How We Met (Jesse’s side): The scene was a dark and rowdy college bar. Music pulsed through the speakers and the drinks flowed freely. Despite the debauchery surrounding me, I wasn’t drinking. I wasn’t partying. With an oversized and smoky set of headphones covering one ear and my eyes on the crowd, I was choosing the tunes to keep to party going. I wasn’t fond of party music but I had a knack for mixing records- a skill that kept money in my pockets during my university days and early career. Unlike me, elevated and distant from the crowd, Suzie navigated her way thorough the masses with ease. We worked together at this fun and bustling dive bar; I was the deejay and she was a cocktail waitress. Standing five-three with a thin and muscular build, curly auburn hair, eyes like the ocean and a perpetual smile, she bred positivity with every interaction. Wearing a ragged pair of sneakers and tank top among the throng of try-hard sorority girls in heels, she was a diamond in the rough. Oozing bubbly confidence and kind-heartedness, I admired the little I knew about her.
“Hi! Excuse me,” she would greet me, asking for a song request. Where others would demand, she would ask kindly and with genuine gratitude. Of course I played what she wanted to hear every time she would ask. Apparently, from what she later told me, I seemed to exude similar positivity and an upbeat good-natured spirit at that time as well. However, one night my characteristic charisma was missing- having just endured a breakup I was not in my standard high spirits. Though I was still happy to fulfill her song requests, she was able to tell that I was a bit downtrodden.
“What’s the matter? She asked me. You’re usually so upbeat, and seemed a little down tonight.” Ah, what the hell I thought. I told her about my recent breakup, and how I’ll try to be a bit more fun next week. “Yeah, I know what you mean” she said, “I’m recently out of a long relationship too. It can be hard at times but smile when you can; it’s important to stay happy!” Her advice stuck with me and I was delighted to get a message from her that week. She found me on Facebook and wanted to know how I was doing. We started chatting, and I noticed that her cover photo was from Thailand. “Have you been to Thailand?” I asked, my curiosity piqued. “No, but I’ve always wanted to go- my sister was just there on her honeymoon. How about you?” I’ve never been to Thailand but I have spent time in Indonesia- Island hopping from Bali to the Gili Island Chain. I shared a couple stories about the region and we talked late into the night.
A couple days later was Valentines Day. Despite dinner plans with a fun platonic friend, I had no romantic ambitions. However, from the time of our talk after work until now, Suzie’s smile and bright eyes were in the back of my mind. I noticed a text when I returned to my car. Wondering who it was, I turned on the phone’s screen and was delighted to see that it was from her! I followed the text with a call and we decided to watch a movie together and be each other’s dates for a laid-back evening of friendship and company. She arrived with no pretense, her impish smile paired with wild curly hair and modest clothes. The night before we met at a party I was playing music at. Though I didn’t have much time, we danced for a bit – I enjoyed both sides of her. On one hand she was drop-dead beautiful. The envy of the room; striking in a simple sundress and a smile. On the other, dressed modestly with her crooked glasses and slight grin she was an intelligent dreamer with a unique take on the world around her. We watched a cute animated movie about a superhero dog and parted ways to connect later in the week. We got closer with time and grew together as a couple; I could hardly believe my good fortune.
how they asked (Suzie’s side): It’s 4am on Saturday and I’m being woken up by an Ed Sheeran song. I’d be lying if I said my initial reaction was enthusiasm, but I look over and Jesse has this boyish grin on his face. He excitedly tells me to get dressed and put my hiking boots on.
Back story: I had an inclination Jesse was up to something for this weekend because he kept making sure I was off work. Thursday night, just a couple days before this, he sent me a file titled “Secret” with a little clue and a gear list for this weekend. It mentioned a fancy outfit and I think I saw a helicopter in the background of the clue, so I was definitely thinking there was some potential for something big.
Also, I should mention we are in New Zealand. Jesse and I decided to take a year and do a working-holiday visa here for some good old fashioned world traveling. The nature in NZ is incredible. A good friend of ours says, “If Yosemite, Switzerland and Hawaii had an MDMA fueled orgy, New Zealand would be their love child.” And as keen nature-lovers, Jesse and I were drawn to this beautiful place, and so here is where our story takes place.
