Yesterday was my 21st birthday.
It was also the day that every little girl dreams of from the time she first experiences a wedding.* Before she dreams of the dress or the flowers or the toga-clad violinists playing a french lullaby, she dreams of this moment. When he looks into her soul and she knows. She just knows. His eyes are glassy. Sweat beads on his upper lip. She can already feel the heat in her face and the tears pushing past the corners of her eyes. She knows because he's holding her hand so tightly and his palms are slick. Because her mouth is dry. Because he won't break her gaze. It's going to happen. He's going to ask her. My God. He's going to propose!
For me though, because I'm Shanita (and because God thinks it's funny) that wasn't exactly how it went down.
I was standing in the freezing cold in South Minneapolis at a Metro Transit shelter that smelled of urine and ciggies. And the groom? Oh, we hadn't previously met, but he was a handsome chap. A Spanish-speaker (maybe Mexican?) about 5' 5,'' mustache el grande. He began the conversation with these words, "Ey Senorita? Ch'ou gotta daller?"
Charmed. Immediately, I searched my pockets. I am one of those people who gives money when strangers ask. It's a problem, I know. This day however, I only had a bus pass. Sadly, I explained this to my new friend. He was understanding enough. He nodded and muttered about my generosity and how the Lord should bless me, but then almost mid sentence, he got another idea. A brighter one. It danced behind his eyes like a tiny flicker of madness. "Ey, ch'ou wanna marry me?"
Allow for a few beats of stunned silence.
"What?" I heard myself ask. The question came again. "Ch'ou wanna marry me? Ch'ou know? Marry me?"
I had no words. I blinked, mutely. Then, my would-be-fiancé, smiling from mustache curl to mustache curl started to walk away backwards, down the icy street. "Ch'ou so beautiful!" He yelled getting further and further away. "We get married! ... [unclear, possibly Spanish] ... babies!"
And just like that, gone.
The bus came. I got on. Rode home. Sighed a wistful sigh.
Yesterday was my 21st birthday. It was also the day I was proposed to for the first time. I didn't even get to answer.
*I know not every little girl dreams of weddings. My Barbies were all snipers and took turns assassinating foreign heads of state. I would know.