I recently participated in a special event. Although I was really a witness, I use the word “participated” because that’s how it felt. Someone else’s “life event,” a marriage proposal between complete strangers, but it didn’t feel that way.
We’ve all seen them on TV: public proposals, e.g., proposals at a baseball park with tens of thousands present and even more watching at home. As impressive as that is, it doesn’t have the immediacy or the intimacy of what I was privileged to experience.
I was at a poetry reading sponsored by a local arts organization being held at a small local museum; there was to be an open mike period followed by two feature poets. The event is held monthly so there are “regulars” who attend every month, as well as one-time attendees and newcomers. Although it is usually held in the kitchen/cafeteria of the museum, this week the kitchen was being used for another event, so the poetry reading was relocated to a small studio. Most of the regulars are older poets (between 50 and 70), and this month there were some young people present; it was nice multi-generational group of about 25 people.
At the end of the open mike period, one of the directors of the local arts organization walked up to the mike to read. He prefaced the reading of his piece with a comment about what poetry is, and how it can have many different styles, and then he began to read a piece of prose. It was a story, told from the first-person point-of-view, of a relationship, beginning with the couple meeting in school; it described the experience of the first kiss, and other particular details. I smiled as I listened to the tale of love we can all relate to, but then came something odd: one of the details involved one of the couple “texting” the other. The director is too old for that to have been part of his “young love” experience. I accepted the discrepancy as “poetic license” and assumed he was creating characters. As more details unfolded, special restaurants, movies and meals, I noticed a young girl sitting in front of me start to react: she fidgeted in her chair; her shoulders shook; she started to look around the room with a kind of panicked intensity. I thought, “Something is going on here.” I turned in my chair and also looked around. At first I couldn’t figure out what she was looking for…then I saw him: a nervous-looking young man was standing at the back of the room with a white ring box in his hand. Just as it registered with me what I was seeing, the director stopped reading in mid-sentence and said, “Now it is your turn…you need to finish this…” The young man moved up the aisle between the chairs to the girl and dropped down on one knee. The young girl was crying.
I can’t say I actually heard him ask, or heard her answer, but my eyes saw it and my heart heard it. Everyone clapped as they kissed and he put the ring on her finger. Tears fell from a lot of crow-footed eyes that day as the poets all felt young again, and felt blessed to be part of the young couple’s new life together. It was a very special day.