Back to 4am.
We put on our clothes and hiking boots, grab flashlights and we’re out the door.
It’s still dark outside. We start driving and just ten minutes down the road Jesse parks the car. We’re at the start of Roy’s Peak hiking trail and I finally have some clue as to what we are doing today. So we start the uphill hike in the dark, flashlights leading our way. Whenever Jesse and I have an extended period of time with no entertainment, we are quick to make our own. We often play the “song game” where we just make up our own horribly inappropriate songs, the goofier the better. Of course, we were pretty quick to play the “song game.” That’s one of the things I love about being with Jesse – our mutual weirdness.
As we’re hiking up through these sheep farms, we’re greeted by little lambs and sheep all along our path. The sun rises and makes the sky a cotton-candy pink for a little while. The Southern Alps stretch out more and more and we hike higher. We take a few stops along the way for snacks and a kiss or two. ;)
3 hours later.
We have nearly made it to the top! We’re a little breathless and I am VERY ready to sit for a long while and enjoy the view from the top of this mountain range. As we near the top, Jesse suggests we sit for a minute to calm down before we take in the view. I don’t seem to think anything of this and close my eyes to meditate for a minute (which is typical for me). Next thing I know Jesse is blindfolding me and putting headphones in my ears. I start to say “What are you doing?” but soon realize something is HAPPENING. I think. I kept saying to myself, “Is this it? Is it really happening?” Jesse starts to play a song through the headphones. It’s one that is very special to us – I Will Follow You Into The Dark by Death Cab for Cutie. Ironically, but I don’t think intentionally, I am in the dark… following Jesse. He had started to lead me down the path a bit more while I’m blindfolded. After a few little stumbling steps Jesse just decides to pick me up and carry me the rest of the way. The song is playing still, “You and me, have seen everything to see, from Bangkok to Calgary…” (or New Zealand). At this point, I’m totally crying under the blindfold and I think to myself, “This must be it.” My handsome man is carrying me, his sturdy arms making me feel safe despite the darkness from this blindfold, and our song is creating the perfect soundtrack for this moment. We reach the end of the path I guess because Jesse puts me down and whispers to take off the blindfold when the song ends. We hold each other and kiss for a minute. I ask him if he can hear the song and he says yes. I start to sing the last part out loud. “If heaven and hell decide that they both are satisfied, Illuminate the “No’s” on their vacancy signs. If there’s no one beside you when your soul embarks, then I’ll follow you into the dark.”
The song ends and I take off my blindfold to see Jesse down on his knee, and the mountains and lakes stretching out behind him. The sight of him takes my breathe away, literally. And now I know… This. Is. It. We both pause and take in this moment. This beautiful, emotional, monumental moment. It really felt like everything was still. Jesse says to me, “I am in the most beautiful place in the world and all I can think of is you.” He says he would be honored if I would be his wife, and then says those four perfect words: “Will you marry me?” I, of course, say yes without a hint of hesitation. I have never been so sure of something in my life. And Jesse puts the most beautiful ring on my finger! It is a twinkling star!
And we laugh and kiss and wipe away our tears for a few moments before excitedly walking back to where we had been before. Jesse reveals that he set up his camera and got this whole moment on video.
We are glowing with love for each other, all smiles and glittering eyes. Jesse has another surprise in store for us! He pulls out a little bottle of champagne from his backpack and two small plastic wine glasses.
We toasted to our brand new engagement right there on the summit of Mount Roy! Then he tells me he has a whole celebration weekend in store for us! A hotel suite for tonight, fancy dinner reservations and a helicopter tour over the Southern Alps and Milford Sound the next morning. WOW. (He planned this very well, if I do say so myself.) We took a few pictures after and then excitedly start back down the mountain, calling our family and telling them the news along the way. I had no idea this mountain would mean so much to us. We went up as boyfriend and girlfriend, and came down as fiancees, life partners and more in love than ever. I sure am happy that this is the person I will spend the rest of my life with and have felt beyond lucky every day since.
Editor’s note: Suzie and Jesse are friends of ours and if you can believe there are photos more beautiful than that proposal shot, you should check out more of Jesse’s amazing work.