At The Lighthouse: Pre-Postscript

To everyone who’s left comments, written emails, called on the phone, or spoken to us in person, thank you so much for your enthusiasm and good wishes. We’re really overwhelmed by the response and are grateful for any suppressions of “About bloody time!” that some of you might have bitten back. You are all classy, classy people!

A postscript to the proposal entry will be up some time in the next few days, to share some amusing glitches that occurred in the planning (sometimes due to me being a difficult nagging bitch) and to thank a dear friend of mine who was an amazing help to Alec through all of it. But because I wasn’t privy to the weeks of planning and need to get details from Alec, who’s intrepidly studying for his professional exam on Monday, it’s taking a little time to get written.

In the meantime, thank you all again for your kind words and rest assured that I have slapped patted Alec heartily on the back for every one of you who asked me to do so. And for those who are asking about dates and places, unfortunately the sum total of our decision-making so far is as follows:

Michelle: So, how do we organize wedding celebrations across three cities in two continents which are fun, meaningful and affordable for everyone attending, while keeping the romance of the occasion alive for us but not grossing everyone else out with schmoopiness?
Alec: Donno.
Michelle: Hmm…
Alec: Hmm…

At The Lighthouse

Last Friday night, Alec informed me that he would be picking me up at 8.30 am the next morning, and taking me away for the weekend. I wasn’t allowed to know where, and didn’t need to bring anything special, not even a passport. And I didn’t have to tell my parents anything – he’d already told them more than he was telling me.

The next morning, he was at my front door at 8.30 sharp, with a yellow rose. The waiting cab took the expressway towards the city, but bypassed it totally. We were on Clementi Road going past the university, and I was perplexed. We were far away from any hotels worth going to, but we weren’t leaving the country. WTF?

We finally pulled up at West Coast Pier and Alec hauled a big styrofoam icebox out of the boot along with our bags. As far as I could see, I was the only female in a bunch of middle-aged men with fishing tackle. This was not quite Casablanca.

We cleared immigration, which required nothing more than ICs, and waited at the pier. When a boat arrived for us with the PSA logo, I finally realized where we were going. Sultan Shoals is a tiny island off the west coast of Singapore. It’s got a beautiful old colonial lighthouse, 2 chalets, 2 fishing jetties, and nothing else. I’d mentioned it to Alec a long time ago, in the context of maybe organizing something with some of our friends, but nothing had come of it. Now I found that we’d have this whole island to ourselves for the weekend.

Alec asked if I’d mind waiting outside the chalet for a little while. He wanted to do some things inside. He’d got me a book to read while waiting: Truman Capote’s decidedly unromantic In Cold Blood. If anyone else had done this, I might have dived into the open seas and swum back to the mainland screaming; however, Alec happened to know that I’d been wanting to read this book for ages, but hadn’t been able to get my hands on it in the library. I opened it to start reading, and found this inscription:

Inside the chalet, Alec had put flowers and candles everywhere, brought laboriously from the mainland the previous day.

In the icebox, he’d brought lots of my favourite food and drink – salmon sashimi, steak, Coke, Hoegaarden, a baby coconut. Hash browns and eggs so he could cook us the weekend breakfast fry-ups we’d loved so much at my corner caff in London. My favourite childhood snack, Bee-Bee, for me to eat while watching DVDs (which he’d also brought).

We settled down for a sashimi lunch (to continue the random serial killer allusions, I put Calla’s Strangler on the stereo) and an afternoon of lounging, reading (for me), studying (for Alec, who has professional exams in two weeks’ time), napping and strolling round the island. This is us in front of the lovely lighthouse. (Note: Photos linked instead of displayed in this entry have our faces in them and are viewable only by my Flickr friends. If you know us in real life and want to see these, just add me as a friend so I can authorise you.)

You’re probably supposed to have fancy cuisine and wine at dinners like this, but we like steak and beer. Also, it just feels right to sear a steak while growling along to Nick Cave on the sound system.

After dinner, we watched Before Sunset, which I was happy to find was still as wonderful as the first time I saw it.

