Crystal and Kai

Image 9 of Crystal and Kai

How We Met

My boyfriend Kai and I met in 2013 at NYU. We met at an acapella concert that I attended, and he was a part of it. After the concert, I complimented his performance, and I invited him to a group outing next week to vegan ice cream which he politely accepted (both in-person and via a Facebook event invite). It was my freshman year, so I was eager to make friends, and many of my friends were already part of this acapella group, so it only made sense to befriend him!

Image 1 of Crystal and Kai

The day comes to get ice cream, and he doesn’t show up. My small group of friends waited for 10 minutes before we decided that he DITCHED us, and we went to get ice cream on our own. I called him out on leaving us hanging via a text message later that day, and he apologized saying that the weather was “too cold for ice cream” (it’s never too cold for ice cream, y’all!). I told him he could make it up to me by hanging out one-on-one. Again, I was not interested in pursuing him but wanted to be his friend, since we shared many mutual friends.

He selected a fast-casual spot that no longer exists (RIP Bambootori) known for skewers. I get there at 5 pm as we agreed upon, and he was already there early. He said he got there five minutes ago and already placed an order. This was not intended to be a date but clearly, he did not care about the impression he made on me because he did not wait for me to order! He later revealed to me that he chose this spot because he knew it was fast and “wanted to get it over with (hanging out with an over-energetic freshman that is), and he only agreed to hang out with me because he felt bad for ditching the first time. The joke is on him though because we had an amazing time, and our friendship was clearly going to be more than that. He was supposed to go study with a mutual friend afterward, but she had canceled on him, so we spent another hour walking around the park after dinner.

The next week after, he texted me to watch a movie. Then, he said we should go to Beyond Sushi. The week after, we went to my favorite restaurant, Peacefood Cafe. All his bad manners of ditching social obligations and waiting to eat disappeared. He’s not vegan, but he was definitely vegan friendly and trying to impress me. After a few weeks, we started dating officially, and since then we have lived together, traveled the world, and made many amazing memories :)

How They Asked

So it’s Sunday, June 14, 2020, and the only plans we have that day are to go to Mitsuwa, a Japanese supermarket in Edgewater, NJ. We go there about twice a month to pick up groceries, but I knew it was going to happen today because he said not to make plans that day and my boyfriend had dressed up a little, putting in contacts to “help with the pollen” (doesn’t that do the reverse?), combed his hair, and was acting suspiciously by saying he “wouldn’t” propose today because all we were going to do was go grocery shopping.

But to be fair, for the last week, he would wake up every morning and say “Today COULD be the day” to mess with me, so there were many layers of psychological TORTURE in June. However, I was ready! I had my makeup on, got my hair cut the week before, I was on day 2 of 3 of my cute planned outfits (I plan my clothes 3 days at a time), and had just applied fresh Sundays nail polish a few days ago!

Image 2 of Crystal and Kai

We have to rent a car every time we go to Mitsuwa, so there were only two options: He was going to propose near the supermarket (there’s a beautiful waterfront that overlooks Manhattan) or we would drive somewhere else. On our way to the car, he makes jokes saying “I’m going to propose on the Highline next to the parking garage,” but I knew it was closed due to COVID, so the torture continues.

We get to Mitsuwa, and it’s business as usual. We shop for groceries, but I notice he’s texting a lot more than usual. I knew he had hired my talented photographer friend, Tim Carlo, for the proposal, so I imagined he was trying to coordinate with him. We pay and leave Mitsuwa.

Image 10 of Crystal and Kai

No ring! So, I’m not going to get engaged at a Japanese grocery store in New Jersey, that’s fine. But then WHERE?

Kai says we are taking a “detour” on our way home.

THIS IS IT. We drive for 40 minutes, and I’m in an area of Manhattan far from home.

Image 6 of Crystal and Kai

We park near the Met Cloisters (which is closed), and he said we are going for a walk. We get out of the car and begin walking. We pass by what looks to be the stairs from the movie, Joker, (they weren’t the same, but it looked similar!), and I wonder if he would propose here. After all, we did see the movie together. It was only once, but Joaquin Phoenix is vegan, so maybe he thinks there’s a significance? I ask Kai if he’s going to propose here (again, I’m not subtle), and he said if I do the Joker dance, maybe he’ll consider it. I don’t know the dance, since we saw the movie only once, so we continue walking.

Image 7 of Crystal and Kai

We end up walking for 25 minutes in mostly silence. My boyfriend’s hands are cold and balmy and he hasn’t complained once about walking this distance (and he doesn’t like walking), so I know it’s coming up. We are walking towards the waterfront, and I begin to realize where we are going. The. Little. Red. Lighthouse.

We had biked to the Little Red Lighthouse once before, and it’s this cute red lighthouse near the Hudson Valley Greenway right under the George Washington bridge and by the water. I had joked it would be a good proposal spot, and he has listened to me!

Image 3 of Crystal and Kai

We end up walking to the front of the lighthouse, and Kai motions to the ground. There’s a polaroid of the floor.

I stare at the polaroid, confused. It was an overexposed photo, so for a second I thought I was in this photo with Kai along with two of our other best friends.“ Do you remember when we came here?” he asked. I stared at the photo trying to rack my brain of when we came here with these friends in the photo. I had only come here once with Kai, and my friends were not there. My mind raced to every possibility: Was this taken in the future? Was I drunk? Why don’t I remember this?

I didn’t have long to overthink because then he gets down on one knee, pulls out the ring, and says something along the lines of, “Today is the day you graduate from girlfriend to wife. Crystal Pang, will you marry me?”

Image 5 of Crystal and Kai

Obviously I said yes!

We hug, and my friends come RUNNING out of the bushes. Turns out the polaroid photo was a selfie of all of them and strategically placed on the ground so I would be standing in the right spot for all the photos and video. Everyone is super excited, and I am pleasantly surprised to see them all there. We take some more photos, we all “ooh” and “ahh” over the ring, and my friends lead us to a picnic table they had set up with Paulie Gee’s vegan pizza.

Image 11 of Crystal and Kai

We then pop some champagne, celebrate, take some more photos, and just enjoy each other’s company until the sunsets.

Image 8 of Crystal and Kai

It was an amazing day :) Turns out my fiancé had just parked the car in the wrong spot which is why we walked for so long, but besides that, everything went according to plan!

Thanks for reading this little story. I also did make some handy videos that explain all this, so enjoy these short videos for the same story with some visuals and music!

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

Image 4 of Crystal and Kai

Special Thanks

Tim Carlo
 | Photographer