In the deepest corner of my underwear drawer, behind the ratty pair your mother tells you to throw away–the laundry day reserve–is a tiny speckled black box. Inside the box is a smaller, black, treasure chest-shaped case that opens like a clam, revealing the pearl of an engagement ring.
It’s a small ring, size 4–it doesn’t even fit on my pinky, with a pebble sized diamond in the middle and smaller diamonds on the side. It was cast in 14 karat white gold, accented with bits of yellow gold. It wasn’t a two month’s salary ring. With my salary it’d be closer to a ten month’s salary ring. But that’s my salary.
So behind my laundry day reserve sits a ring, waiting. What it’s waiting for I’m not really sure. I’ve always had this idea in my mind that before taking such a giant step as marriage, I’d be sure to satisfy all questions, calm all fears, assuage all doubts. Somehow, before pulling the ring from the underwear drawer and popping the question I’d be able to answer all the questions and know without a doubt that I had the perfect soul mate.
There were all these people I wanted to talk to. Wise counselors who could somehow peer into my soul and tell me if I was making the right choice. They would dispense wise advice, and I’d walk away feeling like a man, my questions answered, ready for adulthood. Ready to be a husband. But when do you stop being a boy and become a man? When are you able/ready to become a husband? And what if I still feel like a kid?
And I did talk to some wise gurus. I listened to them, and felt the pain of the mistakes they made. But I didn’t walk away feeling enlightened. I didn’t walk away without questions, doubts, fears.
When I bought the ring I still had questions, doubts, fears. I woke up early and drove to the jewelry store like a man in a dream. I watched myself drive there. I saw myself get out and walk into the store. I saw myself buy the ring with my Visa card. I watched the whole thing like a movie, never feeling like the actor or even the director. I was a viewer. I bought the ring knowing it wouldn’t be in my possession for two weeks. They had to size it and ship it. I still had time to answer.
The ring arrived and I stashed it in my book bag, ignoring its presence. It was like I was carrying a bomb. Safely in my room, I tore into the box. I pulled at the packaging for five minutes before pulling out a razor blade. I hacked through the box and began pulling out bits and pieces of the Wall Street Journal, and finally the black speckled box. I opened it slowly and carefully. When I finally peered inside the clam, there was the pearl. A light didn’t shine down from heaven and music didn’t start playing. The ring needed a polish. I starred at it for a moment, wondering if it was for real. The phone rang suddenly, jarring me back to reality. I fumbled with the phone and spoke slowly, carefully.
Before burying the treasure beneath my boxers in the drawer, I looked it over, wondering how something so small could be worth what I paid for it. For all I knew it was gold plated lead with a cubit zirconium. I knew nothing about jewelry. I didn’t even know how big the diamond was. All I knew was that she liked it.
I quickly buried the ring and tried to forget about it. Late that night after I shut off my computer and before I climbed into bed I told my roommate. Well, I got it. Got what? The ring. A slow smile spread across his face. He asked when I was going to ask her, and I realized I couldn’t let it sit in my drawer forever.
I’m beginning to understand that my questions won’t be answered. My fears and doubts will remain until the day I die. I’ll be no more sure today than on the day I say ‘I do.’ You see, it’s not about having all the right answers. It’s not about erasing doubts and relieving fears. Because that day will never come.
It’s much more than that. It’s a vow to love for a lifetime. Not just to love through the morning breath and the pms, but to love the morning breath and the pms. My fears, apprehensions, and questions will never be answered because love doesn’t work on solid answers. Love demands risk. The risk that she’ll still love me when I slam the door. The risk that I’ll still love her when she forgets to pay the Visa bill.
Love does not come with easy answers. Love is an action, a commitment two people make and reestablish every morning when the alarm goes off and they fight for the bathroom. It’s not a question of having all the right answers, it’s a question of being ready to accept that daily challenge.
I will take her to be my wife, to have and to hold, from that day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health until death do us part.
And that moment when death comes, then and only then will my questions be answered, my doubts dispelled and my fears relieved. Until then, it’s up to me–it’s up to us–to daily face those questions, doubts, and fears; to daily prove our love.
I open the drawer, reach deep inside, and there it is.
She said yes.