When I had told people that Demetra and I would be spending a year abroad in Kenya together, they often offered warning about what it could do to our relationship and how difficult it would be to deal with one another afterward should the worst happen. I understood and accepted this as a possibility but a far distant possibility not worth serious consideration. Like Germany not being awesome at the World Cup or Hitchens opting to display the slightest degree of humility. A year together in a foreign land where we would only know each other, where we could only depend on each other, where we would be with each other constantly, where we would be dealing with children every hour of every day, where we would need to manage a strict budget, where we would be stressed unlike anything in life before meant something else to me. It meant that if we could hack through it all and still care for one another and enjoy our time together, then there was precious little that could stop us from caring for one another or enjoying our time together.
Of these two possibilities, certainly not containing all eventualities but pretty clearly defining the polar points on which others could be compared, I was right.
One option was left for me. By late November I had decided to propose to Demetra. The difficult part was finding the time and place to do it. The neighborhood near the Nakuru center was not one to take a moonlit walk through, and I wanted to make it special. A break at Hell's Gate National Park in early December seemed a good possibility in a new place and with a little privacy, but I lost my nerve.
This was troubling as January came closer. At the beginning of the month Demetra would be flying back to the States to take interviews for medical school and would not return until February. If I managed to propose before then, she would be able to tell her family and friends about it personally. I also did not want to wait another month.
In a spectacular display of atrocious timing, my malaria recurred on Christmas day. I spent three days in bed taking more medication than food. On the evening of the third day, I was on my back in bed on top of the covers as I was in the midst of another hot spell. Demetra was sitting next to me writing letters to friends on her laptop. I had asked her to stay, so we could talk and I could be distracted by how I felt. Demetra was leaving in less than a week. Work stress was about to be kicked up a notch as we prepared for her absence. I made a choice.
I believe my line was, "Would you like to get married?"
She kept typing. She either thought that I intended it in the abstract or thought my illness was greater than expected. I posed a slight variant of the same question. She put her computer to the side and made me rephrase one more time. I asked, "Will you marry me?"
Two more days now and she can't take back her answer.