirable and deserve a small piece of your time.
“Wow. The people that built this place are some grandiose-thinking motherfuckers, huh?” I told Cory, who immediately started cackling so loudly I feared it would create an echo. The first time I had heard this particular belly-wrenching laugh, we had been on our second date and in a movie theater. In response, I had turned to him in horror. Now every time I hear the sound of this laughter, even if I’m in the other room, I automatically smile. It’s like a tick, something I don’t realize I’m doing until I catch myself in the mirror. His laughter has become something I now need. It’s my home.
Once on the Metro, we counted down the stops until we arrived at City Hall. There we began our journey to cross the Brooklyn Bridge, something Cory had read would take an hour. It hadn’t started raining when we started but by the time we reached the first set of arches, it was drizzling. Cory pulled out his raincoat and wrapped it tightly around my battery pack. He also zipped my hoodie and covered my head with the hood. “All we need now is for your chair to short out,” he said.
“I know, right?” I answered. And then like the two tourist we were, we took many pictures of ourselves, both a part and together. Considering we hadn’t seen rain in three months, ever since we moved to downtown Los Angeles, we welcomed the bad weather like two small school kids splashing in puddles. To each other we pointed out the choppy sea, the nearby graffiti art, the love locks attached to the fence, the buildings on one piece of land compared to the other until finally we had arrived in Brooklyn.
“Fuck you New York! We’ll show you and your inaccessible sub way stations and cabs that need 24-hours notice,” Cory said while throwing his hands up in celebration. We had done it! We had accomplished our goal of arriving in Brooklyn before 4pm. Even with the unplanned market stop, and my wheelchair breaking and the rain, we had made it to Brooklyn with time to spare, something that seemed impossible just the day before.
“Yeah New York. Take that. We really showed you… give us a challenge,” I shouted in support of my man. Then I had something much more practical to say. “Hey baby, I have to pee.”
On the bridge Cory had pointed out the Brooklyn Bridge Park and mentioned that it was new. “Okay, why don’t we head towards the park? There’s also a war memorial I’d like to see,” he suggested.
What he didn’t tell me yet was that he had considered proposing back at Grand Central Station when he was already on his knees taking a picture, and then again on the bridge before it started raining. In both cases, he later admitted, he got too nervous by the number of people surrounding us.
No one was at the war memorial except a father and son playing wiffle ball and two men practicing judo. I took more pictures of Cory, sitting on a bench and standing in the middle of the lawn, which turned out to really be astro turf. We raced each other to the statues and Cory won. This photo of him sitting on the memorial is another one of my favorite photos.
At Brooklyn Bridge Park, right on the waterfront, you can see the Statue of Liberty and the entire skyline of the bottom half of Manhattan. You can even see the new World Trade Center being built. Against the fence, I noticed a couple struggling to take pictures of themselves against the incredible back drop before us. I immediately raced over towards them.
“We’ll take your photo if you take ours,” I proposed. Cory took the camera from the man and took three, maybe four pictures, each at different angles. It’s a site that deserves that much attention. The stranger must have appreciated Cory’s care because he returned the favor and took many pictures of us.
“Let’s sit down and enjoy the view before we find you a bathroom,” Cory finally announced. I agreed to this request, pointing to an empty bench with a space for me next to it. Cory sat down and took a deep breath.
“Babe. This is how I want our life to be forever—just one big adventure,” he began, wrapping his right arm around me.
“Me too!” I agreed, unaware of what direction this conversation could possibly be headed.
“I love you more than anything,” he continued.
“I love you more than anything,” I answered. He was looking at me. I was looking at Manhattan. He moved his left hand to my knee and angled himself towards me and paused. The silence made me turn to him.
“I know that I don’t have the ring you deserve but I did buy you a ring,” he said, looking directly into my eyes. The seriousness of his expression confused me. I knew the ring we picked out together needed to be specially made. I also knew it was something he couldn’t afford at this particular time.
He removed his right arm from behind my back and showed me a black toylike-ring with Tetris shapes on it. “I bought this ring because I thought it represents us,” he started to explain. He pointed to the orange part, “This is me. You are the green. See you’re sitting down. Zola is the yellow and Riley is purple because she takes up so much space. It’s our Love Tetris.”
Our Love Tetris. It’s an inside joke between the two of us. Our animals love to be within one arm’s reach of us at all times, especially when we’re sitting on the couch. Each time one of us notices that we are all touching, we shout, “Love Tetris.”
What happened next is kind of a blur, but somewhere in the mess of dialogue he did ask me to marry him. And then he continued to ramble on and on. “There was so much more that I wanted to say but I got nervous. The next time I propose I’ll have the real ring. I just want us to start planning our wedding, what do you think about the spring? Wait. Did you even say yes?”
I sat there wide-eyed and in shock. “Of course, I said yes.” And I had, only I don’t think he heard me. Or maybe I didn’t say it out loud? Since he didn’t have the traditional “diamond ring,” my mind was racing to put it all together. I had expected a proposal one day but certainly not any day soon, and not with a ring that appeared to be a toy. I took a second to process what was happening, and now that what was happening was starting to sink in, I finally was able to comment on the situation.
“Baby, I don’t need a second proposal. This ring is beautiful. You are so thoughtful, and it’s one of the reasons I love you most. I can’t wait to be your wife. And I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life laughing with you. You make me so happy.”
We are not the traditional couple, and never have been. We met at a shitty dive bar in Thornton Park, a place notorious for random hook ups. I got shit-faced on our first date, to the point that I thought if he ever called me again he might have problems. After only seven months of knowing each other, we moved in together. So why would he plan a traditional proposal? We do things on our own terms–just the two of us, me and him against the world.
I paused to watch Cory tear up with emotions.
“Geez, You’re not even gonna shed a tear?” he asked, laughing.
“You can thank my mother for this stone-cold heart,” I answered. And then I kissed him all over his face.
Like I imagine every woman does, I looked down to see what I was wearing, trying to soak in every detail of the moment. What I saw was a busted wheelchair, a drenched blue and gray striped dress and a big ole’ urine bag sitting on my lap. I thought about what I might have looked like after the rain and being too lazy to put make-up on that morning.
“Oh my goodness. Look at me. I’m a drenched rat. Are you sure you want to marry this mess?” I asked him.
“Yes of course. All of it is how I know I want to marry you… because even when it’s bad it’s sooo good. Our lives are awesome babe, it’s all because of you.”
Later that night, actually more like the wee hours of the next morning, after we had told some of our family and friends the big news, I lied awake next to Cory too excited to sleep. He appeared to be sleeping comfortably. I studied his handsome face and replayed the events of the day over and over in my head. I never thought I’d meet a man that seemed to be created especially for me. Someone so caring and thoughtful and compassionate and funny. Someone who makes me laugh at times that I want to cry. Someone who can wake up in the middle of the night, take me to the ER when my injury commands it and not complain one time. Someone so brave to give me a Love Tetris ring, something so much more thoughtful than the diamond ring we had picked out together. So I grabbed his shoulder.
“Psst. Hey baby,” I said, shaking him a little.
He fluttered his eyes. “Yeah.”
“I just want to let you know that I can’t wait to be your wife… and also, I’m tearing up now just thinking about our day and how amazing it was,” I whispered. In the privacy of our hotel room, my tears had started to fall.
“What’d you say? You want water?” he replied. He’s used to me waking him up in the night for silly things like a swig of water.
“No silly, I just wanted to tell you I love you.”
“That’s nice…” he answered, still sleeping deeply. “I’ll get you some water.”