Today’s song makes me think of Holly. Not only because it is a love song but because it manages to reference a number of elements that the Lady Holly and I have shared. Today it’s especially appropriate.
The song in question is Midnight by Lewis Watson. Lewis Watson is a young singer songwriter from England who a couple of years ago released a pop folk album that showed he had a lot of promise. His latest album, also called Midnight, is the fulfilment of that promise and features intricately woven heartbreaking melodies. An album that feels complete and that makes it hard to have a favourite song. Highly recommend
Current chain of writing days: 2
My weekend started at 3am Friday morning when I woke the Lady Holly up and told her to pack a bag because we were going on a three day trip to New Zealand. It finished with a late night taxi ride home from the airport during which we fielded messages of congratulations on our phones from our friends and family. In between those two points we ate good food, drank good beers, conversed extensively, gaped at stunning views, chuckled at the fluffiness of sheep, climbed mountains, and I asked Holly a question.
The question was ‘Will you marry me?’ and her answer, gleefully, was ‘yes’.
The proposal involved a trip to Mount Aspiring, located in a national park about an hour out from picturesque Wanaka. Picturesque was not a rarity in New Zealand. There wasn’t an inch of land that I saw that wasn’t picturesque. It’s almost too beautiful.
We walked five kilometers upwards, to a lookout spot on the Rob Roy Glacier Walk. This was where I had planned to propose. That plan fell to ashes. It was freezing at that lookout, just incredibly cold. The day itself was sunny and bright but we were caught in the shadow of the mountain and, unsurprising given the name of the walk, downwind of a glacier. To add to this the boulder I insisted we sit on was wet and slippery and as it was the obvious stopping point there were people everywhere. There was a girl on a rock next to us eating a sandwich! The gall. I waited as long as I could but it soon became clear that this wasn’t going to be the spot after all. So, we started walking back down the mountain and I was no more engaged than I had been when we had walked up.
On the return trip I searched desperately for the ideal spot, for a small secluded island of gorgeousness where I could ask the woman I loved to marry me. I told the Lady Holly I was looking for the perfect spot to eat our second muesli bar. She was nonplussed, I was frantic. Frustratingly no where was right. The path was narrow and mostly stuck between the side of a mountain and a river. Ironically, the two elements I knew I wanted present when I asked the question were now making it impossible to do so. Internally I was jumping up and down, screaming in frustration that we had spent the last 36 hours looking at the most stunning scenery and yet somehow I had chosen the one spot where asking someone a private question was impossible. Externally I was walking and not saying much. Holly suggested we just stand and eat our muesli bars, I vehemently declined. She accepted this, oddly none to fazed that I demanded perfection when it came to the eating of muesli bars; which I think says more about me than it does about her. The track only got busier and with each additional person we passed my anxiety grew.
After a second stalled attempt, at a place that was both too wet and too mossy, I saw it, the perfect location. The only other lookout on the whole walk. The view (pictured above) was spectacular but I hadn’t thought of it earlier because on our way up we hadn’t stopped to admire it due to a large group of people in the way. We would definitely be stopping this time.
Annoyingly there were still some people sitting on the bench, however off to the side was a small grassy outcrop with a goat track that led a good twenty meters away from the track. Privacy – check. Amazing view – check. A place to sit – check. The ideal place to eat a muesli bar/propose had been found. I charged towards it determinately and planted myself down. As Holly likewise sat I pulled the bag away from her to ensure she couldn’t actually start eating the much longed for muesli bar (it’s hard to say yes with a mouth full of muesli) and asked her if I could show her a card trick I had been practicing. Slightly confused she said, ‘Alright?’
For this card trick I had loaded the deck in my favour, by which I mean had a special deck made that featured photos of the two us from over the course of our seven year relationship printed on the face of the cards. I explained that I would shuffle the deck (it was a fake shuffle) and that I would then deal out the cards and tell her a story based on what came out.
As the first card came out and she saw our own faces standing up from it she knew something was up.
Brief side note: Holly is generous and supportive and kind (three of the reasons why I want to marry her) and because of this has given me permission me to share the story here.
This is what I said:
This is a story about a girl and a boy. I’d like to say that this is the kind of story where the boy sees the girl and knows she will be his, and he hers. That that four letter word was on both of their lips from the moment their eyes met. But this isn’t one of those stories. This story is full of things like touching each other’s bottoms while saying the word ‘butt’ repeatedly, aggressive cheek pinching, getting drunk to bad movies, and saying dirty things to each other in order to get a reaction then having it lead to sex. It has things like joint weight loss goals in it, discussions about what to eat, what to watch, and who owes who money. Not to mention the endless question over whether or not the girl should bring a coat with her when they’re going out. It has a lot of hugs, and a rabbit. It has moments that are sensational alongside those that are mundane, and sometimes the mundane can be just as satisfying as the sensational. It’s full of sacrifice, compromise, growth, and snoring. It’s a story of logic and romance.
This isn’t a fairy tale romance. This one’s better. This one’s real.
The boy and the girl met, while both on holiday, in the typical fashion; which is to say intoxicated. Inebriated, young, and full of hormones, the inevitable happened. Lust blossomed. Amongst the carnival of touching, teasing, public make out sessions, and banging their way across a foreign country together, something quite amazing happened. They fell in love. They didn’t know that that was what it was, not yet. All the boy knew at this point was that it was oddly never awkward. It was never weird. These two basic strangers were being as intimate as two people could possibly be, spending all their time together either in a bed or a bus, and yet it felt natural, and easy, and good. Very good.
