I could imagine it now:
There I am, standing in my neighborhood church, staring at the floor.
The grain of the wood ran along each floorboard in unison, decorated in delicately fading rose petals, leading up to a priest and a sea of proud smiles awaiting my slow, rehearsed gait.
Left foot, right foot, simple. Just look up, I think to myself.
As if being scolded, I raise my head slowly with caution…
There he is.
He is cute in all the right ways. His tuxedo is sharp and crisp, unfitting for goofy personality and chocolate, puppy-dog eyes. The inviting smirk that typically decorates his face is being replaced by the ever-so-slight whimper in his soft lips as his eyelashes brush off the tears that slowly spill down his rosy cheeks.
It was two years ago today that I’d first seen those rosy cheeks, which held a deep red pigment, a result of the blister of winter.
A Saturday night at the tavern — the room was filled with eruptions of laughter and slurred speech, as people hid from the cold of the night. There he was. A mutual friend and a few hours later, there we were.
Deep conversations kept us company until we were standing outside of the tavern. The green fluorescent light silhouetted his head, as his wavy, chocolate hair accumulated snow flakes. The snow tumbled on in the wind, our eyes met and he stopped: brushing the snow off my cheek, a smile showing across his face.
It wasn’t until two days later that I saw that smile again, and it wasn’t but a day after those two that his smile met mine. Soon those three days turned into many: late night pancake runs, cozy mornings in bed, clumsy showers, each of his days were filled with happiness.
That was it, that was the moment he knew.
Soon after, that moment became reality.
Four months later, he would meet my father. Another seven months later, he would ask him for my hand. I glanced over at my father now: he is gleaming with incandescence and the light that shines on me is vibrant with the type of pride every man hopes to have for his child. He is proud of me — what more could a man want for his daughter?
Me: a reserved girl from upstate New York. Him: a recent medical school graduate, outgoing, life of the party kind of enthusiasm, with wit and compassion on his side.
A bright future, irreplaceable and safe, it’s the kind of life people strive for, as I’ve been told. Into that life I went, with my arm tucked gingerly under my father’s, passing familiar faces smiling amiably at me from the pews. But isn’t it ironic, how completely and utterly alone you can feel in a room full of people?
Yet I smile, a good life, a loving husband, the promise of youth, the stars were aligned in my universe.
Something still wasn’t quite right.
The night before today I ran. I ran until my legs ached and burned, because my legs could take me where my heart could not. There I laid awake that night, in complete stillness. As the night crept on, terror and dread filled my every vessel, circulating throughout my body, as my husband-to-be slept soundly next to the girl he loved most in this world.
To everyone else, he was my everything; but for me, he wasn’t enough. And the reality of this was upon me now as I was living the nightmare: he never would be.
In the pit of my stomach, anxiety was all that remained. It’s that jump off the ledge kind of feeling, and I dove farther into the void that remains in my heart.
I close my eyes, longing and yearning for something I wasn’t sure exists…
My eyelids raise revealing reality, I saw the world before me: Her.
Her slight, crooked smile, which exposes her small snaggletooth; the shape of her lanky body and prominent curves, which all fall together into her offset posture; the flawless way her dark brown hair falls, with thick curls entwined, brushing past the sharp contour or her golden-skinned shoulders, Her.
My heart drops into my stomach and twists amidst a tingling, in all the ways lovesick artists sing about.
As soon as I met her I’d known that the way I felt about her was all wrong. This is not the way you feel about a friend, I’d told myself a countless number of times on those long, lonely nights.
To instantaneously want to know everything about her, what keeps her up at night, her brother’s drug addiction, a heart mended together so many times it didn’t fit quite right.
We were always too close, we were always too far.
At first everything was hazy, but with time, the light that shone on her began to fade and I saw the real her. I saw the real her, in my sleepy, bubbly state at three in the morning on that summer night. I never knew what she saw of me, or even how much she tried to see me. Those summer nights blurred and faded into fall and then winter, a year in all. A year full of uncertainty and glances held too long. But it wasn’t a year wasted.
Every day of that year she grew more beautiful and her ambience even more alluring. On the darkest days she was the false sense of light peaking through the gloomiest clouds. On the brightest days, she was the cause of them.
I tried. I tried so deeply to abstain from my mind wandering to her, to push her out of all the crevices and grooves she always occupied.
There was something so captivating about her- small town girl, a lover of Sunday mornings and all things cat related, a lovely and brilliant mind.
The stronger I pushed the weaker I became, until it happened. Until the rain pattered on the hood of her car in sync with the words that flowed like a river out of my mouth, faster than my mind could keep up, as I tried to explain how incredibly extraordinary I found her.
And so the excitement of first dates, serenity of her sleeping body next to mine, anxiety of meeting her parents, had all followed that stormy night in a story-like fashion.
Here was the next chapter to our story: it begins with her standing before me now, in eternal beauty.
She is not bearing a sharp tux, but a mermaid like dress that wraps around her hips so well you may mistake it for her golden, freckled skin.
My eyes meet my father’s and he smiles modestly; he understands the exceptional happiness that fills my bones. After a third of a lifetime filled with hollowing guilt and the vomit that enveloped the porcelain toilet seat so many nights at strange restaurants, I am at peace, right where I am predestined to be.
But I have always figured after those harrowing nights that there had to be this singular moment after all that pain passed, when I would no longer be filled with anticipation, hope, and ‘somedays,’ because that singular moment I awaited was finally upon me now.
The moment when there’s purpose in being alive, in being a breathing human being with empathy, emotions, and love. It’s the moment when a smile creeps across your face when you’re in the grocery store parking lot, completely ordinary kind of day; an everlasting smile.
The moment in which millions of stars hang above your tiny, insignificant head, and you understand your role in this infinite universe. But I don’t have this singular moment — I have a lifetime of them, each one of them begins with her.