Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Cure

Ten years ago today, at 3:12pm, the 15 year old version of myself stood completely still amidst the chaotic chatting and crowded, frantic changing of the girls' locker room at the end of a 7th period gym class. I stared quietly at the slip of paper in my hands, frozen on the outside and pulsing with electric energy on the inside, as I read the last line again: Will you be my girlfriend?

Little did I know then that my answer could have been, "Someday, I'll do you one better."

* * *

Flash forward seven years later, three years ago from today (only
three years? It's amazing how time has the capacity to feel simultaneously fast and slow). Dr. D and I had been planning our trip to the bay area for quite some time, to visit friends and to celebrate seven years of togetherness. We explicitly agreed: no presents.

There were many times over the course of that weekend trip that I should have caught on to what was happening, but I remained blissfully unaware until the very moment that it happened. I suppose my first indication that things were not what they seemed should have been when, on the day that we were supposed to leave to drive upstate, Dr. D surprised me with two plane tickets. I hated flying. As in deathly afraid, need to be medicated kind of hate. Also, I was perturbed because we had said
no presents.

He assured me that he didn't care about the gifts, he just wanted to get as much time out of our trip as possible and not waste it on driving. It was the first flight we ever took together, and as I sat in my window seat, hand-in-hand and forehead-to-forehead with Dr. D, I remember realizing that it was the first take-off in years that I wasn't thinking about dying---I was thinking about life. With him.

To an outside observer, the next clue that this weekend was more than it appeared could have been discerned by the gourmet dinner that was served to us that evening in our friends' home. Mr. and Mrs. S (who at the time were still Mr. S and Miss B) provided us with a decadent feast of orzo, Cornish game hens, and wine. I'd like to defend my continuing obliviousness by pointing out that the two of them have always been gourmands in the kitchen. Still, how could I not notice the twinkle of a secret in Mr. S's eye?

The next day was our anniversary, so we set out to explore San Francisco. First we stopped to get sourdough sandwiches (a must, of course), then we went to Golden Gate park and had a picnic on a park bench and laughed at the antics of the ducks in the pond---I believe the polite word for it is "twitterpated". Next, we went to the Japanese Tea Garden to explore, take silly self-takes with my camera, and of course have a little bit of tea. As we read the fortunes from our fortune cookies, Dr. D had a good laugh over his and shared it with me: All decisions you make today will be most fortunate. I didn't really get the joke, but he seemed absolutely tickled.

One might think that all of this sounds a little over the top and dripping with romance, but as you've probably learned by now, Dr. D is the king of romance. In fact, he's more like the doctor to the lawyer to the king of romance. That's how good he is.

Oh, and you ain't seen nothing yet.

Later that afternoon, we found ourselves driving the dangerously hilly landscape of the city, and as we reached a red light, Dr. D turned to me and said: "I'm gonna need you to get out of the car."

I abruptly stopped singing along to the mix CD that Dr. D had made for the trip (a standard practice... are you even surprised at this point?), and just stared back at him, not sure if I heard him correctly. Turns out, I did.

"Really. You need to get out of the car, go into that hotel on the corner--" Oh look, sure enough, that's a hotel-- "and ask them for their day spa. I made you an appointment."

I really don't recall what I said at that point. I may have sputtered something along the lines of "Whaaa....?", but that was all I had time for because the light turned green, and with the further instruction of "Just go!", I did exactly that.

But not without managing to call out to Dr. D through the open car window as he drove off: "We said NO PRESENTS!"

Incredibly disoriented and in a bit of a daze, I walked through the hotel lobby, inquired about the whereabouts of said day spa, and took the elevator to the penthouse level, which opened up into what I could only assume was, well, a day spa---I'd never actually been to one. Approaching the frighteningly smiley and friendly hostesses, I attempted to explain myself.

"I'm not really sure what I'm supposed to be doing here but my boyfriend was driving and then we were in the middle of the street and he said get out of the car and he told me that I should come here and tell you that he sent me here for something but I really have no idea what and I... it's our anniversary." I figured the last statement could somehow clarify all of the verbal diarrhea that came before it.

Still smiling, one of them nodded and said, "Of course, we're expecting you. Please have a seat in our waiting area."

I sighed with relief, and looked in the direction of the waiting area---directly into the eyes of my best friend since childhood, Dot. She waved sheepishly.

OKAY. This is when I figured it all out, right? I mean, Dot lived back down south near us, so the fact that she just miraculously appeared in this day spa in SF made it all too completely obvious that Dr. D was up to something huge, correct?

Nope. I still didn't figure it out, because I remembered that Dot had told me a week earlier that she would be in the bay area at the same time that we were, for a family member's birthday. "Dr. D told me he wanted to do something special for your anniversary, and since he knew I'd be here, he asked me to come to the spa with you!" That's how Dot explained it, and I took it for face value, no questions asked. Ah, naivety.

We had a wonderful time getting pampered, and as the session came to a close, I noticed Dot was periodically texting someone. At this point, I knew there were probably more surprises coming, but the biggest one I could come up with was this: Dr. D had secretly planned a nice dinner for us with some of our friends in the area. I mean, our friends are a big part of our lives---our extended family---so why not include them in our celebration?

