I Will Wait, I Will Wait For You
And I came home like a stone, and I fell heavy into your arms.
These days of dust which we’ve known will blow away with this new sun.
My arms wrapped around her tiny ribs under the stiff hotel comforter, thumbs hooked together like we both might turn into ghosts if I were to let go. Our limbs were like a braid. But it got so quiet in the dark while we stared at the same spot on the wall, my chin hooked over her shoulder, it got so quiet I swear her breathing started to harmonize with the little waves on Lake Superior.
I leaned up on one elbow, pushed her dark hair from her face, and I said, “Tell me something that makes you sad.”
Her pause was so heavy I think the lake stopped to listen, too.
“Do you promise to keep it? Forever and ever, don’t forget it, don’t ever tell it to anyone else?”
I breathed out a “Yes.”
“My brother’s dead. I remember finding the polaroid of him on the dryer when I was six. He was…purple, he was all baby and bruises. He’s dead and I feel that all the time.”
I rolled her over and wrapped her up and she shook and I whispered my own sadness right back like an echo only she could hear, and we spent the night like that — feeling too much in the dark someplace in the middle of Duluth.
Bow my head, keep my heart slow.
‘I hope that I don’t sound too insane when I say there is darkness all around us. But we would both surrender — true love is not the kind of thing you should turn down. Don’t ever turn it down.’
The alarm screams an unfamiliar tone at seven, while the sun is still soft and pinkish through the unusually small window. In that moment right between asleep and awake, it occurs to me that at twenty-six years of age I shouldn’t be waking up alone in a twin-sized bed for the first time in a handful of years. I rub my bleary eyes and emit some kind of un-human early-morning squeak before I finally register the posters on the bright purple walls of the little room…I’m confused, because this isn’t right, this is…this is my dad’s house. This is my bedroom that they haven’t found an excuse to change in the last seven years. This is the room I was never supposed to sleep in again. This is…oh, but this is a very happy day.
I am spurred back to reality by the clattering of pots and pans from downstairs, and the messy chorus of my dad, aunts, and cousins’ voices. Most of all it’s the strong smell of Folger’s (the kind only dad makes, only here) that finally pulls me away from the soft sheets. It hits me with a smile that I should probably get out of this still tiny and all-alone bed and slip into that sundress hanging off the back of the door. My bare feet pad down the stairs and eagerly slap down onto the kitchen floor as I greet everyone with a warm, face-splitting grin — my whole family crowded into this room barely big enough for three, pausing their never-ending bickering match long enough to return my silent, knowing smile. My whole family is here, my heart is bursting, my smile is wide…but something is missing. Someone is not here.
I reach for my coffee and get so immediately engulfed in the chaos that I don’t have a moment to think of what’s happening in the hotel room across town. Meeting your mom, dad, and brother for breakfast, curling irons and clouds of hairspray and perfumes, buttoning shirts and straightening lapels and tying ties and those special smiles again…tears in your dad’s eyes when you decide to wear your special-day-shoes around the room while you’re still in your pajamas, just like you did when you were four. Twenty-two years ago, he never believed he’d see the day when you’d become somebody else’s baby, hyphenated last name and all.
Back in my kitchen, we’re busy making ten different kinds of pasta salad between trips to collect the dozens of mismatched chairs from the boxes of my cousins’ pick-up trucks (because it turns out special days can be pretty damned expensive if you don’t get creative), and deciding whether my mom and your mom should even be allowed to sit at the same table. Dad strung the lights up in the backyard last night — the kind with the little white paper globes that zig and zag through the ties at the top of the big white tent — and after I spilled the whole salt shaker into the potato salad (apparently I’m a little shaky), I was sent to the living room to sit at the coffee table with my little sister and stick purple lilacs into painted glass coke bottles.
The rest of the morning with my sister turns into a hazy, messy memory of laughing fits, flower pedal fights, chocolate granola sneakily dumped into my pancake mix, and being chased through the backyard with curlers in my hair and half of my face made-up as she’s singing something about still being able to beat me at tag after all of these years. I’m just a kid. I’m still just a stupidly happy kid, and suddenly I’m in a dress. The dress. My hair is tied and braided messily on the side of my head, full of wax and pins and little pink blossoms like some sort of intricate piece that maybe wasn’t intended to be a work of art, but turned out that way in the end. My special-day-shoes on my feet and a bundle of backyard peonies in my hands, tied together with a rough brown string from the garage that’s cutting into my hands because maybe if I hold this tight enough, I won’t have to re-do my eye makeup for the second time in half an hour. You’re in the other room right now. I can’t think about it, I have to focus, so I just hold the flowers tighter. I’ll see you soon enough.
I’m at the top of the back porch steps, peeking out just enough to see your family on the left — your big brother and mom and dad sitting all in a row with matching watery smiles, your best friend in the world in his nicest tux looking so god-awfully handsome up there standing next to your favorite cousins, all in a row. All their eyes are so full of awe and love, darting from you to the back door to you again. I can’t see you, and my sister shoves me every time I try, despite the protests from my best friend about the possibility of tearing some earth-shatteringly important aspect of the dress that I don’t even really care about anymore. My sister gets to see you first, and I watch her face light up as she steps through the doorway. I’m just trying to stop shaking. My best friend from the east coast goes next, followed by my best friend from the west — these are the people that made my heart so full I believed I had already met the limits of my love. They’re the ones who taught me how to love anybody in the first place, and now they’re here all in a line and you’re here at the front of it and I realize that this is the test of the limits. This is the test of everything I’ve been trying to learn. This is…my dad’s arm slipping around my own, and after what feels like a century’s worth of waiting and thinking and shaking, we’re finally walking out the door.
That moment — the most important moment of my entire life — is like tunnel vision. I turn to see your beautiful blue-yellow eyes lock immediately onto mine, and your smile is so wide it looks like it might break, and now it’s like I’m falling unexpectedly into some never-ending hole. A second ago everyone we knew was here, but now it’s just me and you and no one else in the world. The feeling of looking at you right now, this feeling of falling, is so intense that even the most vivid of imaginations couldn’t wrap around it. It’s every last molecule of oxygen rushing out of my lungs with surprising force, my kneecaps turning to dust, explosions of light and sound behind my eyes — dizzy and electric and terrifying and perfect.
You in your white dress and me in mine…this is what Forever feels like.
‘…and in January we’re getting married. Come January, let’s get married.’