How We Met
Brandon and I met for the first time in 2013 after kindling a friendship on Tumblr (of all places.) He had a very aesthetically pleasing blog – full of cabins and stunning travel photos – and the respect of thousands of fellow bloggers. After he commented on a post I made about a band we both admired (Anberlin), I checked out his blog. He appeared normal and not creepy at all, so I followed him back. That year, we both spent way too much time on Tumblr, but it helped us get to know each other. What was for both of us a creative outlet, became a place we could bear our souls. We become friends from a distance. We learned we had identical music taste, the same Christian faith, and nearly identical values in every area that mattered. We decided to meet up in person after Brandon made a post about visiting Ohio, the state I lived in at the time, for his friend’s basketball game. Brandon lived in Toronto, Canada, so I messaged him asking where in Ohio he’d be visiting.
He responded by saying “The Dayton area!” Dayton was only a thirty-minute drive from where I was going to school. We quickly made plans to hang out in nearby Yellow Springs, a notoriously hippy town that transports you to back the 70s when you enter its city limits. My friends at my conservative Christian college were aghast. I was hanging out with a guy I’d never met from the Internet?! Even though Brandon and I planned to convene at a public place, my friends weren’t having it and one even insisted on coming along. Despite my protests, she joined me to meet Brandon for the first time. My first impression of Brandon was that he was extremely quiet and reserved. As my friend and I walked with him around Yellow Springs, ducking in and out of shops, and even running into more people we recognized from college, Brandon was relatively quiet. Something I remember looking back was despite how quiet he was, I felt comfortable and safe in his presence. He would tell me later he noticed the way I’d always lead us out of or into another shop by saying “Shall we?” Apparently, he found it endearing. I guess I always knew innately that Brandon was someone pure-hearted that I could trust.
The second time Brandon came to Dayton to see his friend play basketball, we hung out one on one. That day, we did all the things we both love: we drank Chemex together, stared at strange paintings in a museum, and flipped through vinyl side-by-side. He showed me songs, I showed him songs. Our friendship was instantly deep.
Throughout 2015, I was dating someone I was convinced I’d marry. When that fell apart, I decided to move to Houston, Texas to pursue an exciting job opportunity. I’m a radio personality, and soon I was on the air talking to Houston every night from 7 pm to midnight. At that time, Brandon was working the night shift at his hospital and would often call me when he went for a break around 1 am. I’d be wide awake, he’d be halfway through his shift – we got close-talking for an hour or so in the middle of the night.
When I decided to go on a trip to Iceland with my best friend in 2016, I had a choice of departure cities. Toronto, Brandon’s hometown, was one of the options. I figured I could spend time with Brandon and see his city on my way to Iceland, so I made plans to visit him on my way. When I came to visit, Brandon went out of his way to show me his city. He truly treated me – taking me to his favorite restaurants, neighborhoods, and sites. We went to the SkyPod of the CN Tower, Ripley’s aquarium, a Blue Jay’s game, and all the way to Niagara Falls. His hospitality made a lasting impression on me. I had never had anyone treat me as well as Brandon did that weekend.
I had never really considered Brandon as someone I could date – he was in Canada after all – but slowly, I realized what I had right in front of me in him. He was a gem, and he’d impressed me with his actions and kindness year after year in our friendship. After months of conversation and difficult discussions, I realized I was willing to do whatever it took to see where my relationship with Brandon could go. When I went to visit him again in December of 2017 for a ‘The National’ concert, we decided to take the leap into a long-distance relationship. We also got Brandon a cute little living Christmas tree for his condo and decorated it. (pictured below)
Throughout our nearly year and a half long, long-distance relationship, Brandon and I visited so many places. We went to Calgary, Alberta, for his family friend’s wedding. We went to Florida with his parents. He came to visit me in Houston, I visited him in Toronto. We met halfway at my parents’ house in Ohio.
Long-distance has been hard for us…and good for us…it has created an inseparable bond between us and given us a true appreciation for the other’s company.
How They Asked
Brandon and I planned to meet in my hometown of Dayton, Ohio for the Easter holiday. I had time off work and he had swapped shifts with co-workers. I flew in Wednesday night, he planned to get to Ohio midday on Thursday.
