There will be no metaphors or figurative language, no recycling of the past, no ambiguities for creative effect. There will be no excuses, justifications, or rationalizations either. There will only be the truth, unmasked and unforgiving beneath the glaring daylight.
There isn’t really anything to talk about either, as it’s all been said and there’s no use in repeating the past—how many is it now?—conversations we’ve had on the same topics. I’m sure you’re not either, so I will spare us. This is not a fight, nor an invitation to one. It’s just bits of thoughts, goals, desires, confessions, and daydreams, the parts of me that make me, well, me.
The me who, since little, fantasized about The One, Mr. Right, my “better half,” or any slew of idealized monikers. There were hardly details: no chance encounter or blind date set up by mutual friends who just knew we were meant for each other; no physical descriptions of any sort, despite my lifelong penchant for facial hair; no idiosyncrasies that would drive most to madness yet which are quirky and adorable, thanks to Cupid’s blindfold. There was no notion of a name, though I never imagined an Italian one. There was no mention of a hometown, though I never imagined an idyllic village in southern Germany. There was no hinting at his temperament or virtues, though I knew the butterflies would enlighten me.
And they did. It didn’t take long for me to fall, and it took a summer for me to know. Enraptured not by the charm of novelty but by his touch, his kiss, his aura, his hand tucking a strand of hair behind my ear, his fingertips slowly tracing a line from my forehead down to my chin, his eyes penetrating mine as his face drew closer, eliminating all spaces between us. There was an incomparable pleasure being in his presence, a delight knowing that I had found him, that we were the lucky ones. I pitied the widowed, the divorced, the single, and the ones in a relationship where you could just tell each pair could be so much happier with someone more their type. Heck, I lumped them all together into a throng of unfortunate souls who settled for less than magic. It was “us versus them,” “He” shining brightly amongst all the nebulous and immaterial “Others.” I had never tread on lighter ground.
I was different then, lighter in more ways than simply defying the laws that govern our physical world, including but certainly not limited to gravity. I floated from classes to baseball games to Verona, refueling with regular pit stops at gelaterias and his bed. Time, that foolish and binding manmade concept, dared not trespass into our bubble. I had previously suffered from a rocky relationship with the hourglass—ever cognizant of the seconds forever falling into the sands of time, whose “wing’d chariot” was always “hurrying near.” Acutely aware of each grain of sand, acutely aware that smashing the hourglass against the wall would be naught but a foolish act of self-delusion. Somewhere along adolescence, my faith had been shaken (unfortunately not stirred), replaced by an existential dread characterized by a preoccupation with mortality, each inhale a moment never to be reclaimed, each exhale another breath closer to death. Death, before whom even the bravest tremble in fear. Death, with his equally obnoxious and destructive sidekick, Time. Yet he was never intimidated, not by anything in this material world or abstract—yet very real—concepts. He was different, effortlessly transcending it all.
With him, Time played its clichéd roles: speeding up on our adventures in new countries, new cities, new apartments, new cars, new clothes, and new feelings; slowing down when he looked into my eyes, kissed me against the kitchen wall just because, and claimed me—body and soul—between the sheets. Time obeyed and bent to his will. Time indulged us, letting my imagination run wild as I replayed all of the sweet promises he whispered (yet never intended to keep) in confidential, hopeful tones. We had all the time in the world, he said. And he wasn’t planning on dying anytime soon. Time was ours, something we could control and never needed to fear. I lay my head upon a pillow on his lap, greedily devouring his honeyed words as he stroked my hair. His words were more intoxicating and addictive than the strongest narcotics, sustaining me throughout the days until I could get my next fix at night, yet leaving me craving a higher dose after each loving session. I made my cake out of words, and I ate it too! Why not? It was a positive feedback loop: the more he fed me, the more impatiently I consumed his kisses, his world, and those words, words, words.
I built a castle out of words, created a home for us built entirely on fantasy. Brick by brick, promise by promise, sweet nothing by sweet everything, the castle expanded, the court members multiplied, the tuxedoed groom I was walking toward had the most hypnotizing green eyes and the most heartbreaking smile. When in his presence, only he existed. Yes, there was a world around us, but I chose to stay within the confines of my cozy castle, to associate with members of our own court. He was my king, my sun, and every other cliché in the book.
