A Thousand Times Over
September 20, 2015
I feel like I need to apologise for my absence. And just as any good apology should be prologued by a good excuse, mine has a joyful one. I am perched behind my keyboard,typing away with a rock on my ring finger, princess cut, surrounded by tens of sparkling diamonds. Yes, we are engaged. And we got that status in the most adventurous and romantic way.
After, portraying chivalry by asking my parents for their blessing and my hand in marriage, (I was really hoping for my dad to make the “if you want her you gotta take all of her and not just her hand, son” joke. Didn’t happen), Tim masterfully orchestrated the most detailed proposal I could ever dream of, and I am a girl with a wild imagination. Having our love for writing as the theme and taking into account how special it would be to have our friends and family incorporated in the event, he started planning.
Shayda, my thesis writing days’ companion and a best friend was leaving for New York (sniff) and had organized a farewell party on a Wednesday. Tim, working and residing in Stuttgart, a good one hour drive south of Heidelberg, said yes to the midweek event without a hesitation. I did not think much of it. Knowing that Shayda being a close friend of his, I assumed he wouldn’t had minded having to get up an extra hour earlier the next day to drive back to Stuttgart. The day before the party Shayda had asked me to meet up, just the two of us, in a café opposite the library where both our theses were typed, Shayda’s a heftier PhD dissertation in Cancer research and mine a mere MA thesis in Cultural Studies.
The morning of, Tim leaves for Stuttgart. He texts me when he gets there. 10:30, the timestamp reads. Texts me again a couple of hours later telling me he’s going to lunch with a bunch of colleagues. In the afternoon he claims to be going for a run. Nothing of that ever happened, I later find out. I wish him a good 10 km stroll as I swing my camera on my shoulder and walk to the tram stop. While riding the air-conditioned vehicle I saw a navy blue Panamera, not too different from the one I had seen Tim drive a few times, passing us by. Arching my neck to get a glimpse of the driver, I realised how ridiculous this was. Tim was in Stuttgart. In the office. Where he usually is on a Thursday afternoon.
Shayda found me waiting at Merlin, under sunshine and a blue sky. She described how her moving process was being excruciating and how a simple task of sending her 30 kilos of possessions had been a torture. “How did you take thirty kilos to the post office?” I asked knowing that balancing that big of a box on a bike would be impossible.
“Erm, yeah, I had a friend come help me.” She said stroking her eyebrow, avoiding eye contact.
That sneaky rascal. She’s secretly dating someone, I thought. And right before leaving…
I motioned for the waiter to come so I could ask for him to snap a few pictures of us. Noticing me he decided to ignore me. Concluding that he was plain rude I got up to use the bathroom. When I entered the bar area I saw three waiters pointing to the bathroom, without me asking. Weird workers here, I thought updating my prior judgement.
Shayda and I were getting ready to pay when the waiter, the same one that had ignored me, handed me an envelope with a mere “this is for you”. My first thought was this was a Middle Eastern man’s attempt at starting a conversation, by asking the waiter to hand me his number.
I was ready to let him know that I have a boyfriend, when my eyes fell on the words. Written in a very familiar tone, I realised this was Tim’s writing, typed neatly on page after page. I lifted my head to find Shayda filming me on her iPhone. It was then that I realised something special had started happening.
And so I read line after line, as it too the story of me, in real time. Sitting at Merlin with Shayda, receiving the envelope and heading to the apartment of another German-Iranian couple friend of ours. I remained faithful to the script. Murmuring the German sentence my character said for our friends to open the door. Picking up the next envelope and walking around in Heidelberg where memories of special events were described as I walked past each spot. His precise planning was impeccable. As I read each memory I found myself at the spot it had happened. Little did I know Shayda and Oliver (half of the German-Persian couple) were discreetly following me, camera in hand. I did skip picking up an ice cream part which later, I learned had disrupted the plan a little, since Oliver had been standing, waiting for me to come out, ice cream in hand.
I remember telling myself “don’t worry about the ending. Don’t rush to the end of the story. Live the moment and try to treasure every detail. For this will be the story to relive for years to come.”
