Okay, I guess to talk about what happened next, I need to backtrack a bit...
During my two weeks in the hospital, in an attempt to get rid of the stress that seemed to have caused the ulcer, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what was bugging me. Ironically, the ulcer attack came the same day that I'd signed a contract to stay in Japan for a third year. So, I took the suddenly revolt by my stomach to be a sign that I'd made the wrong decision. Those two weeks in the hospital, I mulled over my decision and tried desperately to figure out if I'd made the right one.
Ren knew about this. Which is why on our first date, as we (or at least one of us) looked out over the city, he told me I should definitely stay in Japan. He probably should have given up right there. Because my response was something to the effect of: "That's nice of you to say, but I've never made a decision based on a man before, and I'm sure not going to now." But, here's the thing about Ren, he's totally cool with me being a dumbass. Totally. Instead of feeling hurt or frustrated, he simply told me to do what I had to do.
Eventually, I decided to stay in Japan. I can't say if Ren influenced my decision or not because I don't remember. I do remember tossing a coin, though. And I suppose you could say the coin landed right side up.
After we'd been dating a month or so, Ren asked asked me if I would marry him. "I don't know," was my honest reply. After all, I wasn't ready to commit to an international marriage or to life in Japan or to being a step mom. I had things I still wanted to do. "That's okay. I can wait," he said.
And he did. For more than two years. He waited while I finished my stint on the JET Program, while I packed up my stuff and said goodbye to all my friends in Japan, and while I moved off to California to do my Master's at Stanford. Not once did he ask me to stop thinking about what I wanted to do. He just waited. And he managed to wait without seeming like he was desperate. Or making me feel guilty. Or even seeming like he was waiting at all. I'm not sure how he did it, but he did.
And then one day, April 21, 1999, to be exact, I said yes. I know the exact date because it was the day after the Columbine shootings. That day, as I drove from my apartment in Mountain View to the Stanford campus 20 minutes away, I thought about those kids who'd left for school that morning with no idea that it would be the last day of their lives. And I realized I needed to quit being scared of the things I didn't know. I didn't know if I could be a good step parent. I didn't know if I could manage an international marriage. I didn't know where we would live or what we would do. But I did know that Ren loved me, and that, in her own way, Big Sissy did, too. And I realized that if I knew that, I knew enough.
So that night, at the end of our daily two-hour phone conversation, I said, "There's something I want to say."
"Oh, forget it." (Yappari, ii)
"No, go ahead." (Nan daroo?)
"Do you want to get married?" (Kekkon shiyou ka?)
"Goodbye." (Jaa ne.)
"Goodbye." (Jaa ne.)
Ren must've been in shock, because the next day when we talked, he said, "You know that thing you asked me at the end of the conversation yesterday? Were you serious?"