She Lights Up My Life


Arecibo Lighthouse, Puerto Rico

I did it!  I asked Maria to marry me.  We had borrowed her brother Silvio’s car to drive up to Arecibo again.  Maria likes the restaurant there by the lighthouse and small theme park.  I wasn’t sure when the moment would come.  It came as she looked out at the water, from the porch where we sat.  I’d seen her face go soft and eyes mist before, and I had stopped asking her what was troubling her, for it was always the same thing.  She  still grieved the baby she had lost four years ago.  Our baby.  Our son.  He was nearly ready to be delivered, when Maria was struck down at the soup kitchen in D.C. where she worked.  The blunt trauma to her stomach was too much, and we lost him.   I grieved losing him too, but not in the same way.  The grief I felt then was probably more guilt than anything — for putting her in the situation, not being by her side, and a whole lot of other feelings I couldn’t possibly sort out.  What I feel now when she gets misty-eyed is far clearer: gut-gripping love.

Feeling that, I don’t want to wait any longer.  We’ve dated for four months, known each other for five years (with a lot of space in between).  Though, I don’t yet have a job here, I am tired of using that as an excuse for not getting engaged.  So, before our conch salads and coladas I looked across the table took her resting hand in mine.  She turned back toward me, and when I looked down at the table, she did too.  I held a sapphire ring I’d bought her in my free hand.  I didn’t say a word, and neither did she.  Still holding her left hand, I eased the ring onto her fourth finger.

She looked a bit surprised.  I worried: “Maybe this isn’t how it’s done on the island?  Have I not done something I should have, like asked her father’s permission (he doesn’t seem to be in her life) or knelt down?” But slowly the sun rose in her eyes.  Then, her loose jaw firmed and framed a glowing smile. Okay!  I guess I did good.

We held hands while we ate, and for the rest of the afternoon, as we walked around Arecibo’s lighthouse.  Sometimes you can light up someone’s life.  And sometimes her light brings you home.

–Will Gray

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