Before we were even born, our love story began.
It all started forty years ago in a town called Dumaguete. Two diverse girls with one similar goal met for the first time. Trini, a loud, outspoken teen from Zamboangita, would eventually become my mother. Fely, a quiet and usually pensive adolescent from Bais City, would become the mother of my future husband. Although the two had personalities on opposite parts of the spectrum, they would eventually become best friends, keeping in touch for years to come.
I lived in a city called Dumaguete. He, on the other hand, resided an hour away from me in a town called Bais. As a child, he would accompany his mother in visiting our home. During the Christmas season, my family and I would drive for one hour just to look at the lights that Bais had to offer. Not once did our paths cross. When he visited my house, I was at school, napping or coloring. When we visited his town, not once did it ever cross my mind to look for a little boy running around with his friends with the intent of marrying him one day. I was simply there to look at the beautiful lights and sit on the grandiose Santa statue that they set out every year.
Our mothers both had the dream to one day move to America, “the land of opportunity,” as they both saw it. He moved to Chicago in 1994, while we moved to Texas a year after. Our mothers would keep in touch but only to greet each other with the usual, “How are you doing?”
Fate would intervene in 2004.
It all began with a phone call from his mother inviting us to his older brother’s wedding. It was the perfect timing, the month of July. I was off for summer break, and it wasn’t too cold in Chicago. Upon hearing the idea of a road trip, my family and I immediately jumped at the chance of a possible week long vacation together, visiting one of my mother’s dearest friends.
Our first meeting wasn’t filled with too much excitement. We arrived at their house after a 30-hour drive, and I met his older and younger brother first. We were waiting for him to arrive because he was at school at the time. I remember sitting on his couch and hearing a car door slam outside. I looked out the window and saw a young man who seemed to be closer to my age than his brothers were getting out of his red sports car. He walked in the house, looked at me, didn’t say a word and walked into the kitchen before finally uttering, “Is there food? I’m hungry.”
That was my first impression of the man who would become the love of my life.
During the forty years of friendship, our mothers never once tried to introduce us to each other or arrange any kind of match-making affair. They let destiny take its course.
. . . and it worked out.
During the week that my family and I were in Chicago, Gian (that’s his name, by the way) and I began talking, getting to know each other. By the end of the week, we had become friends. The night before my family and I left, he asked for my brother’s number so they could keep in touch, he then turned to me and said, “Put yours, too.” It was a move that had me peeved, but according to him, it was his subtle way of asking for my number.
That’s when it all began.
On the drive home, I asked him to be one of my niece’s godfathers and he said yes. We started out texting (of course, it’s the 21st century) each other, and it eventually led to calling each other. We talked every night, even for just a few minutes of asking how each person’s day was.
. . Then, a bump in the road.
Sometime in September, he called me and told me that his grandmother had passed away. He and his parents had to fly back to the Philippines to be with his family. He was so devastated being so close to her. Our communication ceased. The time difference took its toll on our friendship. When my mother would call his in the Philippines, they would save 10 minutes of the phone card for us to talk. I stayed up until midnight on a school night just so that I could talk to him and see how he was doing. He, on the other hand, would hardly have anything to say to me.
It felt a little cold.
On their return to Chicago, I called him, hoping that we could pick up where we left off. That wasn’t the case. He just seemed so distant, making up excuses not to stay on the phone with me for too long. My favorite line of his was, “I can’t talk right now. I have to go to Walgreens.” I was left thinking that Walgreens in Chicago didn’t have signal for cell phone conversations.
I finally got the hint.
I drowned myself in school work, starting going out with my friends much more. I even stayed out all night and tried to meet new people.
October was a quiet month.
However, November was drawing near. November was the month of my niece’s baptismal. The time when he and his mother would visit my hometown since he had agreed to be a godfather.
I was sitting in the quad at school outside the nursing building when my phone rang. I looked at the number and didn’t recognize it. I just remembered the area code 708. When I said it out loud, I suddenly got chills. I had deleted his number from my phone. I told myself not to answer it, but I did.
I’m glad I did.
We started talking again, clearing up the miscommunications and hard feelings that had occurred the month before. I knew he wanted to talk again because he didn’t want the visit in November to be awkward. I felt the same way. After a week, it was like the silent treatment never occurred. We picked up where we left off and talked every night.
November came. I had school so my parents picked he and his mother up at the airport. I stood in the living as he walked in to the house. We looked at each other, hesitant to say hi but finally saying it at the same time. He put his arms out, as did I, and we hugged. I turned red, and asked him, “Would you like a tour?” He smiled, put his bags down, and nodded.
The baptismal went off without a hitch. We were both godparents, and my sister covertly partnered us for the ceremony. It was during the after party at my house when we first kissed.
November 20, 2004.
Fast Forward Three Years Later . . .
I have always been good with dates. My friends call me the walking, talking calendar. I knew every friend’s birthday, down to the year they were born. However, I have to admit that it never occurred to me that he, on the other hand, would be so good at memorizing dates as well.
He took me out to dinner that night. A regular dinner date, I had assumed. A new restaurant, PF Chang’s, had just opened here in the Rio Grande Valley. We always wanted to eat there, but the wait for a table was always at least an hour long. The waiting-list for the reservations was just as hard to breach. I wanted to eat there on a weekend, but he told me that he could only get reservations for Tuesday. He had to work that day, so he told me to be ready by the time he got home. And I did. I wore a dress that I had bought from the local mall but never wore.
The dinner was great.
After dinner, we got into the car and started the drive home. He then drove around the fountain in front of the new McAllen Convention center. He made a comment about how beautiful the lights looked and said we should get down and enjoy the view for a while. I laughed and told him, “As long as we don’t have to walk around, I’m wearing 4-inch heels!”
He smiled, “Just for a little while.”
He parked the car, and we both started walking towards the fountain, where the benches were. He stopped at the third bench (and now that I think about it, 3rdbench = 3 years). We sat down and talked. He got serious all of a sudden and said,“You know, three years ago on this day, I kissed you. And it was then that I knew that you were the one for me.”
I was startled.
I looked at him and said, “Stop being so serious. Why are you so serious?”
He continued, “I guess this would be the part where I get down on my knees…”
I hit him in the shoulder, “Stop joking around. Get up.”
Suddenly he looked into my eyes, “Baby, will you marry me?”
Again, I was startled. I told him to stop joking around. It wasn’t funny. I even told him, “What are you doing? You’re not even holding anything. I don’t see anything in your pockets.”
He smiled with that smile of his that makes me melt.
He knelt down, pulled out a black ring box from his socks and said, “Baby, will you marry me?”
I was speechless. He opened the box and that’s when I started crying.
Laughing, then crying. I think I even giggled a little.
He was still holding the ring, looking at me, waiting for an answer.
As soon as I realized that I hadn’t said anything —-
I kissed him and said, “Yes. Yeah. Yes.”
I felt my heart flutter like when he first kissed me . . . three years before.