I Think This Might Be What They Call A Plot Twist

The funniest thing about the day is that it starts out badly. Having finally mastered the stovetop espresso pot in our tiny kitchen, I pour inky liquid into two tiny cups and hold them up proudly for Sean. On my first sip, I realize I've mistaken the salt for the sugar. There are two ways to realize that you've mistaken the salt for the sugar and this way is the worst one. As I'm spitting the briny mouthful back into the sink, the toast pops up, black and smoldering. Just like that, our first breakfast in Rome is ruined.

**************************

And it gets worse. A fruitless morning of searching for a bank and then a place for lunch culminates in a terrible argument in a sun-dappled piazza in Trastevere. It's awful because it shouldn't be awful: couples are smooching on benches, kids are frolicking on warmed flagstones, and there we are in the world's most romantic city, shouting at each other. Why wasn't that restaurant good enough? Why couldn't we just have gone there? We're in Rome, for god's sake, just choose a damn place to eat.  After all the time and all the money and all the anticipation, there is an almost suffocating pressure for every moment of this vacation to be perfect. We're like pots, boiling, and something has to give. Seething, I threaten to go back to the apartment. Sean throws the keys after me as I stride away.

****************************

We find each other at a fountain, perch on the edge and talk our way back to loving each other. It takes a while, but we align ourselves again. It's a relief, we agree, for this to have happened. Finally, we can stop trying to pretend we're in some stupid film about a couple on vacation in Rome.

*****************************

The cafe is dark and dim as we bite into warm panini. We sip grapefruit soda poured into small cloudy glasses and split a pastry we have to point to; we've ventured off the tourist track now and the woman behind the counter speaks no English. She smiles, we smile, she smiles again: it's refreshing, actually, to be smiled at so much.

Afterwards, we follow a group of nuns down a narrow alley until we see the pale blue dome of St. Peter's Basilica rising in the distance. Something between us has changed now: an easiness exists where it didn't exist before. We've done the worst thing we can thing of, marred our perfect trip with the black smudge of a hideous fight, and now that we've done it---now that we've done it and survived it---things seem suddenly clean and bright and new again. Whitewashed and gleaming, the day opens up before us like a dream.

********************************

He almost doesn't bring his camera to dinner. No, bring it, I say, you might want it, you never know. Here, you can put it in my purse.

He doesn't have a bag as we leave the apartment, you see. His hands are empty, his pockets look flat. The wonderful thing is that I have no idea.

*******************************

It's as though the two halves of the day are mirror images of each other: nothing goes right at first, and then afterwards, things go almost comically right. We find the restaurant we've been looking for and take the last outdoor table. The night is warm, the wine is cheap, the moon glimmers overhead, and on either side of us, couples are chattering in rapid-fire Italian. The girl to our left orders a steak the size of her head and we all laugh when it arrives. Our grinning waiter places a plate of arugula, prosciutto, and craggy shavings of parmesan on the checkered tablecloth in front of us, then follows it up with steaming bowls of pasta that make our eyes roll back in our head. We share a bowl of tiramisu for dessert, and although I manage to stop short of dipping my head into it and licking the edges when it's finished, I do actually run my finger along the sides and lick that instead.

I'm not proud of that, of course. But then you didn't taste that tiramisu.

***********************************

It's a ten minute walk back to our apartment, and when he grabs me in a bear hug on the narrow cobblestoned street, it's nothing unusual. He's good at hugging, this boy; he hugs like he never wants to let go.

But this time he doesn't. This time he doesn't let go.

***********************************

The thing I will remember later when I'm thinking back on it is that I am wearing these stupid skin-colored socks from Target, socks that are meant to be worn with ballet flats and only cover your toes, except they don't just cover your toes, they peek out just a little bit, and the effect is wholly unflattering. There we are, embracing in a tiny cobblestoned alley in the middle of Rome, and it's almost midnight, and I'm wearing these stupid socks and I kind of have to pee, and even despite this---even despite the fact that I'm wearing these stupid socks and that I kind of have to pee---he still looks at me and he says it.

