I won’t know it when I see you, that first time. I’ll see Cute, maybe Player, maybe Friend Material. I won’t know yet that I belong to you, the way grass does to the earth or the birds do to the sky. I’ll hope, maybe, that you’ll talk to me, that our words will wrap and wind around each other for a moment, my naivety not understanding the way our voices will sing when joined at the same time. I won’t see you and greet Forever.
But you will.
I’ll say no to that first dance, partly out of pride and partly because of the pleasure it will give me to watch you squirm a little. I’ll know the kind of man you are when you don’t hold that against me, and even more when I come back and retract my refusal, because my friend wants to go with yours and I want that for her too. I’ll put on my dress and curl my hair, say how much I don’t want to see you, but really, deep down, I’m thrilled.
You’ll meet me at the bottom of the staircase, a Cinderella spiral, and I’ll think, how lucky that his tie matches my gown. I won’t know until later that you found out the color from my roommate and had your dad drop off a matching shade. I’ll wonder, as you take my hand and guide me across the floor, is he always such a gentleman?
I won’t know yet that you are.
You’ll come see me a few days later, to drop off a book, you’ll say. And we’ll both stand just beyond the door’s threshold, the rain freezing in its descent and our teeth chattering in defiance to the wind. Our hands will touch, but only for a second, and I’ll wonder whether I should hug you. But we’ll be awkward and bulky, with all these winter things, and suddenly I’ll be embarrassed by your rough hands and gorgeous jaw line, so I’ll say Merry Christmas and run inside.
And then we’ll go on a trip together, just as friends, we’ll say, even though we’ll both know we’re no longer friends. You’ll let me teach you how to ski, and I’ll try not to laugh at you in your jeans and camo jacket. You’ll hate it that I’m better at you than something, but you’ll laugh it off when you think I’m watching. On the lift, you’ll ask me a question about my family, but I’ll be too busy noticing the way the snow lands on your eyelashes. So we’ll sit in silence until I come out of my reverie. Face red and heart pounding, I’ll make some trivial remark about the weather, both thrilled and terrified that with you, I can be silent.
You’ll ask me then, in the car on the way home, if I’ll be your girlfriend. I will panic, because I’ve already learned that in all things, you’re serious, and I’ll ask you to give me one good reason I should say yes. You’ll give me ten. Then this time, at my door, you really will hug me, and I’ll knock you in the head with my skis when I say goodnight.
And then it will be summer and a storm will roll in. We’ll be on the beach, holding hands, the sun long set and the moon tucked in behind a blanket of clouds. You’ll brush back my hair while the lightening strikes, a futile attempt in all that humidity, and you’ll say the three words I was both hoping you would and wouldn’t say. I’ll tell you no, that it’s too soon to know, that we aren’t ready for a thing called love, and you’ll smile gently and say okay, even though you’ll already know you are. We’ll walk back to the house, me breathless, you certain, and you’ll hold the door open for me like I hadn’t just cut you straight in the heart.
Winter will come again, too soon, and I’ll be coming home from the hospital with a swollen neck and a face like puff pastry. You’ll tell me I”m beautiful and you’ll pretend you don’t notice the way my nerves have been cut and I can’t smile on one side of my face. You’ll take me for walks and you’ll sit with my family when I’m too tired to come out. When you go home, my mother’s eyes will sparkle and she’ll tell me, he’s a keeper, but after this week, I’ll already know.
Two more winters, two summers, and a rosebush later, we’ll stand by a waterfall while the sky threatens rain. I’ll look at the water, and then back at you, but you’ll be down on one knee and asking for forever. I won’t say a word, but will hold those rough hands and trace that gorgeous jaw line, and will finally know that, all this time, all there really was for me was you. We’ll be young and sheltered and without experience, but we’ll both know enough to see a fire burned bright. You place on my hand a circle of diamonds and I’ll place in your heart my promise.
They will be frustrating, those next fourteen months, because I’ll move south and you’ll move east, and we’ll be stretched so far we’re worried we’ll snap. And we’ll both be stubborn and selfish enough to think the other should have followed us. But we’ll keep trudging and chugging, month after month, until our love is stronger and thicker than it was on the beach or the hospital or the waterfall. And with these added layers of giving and learning, we’ll become anxious for the day we can greet Tomorrow hand in hand.
Then it will be June, and the sun will smile and the breeze will play, because it will all be as happy as we are. And there will be singing and dancing and feasting on cake, and our hands will be bound, our eyes fresh and new. I will promise to keep making you laugh, and you will promise to love me more when my hair runs gray and my skin grows wrinkly from so many trips around the sun. We’ll say goodbye to our family and friends; together, for the first time, we’ll leave.
There will be so much to learn, cooking and cleaning, balancing a budget and learning that look of concentration you make when you’re fixing something doesn’t mean you’re mad at me. There will be laughter, tea, long walks after dinner, and we’ll wonder who let us two kids out into the world. There will be careers, and dreams, and a move across states, and I’ll be amazed at the scope of your love. Those eyelashes will enchant me and those hands will hold me, and I’ll fall asleep each night, happy through and through.
We’ll walk through those years, golden and beautiful, because we have loved and been loved in one of the most powerful ways. Whether those years span six or sixty, you’ll tell me you’ll die a satisfied man, and I’ll wonder how you ever found me.
Together, holding hands, and walking in step: this is how we’ll greet Forever. I won’t know it right away.
But you will.