TEN FLEETING DAYS and My After-Musings Part 4: Melancholic Reveries

 

February 25, 2013, 9:30 pm. I was back at the same exact station, but this time I was waiting for the train alone.

It felt like only just a few hours ago when the love of my life and I took the same railway going to the city proper.
Ian arrived to visit me again here in Thailand in the evening of February 15th. I met him at Arrivals and led him to the Airport rail link that took us to Ratchaprarop Station, approximately a 7-minute walk from Baiyoke Tower, where we were booked for the night.

As the passengers filled the car, Ian and I were all smiles, chuckling to ourselves in disbelief. We were in each other’s arms again! Our small corner inside the train echoed with our happy and excited chatter and my insistent inquiries about how his flight went. We were both grappling/vying for air time and oblivious to the world.

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Ten days later, as I sat solitary on one of the station benches, there was only silence and the hushed rolling and clicking of my 7-11-bought pen as my companion.

Imagining what I will return to, I was not looking forward to seeing the receptionist’s grouchy face in the hotel which had been our love nest for the past few days. His face could have been in a constant frown but it would definitely look happier than mine.

The PA announced the arriving train in two languages and I stood up to fall in line. As I took a seat, I looked back to our final minutes.

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I went with him to the airport to send him off. Outside the Passport Control (where only passengers can enter), we were saying our difficult goodbyes, exchanging promises and hastily uttered reminders (mine to Ian consisting mostly of repetitions to Take Care, Drive Safely Every day and Keep in touch). Right on cue, just like in the movies, an airline employee cuts in on our desperate last moments with a hand signal pointing to the clock/wrist watch as if to say “It’s time”.

Great! Make it easier for us.

Either he was just doing his job, or grossed out, or jealous of our blatant public display of affection. I was never big on PDA but with Ian and especially right at that very moment, the world around us had ceased to exist and I was shameless.
It was just he and I in our own perfect little world.

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I let go of Ian and he stepped onto the elevator that took him to the final security checkpoint and immigration. He never looked away from me-we kept mouthing our I LOVE YOUs until he was out of my sight.

Wow! So that’s it? Lea, Ian’s sister, was right. Those 10 days flew by so quickly. Of course, we both knew his visit was going to end but it didn’t change anything: the pain of separation is always the same. It’s as if the heart was torn from the chest because it follows the one you love, as Ellena, my future mother-in-law, had put it.
No matter how many times I said goodbye to Ian, I never got used to it. This feeling is only relieved when I see him again.

See him again… I had no idea when the next time would be and that made it all the more depressing for me. But before I could break down for a crying spree, a thought struck me:

Isn’t the Immigration Services right behind the glass wall in front of me? I remember from my recent Singapore trip that the Passport Control Section in Suvarnabhumi Airport was renovated in such a way that passengers have to take the escalator going up to some sort of boarding pass check, and then take an escalator down to appear before the Immigration officer.

*******
I rushed to see if I could get lucky and actually get a glimpse of Ian. My mind was racing, heart pounding, desperate for that one last goodbye. I positioned myself where there was a good view of the escalator and of the passengers going down. I didn’t want to miss him. Just moments later, he came through- in a hurry and with no time to look around him. He had a mission, to catch his plane. He didn’t bother to explore his surroundings. I was so desperate to catch his attention that I began tapping on the glass walls almost futilely. Then, with a bit of luck, a seemingly cordial middle-aged man behind him saw me and so I signaled to him to call Ian’s attention. He was kind enough to oblige and said something to Ian that made him turn his direction towards me. Seeing me unexpectedly lit his face up and my heart leapt for joy. Ian politely thanked the man and again started whispering his muted I love yous. I silently whispered back. Ian placed his hand on the left side of his chest. It is his way of telling me “Cecille, you’re in my heart”.

I know I am. It makes it seem all the more wrong for me to be sitting on a train back to a hotel room while Ian was set to fly thousands of feet above the ground. Moments ago, I was a woman loved and cherished by my man who was beside me. As I head back to Central Bangkok on my own, all of a sudden, I became a little girl again, caught in my melancholic reveries,and the city felt far too big for me.