He says I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I want to marry you.

I look up at him and I say seriously?, and afterwards we will laugh about how I kept saying that---seriously? seriously? is this for real?---and he pulls something from his pocket, and even in the lamp-lit street, I can tell that it's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen in my life.

He puts it on my finger, and my hands are shaking, and later we will have to sit in a doorway for half an hour to recover, but right there on that street in Rome, all I can think is that this is actually happening to me, that this is my life. And there we are, just looking at each other, just laughing, and then I say wait, you know what? I don't think you even asked me!

And he says Oh! I guess I didn't! and we laugh some more, and he says well, will you? Will you marry me? And I say the only thing I can think of. I say of course.

1
K
Oct 15, 2008

Wow! Longtime reader delurking to offer congratulations! This is amazing! And there are far too many exclamations points! Congrats!!

2
amanda
Oct 15, 2008

Ooh, this was ridiculously sweet and lovely! Best wishes & congrats!

3
Mary
Oct 15, 2008

That is the coolest thing I've heard in a long time. Congratulations! That's the kind of story, a real story, that everyone loves to hear and you got to live it. Absolutely incredible!

4
Becca
Oct 15, 2008

How awesome! YAY! Congratulations!

5
Angela
Oct 15, 2008

CONGRATULATIONS HOLLY!! I am not afraid of the cap lock in situations like this!

6
J
Oct 15, 2008

I started tearing up at "the wonderful thing is that I have no idea."

This is a beautiful story! I'm so happy for you! (BTW, "I'm" also just a lurker.. LoL)

Congratulations Holly & Sean! :D

7
Sarah Brown
Oct 15, 2008

Oh, Holly, congratulations! This made me tear up. I am so happy for you both!

8
Jemima
Oct 15, 2008

Oh, I'm all quivery and have butterflies!

I've been DYING to know the story. Sigh... Tell Sean I said congratulations! Oh man, i must throw a party! Huzzah! An engagement party!

9
ExSchutz
Oct 15, 2008

Congratulations! What a perfect story! (My husband and I got into a knock down drag out fight in front of the collasseam in June. Maybe it's the Italians that bring out the fighters in us...)

10
Nathan
Oct 15, 2008

Congratulations!!! Can't wait to celebrate!

11
Alex
Oct 15, 2008

I just happened on your website recently and have been completely taken by your writing. My husband and I got married in a little town outside of Florence (when we were 21!) and that feeling of Italy permeates our relationship to this day (well, we're only 24. But still!). It was not a postcard trip or wedding, it had it's ups and downs and laughter and awkward moments, and somehow all of that infused with Italy becomes just the 'perfect' memory.
A very sincere congratulations, and thank you for bringing some sweet thoughts to my head.

12
Erica
Oct 15, 2008

Congrats! Best trip ever!

13
Kari
Oct 15, 2008

Congratulations (from a lurker)!

14
Ris
Oct 15, 2008

Ooh lovely. Congratulations to you both.

15
Lizzi
Oct 15, 2008

Congratulations!!! Marriage is wonderful. And pre-engagement fights just make the story, well, a story.

16
Moose
Oct 15, 2008

I'm tearing up again. Congratulations!! Can't wait to celebrate.

17
Allison
Oct 15, 2008

Delurking to say congratulations to you! I was going to delurk today anyway because last night I tried your shepherd's pie recipe and have discovered that I really, really like shepherd's pie, and so I wanted to thank you.

But wow! This is even *better* than shepherd's pie!

18
amber of theambershow
Oct 15, 2008

I started crying at "I have no idea.", and now I can't stop crying!

Congratulations.

This is the most beautiful thing I've read in a long time.

19
Sensibly Sassy
Oct 15, 2008

oh my gosh no way! Such a great proposal!
Congrats!

