Monday, September 10, 2012

Ashley's Proposal

The UC life had not always treated us well. For all the times we felt like we were on the precipice of realizing our fullest potential (which was three steps away from achieving world fame and Nobel prizes of various calibers), there were times where googling the LD50 dose of caffeine was a necessary precaution. There were many hours spent analyzing the splatter pattern of critical red ink across our papers that shattered our self worth, and groggy mornings spent searching for answers in half-empty red cups. We came into Davis carried by a flotilla of inflated expectations and tried to land safely along its prickly shores of hard truth. When I graduated last year, it was a triumph not only over hardships and seemingly insurmountable obstacles, but of my own expectations of what I could achieve.

Our story, for this blog anyway, starts here. One year ago almost to the date. I had one last paper to write (one analyzing how drag queens call into question the assumption that gender expression is inherit). I worked into the hours of morning going to bed late, and waking early the next morning- scrambling to finish my last academic thoughts of my undergrad. Tarra awoke and went to work packing our bags and checking off our list for Peru (bless her soul for taking this on- I had a full time job and two summer courses- but she forgot my pants [we'll forget for the sake of self-respect that my college nickname makes this irresistibly funny] and I had to share hers on the trip). I wanted to do something big for myself, and Maccu Picchu on its Centennial along with the rainforest and floating islands and exotic foods and and seemed perfect! The whole trip I was so nervous though, as a tiny box wrapped in an hanky floated in the bottom of my backpack that contained a small, purposeful bit of precious metal. We had talked about getting engaged for awhile, and decided since no one felt like "the man of the relationship" we would both propose at a time undisclosed to one another. We went to a shop in Old Sacramento where a set of brothers who were 5th generation jewelers helped us design our rings. We didn't show each other the rings to keep it a surprise for when the other proposed.

To be honest, I didn't know where I would do it exactly. I had prepared a speech, but had no firm ideas about where along our trip I would pop the question. Maccu Picchu seemed epic- the view was absolutely breath taking. Though, somewhere along the way between the rude llama and the tour guide yelling in three different languages over the cell phone it became a bit tainted. The rainforest was my next bet. The three hour boat ride wasn't promising, nor were the sand flies or the hike up to the lodge. Though, as the trees parted to a clearing and the log structure on stilts appeared, my heart began a'pitter-pattin and I knew this was the place. Our "room" had no door, only a curtain. I could play toss with the room next to us as we shared a roof and our "wall" was nothing more than a partition that if you were creepily determined enough- you could find a hole and spy on the room next to you. We only had 3 of those walls as one side of the room was more a porch where we could watch monkeys carreen through the canopy of the rainforest jungle just outside. That night as we lit our candle (the hotel had no electricity after 5p.m.) and watched the fireflies drift into our room from beneath our mosquito net- I knew this was the place.

We went for a 5 hour hike to an oxbow lake the next morning. We sweated so profusely that while we were in the conoe we drew the attention of the local butterfly population who gladly consumed the salty sweat our bodies were dripping trying to keep us cool. We learned about magical wish trees, walking trees, and saw bullet ants and parrots. If there is a heaven, and it takes a physical form, I am sure it is something like this. When we got back to the hotel we showered and watched the monkeys and birds flit about just feet away. I got out first and dressed, rifling the hanky-wrapped box from the bottom of my bag I had so closely guarded for almost a week. I unwrapped it listening to the neighboring rooms hoot and holler from the shock of the cold water mingled with the cacophonous white noise of the jungle. I opened the box and set it along the railing waiting for Tarra to dress and come out. My heart pounded and the blood in my ears was deafening. I was so excited to show her how beautiful her ring turned out and to promise my life to her. I laid in bed with her worrying the whole time that some cheeky monkey would come along and snatch the shiny in the box. I whispered to her, "There's a present for you on the railing". I saw her face light up and her eyes well. We walked over to the railing and I handed her the box. I forgot my speech, and my knees felt to shakey to kneel, I could only manage, "you make me so happy" and we both fell into a puddle of happy sobs (which I am sure confused the hell out of the people around us).

This was our happiest moment together, and our first lesson on being PC about our joy. Peru isn't really on board with same sex relationships. While were in the country, we were hissed at a few times for holding hands (not that it's any better here). At dinner that night we quietly celebrated, deciding against telling anyone to avoid anything awkward that would ruin our happiness. The rest of the trip I remember Tarra exclaiming, "This is my first swim with my ring!" or "This is my first boat ride with my ring!". It was so happy, even though we had to keep quiet.

Upon returning home we lugged our things into the house (more like Tarra did most of it because I had been violently ill for weeks [I can only now barely think about or say "ceviche" without becoming physically ill]) and fell into our own bed. Tarra had to go to school the next day and that night we were going back to Berkeley to see Bon Iver (most people brought flasks- for me it was the Pepto). Our lives split again into a flurry, but something had shifted. Even though we spent nearly every moment of the day either together physically, or texting, or chatting, something felt different and more permanent. It was the most wonderfully terrifying thing. I knew she was the one for me, the mother for my children and the face I couldn't wait to watch grow old. The rest of our lives had just started, and I had never felt more sure and safe.

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