******

I was now a station away, and as I readied my train pass, I caught sight of the ring on my finger; now, Ian’s words echoed in my brain… “Whenever you feel sad and lonely, look to this ring and know I am always with you. We will be truly together soon, I promise”.
I desperately tried to suppress my sobs until I unlocked what used to be OUR room. As I pushed open the door, the scents of our frolicking filled my nose-remnants of Ian’s loving, comforting and reassuring presence not too long ago. Oh, dear God, I miss him already.

And that’s when the dam broke.

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TEN FLEETING DAYS and My After-Musings Part 3: Fidanzamento a Prego Trattoria (Betrothal at Prego Trattoria)

It was 30 minutes past the scheduled dinner time and my parents and brother were nowhere in sight. Our invited friends were already seated and I was as anxious as any bride-to-be could be on her engagement dinner night.  Ian, my ever active and supportive fiancé, was busy supervising some last minutes details such as instructing the restaurant staff, while also being a gracious host by greeting and mingling with our guests.

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Like a Boss.  My fiancé was doing such a superb job of supervising the staff that he might as well have been running the place.

45 minutes. My young uncle Clint wondered aloud: “Where are they?”

Exactly my question. Where are they?

Is it possible my family has decided to ditch my engagement dinner?

Were they upset enough about me marrying so quickly that they decided they didn’t want to show up?

The phone ringing disrupted the million thoughts racing through my mind.

Arjay, my brother’s close friend who had arrived earlier, picked it up.

“What? I can’t hear you. What happened?”

Reflexively, I turned my head to where the voice was coming as my heart skipped a beat.

“Is that them?”, I mouthed to Arjay.

“Yes. I’m already here”. Arjay kept talking to the caller who I assumed by now was one of my family members.

“You may go down in front of the main entrance, pass through the hotel lobby, and take the left door going to the restaurant”.

I was overhearing the one-sided conversation amidst the almost synchronized clatter of china and cutlery coming from the restaurant kitchen. It was my mother on the other end of the line asking for directions. Apparently, they had some trouble finding the place. Seriously? She helped me choose this restaurant and she can’t remember where it is!? And for the love of God, where were they?!?

“Baby, she’s asking you what drink you would like.” Ian, calm and in control, pointed to the waitress who was awaiting my order. “She will have a beer,” Ian, sensing my stress level increasing, informed her when I didn’t answer.

“Yes please, beer would be perfect!” I managed to respond after a delay. Dear Lord, it was a long night ahead of us…

_____________________

It wasn’t so long ago that Ian’s path crossed with mine on that fateful day when we stumbled upon each other online, of all places. It wasn’t so long ago when he traversed the International Date Line to see me, alive and breathing, for the first time, and when we went on an adventure together, exploring The Land of Smiles’ cities, provinces, islands, rivers, seas, villages,  railways, streets -every nook and cranny . It seemed only yesterday when we spontaneously fell in love…

Yet it had already been days, weeks, months since Ian and I decided we wanted to spend every day of the rest of our lives with each other.

And so there we were, all dressed and decked out on a night that could have been just any night only that it was not. It was a time that meant more to us than any night ever had.

It seemed surreal to be surrounded by a familiar crowd, some family members and close friends I would otherwise spend regular Sunday nights with. But there isn’t a minute to spare for second-guessing. We have finally arrived at the moment that Ian and I have rehearsed for several times in our heads and I’d be damned if we weren’t ready.   It was the night we vowed to celebrate the promise of our unwavering commitment. It was our chance to toast to and savor our little victory: We came to claim what we have toiled for, what our hearts have desired for in the first place- validation, acceptance and joy in the arms of the person we truly cherish and adore. We came to venerate a love so sincere it can cleanse even the most impure of souls, a love so pure it undoes human errors, it forgives mistakes. It is real, unadulterated, proud, defiant, unbent. We wanted it. We willed it. We have it. We paused for a moment to marvel at our masterpiece, borne out of sacrifice, patience and lots of hope. What wonderful music we have created, he and I!

Like artists at our gala, we basked in accolades. We indulged critiques. We smiled at each other secretly. We knew only one truth. Whatever may be, nothing can change anything, for our love is unbowed. We are unyielding.

___________

It was our night and not even my pamilya’s “Filipino time” arrival could have rained on our parade. Finally, at 7 o’clock, my mother, who was dressed to the nines and could have been mistaken for my sister, showed up with my father and brother in tow.