20
Jen
Oct 15, 2008

I loved your story and am so excited for you.

Very romantic.

J.

21
Julie
Oct 15, 2008

Now you've gone and made me cry at my desk and I have a meeting in four minutes. :) Congratulations!!

22
Anne & May
Oct 15, 2008

Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles! (That's from Fiddler on the Roof when they get engaged and exactly how I felt on that day too.)

You guys are going to be the world's cutest engaged couple. I couldn't be happier for you.

Now stop blogging and go enjoy Rome!

Though you COULD find time to upload a picture of the ring...methinks.

23
nicole
Oct 15, 2008

CONGRATS! That sounds just perfect.

24
Alexa
Oct 15, 2008

OMG- So excited :) Yay!

25
Mariam
Oct 15, 2008

Okay, this entry brought me to tears - best post evar. Congratulations!!!

26
Jonna
Oct 15, 2008

What a wonderful story! Congratulations! You two are clearly meant for each other, your love for each other has shown through everything you've written.

27
missbeegail
Oct 15, 2008

Yay! Congratulations. I love the fact that everything didn't turn out right but all ended perfectly.

28
Jenn
Oct 15, 2008

AWESOME. Congratulations!

29
Abby
Oct 15, 2008

What a lovely story and I am sure an even lovelier reality! So happy for you and Sean, Rome seems to be a good place to start and engagement, seeing as my older brother and his wife popped the question there too. Anyways I hope the rest of your vacation is wonderful and once again congrats!

30
Lauren
Oct 15, 2008

FINALLY. Sheesh.

Grats ^_^

31
emily
Oct 15, 2008

Delurking to say Congratulations! What a beautiful story!! :)

32
abbersnail
Oct 15, 2008

Thank you for making my morning. This was amazing and lovely and REAL.

33
Alisa
Oct 15, 2008

CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!!!!

What a perfect way...

34
Raven
Oct 15, 2008

This is so amazing and perfect and so YOU, that I can barely stand it!

I am so happy for you!

35
Jordyn
Oct 15, 2008

Such a beautiful story deserves a better comment than this but...

OMG YAY!!!

36
Charise
Oct 15, 2008

Yay! Congratulations! I figured this post was headed to that announcement. I also had a marriage proposal that capped off a less than stellar day, which almost makes it sweeter. And definitely more true life! Best wishes to you both!

37
Rebecca
Oct 15, 2008

So exciting! Congratulations! I wish I knew you in real life so I could see your ring! Post pics!

38
jive turkey
Oct 15, 2008

OH MY GOD.
Congratulations!! How wonderful!! This totally made me cry.

39
Amy
Oct 15, 2008

Congratulations! That is one of the greatest engagement stories I have ever heard.

40
Nic
Oct 15, 2008

Congratulations!

41
She Likes Purple
Oct 15, 2008

Oh shit, I'm crying. I am ridiculously happy for you both. Congratulations.

42
Laura
Oct 15, 2008

Congrats!!!!! You've given me butterflies :) What a great proposal!

43
Jenni
Oct 15, 2008

So beautiful!

44
Robin
Oct 15, 2008

Congratulations! About halfway into the story, I grinned and squealed out loud, complete with feet-pattering accompaniment.

45
Alexa
Oct 15, 2008

Oh, HOLLY! Many, many, many congratulations! I am just delighted for you. Champagne for everybody!

46
Erin
Oct 15, 2008

You had me totally wrapped up from the first paragraph. That's one of those stories that if you read it in a novel or saw it in a movie, you'd say, Yeah right that never happens in real life.

Way to go on making it happen!

47
Teej
Oct 15, 2008

Oh, wonderful foreshadowing! I really savored the rest of the story, knowing what was coming. A lovely post and wonderful news! Many happy wishes for the future.

