Where’s Cate?

“Where’s Cate?”

Is what J said as she walked up the stairs to the rooftop of this landmarked building.  The sun was setting over the Manhattan skyline, and the breeze was just perfect to cool off the warmth of this summer’s evening.

It was the perfect decoy.  I had told her that I needed her moral support as I did a photo shoot for promotional purposes, and requested her presence that Sunday evening.  She readily agreed, as bffs usually do.  😉  In fact, M had called me about a week ago to plan out the proposal.  I was eager to help him with his secret mission.  He was coming back to surprise J before leaving for an extended trip overseas.  Rockefeller or the other place, he texted me the next day.  He was undecided.  I undoubtedly texted him back.  “M, definitely the other place.  It is more meaningful and real.  Do it at 8pm – it will be perfect.”

M proceeded to set everything in motion.  Sunday evening came and I pulled into the parking lot, all jittery… I was nervous.  Nervous for M and excited for J.  I saw my friend and photographer for the evening, E, parking and while walking to the bakery to get some desserts for M&J, we bumped into MP.  “What are you guys up to?” he asked.  I looked at him with a blank face and uttered, “uhhhh… uhhhhh.”  “You here for M&J, huh?”  to which I breathed a huge sigh of relief.  I was not prepared to give an excuse for why I was there at this odd hour.  MP:  “Don’t ever be a spy.”  We all roared into laughter.

We reached the rooftop to find M’s mom, dad and aunt setting up.  It was heartwarming.  Family and friends in community expressing our love for the couple.  Flowers, food, wine, desserts, and… Hootie.  Hootie, M&J’s “baby” – the little owl doll that had followed M on many of his military trips, as a symbol of J&M’s commitment to each other.  Hootie had the honor of holding the special piece of hardware for the evening:  the ring.

It was approaching that fated time of 8pm and we were all set.  The candles were placed, the flowers strewn, dinner and desserts waiting on the extra chair set up at the table.  I had brought pad thai from Sripraphai – the famous Thai joint in Woodside, where it is told that even Manhattanites venture in to get a taste.  J’s favorite.  The sun was just starting to make its descent over the horizon.  I walked over to the ledge and breathed in and out.  My legs were shaking.  Why were MY legs shaking?  D had joined us by that time, as he was pivotal to this evening running smoothly.  E was set to take the initial shots as they entered.

It was time.  J texted me to say that they were on their way (she had texted me the night before saying that she will be bringing M for our photoshoot adventure.  I readily agreed, of course.).   Timing was a bit off, and MP turned on the music and it was too late to make our escape.  D, MP and I went around the wall and hid in the corner as J&M entered and I heard camera shots clicking away.  J wondered where I was.  She was thoroughly confused.  She saw the set up and didn’t get that it was for her… until she realized E was taking direct shots of THEM.  Screams of joy and shock and disbelief followed.  Tears followed thereafter.  Hootie did a good job of maintaining the ring.  She said yes.  But in the wind and noise that is Queens Boulevard, we couldn’t hear much, except for J’s laughter and joyful screams.  We were glad to give them privacy.

Later on as we joined them, MP, D and I stood on the side gazing at the couple.  It was a joyful moment, but it was going to be hard.  M was leaving for the Middle East to return in 8 months.  It would be a long 8 months.  We all knew it.  At that moment with tears in my eyes, I uttered something along these lines:

“This is what it’s about.  Beauty in the brokenness.  Joy in the pain.  They’ll be okay.”

We walked towards them and enjoyed each other’s company, celebrating this unique moment of life.


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