I passed a couple of street artists playing instruments and singing, coincidentally two of my favourite songs. And although it was a mere wonderful coincidence, I couldn’t help thinking “Oh my, he even paid the street artists to sing my favourite melodies” as I felt serenaded by verses of Stubborn Love.
I entered La Fee, a cafe-bar I enjoy drinking wine in on weekday evenings with friends and weekends with Tim. “Do you have an envelope for me?” I asked the young bartender. “That I do” he said enthusiastically. But as described in the story I could only receive it after drinking a cola, which had been ordered by Tim prior to my arrival. Promising the bartender to come back and update him on how the adventure ends, I head off to Alte Brücke, Heidelberg’s most iconic monument. The very place I took Tim to on our first date after hearing that he had never seen any of Heidelberg and had driven from Stuttgart for our first date on a Sunday evening.
I reached the arch of the bridge not finding Tim. I turned around and saw Oliver, big sunglasses on and arms stretched out holding his camera, walking in a very close proximity of me. Seeing I had noticed him following me he tried to hide, and realising it was too late he motioned for me to keep on walking. And there I found Tim, dressed in my favourite shirt of his, hiding his hands behind him, waiting for me to approach. Handing me the last instalment of the story, he waited for me to start reading before he presented me with a bouquet of red roses, before pressing play on his iPhone, connected to a bluetooth speaker, initiating Jason Mraz’s You Fucking Did It. Our song. Not the most romantic of tunes, but one that he sang to me on our first date, impressing me with not only his vocal talents but also his ability to utter the lyrics as fast as Mraz himself.
We had caught the attention of passersby, the majority of them being tourists. I spotted a middle-aged Asian woman, shamelessly recording us on her tablet. So close to us that a couple of steps closer would have had me asking her to step back for me to see my proposing boyfriend.
And as he went down on one knee, we heard the “oohs” and “aahs” of our audience. There he kneeled reciting the most touching text he had composed, promising me a lifetime of love and adventure, a shoulder to cry on and lips to comfort me, and a heart to love me. With that he asked me to be his wife, opening a box that held a ring he had designed himself, catching the August sun, sparkling and glistening.
“Yes, a thousand times over” I said quoting our favourite author, Khaled Hosseini. A quote that ends the book promising adventure and hope to not only the war-struck Afghani characters, but also Hosseini’s readers.
And we had an ovation. Claps and cheers and shouts of congratulations. A woman in her car had waited patiently before honking and yelling “Bravo!”. She was merely saying well done to my fiancé, not knowing that she was very appropriately congratulating the future Mr and Mrs Bravo. (He has the most awesome surname.) With the Asian tourists filming us, I was sure I would be on Chinese YouTube the very next day.
With our friends joining us, we had a picnic and on the river bay. Chilled Moet and picnic beverages were waiting for us. Thinking it would be too much of a give away to take our own cooling box, he had borrowed one from work where it had been cooling the snacks and drinks for later consumption. Our best friends started showing up, with champagne and hugs of congratulation.
And there we have it. We were engaged in the city we first met, fell in love and will leave behind very soon. At a spot not very far from where he serenaded me with Jason Mraz’s entire album and asked, like a true gentleman, for the first kiss…
I sit here typing three thousand meters in the air, in total bliss feeling blessed and thankful. And excited… For all the adventures that await us…
PS: Shayda can’t lie for the life of her. The “friend” that had been helping her with her moving had been Tim. Trying to stay out of sight and preparing the proposal the whole day, he had managed to find time to help her ship her items off to New York.
And that waiter wasn’t rude at all. He had mistaken my motion as the sign to bring the envelope and so he had gone to get it. In perfect timing I might add.
PS II: Tim should stick to a career in PR in the automotive industry, or designing jewellery. And never even consider becoming a spy, for he is terrible at that. I later saw a WhatsApp group indiscreetly titled “Proposal”, where the aforementioned friends and my sister back home contributed to planning and carrying out the event. Then again, a good spy plans the whole event with me sitting next to him, writes the whole story parts in my room with me not even noticing.