Christine Reilly is the author of Sunday's On The Phone To Monday, available everywhere now from Touchstone. This is the story of her fiancé's sweet, bookish proposal.
The night I met my fiancé, he asked me what my job was. I told him, “poet.” I should have told him “struggling poet,” but then again, what poet isn’t struggling? I was 22 and had just started a Master’s program in Writing, and I told everyone I was a poet because this was my dream, and I believed in my dream. Most people didn’t. My fiancé did.
As I spent the next four years working on my novel, I found a day job that turned into a day-and-night job. Unexpectedly. Teachers will tell you that this is the natural route of teaching, that if you want to be successful there is no other way to do it. I loved teaching as much as writing, though it dominated my weekdays. I devoted my weekends, late nights, and vacations to finishing this novel. My fiancé understood. I spent most of my free hours in my pajamas, in front of my laptop, with him sitting nearby. These are some of my favorite hours.
Naysayers told me that I couldn’t publish my novel because I put poetry in it, that nobody had the patience to read poetry these days. I wrote a draft where I took out all the poetry. I couldn’t publish this. It wasn’t the same.
My fiancé was with me the long hours I spent emailing every literary agent in the database, redrafting scenes with crystal-clear precision, printing out the literary journal rejection letters so we could have something to laugh about when I became a famous, unstruggling author and poet. And the waiting! All the waiting. These hours weren’t wasted. We traveled when we could. “Being a writer means having experiences,” he reminded me.
First came the agent. Then came the book deal. Then came the book. In between there were all the rejections, now too many to count. Right before my book release, I was certain my fiancé was going to propose, as we had planned a Valentine’s Day trip camping in Morocco and the Sahara desert. He didn’t propose. I didn’t have time to wonder why, as I had a book launch to plan. Then came the pressure. Then came the nights with slim sleep, the constant refreshing of my email and Goodreads and Amazon pages.
The week before my book launch, my fiancé went to the Strand bookstore to try to find a book the same size and shape as mine. He wanted to hide the ring in a book, cutting a space for it to fit. The plan was to put my book cover on one of these other books, but none of the books he found were books I liked. Eventually he cut a hole in my book, but saved all the words he cut out in a ring box, so he wouldn’t be getting rid of any of my words. He spent a few hours at work cutting that perfect hole, and accidentally cut his finger in the process. His co-workers thought he was a little crazy.
The morning of my book launch, we were in our pajamas in the apartment, just like how we spend most of our time together. My fiancé told me that he’d found something on the first page of my book. When I opened it, I found a ring there, nestled between the words I spent our entire relationship composing and reordering and finally, taking a moment to be proud of.
When I asked him why he didn’t propose in the Sahara desert while we watched the sunset on sand dunes, he said doing it in pajamas was more “us.”