My mom had asked me earlier in the week if I wanted to go shopping with her on Thursday morning. She had some gift cards she needed to spend. My mom never buys anything for herself, so of course I said yes. Brandon hadn’t texted me anything all morning, so I left my phone at home while mom and I went out shopping. I debated taking a shower in the morning and mom suggested that I should. I was going to see Brandon for the first time in two months, so I figured I’d look cute. I put on a dress I knew he liked and heels that added a little dressiness to the look.
I was a bit annoyed that Brandon hadn’t communicated with me that he had left on his seven hour drive to Ohio, but I figured he had run out of data to use in the states (he had warned me the day before that he was running low) so I wasn’t too concerned.
By the time Mom and I got home from shopping, it was close to 1pm. I looked at my phone: still no messages from Brandon. I found it slightly frustrating, considering he was due to arrive at my house anytime. I looked for his location on Google Maps. He had turned location sharing off! I didn’t think anything was happening until I saw my mom’s phone, sitting in plain view on the kitchen counter, light up. “Brandon MacMurray” the contact read. The message? “I’m here.”
I told mom that Brandon had texted her, and she replied that it must have “been another Brandon,” as she hurried outside to “take the dogs out.”
She came back in with an envelope. She placed it in front of me on the table.
“Clue #1” the envelope read, in a script I knew belonged to Brandon.
When I saw it I burst into tears. I knew instantly what was happening! Brandon was sending me on a scavenger hunt and he was going to propose to me!
When I opened the envelope, I saw a two stanza poem. Brandon had written it to rhyme. It was clever and it was clear: I had to go to the Dayton Art Institute. One of the first places we had gone together, back in 2014, when we were just friends.
So mom and I got on the road and headed up I-75 to the Dayton Art Institute. Once we got inside, we went up to the desk. The sweet ladies said “You must be Angela!!” and with a giggle, handed me another envelope. At this point, I figured the clue would send me somewhere in the museum where Brandon would be waiting on bended knee. But once I read the clue, I knew it was sending me to the first place Brandon and I ever had coffee together. A Chemex for two, at Press Coffee in Dayton.
Mom and I drove there.
We asked the barista for the next clue. She handed it to me, saying “It came with an Americano.” Brandon had thought of everything. As my favorite drink brewed, I examined the 3rd clue. It was a photo he had taken of me four years ago, when we had sat together at Press, drinking coffee. The sight of it made me tear up. On the back of the photo was the clue: it was sending me to Cedarville, Ohio, the town where I’d gone to college.
Mom and I hopped in the car and talked about what was happening over the 30 minute drive. I texted my friends “IT’S HAPPENING!!!!!” as Mom acted casual, like we were just going sight seeing on an average Thursday afternoon.
I was convinced the 3rd clue was taking us to a bakery where Brandon and I had met years ago. Turns out I was wrong – we went to the bakery and awkwardly shuffled out after failing to find a clue. I hunted aimlessly around Cedarville’s campus for a bit – only to have Mom hand me the clue when she saw how hopeless I was growing. (Brandon told me later the clue was under a bench he’d waited on for me – I’d forgotten that.)
The fourth clue mentioned cats and spines. I narrowed it down to a bookstore in Yellow Springs, where we’d first met. Dark Star Books was home to a giant cat named Mr.Ecko, so Mom and I took off in that direction. When we arrived, the lady behind the counter handed me a plastic bag with a book and a pen inside. I removed the book to see it was a copy of Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451.” Ray Bradbury is my favorite author and Brandon had bought a copy to read to try and understand me better. This was his copy. Inside the bag there was a handwritten puzzle. My brain was nearly mush at this point, but I understood the puzzle after a bit of thinking: I had to decode the word clue to get a number, and that number corresponded to a page number, and that page number featured a circled word. The circled words would add up to be Clue #5.
(Dark Star Books – Yellow Springs, OH)
Before long, I’d figured it out: “Go down Jackson Road – walk along the gorge near the river.” The clue was directing me to Clifton Gorge, part of a beautiful nature preserve outside of Yellow Springs. At this point, my feet were hurting from walking all over creation in heels. How was I going to make this hike in heels?
Mom watched as I picked my way foolishly though the hiking trail until I saw a glimpse of plaid through the trees. Brandon was waiting on a little ledge that looked out over the gorge for me. I walked towards him as Mom hung back. He helped me onto the platform and I hugged him for what felt like a long time.
He got down on one knee as soon as I let him go. He said “I didn’t believe in soulmates before you….Angela, would you marry me?”
Of course, I said yes.