Over the next few weeks, I start telling everyone. I thought at first that I should tell them all together one evening at Triple Rock. This way those who are thrilled for me, if there is going to be anyone, can help defend me against everyone else. Boss is really the easiest person to tell. He will be a lot like talking to my dad.
In between breaking the news to everyone, we spend as much time as possible with my parents. Tommy is determined to show them that he as nothing but the best intentions and that we are going to be very smart about it all. That the marriage isn’t just about commitment, it’s about love.
“I don’t want to constantly be telling everyone, this is my girlfriend, Val. I love her more than that. I want the world to know that she is the only person I want to spend the rest of my life with.” Tommy tells my parents the next weekend when we visit.
“He is so romantic.” Stella squeals in my ears.
She doesn’t one hundred percent approve but she is too caught up in the excitement to care either way. Stella’s mantra is it’s her life, she should be able to live it as she wishes. With that being said, she feels the same for all.
After telling Boss, who reacted just as I expected. He is a lot like my father, a man that has chosen to live reasonably. He enjoys his life and is satisfied. Unlike my dad, he lost the love of his life. She didn’t want to grow old in a small town. He couldn’t leave because the bar was all his family had to support them and he was the only one fit to work it. The impact of loosing her didn't hit him until his parents died. With just him now, he wishes he would have chased after Delilah. Boss is probably the one person that empathizes with us. In fact, after our talk, he told us that he is proud of us.
"Just promise me one thing, Val, that you both get out of here. The responsiblity of an only child, a son at that has a stronger hold than I ever realized." Boss' vulnerablilty allows me to hear him clearly. I need to get Tommy to nail down a weekend where we can go to New York Ciy and look at all our options there.
"We can go there for a few days as a start of our honeymoon." Tommy offers.
"I think we should go right after graduation. I don't want to loose my momentumn with Jessica or any contacts she has for me. I also wast to be working right away." I counteroffer.
"We are going to be so busy with findina new apartment for us, decorating it, hosting fabulous dinners to get our friends together and we also have several social obligations. The quicker I get my footing in my dad's company, the sooner we can bridge the idea of us being in New York City."
"The idea? New York City isnt' and idea that I had, it's the goal I have had since I was a little girl."
"Sorry, bad choice of words. Val, I promised you that I would do my best to keep us on track and that includes New York City. Trust me."
What was that saying? Never trust a man that says, "trust me".
Mikey gives me an ear full of psychology babble. All of which makes complete sense. If I were being sensible. When you are swept off your feet, it is hard to hear all these grounding words from your friend. I have read so many books, seen so many romantic comedies, heard so many stories of the lives that move through both bars; I do understand what Mikey is saying. And after letting him talk, he realizes there isn’t much left to say.
“You have always been the smartest woman I know, which seems to also make you the most stubborn woman that I know. No matter what your choice is, I stand by you. Because I wouldn’t be where I am today and studying all that good shit I just free-styled at you, if it were not for you standing by me."
“And I won’t, be afraid. No I won’t, be afraid. Just as long, as you stand. Stand by me.” Mikey and I start singing.
The best part of sticking around longer means that I get to do this a bit longer. See, I am not the first to shift my dreams and stick around. Look at Emily and Jojo. Both now so happy.
“You can ask the Angels to help guide you in living the life that you have dreamed of fearlessly. For opportunities to come to you from which you can learn and grow with great imagination and creativity. For help to recognize the beauty that surrounds you and to help you keep your eyes on the prize. But you also have to ask for the strength to hit that curve ball out of the park. Life isn’t as cut and dry as your text books, Val.” Jojo answered when I asked her about moving to Baltimore. “Of course I want to perform with a troop. Travel the world; dancing with some of my idols. But when the world throws me a curve ball, like my back injury, I need to look forward to why. The universe has a master plan for me that is a detour from my dream. Now I ask Archangel Micheal for the courage to go find it and the strength to let go of my disappointments to make room for new dreams.”
