The Box That Brought Us Together

Unsa Suhail & James Willis

Sometimes, the person you love is the person who destroys everything about your life.

James and I met at a mutual friends birthday party in California. I had never met or seen him before, but he waited no time to come talk to me and say “hello” in his best British accent. As someone who did not date, I thought his accent was fake and told him to “cut it out.” Didn’t even say “hi” first. I literally insulted him. James smiled and said, “This is how I talk!” Embarrassed and five apologies later,  I had a conversation about Indian food with him. James mentioned how he needed a good curry and asked if I could point him in the direction of one. Being Indian and a native of the SF Bay Area, I shared with him my secret spots. We went and ate at all of them. Dating wasn’t something I was familiar with due to my cultural restraints, I knew I was feeling something for James that I shouldn’t.

My parents are a huge part of my life, and my identity has solely resided on being my parents daughter in a community in which they were highly respected. I knew that the more that I saw James, the quicker I would fall for him…and the sooner I would have to tell my parents. As I was about to have that conversation, I got a call that I needed to move across the country for a job opportunity. I had just graduated and was not in a financial position to turn it down. So I left. I left everything behind, including James. I thought that the distance would break us apart and maybe I wouldn’t have to have the conversation after all. But I underestimated James’ love and devotion to our relationship. When we found out my contract was actually going to be for a year instead of just 6 months, James packed up his car in the middle of the night and drove 10 hours straight to Oregon to drop off his furniture with his dad and flew out to Pittsburgh, PA where I had been. I knew I couldn’t be dishonest about James when he was doing something so selfless for me, so with great pain and unrest, I called my parents.

I told my parents that I would not be having an arranged marriage because I had fallen in love with a kind, good man and he was the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. There was a deafening silence on the other end of the phone and then my dad asked “Are you asking us, or are you telling us?” The way that I would answer would seal my fate. If I answered that I was asking them, it would mean that James was disposable to me and that I would take their direction for my life instead of me choosing it. However, If I answered I was telling them, it was a sign of disrespect that I was going against my parents wishes for me. With tears in my eyes, I answered “I am telling you.” My dad told me that he loved me and that I will always be his daughter, but he could not support me in my decision and if I ever decide to leave James, I will be welcomed back to the family.

This destroyed me. Choosing James isolated me from my family and my community. To put it simply, I was a zombie. I didn’t know who I was and what I was standing for, but James’ love made that so apparent. I didn’t feel like I deserved love anymore because I had hurt the two people that loved me the most. But James did not  let me feel that way. He showered me with love, spent time lying on the couch with me when I didn’t have the will to move, stayed home with me when I didn’t have the strength to go out, and sat next to me in silence when I didn’t want to talk. With James constant love and attention, I began to claim back who I was and realized that even though I didn’t have my parents, I still had a family.

On December 27th, 2015 the love of my life took me to Phipps Conservatory and rented the Goddess Room. He hired a professional photographer as my Christmas gift to have nice photos. In the middle of the photoshoot, James asked the photographer, “Do you mind if I set this one up?” and she obliged. He told me to close my eyes and when he said “Open,” he was down on one knee and asked me to marry him. I don’t think I answered for 5 minutes because I was shocked and was staring at the ring. He had took an image of a traditional Indian ring that I showed him when we first started dating and turned it into a modern and western influenced version of that same ring to signify both of our cultures.

When I told James I had to tell my parents, James said, “They already know. I asked for their permission and your father said, yes. Go call them and tell them the good news.” My relationship with my parents turned around for the better and I have James to thank for that. His attitude of unwavering faith in the good of people and the diligence to make every dream of mine and his come true.

Falling in love with James, destroyed everything I knew about how I perceived my life would be. It destroyed my relationship with my family, it destroyed the vision that my community had for me, but it also destroyed the box that I had kept myself in. Instead of a life of content, I knew what it was like to experience true happiness and true sadness. It taught me how to compromise, it taught me how to communicate my emotions, and most importantly it taught me that life isn’t something that can be planned; it is something that is meant to be experienced. The good, the bad, the triumphs, the hardships, all of it. While it tarnished every thing I expected, it brought about the aspirations of a person I didn’t know I could be and all of the possibilities that come along with that. James’ love destroyed my state of mind, but it completely expanded my worldview and I am a much better person for it.

Their special dates

Unsa Suhail & James Willis were happily engaged on 12/27/2015 and celebrate their anniversary on 05/20/2017.

  • Naginah

    Absolutely love this! From someone who has a Pakistani father, and a European fiancé, I too understand the struggles that you’ve had to endure. Love always wins!


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