Ian politely greeted and thanked them for coming. Meanwhile, I motioned for the appetizers. The night was just beginning.

————

Our engagement dinner was somehow designed to make up for the fact that my family and friends didn’t and won’t have enough opportunity to spend time with my fiancé to get to know him better. And since I barely discuss our future plans with anybody, it was also their chance to ask questions, verify information, and clarify anything and everything they’d want. Needless to say, everyone in attendance was thrilled, curious, and participative at the same time. If it was to be their only chance, they wanted to make the most of it. Arjay, my brother’s friend, former college roommate, and our “adoptive family member” was our impromptu master of ceremonies and facilitator. My brother Karl said grace before meal, and while pasta was being served, Ian showed off the ring on my finger and retold its compelling history. Our table echoed with oohs and aahs.

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Unretouched photo by RJ Protacio Photography
The Motherlode. A true Weinstein treasure, this ring previously belonged to Regina, Ian’s paternal grandmother.  He explained that the center stone was  the solitaire diamond on his grandmother’s original engagement ring which was given to her by his grandfather, Benjamin, in 1933. Then, in the 1950’s Benjamin had the engagement diamond re-fit as the center stone in a new ring featuring 6 smaller diamonds arranged into a bow shape; he gave this to Regina as an anniversary present.  After Ian’s grandparents passed away, it was decided that this heirloom should be passed to the next Weinstein male to get engaged, and over a decade later, this beautiful ring is fulfilling its destiny.

As encouraged by Arjay, everyone took turns in wishing us well. I held my breath when it was my parents’ turn to speak. I kept waiting for signs of bombs dropping but thankfully they never came. Phew! It wasn’t until later that I found out, upon returning from the powder room, surprised like an unsuspecting mother bear who went to hunt for her children’s food only to come back to find her cub surrounded by a pack of hungry wolves,  a horde had pounced on my Ian! Sneaky, sneaky, sneaky.

To lighten up the mood, our Uncle Clint and Cousin Jan Jay prepared a “How Well Do You Know Each Other” game to test our couple acumen during dessert. It was supposed to be a quiz but it actually did well to soothe my nerves. After all, we had nothing to fear: we knew each other well. All too well.

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Here Comes Mrs. “See? I’m Right”.  What is/are Ian’s favorite book/s and who is his favorite author?

Added to my relief, the food was good, the ambiance both classy and cozy, and the restaurant staff offered their best kind of service.  I’d say it was a wonderfully fun time overall.

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I’ll Stop the World and Melt With You. Molten lava cake for the lovers.

However, the ambiance, the food, the service, etc. was not the heart of it all. We were happy that everyone was gastronomically satisfied and there was laughter here and there during the night. But more than ever, Ian and I were glad that when they left the restaurant that night, we knew that they felt in their hearts that Ian and I know what we were doing and that we’re doing it as fairly and rightly as we can.

It’s no secret that what we have is a less than traditional courtship. Both of our families would have wanted more than Skype meetings, virtual greetings and overseas gift-giving sessions.  Ian and I want to give our parents and siblings experiences as close to the customary ones as we can. Even with the limitations, we labor to give our best. It would have been better if we could actually do more.

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Heads Up! The men in my family didn’t seem impressed, LOL!

It would have been a happier occasion if Ian’s side of the family were there in attendance. Instead, they got a full report over Skype on the following day. Later this year, Ian and I will be married in a civil courthouse ceremony with his family in attendance. My family will probably be watching the ceremony via live feed. They are not happy about it.

My parents prefer that I be wed before I leave for the States. As any parent would, of course. I assume that just as Ian’s clan would want to witness a marriage of a Weinstein man after several years of not having a wedding in the family, my parents and siblings would also want to see me struggling, er, walking down the aisle in a white poufy dress. They might even have hinted so to Ian when I excused myself for a few minutes to go to the powder room (along with the many other strong hints). I personally have been dreaming of my wedding since I was a little girl.

But for those of you who are familiar with the K1 visa, you’re aware that the rule is for the fiancée to travel to the US unmarried and to then marry on American soil. Any such violation on our part could jeopardize my eligibility to marry Ian in the future.  The way I look at it, my chances of being with the man I love for the rest of my life is entirely in the hands of a bureaucracy. I will not risk pissing them off.

