Back in 2011, I gave this story to my husband as a gift. This is how we made an honest love: growing from lustful independent college students into partners in a truthful relationship. This past June we celebrated 14 years of marriage. I swear, it was just yesterday we were living the words you are about to read.
Marriage is living day to day as we find the courage to decide to love one another in the unlovely moments. I am still learning that the art of honesty and risky living is the slow process of crawling under my bed, and taking out every box I have stored there. Then I sit with you. We slowly open each one while you hold my hand and tell me I am not alone.
“Maybe we should get married in September instead of June,” I say as I stare out at the sunset that shines through the layers of grey clouds. We are sitting in the little red rental car on the beach of the Sandhouse Hotel at Rossnowlagh Beach, Ireland. We have been engaged for 6 months, in two separate countries. Caravans (campers) and cars are scattered around us on the white sand.
Our hotel stay is my belated birthday gift to you. It’s the priciest gift I’ve given anyone—$120 or so, the largest charge yet on the $800 limit credit card that my dad co-signed with me before I left to study in England in January.
I chose the hotel because it was right on the water and I thought it would be cool to look out our window and see the ocean (frigid as it was). The hotel is the color of sand and looks like a fortified castle rising out of the sea; the clouds are low and the landscape is a mass of North Atlantic grey. The clouds drizzle sloppy drips of rain on the windshield for the entire hour we sit in the car on the beach.
We slowly open each one while you hold my hand and tell me I am not alone.
“September? That’s three months later,” you say.
My independent streak is flashing its colors as I cross my arms and stare out the window. I am trying to find some way to distance myself from you at this point in our trip, so I decide that talking about pushing our wedding date out is in order. My feet are propped up on the dash.
I think to myself that I have lived in England now for five months and I have changed—for the better. I am stronger and more confident, but the stubbornness and independence is pushing you away as we sit. Here we are together, too close for comfort: too close physically, mentally. And for two days we have been together nonstop, living, breathing, eating, everything but sleeping together.
I am using the discussion of a September wedding to push you away. Deep down, I know it’s not what either of us want, but it puts me in some illusion of control so that I can ignore the fact that we are not married and it will be over a year before we are.
One week before the Sandhouse Hotel, I met you at the London Gatwick airport. You were arriving with the William Jewell Concert Choir for the England/Scotland tour. I had gotten up early, taken a bus to the Oxford train station, rode the train straight to Gatwick, and waited at the arrivals gate for half an hour with a USA Today and coffee.
Some girl from the choir I barely knew was already there waiting for the choir too and she chatted away like we were chummy, but I didn’t give a rip. It had been five months since we had seen each other—the longest stretch ever. I nodded my head while she yammered on. I looked past her to the arrivals exit.
You looked more confident and younger than I remembered.
I was nervous to see you again.
You were in the middle of the choir group that came through the double doors, but it seemed like you were the very last. You were thinner and your hair was shorter. You were wearing a short-sleeved blue shirt and jeans and New Balance running shoes. It was your usual dress code, but you looked more confident and younger than I remembered. The details had grown fuzzy with our distance, like the black and white ant static festival that crawls rapidly across the TV screen when you can’t find the channel.
For an instant, I thought maybe we were two different people now, separate in whom we were becoming.
Read Part 2: Playing Marriage here.