I looked at you and you looked at me. Your eyes twinkled like starlight, and I could see a smile dancing in the corner of your mouth.
I thought about our wedding in Paris, at night by the Seine. The boats passing by lit up and glowing, the crisp fall evening air, surrounded by friends, in love and so loved.
I thought about when our baby girl was born, flushed red and mottled, her little fists clenching and her eyes so bright and aware. You wanted to name her Ann, but I had a cousin named Ann who was always so cruel to me, so we settled on Penelope instead. You always called her Pen even when she insisted on using her full name.
She was sick a lot at first and we worried so much. We spent a few days in the NICU, a couple more at the children’s hospital, and countless sleepless nights at home taking turns with her. We joked that she was testing us, making sure we rose to the occasion as parents, and sometimes I wondered if it was true.
I felt tired in my bones but when we sat together on the couch with our little girl nestled between us, I forgot what it was like to be so drained, and my life began anew.
We fought a lot, about sex and money and where to send Pen to school, about when to discipline her and when to let it go. We fought about what to eat for dinner and about that ratty old shirt you like to wear to bed. We fought about everything and nothing and sometimes I didn’t want to speak to you for days. But every morning, there you were, and I always woke up loving you.
And then the Beast showed up. It almost took you away from me, subtle but all-encompassing, cunning in its evil. I didn’t recognize you for a while and I don’t think you recognized yourself. And you changed, we all changed, adapting to it but also becoming just a little bit harder around the edges.
We fought it, you more than anyone, and eventually it receded. There were still shadows of it now and again but all the light was ours. And we were stronger too, we’d faced the world down and it made a lot more sense now, even though we knew it wasn’t predictable, that our fortunes could turn on a dime.
We went back to Paris every year, every year that we could anyway, when we weren’t sick, or out of a job, or wondering how we were going to pay for the pipes that broke in the house over that cold cold winter.
And I wonder, was there ever any two people who were more there for each other? Even when we didn’t particularly like each other, or felt indifferent, or lost — we were still there. And we knew that our love was always an ember, sometimes igniting, sometimes slowly crackling, but burning forever.
I looked up and I saw you, looking at me, smile dancing in the corner of your mouth. And then you stood up and walked out without saying a word.
Perhaps tomorrow I’ll see you again. Perhaps you’ll ask me out for a coffee, and we’ll talk about Paris.
And I’ll tell you how I’ve heard that Paris is lovely at night, in the fall, by the Seine.