My fiancé and I are in a challenging circumstance.  Honestly, we don’t like it either. We want to please everybody but there’s only so much we can do at the moment.  I can only tell you – and you must believe me – that we really try. In this crucial time, we need all of the support we can get. To all of our well-wishers, you must know that we really appreciate your kind words. We cherish your approval. We find comfort in your acquiescence. For without those, it almost feels as if it’s just us against the world.    Ian and I, we make do with what we have. We can only hope it’s enough.

_____________

On the way home, I could tell that my family and friends felt better after having their queries answered. We felt better knowing that we were able to be transparent to them. People who love us have worried and will worry more for us. It’s human nature to care for one’s flock. Ian and I knew from the start that we are going to be okay. Now, they know that too. Going home, they had heavier stomachs and lighter hearts, more information and lesser worries, a better frame of mind and reduced anxiety. We couldn’t ask for more.

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A Walk to Remember

 

Gallery

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Her Perfectly-Styled Hair. It took longer to style my mother’s hair than for me to put together my entire look. She went to the salon. I did mine on my own. She wanted to look parfait, and so they were late! (It doesn’t rhyme…grrr!)

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Anything for Ms. Castillon? A name change is in order.

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Practice Makes Perfect. I’d like this pose for our wedding pictures too. Good rehearsal!

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The Couple flanked by the Board of Inquisitors

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BROck on!

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Bro Backing Us Up

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MAFIAmily. Er…My Family
Compliments to the staff of Prego Trattoria Italian Restaurant @ Novotel Hotel
http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Prego-Trattoria-Italian-Restaurant/269051753122091

TEN FLEETING DAYS and My After-musings Part 1: An Engagement Recap and More

48 hours after I said my teary farewells to my dearest Ian at Suvarnabhumi Airport, I finally re-visited my blog. I stopped writing anything/updating it since the day Ian arrived. I had so much going on, and besides, I wanted every minute of my spare time to be spent with my new fiancé since we don’t get to do this a lot.

The first thing I did was to view my statistics: 3 views, 3 visitors after 10 days of not posting anything. My blog page felt as lonely as I was. On the day Ian arrived I still had 45 views and about 50 visitors. Now I only had 3, probably my three most loyal followers: Ian, his mom and my mom.

Anyway, since Ian is back in New York, I’m trying with difficulty to settle back into my old routine. I so miss being with him. Saying that life is different without him around is an understatement. Life isn’t exactly life without my baby. Those ten days flew by so quickly and the only way I could get a grip on them is to write down my memories.

Work, nap, talk to Ian, sleep, wake-up, talk to Ian then work again and the cycle continues. With the exception of weekend visits to my family in the suburbs, English tutorials on the side, dinner dates with my dear friend Pui and work-out sessions if I feel like it, there’s nothing much going on with me. Besides, work takes so much of my energy that I feel exhausted when I get home. My me-time is spent mostly on reading fiction, watching re-runs of my favorite series until I fall asleep (they’re basically my sleeping pills- a habit I learned from a previous relationship hahaha) and researching  topics for my blog if I’m not writing entries.

Going back to my blog, I started writing a few entries but they are not yet ready to be published. Mostly, they are about my sadness because of Ian’s return to the States and my longing for him to be back again. There are a lot of emotions in me that I need to process before I could say that I am satisfied with what I have written. Maybe I am being uber-melodramatic, but who cares? I want to feel what I feel. I never want to get used to him being away from me. I cherish the pain of his absence, the sensation of burning in my eyes as I cry my heart out for him, the heaviness in my chest as if my heart was torn from it…All these only make me determined to do everything for us to be finally together. Yes, I am hurting. And I feel alive. What gift to taste both the bliss and melancholies of life. What blessing and curse it is to be in love!

On to a lighter note, Ian and I were very busy while he was here. As most of you, my dear readers, already know, Ian and I got officially engaged this month (February). His formal proposal was followed by a flurry of activities. We had to do everything in 10 days because we don’t have the luxury to be together physically every day. So as a special offering to you all, Ian and I are sharing our engagement highlights (some of them are on Facebook, but here, we will give you an exclusive on the behind the scenes happenings):

Ian proposed to me on the 16th of February, Saturday. We were checked in a Superior Suite (we got upgraded) on the 74th floor (Sky Zone) of Baiyoke Sky Hotel, Thailand’s Tallest Tower.