I wish Jojo were here now. Instead I will have to call her with the news. She will definitely be excited. She is in the midst of planning her own wedding. I am sure she will be filled with suggestions. I am giddy thinking about having a friend to plan a wedding simultaneously with. This also gives us a reason to grow closer. The distance has distanced us a bit and I really do miss her.
Jodi is rational. Which does not mean she will be the easiest conversation. Athough she and Wynn have stayed together every night, they can not move in together unless they are married.
"Why don't you and Wynn just get married? You two know better than anyone that this is it. There are no doubts in all of our minds about the two of you." I asked many times.
“Because we are so young.” Is her response.
“That is only because you think that marriage should occur during a measurable moment in life, after twenty-seven years of age. I think that marriage should happen when you’ve found the one person you wish to spend the rest of your life with.” She couldn’t argue with that.
"For Wynn and I, it is sacred. Both of our parents were arranged marriages from back home. They have lasted decades together because they learned to become partners through their experiences together. Their love grew as their understanding of one another grew. Wynn and I want that same partnership."
"So do Tommy and I."
"I get that, I just don't see the rush. You being his wife doesn't make his parents accept you more lovingly. In fact, in cases like yours, I have seen where getting married will give his family more say in your life. Which I know is not what you want. And to be pragmatic, you should use this to your advantage and say that you don't want to get married until you both are settled in New York City. In this day and age, it would be nothing for you guys to plan your wedding from anywhere."
Oh she is so goood, she knows I prefer being pragmatic over blind faith any day. And she is right. There is a part of me that thinks that maybe I have more say in our future if I am Mrs. Thomas Brooks. Could Tommy be thinking the same? And if he is, is he keeping my dreams in his equation?
Benji, yeah, he reacts just as I expect. He is so pissed, I have never seen his face so red before, even after a night of drinking.
“Val, you don’t get engaged just because you are scared of loosing someone.”
“That’s not it at all, we are engaged because we know that we are each other’s forever after.”
“I prefer the Val of the non-Disney Sleeping Beauty mentality. This is your first real relationship, how do you even know he is the one? You have only had one. Remember that episode of Black Mirror that we watched a while back? The one about dating. For hours we tried to figure out an algorithm for finding the perfect match. For the girl, she had to learn the feeling of being nothing more than a piece of meat to want to be more than that to her partner. For the guy, he needed to learn pain and loss before he could fight to hold on. No matter the lesson, they needed to experience more before attracting the right match. You have so many more experiences you need to have. And no, your random escapades are not what I am talking about when I refer to a series of relationships.”
“Benji, you're the one who was giving me a hard time about letting go and trusting where this takes me.”
“Absolutely, but that doesn't mean because you and Tommy can't figure out what happens after graduation, that you get engaged to buy yourself a little more time."
“That's not what's happening here.”
“Of course it is and how do I know because I wanted to do the same thing with Izzy. I thought maybe if I proposed to her and we were engaged, then she would stick around until I finished college and we could have more time together. It's a funny thing, dating when you know the parameters of which you are allowed. In some ways it made me want to experience everything about Izzy and not miss any opportunity or any nuances about her. And then in other ways it made me want to claim her and find a way to keep her, trap her, because I didn't think it was fair that we only had a year. So yeah, there was a part of me that thought maybe I could cheat the whole system by asking her to marry me and if she were to say yes then we would've had at least another year together to really sort out a good compromise. Hindsight 20/20, I am grateful that our departure allowed two progressions: you and I to work through our situation and now that I have Amy, I have a clear understanding of the type of woman that I do want to end up with. Amy and I are still trying to figure out if we can make a compromise happen after graduation. Of course I'm hoping so. But if not she's brought me one step closer to knowing who it is that I need and want in my life. All of which I would've never gotten if I forced the issue on Izzy. Like you and Tommy are doing now.”
