How We Met
In summer of 2011 I had been living and working in Portland, Maine. My greatest hobby for the past five years had been songwriting, and I was constantly uploading new songs to my youtube channel. One day there was a message in my inbox from “MortarmanCooper” asking me if I would please sing a favorite song of his and dedicate it to the men and women of the US Army. I-of course- said yes! I covered the song (Colder Weather by the Zac Brown Band) and sent PFC Evan Cooper a message to let him know. When he told me how much it had meant to him, especially as he was about to deploy to Afghanistan, I told him if he needed someone to write to from over there that he should feel free to write to me.
Over the course of the next we wrote pages upon pages of emails to one another, getting to the nitty gritty and deep right off the bat. We both had to and felt free to, since I had just moved to Boston where I had no one I could really open up to, and since he was traveling off to unknown fate at war, both of us not afraid to lay it all on the line since we were complete strangers anyway. Even though I was seeing someone at the time, I often felt invisible. I would wait on the edge of my seat for Evan’s “letters” as we referred to them- we’re old souls. I would check my computer at all hours to see if he was alright, and had trouble focusing when too much time seemed to have gone by without word from him. When I read his letters, all the world would stop. He made me feel needed and heard. He became my living diary, and I was his in the hardest of times.
In May of 2012, Evan Cooper returned to his home city- coincidentally Boston- for R&R. I met him on Memorial Day in Harvard Square and was so nervous I felt sick. When I first saw him I was…well… bewildered, and probably overcompensated for my nerves with my trademark high enthusiasm. He was a proud, straight-backed, gorgeous man who looked at me with an intensity I’d never seen or felt before. We were only supposed to get coffee that day, but it turned into lunch, then dinner, then an hour long drive to the seaside because I’d said I missed it (we sang to Motown all the way there). We then got ice cream, then dinner, and then neither of us wanting the day to end- we sat on the swings by my apartment and talked until it was dark and late. When he dropped me on my doorstep and I realized just how badly I wanted to kiss him, I knew what I I had to do. I broke up with my boyfriend the very next day because I knew, you know? I just knew. While I processed that I retreated into my shell a bit, and for the next few days Evan was there, patient, gently coaxing me out (he only had a few days before returning to Afghanistan to finish his tour). He told me that he would wait for me, that he would fight for me, that he was mine- how could I not fall for him even more? When his last day in Boston came and he put on his uniform, neither of us could stop smiling even though he had to go back to war. We were walking on clouds.
We dated long distance through the following year while he finished his harrowing tour, and was then posted at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. We flew out to see each other once a month. The year after that I quit my job and moved to El Paso, with feeble support from friends and family. I simply told them to trust me. One more year and he finished up his contract, and the Army moved us back to the Boston area where we’re currently figuring life out, happily so, happily together. It’s been a long and difficult road but every hardship has made us stronger. We’ve had three years together and I’m still in love with him. Just last month he asked me to love him for the rest of our lives, and I-of course-said yes.
how they asked
On September 3rd I took place in an art show I’d been scouted for near our apartment in Malden, MA. It had taken me SO much hard work and preparation and I like to think the night of the show I had the best display in the room, thanks to all the help I got from Evan and a friend. That night Evan told me he had presents for me to reward me for working so hard, and that I would get them throughout the week- I suspected nothing…yet! The following morning I woke up, came into the kitchen and there on the counter were three beautiful gift bags with pink tissue paper sprouting out of them. He told me I could open them so I grabbed the one closest to me and pulled out a book. And not just any book! Books are probably my greatest weakness and I keep a running wish list of all the books I want to read. In my hands was a novel I’d been dying to read for over a year, and inside the cover was a white notecard with the letter “M” written in calligraphy on it. The next two bags also had books, and in each was another notecard!
I sort of knew then, but felt I shouldn’t say anything yet, just in case… Off I went to work, though Evan called me around 4:45 to ask when I would be done because he was coming to pick me up. After work I came downstairs and he was parked right out front in our blue pick up truck, wearing a nice button down shirt and sitting beside a box wrapped in silver paper. I hopped in and opened the box to find three more books with three more notecards as he drove me to the river walk for coffee and a stroll (something I’d been wanting to do for a while that we hadn’t gotten to yet). We sat in the amphitheater and watched families feed the ducks while we took in the sunshine. When our coffees were gone he asked if I was ready to go home because he was going to cook me dinner! We eagerly set off, and upon arrival there was prosecco on the counter next to another silver box, and some fresh ingredients- he was making me the first meal he ever made me which was homemade pesto pasta and chicken cutlets. The first time he made me this meal was during his R&R, home from Afghanistan. Back then, seeing him in his element- cooking like that in my tiny studio apartment- was what really got me to trust him and let down any remaining walls.
We’ve always joked that the chocolate mousse he made me for dessert was what sealed the deal, so when he told me that he was making it again that night I couldn’t tell myself that I didn’t know what was happening any longer and I cried right there in the middle of the kitchen. Poor Evan! He didn’t get why, yet! He held me for a minute then jumped right back into action, finishing his amazing home cooked meal and setting up the card table in our living room. We always play Sinatra while cooking, so good ol’ Frank crooned in the background while we ate and I opened another gift. In it were- you guessed it- more books! Evan took my hand and brought me to my feet and we slow danced before he gave me instruction for the final gift. He told me it was going to be “adventure style, like National Treasure!” and stuck me in the walk-in closet with a flashlight and the final wrapped box. He told me to piece together the letters and come out in a few minutes when I’d figured it out. The last books had the final notecards. Convinced they would spell “Will you marry me?” and too nervous to think, I struggled for a few more minutes than I should have and only came up with “Will you yil me.” Uh-oh… had I left some cards out?
Enough time had passed so I walked out into our bedroom and he guided me into the corner in the dark, only a few glow-in-the dark stars gave off some light. He held my hands in his and gave me the loveliest speech about how I turned on a light and welcomed him into my life all those years back, and how now he wanted to do the same for me. He switched on my star lamp that was tacked high in the corner and in front was a sign with the words “Marry me?” carved out. He got down on one knee and I barely registered the sparkly thing he slipped onto my finger when I said yes. I pulled him into a hug and could instantly sense how nervous he had been. We held each other tightly for what felt like a long time, then he drew back and joked, “I thought you’d cry more!”
“I already did!” I laughed, and explained my tears about the mousse. I took him back into the closet with me so he could help me re-arrange the cards- they said “Emily will you,” and soon we were calling family and friends to tell them the exciting news. It’s a night I won’t ever forget.