Baiyoke

We had a late breakfast in one of the tower’s restaurants which offered a varied selection of gastronomic fares such as European, American, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, and Thai food of course.

Ian’s choice was, predictably, what Thais would call “blandly American” without so much attention to an assortment of flavors. Waffles, a croissant, strips of bacon, two ham slices and coffee. At least he had some omelette (which he didn’t finish by the way).

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As for me, I had Thai Kway Teow Soup (Thai Noodle soup) which prompted one of Ian’s usual: “For breakfast?” It was followed by my nonchalant ready reply “Oh we Asians eat anything, anytime”.  I shared some of his waffles, bacon and omelette and he got me a glass of mixed fruit and vegetable fresh-squeezed juice. Such a darling, my Ian. He really knows what I like. At that point, I thought his sweet gesture was the best part of my morning.

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Breakfast overlooking Bangkok
 

In gratitude, I offered him this:

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Three pieces of mangosteens for three words=I LOVE YOU!

(Mangosteen is an exotic and very expensive fruit, and depending on the season, its cost could range from B400-600/kilo. True story! )

He had never tried mangosteen before and he indulged me in tasting it. He appreciated it and I was happy. Little did I know, there was so much more in store after that hearty breakfast.

As guests in the Sky Suites, we earned access to the famous observatory deck which offers a 360-degree view of the city skyline. We decided to take a stroll after our good meal and feast our eyes this time on the city’s visual delights.

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The view didn’t disappoint. It was indeed breathtaking, as observed by those who have been here before us.

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A view of the Victory Monument – that’s when you know you’re in Central Bangkok
 

It was a bit scary too! If not for the secure railings, I would never even dare get close to the edge.

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Ian and I taking turns with the camera…
 
 
Until a polite, young US Marine stationed here in Thailand took a photo of us together.
 

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In another section of the tower, there’s a viewing telescope,

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lots of Baiyoke Tower miniatures,

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Thai tuk-tuks,

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     A Thai cop statue,

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A Snow White standee,

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And there in one corner, Rapunzel’s tower.

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I am not a big fan of fairytales, but to tell you the truth, Rapunzel’s story helped in the realization of our own story.

Ian once used the Rapunzel story as a metaphor explaining how I could help him before we actually met.  Although we had spoken very often and had gotten to know each other well before we met for the first time, we did not take this plan lightly; while we couldn’t predict the outcome of our meeting, his gesture of coming alone to a foreign country he had never been to, to spend time with someone he hadn’t ever met, was akin to a leap of faith.  And while he was absolutely willing to do what it would take to find out what “this” was all about, he recognized that this was a two-way street; while he was willing to make the effort to see me, he wanted some support and security along the way.

Enter the Rapunzel allegory: he would tell me, “I’m willing to be brave, and to climb that tower to get to you…but please, let down your hair. Help me out here…give me something to grab onto, keep your hair strong so that I can count on your help to get me up to you.” He wanted to know that despite my misgivings, my skepticism about love, my fear of commitment after recently rising out of the ashes of my longest relationship, that I would be “ready” to receive him, strong enough emotionally to give this guy a fair chance if he would make all of that effort to meet and spend time with me.

Keeping my “hair strong” through this wasn’t always easy…but Ian knew and acknowledged this, and would tell me that “the best things in life rarely ever come easily”.  It’s true; he may have been the one taking the journey, but I had to play my part as well if we were to have a good chance at success.

And that is what I like most about Rapunzel and her story. If I could identify with a fairy tale character, it’s her. Like me, she was an active participant in the realization of their dream-come true. We are so accustomed to the theme of the knight in shining armor rescuing the damsel in distress. There’s nothing really wrong with that. Yet Rapunzel is a refreshing showcase of some girl power, of a woman knowing what she wants in life and love and working towards achieving it. And It matches me and Ian’s story perfectly because obviously, I am not some Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty, enslaved or asleep! I am taking the leap with eyes wide open, awake and very aware of what’s happening around me. Ian and I made this decision out of our own free will, with no coercive forces around us and the only powers to contend with are the bureaucratic ones. LOL!