But the boy was scared. What if the easy nature of the relationship, what if the romance that had blossomed, was all just a side effect of the joy of travelling. The boy worried, he could be very good at that sometimes, because logically, logically this was just too good to be true. You don’t really meet someone you could see falling in love with while on a tour of america, fall into bed together and have it all work out. He confessed all the ‘what if scenarios’ to the girl, all the ways the logical side of his brain told him it could go wrong. The girl, in a display of cool and calm and pure impressiveness that the boy has yet to see beaten to this very day, replied with, ‘We’ll see.’
And like she had performed the greatest of magic tricks, all his worries were gone. It could be that easy. He hadn’t known that. With those two words the girl merged the romantic side and the logical side of his brain together, two parts that had always been separate and that had caused him no end of anguish. We’ll see, she said. And they did.
The boy and the girl arrived back on their own shores and threw themselves into a full blown relationship. They met each other’s friends and families. They spent all their available free time together. The boy insulted the girl terribly in a way that made her laugh and others think he was being abusive, and the girl fell asleep and drooled all over the boy for the first time. Things were magical. And to add to this magic that feeling of ease, the feeling of comfort, continued. The boy kept waiting for it to get difficult, for some issue to arise that would cause a disturbance to this unnatural peace. It didn’t. So, for the boy’s logical and romantic brain his next move was obvious. He told her he loved her, because it was clear to him now that he did. The girl returned the sentiment and they kissed and held each other outside in the dark and the cold, and the boy had never felt warmer.
Years went by. The girl and the boy moved in together. They built ikea furniture together and it went well, for the most part. They felt things they had never felt before. It wasn’t butterflies in their stomachs or the kind of dizzying happiness that makes people in musicals want to sing (although they definitely did feel these things from time to time) it was something deeper, something richer, something more nuanced and more rewarding. It was love. But not just the love between a woman and a man, not just the love between people who are so much more than girlfriend and boyfriend. It was something more than that. Something familiar yet entirely new. The boy couldn’t put a word to it. It would come to him, in time.
The boy started working, first at one job, then another, but neither really felt right for him. The girl, meanwhile, accomplished the extraordinary goal of completing not one degree but two. Degrees, however, apparently aren’t worth as much as they used to, even when you have two in your pocket, and so the girl struggled to find work. They were at a crossroads. Career wise things were bleak, but there was still one shining light amongst all the realities of working life gloom. They had each other. That was inevitably what saved them.
The girl encouraged the boy to jump, take a risk on changing career paths, go back to school and learn a trade he was passionate about. The boy in turn encouraged the girl to take a job very far away – about as far away as two people can get – to travel, experience, learn, and then come back richer in all the important ways one can be rich (excluding money, of course). The girl was worried though, she could be very good at that sometimes. ‘What’s holding you back?’ the boy asked. ‘Well, you. Us,’ she told him. ‘That’s not a good enough reason,’ the boy replied. ‘Besides, you’ve got me locked down, I’m not going anywhere.’
And so she went and, as promised, he didn’t go anywhere. Their six months apart if anything brought them closer together. They passed tests they didn’t even know they were taking, proved truths that had never needed to be proved, and in so doing showed themselves something they both already probably knew, but was now unignorable. That they would each value the other over themselves. That their love was the love of a teammate, a friend, and a partner. It was, they were lucky enough to say, the kind of love that meant they always felt secure and safe, in each other’s company and out, because they knew the other one would always support them. And so it was. Sometimes she would be the one to lift him up, and sometimes he would be the one to lift her up, or, at least, would try to. It was a magical thing to have this so clearly proven to them, and again the boy knew there was a word, a concept, that defined this type of thing perfectly, but he still couldn’t think of it. Not yet.
More years passed. The girl got a job, the boy finished his schooling. The girl’s job was still further away than they would have liked and in a place she didn’t enjoy but they knew they could get through it. Cocky and confident in this knowledge were they, even when others showed expressions of doubt. They were right to be cocky because, while it was undoubtedly hard, before too long the girl and the boy lived together once more, and they well and truly felt like they had earned it. The race to have a life together had been run.
More years past but the girl and boy were not idle. They celebrated birthdays and anniversaries. Christmases and weddings. A lot of weddings. They spent time with friends and family, sometimes in exotic places. New members of their families were added to in a way that was at first strange, then wonderfully normal. They went to parties. They saw waterfalls, quite a lot of waterfalls, the girl really was a big fan of waterfalls. And they traveled, together this time. They explored jungles, and coastlines. They visited ancient ruins, and castles. They swam in tropical waters, visited as many mountains as they could, and saw more impressive views than either of them could have ever hoped for or ever dreamed.
They also did simpler things like read books and watch tv together. Drink and talk. Cook and organise. The house they had inherited became their home, not just because they were the only ones living in it but because it was the space in which they shared so much of their lives. It became decorated with more than just their every growing collection of photos but with every time spent together, every conversation shared, every act of love given and received. They cared for one another and loved on and on.
The boy was happy, exceedingly happy. Happier even the two people covered with a blanket of puppies. She made him want to celebrate. Celebrate her. Celebrate them. Just the thought of knowing he got to come home and spend time with her was enough to make him happy. On the times when he was feeling blue, or feeling tired, or feeling anxious, he would think of her because it was enough to wear those feelings away. Because nothing could really be that bad as long as he got to spend some time with her at the end of it.
In fact, he did some simple maths in his head and realised that with each consecutive year he spent with the girl his happiness grew. If depicted on a graph, with a Y axis of happiness, and an X axis of time, then his happiness was a diagonal line reaching upwards like the curve of the girl’s beautiful smile. If that pattern were to continue then that line would reach levels of happiness never dreamed of.
What should happen next was obvious. Logically and romantically, it couldn’t be any clearer.
That was when the boy finally figured out the term for the kind of love he shared with the girl.
It was family.
This morning Holly told me she doesn’t mind getting up early because she just feels excited. Which is about one of the nicest things I’ve ever heard.
Other than, yes.