Charlotte and Arik
How We Met
Arik had recently moved to Chicago and I moved back home after school to the Chicago suburbs. We both decided to give the social media dating app Tinder a shot in the dark. We both swiped right on Tinder in August of 2013 but after a bit of back and forth chit-chat, little did Arik know that I deleted the app. I never imagined going on a date with someone from a dating app – it was more for the thrill of matches! I would find out later that Arik persisted with his messages for 5 MONTHS! As typical millennials might do, we befriended one another through Facebook when we had originally matched and within three weeks after reconnecting, we had our first date shortly after the new year in 2014. I met him downtown and we went on our first date to the most delicious Chicago-staple fast-food place, Portillos! The rest is history!
How He Asked
He told me a fun birthday weekend was planned (for me), but gave no indication of where we were going or what we were doing. A well-crafted email with the subject, “Birthday Weekend Extravaganza” he sent me Friday morning articulated what I needed to pack/wear and emphasized two rules I need to follow: “1. No questions about what we’re doing 2. Refrain from as much phone usage as you can this weekend – being present is key!” We drove to Denver International Airport and he voiced to not get too excited about our first destination, Chicago, because of a flight connection. A feeling of disappointment came over me since I am from Chicagoland where most of my family and friends still reside. Upon arriving in Chicago, I felt bewildered as we left the security area and onto baggage claim. I asked him half-excited, half-perplexed whether we were staying in Chicago to which he just smiled back at me.
We walked outside the baggage claim area where I thought we would be hopping in an Uber or Lyft but to my surprise, my Mom pulls up! We head back to the suburban house I grew up in. Moments later, my younger brother (who is supposed to be studying for his midterms at college about a 4 hour drive away) walks in with Portillo’s, my favorite fast food chain in Chicago. A little later that evening, my younger sister and Dad walk in. It’s fair to say at this point I was feeling overwhelmed and perhaps a bit anxious.
The next morning we catch the train into Chicago. We walk into a restaurant to have brunch where all of my best college friends and their significant others are waiting for me. SURPRISE! Let’s the tears commence. An amazing brunch, trip to the zoo, and rooftop bar made for a perfect Saturday afternoon. We all then head to an adorable AirBnB where we will be staying the night. We had an hour to get ready for dinner, which Arik then tells me that he won’t be able to grab dinner with all of us but would meet up shortly afterwards. At this point, I’m too anxious to question anything.
After dinner, I receive a text from Arik to meet me at an address not too far away from where my friends and I were at. He tells me to come alone. Nervously, I get out of the cab and he informs me that my “birthday surprise” is not quite ready yet, but there’s a bookstore open that we can browse in for a few minutes. What bookstore is open after 7pm on a Saturday night I think to myself. We walk in and begin browsing. We make our way to the back of the bookstore where a lone display is set up with a book titled, Oh, the Places They’ll Go! and gorgeous fall-themed flowers beside it. A little puzzled, I proceed further to realize that this professionally illustrated book has his name on it! He tells me we should sit down and read it together. Cue the song, “Perfect” by Ed Sheeran. And then cue the inconspicuous gentleman reading in the back of the bookstore procuring a camera out of his bag sitting next to him.
I begin reading the book which is accompanied by stunning illustrations. I quickly learn that the story is about us – where we grew up, how we met, and our adventures over the years. I pause frequently to wipe tears streaming down my face and telling myself that I’m not sure if I can finish reading. But I do press on. I then realize that the story is taking a turn to that very evening, which outlines our flight to Chicago, coming together with friends, and a trip to the bookstore. I flip to the next page where an illustrated Arik is down on one knee and the words immediately to the left reading, “It was at this point, That Arik got down on one knee, And lovingly asked, ‘Charlotte Emily Janus, Will You Marry Me?’” I get through the first two lines but he takes over from there. I’m an awful decision maker normally but this was the easiest I’ve ever made, “YES!”
Afterwards, we hop in a cab to go to a bar near our AirBnB. Before we walk in, we call his parents to share the news. We walked in where I am greeted by nearly 50 of my closest family and friends. And more tears of joy. We celebrate the night away. BEST DAY EVER. But he had one more surprise up his sleeve. The next morning at brunch, he hands me a wrapped birthday gift which I immediately decline. I tell him I can’t handle any more surprises. But I proceed to open the gift which is a book about Hamilton (the musical). I was relieved, until I opened it and found two tickets to see the show for our first time that day. One more set of tears coming streaming down my face. He reassures me there are no more surprises as we say our goodbyes and head to the airport to head back to Denver.
Oh, almost forgot. Arik snuck away for his own dinner with my parents to formally ask for their permission and blessing prior to proposing. They were so thrilled that they dropped him off at the bookstore before I arrived.
Let the wedding planning commence!