While the credits rolled, Alec excused himself and went into the bedroom. He came out several minutes later in a tuxedo, and asked me if I’d like a walk round the island. In front of the lighthouse, he knelt down and asked me to marry him. Of course, I said yes.

* * * * *

And so we prepare to move from almost 5 years of easy, constant bliss, into the rest of our lives. I’m not generally an envious person, but there have been various times during my 26 years when I’ve observed the good fortune of other people, be it in physical appearance, capability, resources, or just dumb luck, and wished I could equal them. Within a few months of going out with Alec, I knew that where love was concerned, I would never envy anyone else.

Reason To Celebrate

Today marks one year since I returned to Singapore, and one year Alec and I have spent in different continents from each other. It’s also Alec’s birthday.

During this year, I have drawn much-needed comfort from him at some of the lowest points in my life, discovered countless new things to love about him, and embarrassed myself frequently while alone in public when the thought of him brings a smile to my face.

Many people don’t believe that long-distance relationships can work. I’ve become accustomed to the look of polite disbelief that passes fleetingly across people’s faces when I tell them I don’t agree. I don’t really blame them, given that everyone has examples of this friend who got cheated on and that friend who got stifled by jealousy and still more friends for whom romance without physical proximity was just unsustainable.

Theoretically, I understand how all these problems can arise, but from the personal experience I’ve had so far, I can’t actually identify with any of them in reality. If I feel this lucky and blessed and loved now, what more when he finally moves over? In the meantime I wait, hope, and thank God for him.

Home Bittersweet Home

Perhaps some of you may wonder if walking through the Heathrow departure lounge trying to stop sobbing gets any easier the second time round. It doesn’t. You can deal with it differently – I hid behind the Telegraph until the plane was well into the air this time, instead of pressing myself against the window shuddering – but either way, things get soggy.

* * *

I got home having had no or very little sleep due to the two louts behind me who spent most of the London-Bangkok flight loudly telling a Thai woman about their girlfriends in Thailand (Graham has two, Ashley only has one, I think), and later due to the need to not fall asleep in Bangkok airport and miss my transfer. My mother then informed me that it was my Sunday obligation to attend 6 pm mass instead of the solemnization ceremony later that day of the wedding of one of my oldest and dearest friends. Never mind that I had deliberately shortened my initially planned holiday just so that I could be at her wedding. Apparently, Pei Ee would “understand” me missing the most important part of the wedding since I would be present at the big banquet later which is usually far more meaningful to a couple’s parents than the couple themselves.

An argument, much stress, and a tearful call to Alec later, I took the drastic step of text messaging Pei Ee seeking confirmation that no, she would not fucking “understand”. Confirmation came in the form of Pei Ee actually sending her bridal car to pick me up from my home and take me to Sentosa. Within half an hour, I wriggled into my dress, threw stockings, makeup and hair products into a bag, and rode to Sentosa in the front seat.

* * *

Attending a wedding just hours after parting from Alec at the departure gates was never going to be easy. This poem was read at the wedding dinner, and I hope the couple will forgive me for co-opting it to describe my own feelings.

And in Life’s noisiest hour,
There whispers still the ceaseless Love of Thee,
The heart’s Self-solace and soliloquy.
You mould my Hopes, you fashion me within;
And to the leading Love-throb in the Heart
Thro’ all my Being, thro’ my pulse’s beat;
You lie in all my many Thoughts, like Light,
Like the fair light of Dawn, or summer Eve
On rippling Stream, or cloud-reflecting Lake.
And looking to the Heaven, that bends above you,
How oft! I bless the Lot that made me love you.
– Samuel Taylor Coleridge

* * *

As I was leaving the dinner later that night, I shook Tjin Kai’s hand meaning to congratulate him and say something merry. All I managed was “Take care of her” before I started tearing up and hastily moved on out of the ballroom. It might just have been residual waters from what I had already shed that weekend, but I’d like to think it had nothing to do with me, or the man I had had to leave behind at Heathrow, or the old life I had briefly lived again in London only to have to abandon once more. I think it was just about Pei Ee, the gem of a friend who I have loved for 18 years and is now blissfully happy. Congratulations, Pei Ee and Tjin Kai. I wish you all the love and joy in the world.