Jan and Alan

Image 1 of Jan Culpa and Alan Thomas

How We Met

It all started the summer of 2012. I had just come back to Chicago from college. Like most college students coming back, I was broke. So I ended up working as a seasonal sandwich maker at a sandwich shop in downtown Chicago. One time during lunch rush, I was handed a turkey on wheat sandwich, and when I asked the guy who ordered it if he wanted any toppings, he replied, “Just that, thanks.” I thought to myself, “hmmm… he must be one of those persnickety eaters, they’re hard to deal with. Very specific and picky! I hope he doesn’t make me remake his sandwich.” Luckily, he didn’t. I used to get quite a few customers who’s made me remake their sandwich because the slice was not quite how they wanted, or even worse, selecting toppings and then changing their mind when it’s already been added, then insisting on getting a new sandwich, because their sandwich is not contaminated. It’s a sandwich, It’s not that big a deal.

After that day, the guy kept coming back for his sandwich which always remained the same, “Turkey on wheat”. Sometimes he adds a topping, but mostly it’s plain. Of course I liked him as a customer as I didn’t have to do much for his sandwich. It was very quick to make, and very easy to remember. I liked that a lot! There were a few people who I knew really wanted more than a sandwich from me, if you know what I mean. It was very clear and verbally communicated. When I receive numbers on the back of receipts, I usually know it’s coming a few sandwiches beforehand. But this “Turkey on wheat” guy. I never got any signs let alone actual words of affection from him. The most he’s said to me was “No thanks or Just that for me thanks”. He never smiled back at me or even given me “the look”. He was kind of stand off-ish. Yes, I thought he was cute and all, but I thought he wasn’t interested. Not that I was looking. I’m just saying, I never formed any romantic notions or interest with this guy or even thought that he would give me his number on the back of the receipt.

But one day, that was exactly what he did. He hands me back his receipt and made a halfway smile and said “Have a good day!” When I checked the looked at the receipt, there was a cell number. It had me scratching my head. I couldn’t connect the dots as to why he’d give me his number. He never seemed interested before. I thought maybe it was for a co-worker. So I called the number to clarify things or just notify him that I got the number instead of whoever he intended it for. The call turned into a pleasantly longer conversation, which then continued via texts message, which then turned into a date. Then to even more dates and moving in together and then to now. I’ve learned that Alan is like a coconut, the outer shell is tough to open, and then there’s another harder shell inside that. But once those layers of shells have been stripped off, you’ll find a sweet and refreshing coconut juice and tender coconut fruit on the inside.

how they asked

It happened during the first time he took me to his hometown in Ireland. It’s called Howth. Just outside of Dublin. His parents still live there and we had planned on spending Christmas and New Year with them. There is one place in Howth that Alan really likes. It’s the Howth Cliff Walk. It’s a rugged path running along the cliff’s edge. You see nothing but water from up there. It’s something magical. Throughout the trip we had been up the Cliff Walk a few times and quite frankly I thought it was enough.

Image 2 of Jan Culpa and Alan Thomas

Don’t get me wrong it’s beautiful, but it’s a bit of a production walking it, the path is very small, rugged, and lined with overgrown thistles which catch ruin your clothes. Not to mention that your shoes will get muddy and ruined every time you go there. I was running out of shoes that weren’t either muddy, wet, or both!

Image 3 of Jan Culpa and Alan Thomas

So anyway, on the last day of our trip, Alan woke me up early and insisted that we go on the Cliff Walk one more time. Four things were wrong in that situation: 1.He woke me up 2.He didn’t have coffee 3. I’ve had my fill of cliff walking for that trip 4.He woke me effin up! Needless to say it didn’t go down so well. But after 10 minutes of me saying no and him telling me to get up, I realized that he really wanted to go and that he wasn’t gonna take no for an answer.

Image 4 of Jan Culpa and Alan Thomas

So I said, “fine, but we’re stopping at Starbucks first to get coffee.” I put on my clothes and my coat and wore the shoes that were already muddy. We went to get coffee and walk up to the Cliff Walk just as the sun rose. There was a “light misty drizzly” so everything was saturated. When we started the Cliff Walk, Alan was right in front of me. But 10 minutes of keeping my eyes to the ground while navigating my way through, I looked up and Alan was gone. He had gone way ahead of me. I was furious. I thought to myself, “he is such a jerk!” So I kept on by myself until I finally caught up with him- the jerk. I said, “Phew that was a good Cliff Walk, shall we head back?” I meant that rhetorically and started walking towards the nearest exit. Suddenly, I heard Alan say “Where do you think you’re going?” I said “what? Walking back.

Image 5 of Jan Culpa and Alan Thomas

Aren’t we done?” He smirked and said “no, we’re going a little more further.” To which I strongly replied, “why?! There’s an exit is right here”. Before I could finish my response, Alan was already walking on and not listening to me. I followed under strong protest and in high disagreement. As expected, he was once again way ahead of me. So I worked my way through the thistles and the rocky terrain alone. When I finally caught up with Alan, he was looking at me with a very annoying grin on his face. I walked up towards him with death stare look on my face. I said, “okay, now are we done?!” He ignored that and instead told me to look behind. He had taken me to a spot where you can see the sides of the higher cliffs.

Image 6 of Jan Culpa and Alan Thomas

All you saw were the cliffs as they ended and the ocean took over. It was magical. Behind me, I heard Alan say, “see? It’s just like the cliffs in leap year”. Leap year is a rom-com with Amy Adams and Matthew Goode and is my favorite movie ever. The last scene is them at the edge of the cliffs after the guy proposed. So Alan doing this was very romantic to me. I felt bad that I had been so much of a curmudgeon when all this time he wanted me to see this. So I turned back around to Alan to say I’m sorry.

Image 7 of Jan Culpa and Alan Thomas

But when I turned and looked at him. He was looking odd. He looked like a kid who’s guilty of something, but actually wants to tell it to you. I asked, “what’s wrong” and then He said, “Do you want to get married to me?” My jaw dropped and my mouth uttered the words, ” are you serious?” I don’t know why, it just came out. I think it was just a knee jerk reaction.

Image 8 of Jan Culpa and Alan Thomas

But Alan said,”well yea, I am. Do you wanna get married to me or not?” Saying that he looked like a kid in a mood because he didn’t get what he wanted. That made me smile. He looked so handsome and cute. I said, with a smile on my face “yes, of course I want to marry you.”

Image 9 of Jan Culpa and Alan Thomas