“Pull over,” I mumbled, my cheek pressed against the cool glass of the passenger side window. “Pull over!” I insisted, louder this time, cupping my palm underneath a mouth that threatened to spew every free tequila shot I’d poured down my throat in the last six hours. The car came to a screeching halt, and I stumbled out, retching violently. My fiancé stood by my side in the puddle of illumination from the headlights and rubbed my back. “It’s OK,” he crooned. “It’s OK.” But it wasn’t. It so wasn’t. I felt embarrassed and foolish and stupidly ungrateful.
When I met my fiancé, striding across a hotel lobby to meet a friend I was dating at the time, shivers danced up and down my spine. It took him a little bit longer, but I knew right away. He was the one. And I was furious. A studious girl in college, nerdy and awkward, I’d just begun to blossom into a real hell-raiser in my 20s. I hadn’t even worked up the nerve to have a one-night stand yet. And there he was, making all those things look petty and unimportant. I tried valiantly to push him away with my ferocity, but he just kept shaking his head and coming back for more.
When we decided to get married two years later, I resolved to create a night of debauchery that would rival Kesha on a massive, drug-fueled bender. It was my last chance to experience a single life I had never enjoyed properly. Friends flew in for my bachelorette party, and since we already lived in a college town, the list of clubs we could fall in and out of was endless.
I put on my tightest black pants, knotted the bachelorette checklist shirt the maid of honor had insisted I wear somewhere around my rib cage, and took my exposed navel and bad intentions to every bar in the city. I don’t remember much after the fourth club, just bits and pieces of stumbling recollections. By the time my fiancé came to pick me up at 2:00 in the morning, I was making out with one of his friends in a darkened corner of the parking garage. He just laughed and honked the horn.
“Just one more minute,” I slurred drunkenly, waving my hand in the air and holding onto his reluctant friend for balance. Later, after our pit stop on the side of the road to empty the contents of my stomach, my fiancé eased me into the warm steam of a shower at home. The bachelorette checklist shirt had come with a marker that had been knotted around my neck. At some point during the night, casual strangers had decided to stop writing on the shirt and had started tattooing my skin with Sharpie. Phone numbers, names, tiny phallic symbols. My fiancé spent the night before our rehearsal dinner scrubbing tiny penises off my back with his loving hands and a loofah.
The next morning, the sun was unbearably bright and no amount of coffee could convince me I was not going to die. But I had a hair appointment, so I gingerly stepped into my Jeep Wrangler and drove down the street. My hair was plastered with sweat to my head and I had sour breath so powerful toothpaste didn’t even put a dent in the stench. I was pulled over in two seconds flat by a cop who could plainly see that I might still be drunk from the night before. I tipped my sunglasses up onto my forehead and gave him my full confession. He grinned and took pity on my utterly wretched state, letting me off with a warning to get more coffee and sober up. Yeah, man. On it.
When I got back home from my hair appointment, the apartment was eerily quiet. My fiancé was bowing to my insistence on tradition and staying elsewhere the night before our wedding. But in the middle of our bed was a plain white box, unadorned by ribbons or wrapping paper. My heart jumped into my throat. I expected a clichéd trinket or some such nonsense. I am one of those utterly alien beings — a woman who doesn’t give a damn about jewelry. And my fiancé, while possessing the patience of a saint, had never been a particularly thoughtful partner.
Inside was a rock. A small one. About the size of a quarter. Shot through with quartz and flecked with gray and black. I stared at it, puzzled. Great. He got me a rock. He’d paid twelve dollars for my engagement ring from a boutique store downtown, and I’d found it sweet and utterly charming. But this was taking things a bit too far. In the bottom of the box was a folded piece of paper, crisp and new.
Scrawled in his barely legible handwriting was a note. He’d proposed to me in the middle of a wildflower-dotted meadow in the Tetons where we’d hiked eight miles up to an alpine lake. When my husband-to-be went down on one knee, all I could think was that I hadn’t showered in three days. I was wearing a bandanna and a sports bra. Later, when we went down into Jackson Hole to celebrate and take a bath, we left a black ring in the tub that I’m sure the housekeeper cursed over.
Unbeknownst to me, when my fiancé had lowered himself to the ground in that valley to take my hand, he’d picked up a small rock and slipped it into his pocket. And he’d given it to me on our wedding day, to remind me that what we’d share would always be ours. A language only we could speak, undecipherable to others.
I sat on my bed the morning of my wedding and struggled not to bawl my eyes out. Over a damn rock. Because I was NOT going to have swollen, red eyes on my wedding day. But it was no use. I was wrecked; overwhelmed by the realization that I’d always known he was the one. I’d only let myself settle into the certainty of it in those moments, had finally accepted it with gratitude. And 14 years later, I’d still let my husband scrub tiny penises off my back any day. Thank God he doesn’t have to.
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Originally published on BlogHer