I still remember when I met Nishanthan for the first time. We belonged to the same musical school so I heard him before I saw him. It was our annual talent show, and there he was, playing My Heart Will Go On from Titanic. My initial thought was, ‘what a weirdo. Who plays an English song at a cultural talent show’? He was oblivious to the audience. His music was beautiful. His fingers glazed over the keys so effortlessly that the song seemed like a track. I quickly forgot my initial reaction; this is where I fell in love with his music.
Music lovers will tell you that when a song resonates within your soul, it sends tingles down your spine, your skin prickles, your hair stands up, and a memory is forever associated with that song. I like to think every song has a specific story, one that allows you to remember a distinct moment.
I needed to see who was playing. I leaned over the auditorium seating, and there he was – this gangly pre-teen with facial hair that made him look much too old for his age. His musical talents quickly landed him in our music school band. The majority of both our childhoods were spent together at music practices and stage performances. That’s where I got to know him better, and during this time we talked about everything. We bonded over our love for organized sports, our favorite songs, our crushes, and school struggles. Any issues that plagued a 15-year-old, we spoke about it.
Flash forward by 12 years; he’s become much more than just my best friend.
A few years ago we decided to travel more, so we recently took our second trip to Europe. I found myself seeing the world again through his eyes, it was beyond refreshing. It was as if I was witnessing a newer version of him and in turn finding newer versions of myself.
Planning our trip takes time and a conscious amount of effort waiting on airline/train prices to drop. Half the fun is organizing our adventure, so I was a little put out that he had planned our visit to Southern Italy without me.
Prior to our trip, Nishanthan had asked my mother for permission to propose. She was excited, is an understatement. My mother took it upon herself to try to convince me to pack a ball gown for Italy because “everyone wears ball gowns to the opera”. I told her she was being ridiculous. Nishanthan had even recruited my best friend to carry the ring to Europe; she would be in Italy for a family wedding. She struggled to get me to accompany her for a manicure before the trip. I had soon canceled and she stressfully asked my mother to guilt me into finally going to get my nails done.
Our trip to the Amalfi Coast was wonderful. On August 31st, the afternoon of his proposal, and the same day as my parent’s engagement, Nishanthan would not stop stressing to me that I needed to be ready by 5:30. He left to “confirm our tickets”. At 5:25, he rushed back through the door, flustered, and changed the time we needed to leave to 6:00 pm. At this point, I was a little annoyed. While he was shaving, he constantly came out of the bathroom to share his grievances about his trimmer messing up his beard. Without looking at him, I told him it looked fine and that we should leave. He decided to shave his beard off. For those that know us, Nish only shaves his beard completely for two reasons, my birthday and our anniversary. I should have known then that something was peculiar.
Before leaving he looked at me and asked, “you’re not wearing your heels, or straightening your hair?” I dragged myself back to the bathroom for a quick straightening job and to throw my heels on. He saw my face, I was annoyed; Nish has always been able to read my emotions. He pacified me by describing to me how the crowd at the opera house would be formally dressed.
While walking outside towards the Ravello Opera House (approx. 5 minutes from our hotel), he abruptly switched to walk on my right side. I turned to ask him why he switched and he shouts, “I always stand on this side!” I take a breath, it was 32 degrees outside, ‘he’s in a suit, my feet hurt in heels, and it’s ok’.
We got to the opera house and curiously, Nishanthan doesn’t produce tickets. We continued to walk towards the stages and the Amalfi coast views. I looked around and noticed that the majority of the patrons are casually dressed- some in running shoes that I was desperately wishing I was wearing. I was seething when I whipped my head to the side and asked why I was in a dress and heels. At this point, he diverted my attention to the Ravello Stage and its view. It was breathtaking.
Nishanthan asked me to hold his hand as we walked down towards the stage, I asked him why he was being so needy. Regardless, I held his hand as we made our way through the auditorium seating. I looked around at the seats to tell him it resembled the stage we met on. He asked to take a picture on the stage and I was flustered, he was going to get us arrested. Unknowingly to me, he had emailed ahead to get permission from the director to use the stage.
Nishanthan half dragged me on stage as I pulled back in embarrassment. I gave in and told him I would take a quick picture so we can leave the stage. He stills my hand that was reaching for my camera and told me that I was his best friend. I would be lying if I said I remembered everything he said after that. I remember crying hideously and being glad that there was no one to see this – until I found out that he hired a photographer to document the moment. My palms were sweating and I was beyond shocked. I blurt out a series of “this is not happening” before he asked me to wait until he finished the speech he so meticulously practiced. There was the boy I met on a stage all those years ago, asking to spend the rest of his life with me on the most beautiful stage he could find, so of course, I said yes.
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