How We Met
The moment I stopped looking, I found it. I found love. It did not present itself the way I expected, nor did it happen how I imagined it would. When he entered my life, I had doubt in my heart about the fate of the relationship. Considering my past, I assumed the possible routes the relationship would take, utterly ending in separation. But with humility, patience, and an understanding heart, Addofio Addo has taught me how to properly give and receive love. The walls I had once placed around my heart from encountering men of jealousy, lust, and control were torn down piece by piece. It is with this foundation, our relationship is able to stand as strong as it does.
Four years later, Addofio’s 30th birthday was approaching and to celebrate, he organized a dinner party that infused his love for entertaining, the arts, and to my surprise, me.
How They Asked
Every morning, before getting out of bed or even checking for the time, we are to greet one another. Whoever is to wake first usually initiates, an understanding we both enforce. When I woke up the morning of Addofio’s birthday dinner, I turned to greet him, but he was no longer in bed. He had started the day without me.
With a growing feeling of annoyance, I felt robbed of the good intentions I had to pray with him over the day. So, I decided to pray alone. Then, my prayers were interrupted by the sounds of Addofio starting the shower. I headed to the bathroom and sarcastically said good morning so that he could recall our missed connection. With the same level of sarcasm, he greeted me back, blaming his absence on improper sleep. It felt like a bad excuse for something he wasn’t remorseful about, an attitude that was already dampening the day.
Attempting to change the mood, I brought up another topic that was quickly met with the same energy. Warning him about this, I made it clear that I’d rather stay home on such an occasion than to deal with his attitude in public. He responded, “That’s fine. You don’t have to come if you don’t want to.” With fury, I walked out of the bathroom.
It didn’t take long for us to make up after Addofio expressed how much he needed me at his dinner and how incomplete the event would be without me. After little resistance, I forgave him.
Later, I gave my mom a call and she asked how the prepping was going. Soon after, she asked, “How come your dad and I weren’t invited?” I felt shame crawl up my back as I realized I didn’t tell Addofio to invite them. His parents typically relocate to Ghana for the winter months, so they weren’t attending either. I gathered an apologetic excuse and explained that it was an event for his friends, using his parents’ absence as a justifier. I felt horrible and knew she had heard it in my voice. She forgave me and asked to inform her about how everything went the next day.
Upon arriving, I was mesmerized by the decor done by Daphnee Lauren Events, which had touches of gold, glass, and candles everywhere. Coats were checked-in and glasses of champagne were given in exchange. I circled the room to find warm familiar faces, falling into deep conversations. Smiles were everywhere and everyone looked beautiful, I appreciated the time they all took to present their best. Beyond the sounds of occasional laughter were the beautiful notes of the cellist, Gabriel Royal, playing in the background. An atmosphere of joy and love had taken over the entire room.
Cocktail hour concluded and every one was met with the task to find their named seats. We were surrounded by our siblings, cousins, and best of friends as the night unraveled into a memory I’d never forget. Bottles of wine were poured and orders were taken for a meal of either chicken or fish. Gabriel Royal sang in a tone that had our guests enraptured. After the first of his performances, Addofio and I climbed up to the second level of the event space to change outfits. I was jealous that I couldn’t sit there longer to listen.
At the end of Gabriel’s performances, we re-appeared in matching custom outfits that were handmade in Accra, Ghana – a trip we had returned from just a week prior. Addofio made his first speech by thanking everyone for attending and encouraging the guests to meet someone new. He wanted to celebrate his life by shedding light onto those who play a dear role in it. It wasn’t just about him turning thirty, it was about everyone who helped him make it to thirty.
After his speech, Chef Joe and his waiters delivered the meals from the kitchen. When opera vocalist, A-LaRenée Davis, took center stage to sing, we gathered around the room to listen. She commanded our attention with her astonishing vocal range. Most of us had never seen a young black woman sing such notes from across the world in different dialects. I looked around the room as she sang, no one dared to move. I felt chills repeatedly take over and leave my entire body, and was thankful for the blessing to be able to experience her gift.
After leaving us in a trance, we had a few moments to transition. Addofio had asked our siblings and me to stand near the kitchen for better views of the final talent of the evening. Dancer, Justin Melvin, moved the room to a Senegalese song from the 1970s called, “Aduna Diaroul Niawo” by Orchestra Baobab. The rich sounds of Africa suffused the room as we watched him sway, kick and move majestically. It was during this last performance that my heart felt so full. I leaned into Addofio’s ear and whispered, “This is a night we will remember for the rest of our lives.” T his conviction of my heart would soon prove to be a reality.
After the dance performance was done, there was an awkward silence in the room, which became an energy, that quickly grew uncomfortable for me. I leaned over again to whisper, “Say something!” Later, I found out that he was waiting for a cue to retrieve my parents. He moved a few steps away from me to speak to the crowd.
I turned to look at one of his sisters when I saw my parents walking towards me. My mother started to pass by without making eye contact, and it felt like a dream. I called out to her and touched her coat. She just turned to me and smiled but kept walking on by, being led by Addofio. She was the last person I was expecting to see considering our conversation earlier that day. At first, I was stunned and confused, but then it clicked and I stated, under my breath, “Shut the f**k up.”
As I placed my hand over my mouth, the lights were suddenly brightened. Corey Fulmore, also a vocalist, came down the stairs with a microphone singing, “She’s Your Queen”, a memorable song originating from the film, Coming to America.
My legs felt frozen, my mind was running, and I didn’t want to move. Addofio, knowing this, said, “Come here, girl!”, and pulled me apart from the crowd. I felt all eyes on me and wished I had rehearsed for that moment. Shock, love, appreciation, shyness, humility, and disbelief all formulated into tears rolling down my face.
He started his proposal speech that sent me over the edge. All I could muster out in a crying scream was, “Oh, my God!” And he replied, “I know, I got your ass!”, and we laughed with our guests, both of our heads nodding. Like the superman he is to me, he came to my rescue with a fresh white handkerchief to wipe away my tears, knowing to press it against my cheeks lightly to prevent my makeup from smearing. His ability to completely think things through is one of the many attributes I love about him.
With his help, I mustered up enough focus to store my thoughts and actually listen to the words he was saying because I knew I’d only hear them once. And these were the words that followed:
“So it’s been an incredible journey; we’ve been through a lot. And, I got on your nerves on purpose this morning for this very moment. I love you.”
I interrupted and stated, “I was so mad at you! I was so mad at you!” The crowd laughed.
He continued, “I knew you were, I know. But, I love you. This has been an incredible journey. I love your excellence. I love your skin. I love your scars. I love everything about you. You’re so badass. You’re so amazing. This is the best birthday gift I could give myself by doing this. I’ll keep it brief and short. So…will you, will you marry me?”
He got down on one knee and opened a flat box of a ring that blinded me. I couldn’t see it because it was reflecting but figured that was a great sign. I looked over to my parents who bore the widest smiles their faces could carry. I saw our family and friends cheering and hollering. I tapped into myself for clarity on this major life decision. And after a total eight seconds that felt like a lifetime, I said the words: