by Erica Kim
Sofia Ceja’s tears tumbled down her cheeks from a pair of brown eyes framed by sheets of lashes. With class, she lifted her chin and a calm smile settled on her lips.
“It’s kind of like re-living a pain that you don’t want to. His pain — I feel it too. I’ve seen him cry and hurt and it’s kind of like I lived it. It’s more painful than the first time you hear it because you see how far someone comes from it and how much you’ve helped them”, she said as she elaborated on her relationship with her fiance as “each other’s crutch”.
At first glance, Sofia looks like an average 21 year old, and like most college students, is passed off as too young to know what real love is. On the contrary, she is living proof that age does not limit life experiences.
She had to endure a possessive ex-boyfriend and a tumor to get to the light at the end of the tunnel. In the end, she became engaged to highschool sweetheart, Ramon Gomez.
Senior student Sofia and her Junior prom date Ramon are dancing after months of friendship and sly flirtation at lunch tables. The song “The Motto” by Drake comes on. Ramon faces Sofia and in sync with the music says, “YOLO” and pulls her into a kiss. Sofia’s expression distorts into disgust. “Oh no. That’s not supposed to happen.” The prom court representative roars into the mic that Sofia is prom queen; for the rest of the night she dances with her friends, annoyed at Ramon.
Ramon makes amends with Sofia at her graduation and they agree to keep in touch over Facebook before she leaves for college.
Ramon leaves for the navy. Sofia starts dating a guy she meets at UCI her freshman year.
It is now fall quarter of her sophomore year and for months she agonizes over the thought of breaking up with her boyfriend. He micromanages her life by messaging back her friends on Facebook, mainly males. After countless arguments about distrust and double standards, their relationship reaches a boiling point.
“He broke my phone, my laptop — he kept me isolated,” Sofia adds after admitting how close she was to getting a restraining order on him after their break up. She was scared of his frequent visits to campus in search of her.
As if the emotional struggle isn’t enough, a tumor on Sofia’s fallopian tube bursts. It was just another day at home and unexpectedly, her side begins to sear in a sharp pain and she doubles over. Through tears, she tells her boyfriend over the phone she needs to go to the hospital.
Her boyfriend responds “after work,” disbelieving her urgency.
Her right arm begins to convulse.
CT scans reveal her stomach is flooded with blood. The shaking in her arm was indicative of a hemorrhage — excessive bleeding. Sofia is rushed into surgery and recovery is a blur of painkiller drugs like Dilaudid, time spent in a wheelchair, coping with grades, and memories of breaking up with her possessive boyfriend.
Sofia decides to take time off from school and move to Sacramento to recover; “After my surgery, after I had broken up with my Ex and after I had moved to Sacramento with my dad, I got back into talking with my friends again.”
She grinned, “I messaged him [Ramon].”
Something was different. The boy Sofia knew in high school matured and she realized that he too had experienced life.
“He’s been through a lot too. And we confided in each other. And it felt good to know — he understood.” She describes it was a “familiar feeling”.
Over Skype, Ramon’s gaze lands on Sofia, “Just know you were always on my mind,” he pulls out a photo booth picture strip. It’s their prom photos he’d kept all those years. He stuttered and said “I’ve always loved you and I’ll be there for you no matter what.”
During Spring break Sofia flies to Japan to see Ramon.
Her plane lands and in the flurry of finding her bags, Ramon is a sight of relief as she walks towards him waiting at the gate.
They get to the hotel and he keeps rubbing his hands together giddily as a smile cracked through his lips. Ramon hands Sofia a box of her favorite candy, a note, and a secondary box wrapped in delicate purple tape.
She rips open the tape and like a Matryoshka doll, box after box after box, the final box holds a ring.
Ramon asks, “Sofia, will you make me the happiest man alive and marry me?”
The distance and time difference is hard but it works out; Sofia is busy preparing for graduation and her career as an ESL instructor just as Ramon is busy with his overseas duties but they continue to show the best of communication and commitment.
Sofia comments, “We don’t waste time when we talk to each other fighting over stupid things. We don’t know when we’ll get to talk again and appreciate [the time] more.”
People are always inclined to comment on Sofia’s choice to be married because of her young age and to question the speed of their relationship. In response Sofia says, “You can’t put love on a time frame. Don’t go try and fill this idea in your head of what love is or what your life is supposed to be like. Just let it happen. Give yourself the opportunity.”
She added, “Let it drive you, push you, help you grow.”