Marie and Benjy
How We Met
Marie: As a young, 14-year- old girl, I was pursuing a career in ballet. I attended a Christian performing arts camp called Masterworks Festival. I quickly became friends with a small group of girls my age who were in my dance classes. Outside of my small friend group, I was extremely shy. There was a vibrant, friendly, barefoot boy who was exactly the opposite of me. He was friends with everyone, and they adored him. I began noticing him often. I admired his free spirit, and what I thought to be fearlessness. He sang constantly. I barely spoke. He had many friends. I had a few. He seemed so relaxed and joyful, and I was fascinated.
Independence day festivities commenced. It was June 30th 2012, and everyone was going down
to the lakefront to watch the fireworks. My best friend from home had attended the festival
the previous year. She came to visit for the day. I wanted to watch the fireworks, but neither of
us wanted to face the crowds. We decided to sit under a tree at the top of a large hill. It was
peaceful and provided a stunning view of the fireworks. We were joined by another friend of
hers. They had not seen each other in a year, so I was understandably the third wheel. I sat a
few feet away from them and contently watched the show of flashing colorful light. I enjoyed
the sweet summer air and the warm, gentle breeze in my hair.
A silhouette climbed the hill. It was walking towards me. My heart jumped and my posture straightened as I realized it was the friendly boy who never wore shoes and sang wherever he went. He sat down next to me and said “Hi, I’m Benjy.” I froze. It seemed that everything else did too. My thoughts began racing. “I bet every girl here is in love with him. Wow, he is so adorable. Oh my goodness, can he hear my heart pounding? Look at that smile.” After a very long period of silence, I quietly said “I’m Marie.” I don’t think he heard me, I was so quiet. He was un-phased by my awkwardness. Benjy happily sat by my side and talked with my friends as I sat there, watching him—mesmerized. He seemed to be delighted just to be spending time with me. I couldn’t understand why. My friends dared him to climb the large oak tree as fast as he could. He easily and gracefully reached the top in less than a minute. I was quite impressed. He was gleefully laughing and smiling down from the top of the huge tree. I finally mustered up the courage to look up. I met the gaze of his warm brown eyes and blushed as his contagious smile made me bashfully grin. In that precious moment, I knew that the fight with my pounding heart was hopeless.
Benjy: It was conflicting when I heard that I would have the opportunity to share “our” story with How He Asked. Since childhood, I have been a natural performer, people-pleaser, and egoist. It’s not always a quality I take pride in. For this reason, sharing with the Internet just how specifically photogenic my love-language for Marie is strikes a nerve of self-guilt, doubt, and fear. The Internet is a dangerous place for a writer-photographer and a dancer-nerd to fall in love. I’m lucky enough to have the personality which fits our society’s description of “being romantic.” I only know that I have shared my love story as a testament and not a template. The love Marie and I are in is impossibly stubborn and confusing, but I live it and she gets it.
I met Marie in June 2012. She was a girl then – a 14-year- old ballet dancer who flew when she stumbled, sang when she laughed, and stole my thoughts (if not my heart) from the moment I saw her. She was sitting under a starless night, bathed in the light of some early independence-day fireworks and emanating a secular chakra that could stop the hearts of a cephalopod. I played the clumsy charmer. Introducing myself awkwardly, 16-year- old me flirted with thepoise of an arthritic puppy. By the end of the night, I had stared at everyone’s feet, thrown grass at her, and climbed a tree. Somehow, Marie got the point.
