By Richelle, San Diego by the way of New York City
I keep hearing, “2020 is the worst. I can’t wait until it’s over…” Part of me agrees – yes, 2020 has not shaped up to the be the transformative “new start” year that many of us had hoped for – but I cannot forget the silver lining. 2020 was the beginning of a new chapter in my love story.
In February, amidst the as of yet still publicly unknown COVID outbreak, Aakash and I flew to California to visit my mom and to look for apartments. We had been planning to move to San Diego for almost a year after having had our fair share of the New York go-go-go lifestyle, the endless hours of driving around our Manhattan neighborhood looking for parking, and the incessant carting of grocery bags on the subway up from the 72nd street Trader Joe’s. California was going to be a reprieve, and, most importantly, it was going to bring us closer to my not-so-slowly aging mother.
When we arrived, we were expecting to take her out for a special Valentine’s Day dinner, soon to realize that our expectations were too grand. My mom was “sick” and couldn’t come to pick us up. I was devastated, but not alarmed, as this had happened the previous few times that we had visited her. More so than being devastated by the lack of a warm welcome from my mom, I was disheartened remembering that the real reason for moving to California was to take care of her.
I drove to San Diego the following day with Aakash by my side and a heavy heart in my chest, having lost the feeling of comfort and ease that usually swept over me while driving down the 5 through Southern California in my 98 Toyota Camry, windows down and hair blowing. When we arrived, we walked to the beach, dined at a fancy fish restaurant, and did all of the things that one would do while “on vacation” in San Diego, but everything felt forced, unsettled. We pushed on, though, knowing that this place was going to be our home and that we had to make the most of our brief time there.
We woke up on the morning of our second day and began our apartment tours, starting with one that we absolutely adored. Laundry in-unit, gym in the building, dog-friendly paths, and free parking on-site. What a dream! The apartments continued to impress us, and the excitement was starting to return as I remembered that by moving to California, we were upgrading our lives in many ways. Not only that, but it was taking us only minutes to drive from one area of San Diego to the next, unthinkable when compared to navigating through Manhattan’s crowded streets and subway rides. With about an hour of time to kill before our next viewing, we asked the leasing agent at an apartment complex in Point Loma what local sights we could see to occupy our time. “Sunset Cliffs”, she said. “You have to see Sunset Cliffs.” So we went.
As I hopped out of the car, I noticed that Aakash had grabbed his backpack, not an abnormal occurrence, as he is a Ph.D. student and ALWAYS has his backpack with him just in case he can squeeze in a little reading or writing while waiting for a train or killing time at a bar. I’ll grab my book, I thought. It will be lovely to sit by the ocean and read like I used to when I was a college student in L.A. with no cares in the world. Sitting on the cliff, Aakash and I stared out at the water, silently taking in the sights and smells and the feeling of the sun on our faces. “I never know why I bring a book to the ocean,” I said, “because I never end up reading it. I could just watch the waves crash forever.” A comfortable silence again washed over us.
Turning to face Aakash, I joked, “Are you going to propose now?” something that I had frequently ask him when we were in quintessentially romantic spots. To my surprise, he turned back to me and said, “Yeah, I think I am,” and proceeded to reach into his backpack. He is going to pull out his book, I thought, just to go along with the joke. Then, flipping open a small ring box and showing me my grandmother’s diamond, reset into the most elegant, asymmetrical gold ring, he asked me to marry him. I must have held my mouth open for minutes, I was so shocked. When had he gotten the diamond from my mom when we had only seen her for five minutes? Where did he get the ring reset? Did he have it shipped to New York and then brought it back in his suitcase? Because I knew the logistics of all of this would have made this proposal so difficult, I honestly had no idea that what was happening was real until I had the ring on my finger and his hand in mine, sitting on Sunset Cliffs in the city that will soon be our new home. The ring represents not only the promise of our love, but also the commitment that Aakash has made to supporting me and my mom. 2020 cannot take that away from me.
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