I took a walk tonight. It's spring, ostensibly, here in the Midwest; college basketball is doing its thing right now (and I've been honest-to-God sick the last two days, working from home yesterday and actually taking a sick day today, because holy shit did I feel horrible. And I don't even really care about college basketball if my alma maters aren't in the tournament, because, it's not NBA or football, so who gives a shit [ducks to avoid several pounds of rotting fruit and/or ferrets].) But for being spring, it's still quite cold - even if it was ~40 degrees Fahrenheit earlier this afternoon, it took a nice dive this evening, and I wondered about parading about in the pocketed fleece I had on as I took this walk.
It was cloudier than I would have wanted. To the east, the stars stood against the bruised blue-ish black of the outer small city sky - not the deep dark black of rural Iowa, easily found within 15 miles, but with enough contrast that I viewed the impending cloud fringe with trepidation, because this was not exactly what I had in mind.
Then again, I couldn't tell you exactly what I had in mind. But the mind of a middle-aged Siberian Husky? To stop with no warning every 25 feet to smell every goddamn patch of wet earth passed over by dog or cat or some other type of vaguely interesting mammal (perhaps even ferrets, though I doubt it), or just because she is proof that you cannot possibly have beauty and brains in equal measure in the same body: this is the same dog who routinely licks doorways with no shame and fears to trek across errant electrical cords.
But you work with what you have to work with. And I needed to find the right place, because I couldn't possibly fathom a better time.
We passed through new developments, the overly-sweet smell of the exposed lumber and mortar of new construction and recently-turned earth, walking on newly-paved streets where meadow and forest had been not less than two years ago. We walked on the worn concrete of slightly more established suburbia, where the brick and siding still felt new but was still older than most of the digital networks that we all do such a magnificent job of spending time on each day. (TOPICAL! OR SOMETHING.)
I've known her for at least half as long as these buildings have stood. She, with the cute butt in khaki corduroys, thick chestnut curls, a child-like smile that couldn't help but warm your heart every time you saw it. We've been good friends for at least half as long, and for the last two years, the best friend a man (me?! A MAN?! I mean, biologically, yes, but I still get giggly when strangers refer to me as "Sir," so) could possibly have. She's witnessed a turnaround in me that I didn't know I was capable of; in the midst of odds that should have driven her away, she was there for me, and she brought me back from someone who felt sorry for himself all the time to someone who remembered that one of his favorite things was to be there for somebody else (whether it was her or other other people - she awoke my better instincts on a number of levels.)
So we walked, hand in hand, an intellectually-ungifted husky at our side. A cat followed us for a half a block or so, which was actually more frightening than I can describe (the thing was fucking huge and seemingly didn't give a shit; also, our husky is not the type to bark or whine or anything unless she's hungry or wants to be played with, so we had no real indication of her stress level at that juncture, but neither, then, did we desire to intervene in a ragey cat vs. meek husky conflict, particularly if delicate hands were to be involved.) The houses and yards blended together in a comforting, familiar way: she grew up in these neighborhoods, and in small ways they reminded me of my hometown that I had been away from for nearly the entirety of my adult life. It was fitting to be on (fake) familiar ground from the first night she invited me over and when I met her family - a sister who has since become as close as an actual sister, a father who has proven to be, in many ways, the dad that I yearned for (even as I've come to forgive the failings of my own father in the half-decade or so) - in short, a family whose size is far, far dwarfed by the love the exudes from it.
We talked as we do - as, I suspect, happy, well-adjusted, perhaps not perfect but nonetheless truly loving couples do - where it's a mishmash of inside jokes, stupid pop culture references, affection, and just plain weirdness. (Hmm. I feel as if there is a very familiar community that is similar to this.)
We walked through her elementary schoolyard and I had been impatient the entire walk to find the right place to make it happen - and in truth, I should have known all along that it wasn't where, or how, but the that I was willing and, frankly, desiring of it.
In the end, I found the right place: it was a jungle gym in the shape of a curvelinear pyramid, composed of ropes in a spider's web of improbably liability-free playground equipment. I mean, I'm not joking: the top was probably close to 30 feet above ground, and any fall that didn't put you directly over the ropes would leave you in a severe state of health, I'd imagine. Naturally, I climbed to the top, and without hesitation, she scrambled up after me.
We sat for a few minutes, talking of nothing of significance, listening to the howl of sirens (and tracking their progress and reason for transit aloud), with the musical whimpering of a gorgeously-moronic husky who couldn't understand why she was suddenly attached to a park bench in the dark.
And so I made a joke about burritos, because of course, it seems like after two and a half years, elements of this community pervade my life without care or warning. Even as I crouched on the ropes in as close to a kneeling position as possible and asked, "What kind of burrito would you like the most?" - as a stalling tactic, I suppose - it occurred to me that GODDAMMIT MAYBE I COULD TRY AND BE SERIOUS FOR MORE THAN 30 SECONDS.
But anyway. It was enough to throw her off just long enough for me to ask the most important question I've ever had to ask, as I tried to subtly pull out of my fleece pocket the wooden box (containing a ring that I knew she wanted but would never, ever push me into purchasing, because that's not who she is or how she operates), without falling ass-over-teakettle through rope into soggy mulch, because that seemed like that would probably make for a shitty engagement story.
She said yes. She only cried a little bit (even as she said she wasn't crying.) The moon shone through the clouds just enough that I could see the dampness in her eyes, the dew of grass on summer evenings. Even now, I can't write this in a manner that wouldn't cause an eye-roll of a 10th-grade English teacher - but at this moment my bride-to-be, sleepy as she is, can't stop looking at the ring on her left hand, at the way the diamond that has been in her family for four generations glistens no matter what light shines through it, and ultimately, I suppose, at what this stone and metal represents.
Here's the thing, Commentariat: whether or not you remember it, you've been here from the start. You heard (back in some DUAN) about how excited I was that she was meeting up with me for drinks, or that we were randomly going on two-person bar crawls, or that I was pretty sure that I was head-over-heels for her, or even about how soon was too soon for showering together (hint: I was a moron to ask that question.) I've always been more of a lurker and admirer of the prodigious talent around here than any sort of real contributor, but all the same, you fantastically sick fucks have been people whose thoughts and words have actually mattered to me a great deal over the past two and a half years.
The majority of my IRL friends will find out through various channels tomorrow. My immediate family found out tonight (as did hers). In any case, for reasons I've tried to articulate above (and others I'm sure I'm forgetting), it actually seemed to matter that I would tell you all as soon as possible. Thanks for being you, jackasses. (I will be severely disappointed if I am not the recipient of tasteless dick jokes or fart GIFs in the comments below.) And thanks for letting me be part of this whole strange and wonderful thing of ours.
The Future Mr. Lindsey Vonn, Esq.