“Benji, we can debate this all night. Romeo and Juliet, Orpheus and Eurydice, Paris and Helen, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas; eccentric and epic love that had their own essence.”
“Tommy, loves you and you love him, no doubt. It’s only been a few months. Now, all I am asking is for you guys to take time.”
“Time is a constant, it ticks away. How we spend that time is what is crucial. I choose to spend that time progressing towards the multitude of ways that Tommy and I can be happy. Find ways that we can make a difference in our lives and the lives of others. Nothing is for certain, you always say this to me every time we have ever talked about relationships. Live in the moment and have faith. You all lecture me the same way, and when I finally listen, you detour and come at me another direction. All I want is for you guys to support me. Trust that you all have taught me well. You all know that my specialty is being a student.”
Benji and I finally giggle over the last part. We have come a long ways from when we met at that party, so long ago. Age is a funny thing. No one would ever question our engagement if we were ten years older. What is ten years when we are so great together? We make each other better. How long does it take in each step to figure it out. Funny that Benji brings up that episode of Black Mirror, in the episode the characters participate in a dating program. With in that program you meet a new person and are told, how long each date last, thirty minutes or thirty years. However, that’s not how dating works in real life. There is no certainty so, wake up and live. I just don’t believe that there is a formula we all should follow, says the computer programer.
“Val, I will always be there for you. You might have to listen to me lecture you through it all, but always here for you. I also know you better than anyone, maybe even yourself. You hate confrontation. There is some part of you that thinks that if you guys are married that compromising will come eaiser. Marriage isn't a card you pull, this isn't Texas Hold 'Em. And I know how your Catholic subconcious. You will do everthing necessarey to stay married. And yes, Thomas is a great guy. It's not like you would be stuck with someont that hits you or cheats on you. But is that the bar you want to sit under? Eventually you will cheat on yourself and it will feel like a sucker punch. Three kids in, and New York City out, you will be your mom. Blessed with an amazing family but always somewhat lost behind the eyes.”
"We are not my parents. Yes, it's fast and we are so young. But our love is so strong and can be epic. Will be epic."
"I hope so my love. And like I said, I am here always and forever."
So, that’s everyone that matters most to me. I am blessed that they will be there with me no matter. So after spending a few weeks standing up for Tommy and I conjoined with listening to all the reasons we should take a step back, my mind is busier than ever. Routine and falling in line is my protocol, but once you start coloring outside of the lines, you see how a picture can change.
Nate and his dad should be getting ready to head out to the Yankees game in a few hours. I will call and wish them fun. That way, I can also gauge Nate’s mood. Today isn’t the day to tell him about our engagement but I will do so in the next few days.
“Go Yankees!” I shout as Nate answers the phone.
“Hey you! Long time.”
“I know, we both have been playing phone tag a bit. How are you and your dad? Excited for the game?”
“Don’t you know it. I want to thank you again! This day couldn’t come at a better time. I have not seen my dad this happy in a long time. And wait until he sees the seats. We have always sat in the nose bleed sections. Never in his lifetime did he expect to be sitting behind the Yankees dugout!”
“That makes me so happy to hear.”
“How about you, how are you? How is your love life? Still in love?”
“Busy but happy. Lots going on here. I will fill you in more in a few days. Today isn’t about me, it’s about you and your dad. Go enjoy it. I will be watching. Wave to the cameras so I can see you guys.”
“Will do mi amore. Next time we three head to a game together! Besos!”
As Tommy and I grow closer, my dream of moving to New York City grows farther away. First we spend spring break in Kauaʻi. Completely the opposite direction from my goal of going to New York in order to take meetings and interviews. Yes, everyone was correct, I did need the do nothing vacation as much as I wanted to lock my future down vacation. I manage to write one of my best articles to date, I hope Jessica feels the same. And Tommy manages to put a ring on my finger.