48
Kristabella
Oct 15, 2008

CONGRATULATIONS SEAN AND HOLLY! What a beautiful post! I'm so excited for you two! YAY!

49
Sierra
Oct 15, 2008

Another long-time lurker saying hooray, hooray, hooray! Congratulations to both of you and I cannot wait for a picture of the ring. I also answered my fiance with an "of course." :)

50
Karen
Oct 15, 2008

Congratulations!! This was a wonderful post...about half way through I thought, "Wait...is this about what I think its about???"

Very exciting :)

51
liz
Oct 15, 2008

congratulations! what wonderful news.

52
Melissa
Oct 15, 2008

That was so eloquent and beautiful. Congratulations to you both (from a long time lurker). I'm seriously all teary eyed at work now but it was worth it!

53
Lyndsee
Oct 15, 2008

Oh. This is too sweet. Was I the only one who totally didn't see it coming until the "i want to marry you"?? Why am i so thick? Anyways, congratulations!

54
hillary
Oct 15, 2008

Gah! The cuteness.
Congratulations to you and Sean!

55
Janet
Oct 15, 2008

It is only slightly embarrassing that I totally just got teary-eyed right here in the law school computer lab.

When I read this part--"He doesn't have a bag as we leave the apartment, you see. His hands are empty, his pockets look flat. The wonderful thing is that I have no idea"--I knew it was going to be the best post ever.

Congratulations!

56
BethanyWD
Oct 15, 2008

That IS quite the plot twist! Congratulations!!!!

57
Ellen
Oct 15, 2008

I also had a proposal that fit smack dab in with real life and I LOVE that about it.

Congratulations! I had goose bumps after "I had no idea". So happy for you two!

58
zan
Oct 15, 2008

That's just the way it should be! I'm so happy for you both.

59
leandra
Oct 15, 2008

What a beautifully written story! And congratulations! My sister just got engaged in Paris, so I am probably more weepy about this than I should be. :)

60
Marcy ( Marcella)
Oct 15, 2008

Aguri!!
Congrats.. So fitting that you should be in one of the most romantic places on earth for this to happen.. smart man that Sean.
Two years ago my husband arranged for us to renew our vows in the same church my parents were married in !
All as a 25th wedding anniversary surprise! everyone knew but me... how wonderful it was to be there with all my Old Aunts and cousins...He now and forever shall be known as Mr Romance..
Hold on to your Mr Romance ... and enjoy Beautiful Italy!
Happiness to you both !!!!

61
Janssen
Oct 15, 2008

Hooray! Oh, hooray! Can't wait to see the ring.

62
Andrea
Oct 15, 2008

First of all - a hardy congrats! Secondly - excellent prose. ;)

63
soulfusion
Oct 15, 2008

congratulations!!! I think the fight actually makes it a more interesting film about a couple touring Rome . . . with that kind of ending!
Oh, and my sister and I got in a ridiculous fight about where to eat/what to do in Rome as well. A legendary fight where I nearly abandoned her in the streets knowing full well she would never find her way back to the hotel. I guess Italy is all about passion! Congratulations again.

64
Maggie
Oct 15, 2008

I am CRYING right now! Tears of JOY! For a STRANGER!

Congratulations to both of you. This is so terribly exciting!

65
Kristin
Oct 15, 2008

Aw Holly, that is so great! And I actually thought about you guys in Rome this week, and wondered if Sean might propose, and he did! I am so SO happy for you guys - huge congratulations to you both.

66
punchlinewalking
Oct 15, 2008

Oh wow! CONGRATULATIONS! What a wonderful story!

67
Sarah
Oct 15, 2008

I (hoped I) knew what was coming as soon as I read the title, then read every word carefully, desperately trying not to accidentally see anything further down the page.
Congratulations to you both, this is wonderful :-)
And by the way, the long version of my brother and sister-in-law's engagement story involved a barney too and the proposal was later made and accepted on the Golden Gate Bridge.

