It was our fifth anniversary.
We actually never knew the exact date when he first asked me to be his girlfriend. I thought it was on a Thursday night. He thought it was on a Wednesday the next week. So we settled on a date: the day when he first asked me out for coffee.
Our fifth anniversary, or five years after he wrote on Facebook chat, ‘Let’s have coffee’, started like any other day. The only thing that was weird that day was the fact that he was already on my doorstep at nine-thirty in the morning. Usually, we would have just started saying good morning at nine-thirty on a Saturday. As he lived one-hour away, he would have woken up at seven that morning. It was weird, but probably he was just wanting to prove something.
Some days before, he had asked me for breakfast, and I told him that there was no way he would be able to wake up in time for breakfast. It would already be a miracle for him to wake up for us to have brunch. Late lunch was usually the go-to starting date time.
So perhaps this time he was determined to prove me wrong.
I quickly changed my clothes and went down to the basement. Instead of sitting inside the car, he was walking towards his car. I should have gotten suspicious, but he was bringing a sales brochure for one of the apartment rooms in my building. ‘Look at this,’ he quickly said. ‘I think it’s underquoted. It should be illegal.’ He showed me the price for a two-bedroom apartment on the fourth floor of my building, and I sulked.
‘That’s too low,’ I said. Then he started the car and we were on our way.
No flowers, no gifts, nada.
‘Happy fifth anniversary, Hun,’ he said after driving for three minutes. I smiled and said happy anniversary back. I suggested several cafes nearby and we picked one for our super rare breakfast date. He ordered latte. I ordered latte. He ordered the bagels with bacon and eggs. I ordered the bagels with beef bulgogi. We then went to the Carlton Garden to visit the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show. We had been wanting to go since last week.
While searching for parking, we saw a man and his young boy who were about to go out. We waited for the spot, and the man suddenly walked towards our car. ‘Here’s for you,’ he said, handing a parking ticket to us. ‘You don’t need to pay for parking anymore.’
We were stunned for a few seconds, and for the rest of the day, we knew that we had our faith in humanity restored.
He and I took a stroll through the flower arrangements and the garden. I bought a mat that said, ‘We serve only the finest Australian wine. Did you bring any?’ He bought me rustic, wintry bouquet of flowers.
We had lunch at one of our favourite restaurants, as I had been craving to eat jajangmyeon for weeks. Then he told me that his stomach was acting funny, so before we watched Zootopia, he said he wanted to drop by my place for a bit.
Sure, I said. I thought that he was up to something, but it seemed unlikely. The day had gone unceremoniously so far.
So we drove back to my place. He insisted to bring all the plastic bags, saying that he wanted to pamper me on our special day. I teased him, ‘So it’s only today that I’m going to be treated as a Princess, is it?’ He laughed and said yes.
I opened the door to my apartment and saw a hint of balloons. My favourite song was playing in the background. I turned to look at him. He was smiling wide.
I believed I might have started squealing, and entered my own room slowly, not knowing how to react rightly to all these things. In taking each step, I was thinking: Should I act very surprised? Should I break down and cry? Should I, like all those girls in the movies, cover my face with both my hands?
I decided to not think, and soon enough I didn’t have to as I was focusing on each of our photo that was tied to the end of the balloon.
He said, ‘It’s our journey together. All the way from 2011.’
I couldn’t remember if I said anything, but I put down my bag (and my flowers) and began to look at the photos. One. Two. Three. Four. There were fifty of them, all dated and numbered. There were photos when I looked fat; there were photos when I looked young. There were photos when he looked fat; there were photos when he looked young. There were moments when both of us were clearly visibly happy, and those when we tried to pull funny faces.
In looking each photo, I tried to remember the exact moment, the exact feeling I had when the picture was taken. He made small comments in between, and I did too. I reached the fiftieth photo at the end of the room and saw a medium-sized white box laid on top of a red chair. He picked up the box, which didn’t look like a ring-box, and handed it to me.
And I couldn’t find the ring. Instead, I saw a special 3D slide viewer – the one when you had as a child. He opened the curtain slightly to give some light, and I started looking through the viewer.
There were words in each of the seven photos. I clicked on each of them slowly, trying to savour the moment. I began crying when I saw the third photo. I laughed on the sixth. I cried again on the seventh.
I let go of the viewer, and saw him down on his knees, holding one last balloon that had a small jewellery pouch tied to it. The ring.
I said yes.
He slipped the ring on, stood up, wiped the tears and hugged me. We stood like that for quite a while.
Later, he asked, ‘How are you feeling?’
I looked at all the balloons around me, looked at the man with whom I had just agreed to spend the rest of my life with. I said, ‘Happy.’
‘Just happy?’ he said, smiling.
I gave him my biggest smile. ‘Very, very happy.’