The years passed quickly, as they usually do. Then Time gave me a gentle nudge, and it started to dawn upon me that while I’d been stacking imaginary, colorful bricks upon each other, the construction of our real castle had drawn to a standstill. Oh no! Time had gotten too far ahead, and we needed to catch up before it permanently eluded us. I sprinted and grabbed Time by one hand, using all of my remaining energy to slow him down, grabbing my beloved by the other hand. I desperately attempted to coax the stubborn men into stepping in sync. It was my turn to set the pace. But I’m just a little girl—rather than steering the reins of my destiny, I found myself in a tug-of-war. Time, older yet stronger, continued onward, dragging me behind, while my king fingered his scepter and hesitated to crown me. I waited and waited, as females often do. I waited and waited, because what else could I do? I was about to lose hope when my prayers were answered. In a flurry of snowflakes and magic, Time—my king battering on the door of my heart, dropping onto a knee, and turning the next page in my storybook life—finally stood still.
At that moment, my king’s voice and hands shook as he slipped the sparkling diamond onto my finger, a moment I had dreamt and daydreamt about for five years. That stunning stone was a symbol of his certainty, the platinum ring a symbol of eternity. I smiled through my tears as I vigorously nodded “Yes!” We had done it. We had caught Time. Now, time was ours.
Or so I thought.
December 5, 2018 was the happiest day of my life. The man of my dreams asked me to spend the rest of my life with him. He wanted to share his time with me. Is there a better gift? Giving your life minutes, your most valuable commodity, to another human being? Is there a more genuine way of saying I love you than spending time with someone? Nope, he thought. He was a firm believer that time spent with another is (quantifiable) evidence of love. And I agreed, but there’s more to it. There’s no use in simplifying love—all attempts are futile and reductionist. To him, giving me his time was the most meaningful act of love. Luckily for me, his time came along with his other fortes—patience, kindness, gentleness, loyalty, and generosity. Yet that wasn’t and isn’t enough.
I never liked repetition, yet I often felt that it was “about time” when it came to making our next major relationship steps. If time spent with someone is evidence of your loving them, then isn’t there a point where you need to make the “big leap” before the time shared starts feeling like time wasted? I gave him most of my time, and vice-versa, which according to him should have been evidence enough of love. I gave him my time, my thoughts, my words, my attention, my body, my heart, and my soul. I gave him my youth, my energy, my doubts, my quirks, my strengths and vulnerabilities all enmeshed into one physical being. Every time I looked at that ring, my heart swelled at the thought of a lifetime together. That ring meant the world to me, for he meant the world to me. With each glance, that ring reminded me: Yes, you are finally enough. Yes, I choose you. Yes, I am sure.
Since the moment you slipped that ring onto my finger, the daydreams continued. The pounding of my heart drowns out the clicking of my heels as I walk toward my Fate. I’m sure our families and friends would be smiling upon us, oohing and aahing at my makeover, mothers dabbing their eyes as their babies become adults, sisters brimming with happiness and a tinge of jealousy. My father crooks his arms into mine and states softly but firmly, “I’m so proud of you, my Andrea. Be happy that Mario’s a good guy.” The usher pushes open the heavy oak doors as the string quartet starts to play Wagner.
This is it. The moment I’ve been waiting for literally most of my life. The moment that I will never forget, that I will carry with me in lieu of St. Bartholomew, providing me hope and comfort in times of need. The moment that will remain forever imprinted in my memory, bringing a mysterious smile to my lips far too often. The moment that I will try—and hopelessly fail—to describe to my daughter on her own wedding day. Boy, she looks way better in that dress than I did! The moment I will seek to relive over and over again, for it was pure bliss. The moment encompassing the gamut of human emotion, amongst which St. Paul’s faith, love, and hope stick out. The moment only made possible thanks to God, for bringing us together, and to you, for taking that leap.
