Fourteen Years Ago
December 2001. You walk into a bar very late at night. You wear all black, laugh with good girlfriends. The world is a triumphant Pinot Grigio blur. You are awake, alive, happy, young. Not even three months ago, the towers fell, here, in your own hometown, and you are still very scared. But tonight you are smiling, skipping, loose.
And there he is. A tall guy with spiky hair that stands up. He talks to you. When he looks at you, everything else gets quiet. Mere minutes and you can see it, feel it: This is a good guy.
You talk and talk and it's the talking you remember. How the words come and don't stop. The breathless storytelling. The this is who I am and I want you to know me and I need to know you. Mere days and you can see it, feel it: I'm looking at forever.
You spend every minute you can together. Every minute. You take your law school finals. He drops off flowers and Diet Mountain Dew when you are studying. On his birthday, you go to a neighborhood cafe that no longer exists, drink hot chocolate like kids, talk. He gives you a silver heart necklace for Christmas.
Months become years and he proposes. Pulls a beautiful ring from the depth of his brown boot. Asks in your kitchen. It is a quiet moment, a simple one, among the best in your life. You say yes a million times. (You are still saying yes.)
You marry before Christmas three years after you met. The church is brilliant with lights. You wear a big princess dress with doves kissing on the back. You say I do. Under a big blue whale, you dance and laugh and kiss and begin.
Oh is it a good life. Three little girls arrive and they are the most incredible things in the world. Their eyes are blue, like his, like yours. They are your muses, your owlets, your everything. And sometimes the two of you hold hands and just look at them and tears rise in your tired eyes as you smile.
But there's been hard stuff, too. The stuff of adulthood, of life. You miscarry your first pregnancy. Your father dies. Anxiety comes and goes, ruthless, gnawing, real. Disappointments small and less small come and settle, stain.
But through it all, he is there. The guy from the bar. He is there, firmly, ferociously, by your side. He celebrates with you and holds you when you cry. He reminds you that you are beautiful and that you are human and that you are fine. And there are moments when you bury your head in his chest and breathe him in and the most brilliant calm wraps you like a blanket and everything is suddenly, poetically okay.
You think about it sometimes. Those two silly, stunning words what if rise in your throat, your mind, your heart. What if you didn't walk in to that bar that December night? What if you didn't have the staggering luck of meeting this person, of building this exquisite, imperfect, deeply cherished life?
But you did. You did walk in. You did meet him and you did build this life, this love. And fourteen years later, it still seems like a beautiful dream. But it's not. It's very much real.