How He Asked
Marie: On May 28 th , 2017 Benjy and I were to celebrate three years of dating. Our relationship has always been deeply rooted in our friendship. Benjy is not only my lover, he is my closest companion, my inspiration, my joy, and my dearest friend. Despite living a few hours apart, we have always prioritized visiting each other. After about a week of strange behavior and nearly 30 different versions of Benjy’s plan for our anniversary, I was suspicious. He couldn’t keep his story straight, not even that but his “plans” were nonsensical. He told me I should wear a white dress, and that he wanted to take some pictures together. Then he told me I should meet him at 10 pm on May 27 th in East Lansing. This was all relatively reasonable, but when my darling health freak told me we were going to Culver’s (which by the way, is closed at 10 pm) I just laughed. He was such a mess. I was not sure of what would actually happen, but he knows that I love surprises, so I just went with what he said. I figured he had secret plans for our anniversary. I wasn’t wrong, but I had no idea how surprised I would be.
Around 11:45 pm Benjy suggested that we go for a drive. We blasted music and sang obnoxiously. I looked at the clock again– midnight. It was May 28 th —Our anniversary. We pulled into the woods that we often spend Saturday afternoons among the beautiful trees, sharing our thoughts, love of nature, and the quiet of the woods. As Benjy parked the Jeep, I could see lights. I began panicking. I knew he was about to propose. I had no idea how to react, or how to prepare myself for what I knew was about to happen. I was so excited and frazzled. My entire body shivered with excitement, and my heart pounded in my chest as Benjy gently led me down a long, glowing path of candles towards a stunning canopy of light. The scene was unbelievable. It was like something that could only be real in a dream.
It was as if Benjy took every small detail, every sentimental idea that had ever crossed my mind and combined them into his proposal. There were lanterns hanging from the trees, soft white tulle floating in the air, and candles flickering along the soft mossy forest floor. As we walked, slowly towards this fairyland, he squeezed my hand, and whispered many sweet and wonderful words that my brain failed to remember due to all of the excitement. What I do remember is Benjy telling me that he wanted to transport me into a different world—one made entirely of his love—he wanted me to know what his love feels like, looks like, smells like, and sounds like. As we got closer, I could hear one of our friends playing the guitar and singing our favorite love songs, one that had accompanied countless slow dances throughout the years.
As we reached the end of the candlelit trail, he drew back the tulle of the canopy for me. He held my hands in his and we stood there, lost in each other’s eyes. I have no idea how long we stood there, nothing else existed in that time. We were entirely consumed by the love that we share. Tears stained our cheeks as we smiled. The moment was overwhelmed with absolute joy and peace. He smiled even more, knelt on one knee and said “Marie, will you marry me?” I hugged him and sobbed. I almost forgot to say yes. We laughed, cried, shared a tender kiss, and slow danced as our dear friend Monte Pride graced the atmosphere with beautiful music. That night will be forever ingrained in my memory. I am so excited to spend the rest of my life adventuring with my best friend.
Benjy: Five years later, I decided to share my love a little better. With some foresight involved, I began to plan my proposal. More accurately, I began crafting her memory of our engagement. To say that I was fastidious would be true – though misleading. I was fastidious for me. On May 27 (the day before our 3-year anniversary), I borrowed a roofing ladder and began climbing trees, deep in a shallow forest. In total, forty-five fairy-lanterns were hung. With the added tulle canopy, (something my mom found of craigslist) I began my preemptive foray into Marie’s hippocampus.
That’s right. I had a semester of Psych 101 at my back to aid me in my efforts. Occipital pathways confirmed, I asked a good friend and musician (Monte Pride) for an auditory contribution to Marie’s temporal lobe. Combined with the fresh night air, and the mossy forest floor, I knew the scene would be unavoidably parietally engaging. Near midnight, I finally took Marie to that enchanted spot (enchanted with science). As I took her hand and led her – candle to candle – over the soft cool ground, I could feel my heart throbbing in my finger-tips. Growing closer to the canopy – to the spot I knew I would ask – I touched the ring in my pocket – an instant of characteristic panic that I had forgotten the ring seizing me. Soft guitar music wafted through the faintly intelligible treetops. Somehow, under that canopy – enveloped in light – I managed to say something honest and heartfelt, but all I really remember is staring hazily through a blur of tears and waiting to hear the fateful words from the girl I had loved for years. She said yes.