On Saturday I got engaged. It happened on a beach in Bembridge overlooking the crazy café where I worked for my first summer here in 2012.
The week before, we went to New York. At Christmas my boyfriend wrapped up a cooking apple and when I opened it, I realised he’d drilled a hole down the core and slipped in a voucher for a trip to the Big Apple. This is not usual fare in our house. For the last two years I’ve given him painted stones and terrible self-penned songs for almost every celebration. For Valentine’s Day last year, he found me a stone that looked like ET. So a trip to New York was a big deal. Of course, when I told people about the gift (and I didn’t tell many people) about half of them said ‘ooh, you know he’s going to propose, don’t you?’ I didn’t. But now I sort of thought he might.
At the Top of the Rock and in a rickshaw in Central Park and buzzing in the bar after an immersive theatre thing I thought he might.
But he didn’t. And I didn’t mind at all. I was sort of glad. I was so taken with the place, I just wanted to soak it all up.
We got back, we unpacked, did washing, painted a wall, all that stuff. Then on Saturday it was hot, like summer hot, and in the afternoon, we went for a barbecue on the beach: windbreak, little blanket, phone propped up on a rock playing songs on shuffle. We shared a gin and J20 from a jam jar – we weren’t being cute, the dirty plastic cups we’d taken smelt of ground-in wet dog so we used the jar I’d put the gin in.
When we were full, we lay back on the blanket and I played a trick on him – I pretended there was some amazing pudding in the bag when there wasn’t (I know, I know, call the Comedy Cellar, I think they just found their new headliner) and while I was drying my tears of laughter, he asked me. There was no preamble. It was just the question, there. And it felt so heavy and loaded and much bigger than I had imagined it in my head.
I’ve been engaged before. But that was two lifetimes ago and I was a different person, maybe, although the same, sort of. But I was ecstatic back then, and when it all went wrong, because my feelings changed, I couldn’t understand why. And then I fell in love again, for a long time, and then my feelings sort of changed again. And you start to question whether you know yourself at all, don’t you?
The older you get, the more aware you are of heartbreak and how it changes you. And you feel the responsibility more, I think.
Despite all this, I said yes. Because I’m in love, and as Mary said to George in It’s a Wonderful Life, “I want my babies to look like [him]”. He gave me a plastic ring that he’d won in the arcades where I went as a kid.
And then we lay back down on the blanket again. And everything felt exactly the same as it did the minute before.
Only I had these sort of butterflies.