68
Michelle
Oct 15, 2008

I'm so happy for you both! Congratulations!

69
Karen
Oct 15, 2008

Delurking to say congratulations! How exciting for both of you, and it was a beautiful read, too.

70
Raychelle
Oct 15, 2008

Oh my, my heart just melted. What a fabulous proposal story. Congratulations!!!

71
Katrina
Oct 15, 2008

Congratulations Sean and Holly!!!

72
boomama
Oct 15, 2008

An absolutely beautiful engagement story - and what a treasure that you've written it down so that you'll always remember the details! Hugs and best wishes to you both.

73
Jamie
Oct 15, 2008

Congratulations! I am so, so happy for both of you- which might be weird because, like a lot of people who are really happy for you two right now, I only know you through this blog. But it's a testament to your writing that I feel like I do know you, like you're an old friend who just shared great news.

And I'm seconding all the calls for a photo of the ring!

74
Gwen
Oct 15, 2008

Congratulations! You will have the best story to tell the grandkids (and isn't that the point? :) )

75
amanda
Oct 15, 2008

Oh, I just loved reading this! Congratulations!

And well done, Sean.

76
Nancy
Oct 15, 2008

Oh a big big congratulations, Holly and Sean! What a wonderful, real, touching way to tell the story of how you got engaged. Your writing just upends me sometimes -- lovely, genuine and intimate. So very happy for you both.

77
edj
Oct 15, 2008

Congrats and best wishes! I can't wait to read all about wedding plans.

78
Abby
Oct 15, 2008

ohmygosh CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

79
dani
Oct 15, 2008

Congratulations!

I love that you had no idea - makes it all the more special.

80
Sandra
Oct 15, 2008

Congratulations!! That was a perfectly lovely proposal. I can't wait for the wedding planning posts :D

81
Blythe
Oct 15, 2008

This made me all teary. Hooray! Congratulations to both of you.
I hope you went back for more tiramisu.

I can't wait to read all about the wedding plans.

82
Steph
Oct 15, 2008

hehe I had the biggest feeling that was what this post was going to be about! Congrats Sean and Holly, yeay!!!

83
Emily
Oct 15, 2008

Yay for you guys! That is truly happy news. Congratulations!

84
Cat
Oct 15, 2008

Don't ever lose those socks! Happy Day

85
Elizabeth
Oct 15, 2008

I knew it! I knew it! Congratulations. Congratulations so much.
Also, I have totally had that sort of fight. The sort of fights you know are coming, but you try to stop them, because they must not happen on what should be a perfect day or during something you have planned so long for, and then they happen anyway and it feels as though everything is RUINED for all time. And when you are with someone who can cross the distance to where you are and start to undo the rift the fight has caused, who can sneak a foot over to your foot and maybe make you start to laugh even as you are convinced you hate his guts, when you are with someone who forgives you and fixes it, as terrible as it was, that person is magic.
I am so glad I found my person, and I am so glad you found yours.

86
Ellen
Oct 15, 2008

Also, I love that feeling after a reconciliation when you can go out and enjoy that bright sunshine of joy... it's like when you've had a good cry you really needed and then you realize that everything is perfect after all. We always feel closer than before those fights.

87
Purnima
Oct 15, 2008

Congratulations! This is such a lovely story.

88
Kristin
Oct 15, 2008

Oh, Congratulations!! I knew as soon as you said his pockets looked flat, and then I couldn't believe you said that you "still didn't know" because that is EXACTLY how my husband gave it away when he asked me. It was the day I moved to MN to be near him and we were going to dinner to "celebrate the move" and on the way there he touched his pocket. Just a non-chalant move, but immediately I knew. He's going to ask me. And he did. (And it was still awesome!)

89
jdg
Oct 15, 2008

ha! poor sean so nervous. . .

congrats you two.

90
tina
Oct 15, 2008

oh wow. this is so great. congratulations to you both!