3: The Bridge of Saint Mary’s

3: The Bridge of Saint Mary’s

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Here Comes the Bride

The Bridge of Saint Mary’s

When the one man loves the one woman and the one woman loves the one man, the very angels desert heaven and come and sit in that house and sing for joy.

~The Brahma Sutras

It started with an acceptance letter from Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, in the early spring of 2007. My sister and I were both happily admitted into the all-women’s college and, upon receiving the good news in the mail, our family decided to make the forty-five-minute drive to visit our new college on a warm spring afternoon. I do not believe there is any college more beautiful in the springtime than Saint Mary’s, and I will never forget our first stroll around the campus. We marveled at the secluded tranquility of the environment, the archaic charm of the 167-year-old architecture, and all around us, trees blossomed with little white flowers that filled the air with a delicately sweet aroma.

Its best feature of all was the small lake situated at the heart of the campus. Stretching over this small body of water was a narrow wooden bridge that connected to an even smaller island, with flowers and trees that grew thick all around. Benches were scattered here and there around the lake, and I remember seeing a young woman — a student, I supposed — seated on one of those wooden benches with a book in her lap. The girl caught sight of us and began to inquire if we were new to campus. After exchanging a few friendly words with my parents, she asked, “Have you heard the legend about the Saint Mary’s bridge yet?” Of course, we hadn’t, so she proceeded to regale us with the legend of the bridge over the lake: The first gentleman with whom you cross the bridge, she said, is the man you will marry.

More than a year later, I was still making a solo trek across the bridge, all the while thinking about that silly legend and doubting that such a thing could ever happen to me. The island, however, became my quiet refuge for reading and writing. I would spend hours studying or writing short stories in this peaceful hideaway. Only the wild geese that inhabited the island would accompany me.

It wasn’t until late July the following year that I suddenly received three new online messages from a gentleman I had never met, complimenting my web page and, in his third message, adding flattery to my profile picture by writing, “You have a cute smile.” I succumbed to curiosity and responded to this stranger’s comments. That simple response soon turned into frequent e-mail and phone conversations.

His name was Dinesh Rajan, a handsome, dark-haired, dark-eyed native of southern India. I learned that he was a recent graduate from the University of Notre Dame and worked as a software engineer in California. He later admitted to reading my online blogs for two weeks, in which he found himself intrigued by the girl behind the writings. After about a month of e-mail and instant messaging correspondence, we decided to meet. My father, however, proved more reluctant and wanted no part in my “meeting with a strange man from India we know nothing about.”

Against my father’s somewhat scornful protests, Dinesh purchased a plane ticket back to South Bend, Indiana, and we met for the first time at a bench by the Notre Dame basilica during fall break in 2008. I presented him with a batch of two-dozen homemade macadamia nut cookies, which I had carefully packed in a decorative box. We then exchanged a few nice-to-meet-yous before deciding to walk between the Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s campuses.

Suddenly, I began thinking about the bridge. Would we cross it? Did I want to cross it? Should I wait? What if there was truth to the legend? But it was too late. Side by side, we crossed the bridge. Did this mean I would marry Dinesh?

We sat on a bench on the island for an hour, talking about our respective childhoods, families, religions, and beliefs. I felt I had known Dinesh my whole life. I somehow felt natural with him. Safe. We planned to meet again two days later for our first official date and, later that week, he would take me to see Manon at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Our first kiss took place two months later at an oceanfront pool-side in Florida, where we were vacationing with my family. I was twenty-two and had never even kissed a man up to that point! It was late evening, and we were counting shooting stars over the ocean while reclining in the lounge chairs. The air was cool and still, and the only sound came from the crashing of the waves. The kiss we shared was better than any romantic scene from a Hollywood motion picture, and when he flew back home later that week, I realized I was falling in love with him.

For two years, we endured a long-distance relationship; however, he would fly out once a month to visit. Sometimes, he’d even purchase a plane ticket for me, and we would spend a day sightseeing in various cities: wine tasting in Napa Valley, strolling the town of Sausalito, resting our feet in the refreshing tide pools of San Diego, crossing the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and even exploring Las Vegas. Each trip would last about eleven hours before I would fly back home that same night! It’s true that some girls are treated like princesses, but Dinesh treated me like a queen.

In the spring of 2010, Dinesh made the decision to return to South Bend and finish his Ph.D. at Notre Dame, eliminating the thousands of miles that separated us. The talk of marriage became more frequent in our conversations. On October 1, 2010, he showed up on my doorstep with a bouquet of red roses. He said he wanted to walk each campus again for old times’ sake. During our walk, he recounted all of the memories of our time together: our first date, the first time we held hands on the trails of a state park, our first kiss at the poolside, and the dreams we started building together.

When we finally reached the Saint Mary’s campus, he said he wanted to cross the bridge just one more time. It was growing dark and chilly by then, but he took my hand anyway, and together we crossed the old wooden bridge just as we had done two years earlier. When we stepped onto the island, Dinesh dropped down on one knee. My heart leaped. From the pocket of his coat, he extracted a blue box. I felt dazed, like I was floating, when he proposed.

“Yes!” I said happily, fighting back the tears as we tightly embraced.

I guess there is magic in that old Saint Mary’s bridge, after all.

~Sara R. Rajan

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