Sunday, May 2, 2010
St. Croix Souvenir
In late April of 2005, I had been dating Sean for almost a year, but he had spent nine months of that time training in Maryland to be a combat photographer with the Army Reserves. He had just finished his course and returned to Raleigh when the opportunity presented itself for us to travel to St. Croix with my brother Bob and my brother-not-in-law Cookie, who are both airline employees. Why not?
We spent a few days relaxing in the sun and driving around the island. On our last night, we decided to eat at the restaurant next door to our condo. After dinner, we walked back to the condo along the beach. Bob and Cookie had walked up ahead of Sean and me.
So we were just moseying along in the moonlight when Sean suddenly called my name while tugging on my hand.
“What?!” I kind of freaked out. Whenever I am on a beach at night, I have an irrational fear of sea crabs. They freak me out. They move sideways, for cripesake. It’s not natural. I thought Sean was warning me there was one nearby.
I turned around, and he was holding a diamond ring. “Will you marry me?” he asked.
Well, I just stood there for a sec, letting the moment, and the relief that I wasn’t about to be pinched by a creepy crustacean, sink in. But apparently that moment was an eternity to Sean, whose eyes widened in a panicky fashion, causing me to realize that it was my turn to say something.
“Okay!” I said, as if someone had just asked me to go on a bike ride.
Sean looked relieved and slipped the ring onto my finger.
When we finished walking back to the condo, I didn’t want to go inside. We sat out on a hammock for the longest time. Most women, at least the way it plays out in movies, jump for joy and can’t wait to broadcast the news of their engagement to friends and family and total strangers. I was kind of mortified, really.
I was instantly aware of the stress and hassle and decisions and etiquette and offense and expense that all come with planning a wedding. Sharing the news with others would be just the first in a long line of opportunities to hurt somebody’s feelings if not done in the proper way, the proper order. Sharing the news was like hitting the start button on a huge machine that takes over and has a life of its own. Besides, it was so public, so official. I wanted to marry Sean; I just felt it was a private, intimate decision. I wanted to linger in that hammock with the knowledge that we were the only two people in the world who knew a secret. Because the secret was ours, and nobody else belonged there.
But I felt guilty, too. Was there something wrong with me for feeling this way? Was I insulting Sean or making him insecure because I wasn’t reacting like my horse had just won the Kentucky Derby?
“I’m sorry,” I told him. “I’m sorry I’m not reacting like a typical girl.”
“If you did,” he said, “I wouldn’t want to marry you.”