It was Thursday night and X was finally alone.
Although, in a way in which she hadn’t fully felt or relented to, she would never be alone again. She had done it. She had done the thing–the thing that some small, scared version of herself nearly swore she’d never do. She’d gotten married.
She longed for another word; something separate and apart from “marriage”; something entirely disparate from “wife.” These words didn’t suit her at all, were ill fitting and out of style. She needed words that were hers only–that made her feel secure that she was and would always still belong only to herself. Because she fought for that fiercely for so long–and where does that part of the self go when it makes such space for someone else?
This was a long time coming, of course. She couldn’t act as though it was some sort of surprise. Yet, when you really stop and look around to see where you are it can often feel disorienting–like waking up from a dream only to then really wake up from the dream. You’re still so much every version of the person who came before the girl standing at the alter; she peers out of your eyes from the past (does she then sit somewhere peering from the future, too?)
In truth, nothing felt much changed, even if the day itself is seared in her skin as a sort of cosmic, other-worldly experience. She practiced and practiced being present, wanting to suck every sensation in through her pores. It worked. She could with picture-like accuracy recall the look in his eyes, the restrained tears of the crowd, the smell of the rain from the hurricane that never fully touched down. Her chemistry was now thus altered; cells, atoms and synapses firing in due effect. And while written for a decidedly different life event, it made her recall a passage from Aaron Freeman’s, “Ask A Physicist To Speak At Your Funeral”:
“And at one point, you’d hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off you like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family [member], may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons created within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.”
But now here she was–neurons, photons, and particles changed but sitting on the same couch, in the same apartment, relishing and taking for granted and reciprocating and thanking God for the same love that she had been for the past five odd years, in the same incalculable ebb and flow. What’s most odd, she thought, was the ecosystem of the whole thing. She had spent so much time mapping her own terrain, investigating the damp and dark corners of her inner being and she was taken off guard by this new path in the road. There was suddenly new ground to cover, nascent species to explore.
They had taken a New York Times love style quiz. Well, she had taken it and then forced him to take it while trapped in the car on a road trip. His results: Unselfish and logical. Hers: Playful and romantic. Love is a game. She had never felt able to admit that but here was the venerable New York Times confirming this as a result that no less than 28% of respondents receive. Perfectly normal. And while never considering herself a romantic because of her aversion to romcoms, chick flicks, and ever having to express her feelings while looking someone in the eye, she truly only felt alive when falling in love.
And he, a giver. Someone looking for a place to put his love to use.
In her vows she quoted American poet and psychoanalyst Clarissa Estés: To love means to stay with. It means to emerge from a fantasy world into a world where sustainable love is possible, face to face, bones to bones, a love of devotion. To love means to stay, when every cell says “run.”
She had never had much faith in herself as a partner. But here was Unselfish and Logical, sizing her up and committing for life. She trusted him and he trusted her and his trust in her gave her trust in herself. Even in love you need someone believing in you, she thought.
To do any incredible thing you need someone to believe in you. Only ever just one.