And so it was only appropriate that Ian once again professed his love and devotion and then proposed to me under “Rapunzel’s tower”… (Coincidentally, since it was Love Month, the hotel-wide theme is Fairy Tale Romance hence the presence of storybook set-ups, pumpkin carriages, magic mirrors and the Snow White standee I showed you earlier.)

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Inside that pink and purple creation, there were two small “stair” steps leading up to Rapunzel’s “window”. Ian invited me to sit on the top step while he assumed a semi-kneeling position on the second step.

He started by reading to me a poem that he wrote while on the plane and on the way to see me…

Under shine of eternal stars
We tread on ground of
Countless fleeting lives
Their echoes behind,
Their echoes ahead
And though our journeys may
be short,
a hiccup in time, the twinkle
of a distant sun, the
sigh of shifting sands and seas
To us: a lifetime,
and the universe only exhales
There’s only one truth
that makes my existence more
than a blink from God:
Your love.
Your love lets me flirt with eternity,
taste the epiphanies,
and breach the boundaries of time and
space.
It’s only with this essence,
Your gift to me,
that I can truly be free.
With it,
With your heart bound to me,
I can live beyond the skin
boundary of my own mortality.
I’ll always be grateful
if you go there with me
and treasure our union’s new reality
Don’t be afraid. I’m with you.
I’m for you
I’m yours
Come,
Take my hand, forever.

“Cecille, will you marry me?”

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“Cecille, will you marry me?”. Ian had to ask me twice because I was too dumbstruck to utter a reply when he first asked me. Ha! Blabbermouth me silent for once in my life.

The second time, he took my hand, put the ring on my finger and kissed it with so much tenderness and loving I felt my heart was about to burst.

I managed to croak a reply. “Yes, of course I will marry you.”  There I was, both a woman and a little girl reduced to those 7 words (which are actually a fitting reply to the Weinstein family’s offering of 7 diamonds).

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Me being  completely “blown-away”
 

But I tell you my dear readers, my voice may have failed me but my mind, heart and soul are unwavering in conviction.  In that moment, I was sure, more than ever, that the man kneeling in front of me, baring his own mind, heart and soul (?), is the person I want to spend the rest of my life with. Long hair or not.  Death metal-playing, poetry-writing, sometimes  awkward and dorky Ian Weinstein, the love of my life and my good medicine.

My fiancé.

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Just Engaged
 

 My fiancé. Wow! The word rolls off my tongue so perfectly that I can’t stop saying it. During the first few minutes of us being engaged, I felt like I was on a high or something. My head was in the clouds.  I was floating, dazed and I couldn’t take my eyes off my gorgeous sparkly ring. It must be true to some degree – I was “stoned”.  Still stunned and smiling silly to myself, Ian guided me on the way back to our suite.

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 Wearing that ring on my finger made me feel really special. In a way, I felt invincible, like I could do whatever I wanted to. You know how it is when you ride the elevator – it’s eerily quiet. You nod politely to your fellow passengers, but rarely do you try to engage in conversation. Yet today was different.

“We just got engaged!!!” Ooops! I guess I was thinking aloud. Wayyy too loud, as it disrupted the deafening silence inside that metal box. Good thing it was well received by this family who were our fellow passengers and congratulated us in their Scandinavian accent. For a couple of minutes there everyone was laughing.  And that’s how I got away with it. Invincible!

Ian thanked them and gave them brief details of his proposal just a few moments ago as I showed off my ring to the two cute little girls who in turn eyed it intently. “Isn’t it pretty?” And they nodded in agreement.

The girls carried some kind of fairy tale props, possibly giveaways from the hotel in relation to their theme. In my mind, I was wondering what these girls were thinking. Not so long ago, I was once like them. I was a girl who believed in happy endings. Until life happened and scratched and scarred me, making me a skeptic in the process.

Then along came Ian.

I would say his greatest gift to me is not even the ring, but the gift of believing. With him, I can trust and love freely because I know he will always be there for me. That I can believe in fairy tales because Ian will put out. He will not fail me.

I am not naïve. I’m aware of the harsh realities of life. I even know that the original versions of the fairy tales I grew up with were actually gory and terrifying. But none of that matters once you have found your respective rightful knight or maiden. As in Ian’s poem, I need not be afraid. I will never be alone. For he will be my partner and we will face life together. Ever after.