I woke with a start and flipped a calendar: 10 years ago tonight we met. We climbed together at the indoor rock gym and then went to the Front Room, an intimate setting a short distance from the ocean. You wore a wool skirt and a smile. I was still in my climbing clothes. It was a Tuesday. I said I wouldn’t have time to see you again that week.
On Thursday we met at the Top of the East, Portland’s rooftop bar. You introduced me to your work friends and we got takeout. You spent the night.
On Friday we slept together. I asked you, “Are you for real? Is this really you.” You said yes. I knew then I would marry you.
A year later I asked. It was my birthday. Again climbing, I knelt down halfway up a cliff in New Hampshire. You started crying even before I finished. Your legs wouldn’t hold, couldn’t carry a body so overwhelmed by laughter and tears. We were 600 feet up. You didn’t trust yourself to hold the ring. You put it on, cried out with joy, and then asked me to keep it until we got to the top. I put it in my backpack and went. When you reached the top you kissed me, crying.
I don’t remember if that last part is true, but it has to be.
A year later I waited on a bridge. It was autumn, rain falling. It was getting dark. Japanese lanterns hung from the roof supports. Candles marked our walkway. The Swift River ran beneath. I remember when I saw you: You stood in white, your hair twisted in a knot of curls, hints of purple brushed over your eyes. Rain spit against the umbrella your father held but could never touch you. Nothing could touch you. You looked so beautiful, soft as snow. I don’t remember music, or sound, or the other people. Or anything. I remember you walking towards me, smiling again, your eyes searching for mine.
The rain and the river closed out the world. Your footsteps and breathing were all I heard. I don’t remember “I do,” but I can still feel your hand sliding the gold band up my finger, solid and heavy and light at the same time.
But that was after. Before and after. Before it fell apart, before court documents and divided possessions, before life seemed too fast and too slow, too ordinary and too silent. Before we moved into separate houses. Before it was over.
And after. After that first night I saw you walking towards me. After wondering if this was the same girl or if in the short drive from the rock gym to the restaurant she’d somehow gotten lost. We’d just spent two hours climbing, sweating and playing, but here walking towards me was a stunning woman, beauty in a skirt, her hips clicking in time to her heels. Her smile lit up the night.
That was you. Your smile grew as you reached me. I remember that too.