Here we go! I clench the bouquet of lilies and try to focus on my breathing and stepping. This should be the happiest day of my life, as it is for most girls, but that was the engagement. Of course, I’m thrilled to finally be formally committing to you. But for me, this experience is sacrosanct: I am promising myself to you, and you to me. We know that life won’t always be a bed of roses, that there’ll be days you really, really, really, really, don’t like me but still love me, days where we grapple to find the words to comfort each other, days where we have to make a conscious decision to put aside our pride and pull each other up, days where we question our faith in both God and ourselves yet nevertheless push through because we must. There will be weeks of highs with no coming-downs (starting with a honeymoon in Hawaii!), weeks of anticipation waiting for the birth of our first child, weeks of elation as we hold her in our arms and watch her grow before our eyes. There will be months where we just don’t understand why this is happening to us, months where we wonder if everyone else is also winging it, months where life is so demanding that you feel like there’s nothing left to squeeze out of you, months where we wordlessly hold each other through the night trying to provide an iota of warmth after the death of a parent, a sibling, a friend. There will be years of ups and downs—the ups far outweighing the downs because we will always remember what we saw in each other—years of incomparable love, a love we never imagined we could experience, a bond that grew ironclad after years of building our own family together.
I’ve imagined it all, played the reels in my head so many times that I can already tell you the moments that matter most. Before you, it was always a dress, an aisle, a church, and my Beloved. Nothing more, nothing less. After you, things got more real: it was you holding my hand as we look at the sonogram, you not laughing as I joke about giving birth to an alien; it was you bantering with me on the couch, baby between us, euphoric at the every giggle emitted by our creation—we really made a masterpiece, didn’t we?; it was you teaching our daughter to stand up for herself and our son to box; it was you I thanked God for every night, my True love, my rock, my protector and provider. It was you whose arms the kids ran into, gleefully shouting “Daddy, Daddy” as you arrived home after a long day. It was you whose eyes lit up as they grabbed you by the hand and pulled you into the kitchen to show you their drawings. It was you who complimented their “artwork” and then walked over to me, a gleam of sheer marital bliss in your eyes, putting your arms around my waist and pulling me close as you greet me with a kiss. It was you who winked at me to help you “remove your tie” upstairs while the kids watched the Disney channel. It was you who made me shiver as my dress slipped off, you who filled my body with lust as you pushed me onto the bed, you whose name I moaned as you repeatedly reminded me, “You are mine.”
The clatter of heels and thoughts comes to an abrupt stop. My beloved reaches out his hand and slowly lifts my gossamer veil, sharply inhaling as he sees my made-up face. It finally clicks to him, an abstract rite of passage that made sense when happening to others finally feels “real” to him. Rather than fear, this realization spreads immeasurable joy throughout his veins, and his eyes start to glisten with tears. He reaches out both hands, and our fingers instinctively and tightly interlock. I gently squeeze his hands and give a small smile, my eyes long brimming with tears.
I miss the priest’s opening words, trying to withhold my sniffles. My love notices and winks at me, reminding me that he’s always aware of my needs, that he’s always going to lighten up the mood, that he’s always going to have my back against the world (and hopefully against the wall, too). My attention returns as the priest starts reading from Corinthians. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” As one lauds originality, I ironically chose one of the most often used—if not the most common—wedding vows. But screw it. These verses are what opened my eyes to who he truly was during my one and only phase of doubt. The way he treated me, especially during hard times—he was the Biblical definition of love. The priest closes with the last verse, “Love never fails,” and I then proceed to read “To My Dear and Loving Husband” aloud, my favorite sonnet that perfectly captures the depth of my love for him in a way I never could with words. We then exchange the traditional vows with a slightly modified ending (I insisted that we remove the “til death do us part,” because I pray I’ll be with him beyond the great unknown). During the readings, time is suspended, and God’s presence is so strong that even an atheist would doubt. I can feel them all with me, proudly smiling down from the heavens—Mamma Annie, Papa Mikey, Aunt Diana, Uncle Dina.
“You may now kiss the bride,” the priest announces. My now-husband places a hand lovingly on my cheek, bending over slightly as he leans in for a kiss. I hope that the meeting of our lips and hearts can properly convey just how much I want him, need him, and adore him–now and forever.