Robert claimed he was never and isn’t romantic. This sometimes was difficult as I am very romantic – it’s the Polish blood inside of me. It was hard not to think about how he would propose to me especially with how often we would talk and dream about our Big Day.
But I couldn’t pick out a ring or create any big plans. It only led to stress on his part. It’s easy to dream and plan a million ways especially because I feel women are bigger planners and organizers than men. This frustrated me at times, but I trusted it was in part of a greater plan for us. Despite claiming he wasn’t romantic, he was affectionate and that side poked out by surprise or just be enjoying the moments without expectation.
Two years ago, we were walking the boardwalk together one summer on the Jersey Shore. The Jersey Shore was one of his cherished family vacation spots. He took great pride in showing me all of the places he remembered being taken to, the same places they and he took me too. I felt grateful to feel included in a long family tradition. The humidity was very high and it was actually sticky out. I, the active one out of us, wanted to be encouraging of getting our daily steps in. We’d walk up to the outlets which would be a long haul from our hotel. Robert, knowing his limits, agreed but held back at times. He stopped at a bench on the boardwalk not too far away from where we started.
“Hold on,” he said.
“We didn’t walk very far,” I started
He closed his eyes as if he was trying to hold back from responding to me but also as if he had something else to say. I quietly shuffled closer in my J.Crew flip flops before I was hovering over him as I stood in front of him. He began to confess to me a few stories that I heard before in the past over cherry limeade or Five Guys fries late night in his car in the past: how he never imagined getting into a relationship again, how he’s not cut out for love before he met me and how much I reinforced his thinking. He fell hard for me and has always tried his best to be there for me. I have been his one and only when no one else could help or was there. I have been his best friend, confidante and his spiritual co-worker for Christ.
In the earlier times of our relationship, I felt a sense of butterflies that I coul. dn’t really write about it despite my enjoyment to write.
Knowing this was my hobby, he then asked me…
“Would you like to help me write the next last chapters of my life?”
At the time, between hefty student loan payments after a Masters degree, he couldn’t afford to buy me a ring…but he wanted to make it happen someday despite my pleas how I didn’t need one and my concern for ethics in diamond mines.
But he still wanted to do it.
In 2016, he applied for a job that paid a higher rate. With that, he was able to fulfill his goal. At the time, I was working full-time as a licensed massage therapist at a busy day spa in Bloomsburg. Long days and odd hours were common. One night, I didn’t get out late but then I got a call from Robert. He wanted me to meet him at the Fog and Flame coffeeshop afterwards.
The Fog and Flame was the town coffeeshop. The ambiance was always the perfect blend of art hanging on the walls and angsty, independent literature for the college kids to miniature lamps adorning each cherry dark colored table with electrical outlets underneath to hook up phones and laptops for working professionals. Just being in the ambiance anytime made me want to work on a novel or fall in love.
It wasn’t Robert’s scene, but it was mine making weekly visits. Robert invited me out for the latte of my choice and to give me the long anticipated ring he always had in mind that he found from an ethical jeweler in California.
My heart stopped. It’s a rose gold band with two diamonds perched atop of the setting instead of one: the two diamonds each have meaning..friendship and marriage.
The Morning After at Joe’s…
The morning after the proposal, I took a sunrise walk on the beach which has been one of my favorite things to do while at the beach. I remember how elated and light but happy I felt over how confident Robert was in his decision, the excitement over receiving hugs and smiles from all of my inlaws to telling my mom and dad later. We went to liturgy at a Greek church that morning before we went out for our first lunch together letting Robert pick. I wondered what our first lunch would be as a newly engaged fiancee and slightly bit my tongue as we got on the highway to leave the city bypassing all of the fancier and exotic restaurants that was popular for our generation.
But exotic and fancy was never Robert.
Instead, we pulled in here at Joe’s Mediterranean Grill in Somer’s Point, NJ. It was so good that we promised to make a second visit after marriage and so after two months after we were married, we did just that.
We nearly could have went to this hip restaurant back in Philadelphia (mostly me) to commemorate our two month wedding anniversary and because we haven’t had a date night in awhile, but I too wanted Joe’s.
I didn’t know what to expect during our first ever visit here. Joe’s is split into a sub and pizza shop for takeaway on the right side and a fine dining restaurant on the left side. Joe’s is owned by a Greek family.
From the elder Greek yiayia that can usually be found resting briefly on a chair as you walk in to the wife of the husband that cooks, cleans and wait tables to their children and help, it is not hard to know a lot of love was put into this establishment and our meal. Right away, I had no regrets for cancelling our reservations upon our second visit.
I wondered what made Robert decide on Joe’s but it was one of those things I never asked him yet: was it the fact they were Greek Orthodox too or that that’s Robert’s brother’s name or was it just a practical reason? I never once asked.
Warm bread and butter is brought out to the table after we placed our order. Here, you can order Mediterranean cuisine which is a variety of authentic Greek and Italian dishes.
Everytime we dine on authentic cuisine, it’s an opportunity and an experience into someone else’s kitchen to cook for you. You don’t have many Greek or Italian friends? Scout out your nearest authentic place and they will truly treat you like family.
The first time around, I ordered a tomato caprese salad with fresh mozzarella. This time, I chose the roast eggplant sandwich on ciabatta and Robert chose pasta. Forgive us for the photo of the pasta, this guy takes after his grandfather and likes to put pepper on everything. The fact that is is no reflection on the quality of the meal which we still rated as amazing.
Throughout the meal and after, I found myself falling in love with Robert allover again. It seems weird but I found that falling in love with him allover again helps bring me closer to understanding him.
Robert taught me that a romantic meal doesn’t have to be trendy, hip, expensive, Yelp rated or Zagat rated. A romantic meal could be that place you two first got engaged, first dated or it might be at that place you embarassingly wanted to try but worked out in the end, anyway.
For two people, our meal was around $35. Joe’s is perfectly reasonable. We only wish they were closer so we can support our Orthodox brothers and sisters but if you’re ever in the area, please give them a try.