I wasn't even all that shocked when Dot and I were picked up from the hotel not by Dr. D, but by Mr. S instead. We must be going to meet Dr. D at the restaurant, I thought to myself. Still, my friends were remaining suspiciously tight-lipped, so I decided to ask them where we were headed.

"I don't ask questions, I just do what I'm told," said Mr. S, cryptically. He and Dot managed to spend most of the car ride talking about anything and everything that didn't have to do with where we were going, so I had very few chances to interject with periodic questions about what was happening. It was useless anyway, because my questions were ignored. I was equal parts annoyed and thrilled.

Finally, Mr. S parked the car near the bay coast line, and I could see the Golden Gate bridge standing impressively in the near distance, gilded in the light of the sun that was beginning to set. I followed Mr. S and Dot as they began to walk towards a grassy meadow next to the water (a place I would later learn is called Crissy Field), and I remember thinking to myself that this was a very strange place for a restaurant.

I eventually noticed that we were walking towards someone, who appeared to to be holding a bouquet of white roses. As we got closer, I realized the person was... not Dr. D. It was one of his roommates, Palex. In a recurring theme of the day, I realized that Palex was strangely in SF when he was supposed to be back at home. He handed me the bouquet and pointed to a single long stemmed white rose on the ground a little farther away from us. "You should start following those," he said, grinning.

In that moment, I don't know what I thought was going on. All I know is that for some reason, I was still under the impression that this was all a very extravagant anniversary gift. And again, I found myself horribly under-prepared in the reciprocating gift department. How embarrassing.

I started to walk towards the first rose, but then remembered about dinner, and turned back to the three friends who were with me. "Aren't you guys coming?"

Maybe I'm remembering this part a little more dramatically than it actually happened, but Mr. S could have just as easily have been playing the role of a dewy-eyed karate guru or sage wizard sending off his protege to face the wonders of the world for the very first time. He said to me meaningfully and with great weight to his words, "This next part... is for you."

I began to walk and collect the roses. Each one of them had a slip of paper attached to it, and similar to the manner in which Dr. D asked me to be his girlfriend seven years earlier, each slip of paper had part of a poem written on it. This poem incorporated small pieces of lyrics from some of our favorite songs into a retelling of our story as a couple. It was beautiful, and my heart was beating faster with each rose I collected. Between the first and second rose, I noticed another one of Dr. D's roommates, JZ, in the far distance with a camera. At this point, I wasn't even surprised to see new friends cropping up. I was just grateful.

As I moved from the fourth to the fifth rose, a man who I didn't recognize and who was walking (of all ridiculous breeds) a wiener dog, called out to me.

"Are you looking for the cure?"

Having no real idea what he was talking about---or what I was actually looking for, for that matter---I found myself thinking, Is this part of the plan? I mean, am I? Am I looking for the cure? Is this a metaphor?

Turns out that the look of confusion on my face was enough for him to clarify: "The Cure. As in, the band."

"Ohhh! Um, no thank you. I'm just looking for my boyfriend." So it turns out he wasn't some cosmic metaphorical messenger. He was just a stranger with an affinity for 80s music, interrupting a girl's proposal (yes, in case you hadn't figured it out by now---like I still hadn't at that point---this was a proposal).

I made my way towards the last rose, and beyond it I could see Dr. D standing on the beach. As I began to walk across a pedestrian crosswalk to collect the rose and read the last stanza, I was very nearly run into by... well, another one of Dr. D's roommates, Lui. He looked absolutely shocked to see me (it turns out he didn't realize that he was going to be walking right through the action, he thought he would simply catch up with us after it was all over), and realizing he was probably infringing on a "moment," he didn't respond when I said hi and instead ducked his head and doubled his pace, power walking right by me. For those of you who don't know him, allow me to assure you that this was a perfectly fitting, Lui-esque contribution to the experience.

After I read the final stanza, I approached Dr. D on the waterfront and could see that he had set up two stools. Next to one of them was an acoustic guitar. My immediate thought was, That's weird, Dr. D doesn't play the guitar.

All I could think to do was smile and say, rather lamely and unromantically, "Hello." Dr. D took me by my hand and guided me to sit down. He then sat down as well, picked up the guitar, and began to play a song---the words to which I had just collected, attached to the roses.

Oh my gosh, he learned to play the guitar for me. He even wrote me a song. This is the most perfect anniversary present ever! I was surprised, joyful, and completely and totally in love as the sun set over the Golden Gate to the tune of our song.
When the song ended, Dr. D took my left hand and looked into my eyes. And it finally clicked. (Better late than never, I suppose.)

He's proposing.

He pulled a small blue box from his pocket, and in it was a promise. A lifetime. And I said yes.

* * *

It later occurred to me that maybe that man with the wiener dog was there for a reason. Not as if to say that it was part of the plan for him to be there to interrupt me---I checked with Dr. D, and the gentleman was certainly not listed in the approved cast of characters. No, what I mean is that he was meant to be there on that day, at that specific time, to ask me that specific question because Dr. D was (and still is) my cure.

Happy anniversary to the man who, quite simply, has been making my life better for the past decade. I'm so glad to have found you so early in life, and my life is healthier for it.


snarfy said...


Props to the doc. I find myself in an awkwardly non-masculine position of being melted by that story. I'm strangely confused and inspired all at the same time.

Anonymous said...

The Label "he's a keeper" is the understatement of the century!
What an amazing story :)
You're a lucky gal!

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