Woodburning Design by Iya Regalario.
It was the 26th of December. All at once, everyone and no one knew. There was a general impression that I would be proposing to Bea during that trip to Japan, just not where or when exactly. To be honest, I didn’t know myself. For months, I had prepared every single detail, except for those. Those two questions felt too substantial and consequential. And it was taking all my strength and focus to allow myself to accept a future determined and simple.
Everything leading up to that felt too extemporaneous and easy. I actually called Tita Jenny, Bea’s mother, for her blessing as I asked for Bea’s hand in marriage. I did this in the middle of a busy Shangri-la Mall because I was afraid to postpone or second-guess any of my decisions regarding the proposal. When my mom suggested that I propose with one of her beloved rings, I accepted immediately and had that ring shined and resized within two weeks. I wrote six poems in succession without fear or hesitation and then coordinated with Chiara, Bea’s best friend, about having her create illustrations to pair with each of the poems. The few months from when I made the decision to propose up until the day of the proposal itself flew without issue or compromise.
Still, I was nervous, uncannily so. I was even afraid that she might notice something was off as I was quiet the entire morning. Could something so important be this easy? The rain started while we were walking down a busy thoroughfare in Dotonbori. The ebb and flow of the crowds moving around us felt overwhelming. I had never experienced claustrophobia in my life, but I certainly felt it that day. I needed to breathe without making myself obvious, so we stole away from my family and the rest of the noise to a bookstore far from the main street. While she explored the shop, I stayed outside, searching for a place to rest. When she exited, I took her hand and led her to a small, hole-in-the-wall café called Arabiya.
We were told to find seats upstairs, so we climbed up to the second floor and sat in a corner table. I ordered and sipped on a cup of house coffee, and she had tea with creme. I sneaked a glance at her. That was enough. Coffee and calm, quiet and us. I took out the poems and told her that I had a gift. I read out five of the poems to her, one by one. Each one was named after a couple in the pantheon of literature. Romeo and Juliet, Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester, the Count of Monte Cristo and Haydee, Simoun and Maria Clara, Hades and Persephone. And lastly, I read a poem entitled Chubbs and Bea, attempting to place us beside the greatest romances in all of storytelling. The last line read, “…But only if you would have me. Will you marry me?” I looked back up to her and she was in tears, a “Yes” pursed at the edge of her lips.