Cassie and Michael

How We Met

Seven years ago, I met Michael at a formal event that his fraternity hosted at Disney. Unfortunately, the happiest place on Earth didn’t lead to immediate magic sparks for us.. probably because we were attending with other dates! In fact, it wasn’t until few months later, when we were re-introduced to one another over a summer semester on campus, that Michael reminded me that he had been my roommate during that long weekend in Florida. At the time, I had just fallen out of a series of not-so-great relationships and taken a vow to re-focus on myself.. you know, the kind of post-freshman year resolution almost everyone considers at one point or another. That’s when I (re)met this boy that was all wide smiles and terrible jokes. Everything about him was infectious – his tireless energy, his insatiable curiosity, his love of building things, taking apart things, hoarding everything from the smallest hex bolt to old garage sale computer parts that he would vow to “look into this weekend” (but never did), even all the funny mouth noises he made that narrated all of his comings and goings.

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All the happiest moments of my memory involved him standing by me. The first time we kissed. The first time he told me he loved me (at a rivalry college football game that we inevitably lost, hanging onto a giant bellrope in the middle of enemy campus territory, ringing ‘CLANG CLANG CLANG’ and him screaming ‘I LOVE YOU!’ in between every peal). The day he met my parents and they started telling him childhood stories I had never heard myself. The day I became sweetheart of his fraternity. The day I tearfully told him I didn’t think I could give back my foster dog and the way he just nodded at me like he had known all along (..he did). I started realizing how quiet my life was whenever he wasn’t in it. Slowly and somehow very quickly at the same time, the years went by. There are a couple of stories I always tell that I think are very defining moments of what Michael means to me.

One: when I decided to quit my first job after college and bought a solo plane ticket to Thailand that very night, he didn’t even blink an eye, and only calmly offered to watch my dog while I was gone. Two: when we later traveled to China together and met my grandmother, she immediately told my parents that any man who could so patiently sit by and fold laundry while the rest of us sat around and gossiped in Chinese was infinitely worth keeping around. Three: on tough days when I am a complete grouch and simply awful to be around, instead of responding in frustration or anger (as he is totally justified to), Michael simply says, “I’ve been thinking about ways to take some stress off your shoulders. You make me so happy and I want to help. Let’s talk about some of the ideas tonight over ice cream!” I could talk for a million pages more, but summed up: he was, is, and always will be the best partner in the world for me.

How He Asked

On a windy Monday afternoon, Michael came home from work while I was out gardening in the side yard of our home in San Francisco. He gave me a kiss and mentioned (in a very casual, off-hand way) that a ‘weird letter’ had arrived for me in the mail, before proceeding to play with our dog and avoid all manner of eye contact for the next couple of minutes. Inside the envelope he handed me was a typewritten letter, addressed to me from Hercule Poirot, the detective of my favorite Agatha Christie stories! This is what the letter said: // Hercule Poirot Whitehaven Mansion Charterhouse Square, London Dear Ms. Cassie, I hope this letter finds you well. I will get right to the point, a close associate of mine has informed me of your sharp mind and has recommended your services in helping me solve a curious crime. As the case takes place in your city of San Francisco I am unable to join you and would be most grateful if you would volunteer your talents to help me solve this mystery. If you are so inclined in this very same envelope you will find my somewhat limited notes on the case.

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Yours truly, Hercule Poirot // The limited notes consisted of a single other piece of paper, which read: // THE KEY TO HER HEART Our client has had a much cherished key stolen from her. She has described it as a heart shaped key that opened one of her most prized possessions. When asked about the safe or box this key opens or what valuables the thief may have been interested in, she waved me off and mentioned “it’s none of those things, of course not!” and dismissed me in a flourish.

It occurs to me that we should investigate the safe that is opened by this heart shaped key, to see if we can uncover any motives the thief may have had in stealing a key that does not lead to riches.. // I should preface this: several years ago, Michael gave me a jewelry box he made himself that could only be opened with a heart-shaped key. I brought this jewelry box with me all the way from Georgia when we decided to move from California and had it stored in the bottom drawer of my dresser.

I turned to look at Michael (who was still pretending to play with the dog) and asked, “Are we going on a scavenger hunt tonight??” to which he responded, “MAYBE.” Sure enough, I went straight to my dresser and found the jewelry box already opened with the heart-shaped key missing and another letter inside! This one included a library card and a riddle: // Hi – hello, lost another key? The key you seek isn’t here, but then again it never was. Instead for you, I have a clue! The key is always close, but sometimes far away. You can hold it in your hand, even though it’s bigger than the sun, some say. The key may get older, but yet it doesn’t age. You know this key and it knows you – even then it may still surprise you. Follow these clues at your own peril and remember this key may not be what you think! // I asked Michael how much time I had to solve this riddle and he responded, “Enough time to change outfits if you’d like!” A wardrobe change and some heavy thinking later, we both set off towards our local neighborhood library (remember, the note came with a library card!).

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We walked in a couple of circles around the library without seeing anything and I was starting to feel very confused when Michael suddenly chucked something into a bush. Me: ..Michael, did you just litter? Michael: MAYBE. Inside the bush was another letter with a normal looking key attached. Michael later told me he didn’t want to risk losing his actual house key.. // This key’s not right, but never fear. The time is right, the time is near! If it’s the real key you seek, meet me near Bernal’s peak! //

We walked up to the top of Bernal Heights, a huge hill in our neighborhood that overlooks all of San Francisco. Just a few steps before cresting the peak, I remembered that Michael had just asked me the night before what golden hour means and how it factors into creating nice photos. Tricky! He led me slowly to the very edge, right as the sun was beginning to fall, and the next few moments are forever ingrained into my memory. He told me that the answer to the riddle was our love, and that years back, he had made me jewelry box with a heart-shaped key because he loved me.. and that today, he had another box to share with me, but this one had no lock, and instead, opened with the answer to a question.. ..and that’s how he asked! (I said yes.)

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Special Thanks

Hannah Suh
Photographer