It’s crunch time at school, we are all working so hard to graduate. There is also a lot of social responsibilities to graduating. We are all on auto pilot at this point and are well directed. I am sure that my eyes should be wide open to everything happening around me. But its easy to be lost in love.
“Molto bene, é tu?”
“I have been super busy. And it seems you have too.”
“Things are really nuts, it’s crazy that I am graduation in a few weeks.”
“Top of your class, I am sure.”
“Pretty much. I can’t believe it’s almost over. The most critical growing I have done occurred over these last four years.”
“Oh baby, you are just getting started. Speaking of which, did you figure out where you are going after graduation.”
“Well, it’s kind of been decided for me. I mean, something happened a few weeks back that has set so much into motion.”
“And you didn't tell me sooner because why?”
“I didn’t want to disappoint you.”
“That’s quite a statement. You may want to put that up on your memory wall and revisit.”
I don’t have much time to talk, so I don’t want to waste it analyzing his comments.
“Tommy asked me to marry him.”
“You obviously said yes.”
“Why are you always so calm, cool and collective?”
“How did you want me to react?”
“I don’t know. I just wish you would say something.”
“You took this long to tell me, I am sure you have heard it all from everyone else by now. In fact, if I hadn’t called you today, would you have called me to tell me the news?”
For the first time Nate sounds upset. I know I shouldn’t want this. Firstly because you should never want to upset your friend, but also because I am engaged to Tommy.
“I am sorry. I attacked you because I was mad at myself for letting too much time past. I have been meaning to tell you. You sounded so happy the day of the Yankees game, I didn’t want to make it about me in any way. Then time is what time is, forever moving.”
“Honesty, good, we are on track again. How are you with the engagement?”
“Great, actually. I wear it well.” As I stare at the ring on my finger.
“So does this mean INK and NYC isn’t happening any longer?”
“Noooo, it most certainly is, it’s just being pushed a bit.”
“I see.” I can almost see him looking at me with his brown eye, seeing right through me.
“Can we talk about this another time? I want to hear about you and your dad. How was the Yankees game?” Oh man, I am a bad friend, I hadn’t called him to see how the game was.
“All good here babe. Listen, I need to rush to take my dad to the doctors.”
“Wait, is he okay?” Now I feel even worse, if his dad has been ill and I have not called, I will never forgive myself.
“No babe, all good. He is just so depressed since my mom died. I moved he and I into a two bedroom apartment so that I can take care of him, or more like watch over him. They say that with situations like his and my mom’s, the other half tend to die of a broken heart within two years after looking their partner. So the psychiatrist we have all been seeing is helping us both deal with grief and him with his depression. I don’t want him pumped with medicine and lethargic so I found us a therapist that uses alternative medicine first.”
“That’s amazing. You really are the best son anyone could ever have.”
“I am all he has. Val, this is the only reason I am asking you to take a step back with Tommy. I know he is an only child like me and he will soon have the burdens of his parents like I. Before that happens, enjoy your life without them first. Once you guys are married, their grip will only tighten and your responsibilities to them will only increase. Not a good thing for a young lady that is such a good-girl. You doing right doesn't always seem best for Val.”
“Thank you Nate, I hear you. I promise I have been thinking about what you are saying a lot. Right now is finals and that's really all I can focus on.”
“If he loves you, then he should be willing to come to New York with you. Set the precedence with his family that you two are in control of your own lives. You can plan the wedding from here. He is wealthy, he can hire a wedding planner. Or, you can fly back once a month to do all the planning, since you are a control freak.” We both laugh, Nate is a very strong Latino, so he manages to put me in my place whenever I try to take control.
When we were in New York together he handled everything for me. I thought it was because it was his town, his rules. Now I realize that he handled me. In a good way though. I never felt like I was loosing myself or being obligated to anything I didn’t want to do.
“Like now, Val?” I say to myself.
“All I am saying is, push your agenda, see where it leads you.”
“Grazie mille, amore mio.”