So, I knew Ed was going to propose at some point. We were in the car together one day when my dad called instead of texting in response to Ed’s request for a dinner meeting, so I knew he had asked my parents for their blessing. But weeks had passed since then. Ed had had foot surgery in mid-August, so he’d been rolling around on a knee scooter and then hobbling about in a boot, and he insisted that because of “logistics” he needed his foot to be fully functional for the proposal to work. But he was literally already on one knee all the time anyway because of the scooter — what could he possibly be planning?
Come early October, my previous roommate dropped off some stray mail, one of which was a Brevard Savings Magazine issue that included a coupon for a boating/jetski place. This is important. This is the main thing that kept the proposal even at all surprising. Ed had repeatedly expressed a desire for us to go rent jetskis for more than a year at this point, and though the coupon was only for boating, I thought he might be interested to know about this place and maybe see if their jetski rentals were priced well. So I gave it to him.
A few days later, he asked if I would want to go boating that Saturday instead of jetskiing. I agreed, especially since the weather was beginning to get a little cooler, perhaps too cold for jetskis (I’ve lived in Florida for too long), and since he did have a coupon, after all.
Now wait a minute, I thought. This is the first major thing we’d done together in a while. But I’d only just given him the boating coupon, and he’d been planning something involving complicated “logistics” for ages. No way he’d changed his plans over a $25 coupon. Probably. (As it turned out, he hadn’t. The coupon was a happy accident. But I didn’t know that yet.)
The night before, I actually asked him, “Are you proposing tomorrow?”
His response was, of course, somewhat less than forthcoming. The gist of it was that if he gave me a definite answer now but couldn’t later, then I’d know for sure when he was going to propose. But whatever came out of his mouth was significantly less cohesive than that. This raised my suspicions.
On the other hand, boating coupon. Probably not actually proposing yet. Probably.
So we drove to the boat place (Hayley’s, if you’re curious) on the morning of October 11, 2014, with lunch in a cooler, sunscreen, bug spray, and a printout on how to use a boat safely and legally. When we sat down to discuss our boating options with the Boat Guy (I forget his name), Ed said he did have some previous boating experience. I thought this was odd. (I found out later that the “previous experience” was the day before, but I’m getting to that.)
When we talked to the guy about our plans, there was an overall assumption that we would be heading north on the Banana or Indian River. After discussing our options in that direction, it came up that more little islands were south instead. We knew we wanted to explore at least one island, so why not go south? But Ed insisted on going north. I thought this was odd as well.
Armed with charts and maps and a vague idea of where we were going, we began a slow trek up the Banana River. The Banana is a manatee zone, which means the slowness was not necessarily by choice. Unlike dolphins, manatees apparently don’t know enough to avoid propellers. Thus, we enjoyed a leisurely cruise up the river on a notably beautiful day — with a shockingly loud two-stroke engine that made conversation very difficult.
I asked Ed as we worked our way up why, exactly, he was so insistent on going north. Again, he was somewhat less than forthcoming. When I asked again, he replied:
“The Internet said there are more dolphins north.”
So he acted like a man with a mission most of the morning, save for one moment when he kind of relaxed at the wheel and asked me, “So, what do you want to do today?” My suspicions lowered. Maybe this wasn’t the proposal after all. Would he really just let me throw a wrench in everything by insisting we go south or stop at a restaurant or otherwise deviate from his apparent mental itinerary?
We may never know the answer to that question, because my answer was vague and I didn’t want to throw a wrench in a proposal if that really was what he was doing.
But we saw dolphins, the weather was fantastic, and we made it up to the Port Canaveral area where we bypassed one over-popular tiny island and stopped at a somewhat more ignored isle. After lashing the boat to a tree and praying it didn’t leave without us, we applied bug spray (which seemed like excellent forethought on Ed’s part at the time) and ate lunch in the boat. Then it was exploring time.
I’ve always wanted to explore one of these islands, but despite Ed asking “Did you bring a treasure map?”, there appeared to be naught but trees, mosquitoes, and evidence of a few beer-drinking litterbugs. It was a tiny island, too, so it wasn’t long before I declared it fully explored and we started to walk back to the boat. But we were still a way off from the shoreline when Ed stopped and pointed at something on the ground.
“What!? What is this!?” he more announced than asked. He was pointing at an obviously human-formed mount of dirt and leaves and such.
“How did you see that? How did I not see that?” I asked.
Ed started moving some of the dirt off with his foot, revealing the corner of an old-school treasure chest beneath.
“Are you kidding me right now,” I responded. “Are you kidding me right now?”
I pushed more of the dirt off, and then Ed finished unburying it — at which point he picked it up and made a beeline for the boat.
“What if that belongs to someone else?” I protested. “Shouldn’t we open it here, so we can re-bury it if it’s someone else’s stuff?”
“If you really think it should stay here, we can come back,” he said. Apparently, he didn’t want to propose in the middle of all the mosquitoes, but I didn’t know that at the time.
Obviously, I had a pretty good idea of what was going on, despite all attempts to keep my hopes from getting too high. He was standing next to the little boat with the treasure chest sitting on the side-rail thing (what do you even call that?), when I asked him if he wanted to do this next to the boat or in the boat. After some awkward dithering, he said, “Here works.”
So I opened the box, fully expecting something in the ring or engagement department at this point. What I actually saw first was a small white towel. Wrapped in the towel were two champagne glasses, and underneath were two glass bottles of Jarritos pineapple soda (which tastes like freedom to me because I associate it with the one time I properly skipped class in high school). There was also a small white cardboard box.
What my brain saw initially was not a ring box and celebratory freedom soda. It registed “Alcohol glasses. Beer bottles. Probably belongs to the people who left the broken bottles on the island. Not proposal. Don’t show disappointment.” And then the actual situation registered correctly.
Ed took the white cardboard box off the red ring box he’d bought for me, less-than-smoothly tossing the cardboard one into the boat. I think at this point I was again repeating something like, “You have to be kidding me. Are you kidding me right now.” He got down on one knee, right in the Banana River, and opened the box to reveal a placeholder ring because he knew I wanted to pick out my own ring and because he’s not crazy enough to leave a real ring buried on a remote island overnight.
At this point, we were both so flustered that neither of our brains recorded most of what we actually said. But I definitely caught the most important part:
“I’d be honored if you’d be my wife.”
And I happily agreed to do so.
So we swam in the river and observed the cruise ships and NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building and a school of some variety of jumping fish, perfectly carefree until we had to speed back down the Indian River (which has no speed limit) so I could make it to church on time to play bass.
How did Ed get the treasure there in the first place? The day before, he had rented the cheapest boat he could find, as he says, and took a backpack with the contents of the box and the box itself (which he’d purchased off eBay) to the little island. He chose the unpopulated isle deliberately, and marked its location on his phone so he’d be able to find it again.
“There’s a hundred things that could have gone wrong,” I told him afterwards. Which is part of what made it so fantastic when everything went right.