He asked me to marry him in the summer as we were sipping white wine on the balcony of a seaside hotel, perspiring from the heat. I turned to him with a quizzical brow, unsure of his intentions. He didn’t return my gaze, but kept his eyes locked firmly on the landscape before us – on the sea.
Words wouldn’t come as easily to me, as they usually do when I sit down at my desk to write or when we talk in jest half-drunk in the evening. I cursed their inconsistency under my breath. But then, how could words decide what I myself could not? Yet they always seemed to know better than me. When I wrote, my life spilled and bled beneath my feet, I discovered truths and battled my demons, I turned toward different paths and it was the words that showed me the way.
But they were silenced now, and I was left to fend for myself with the little wit I was given in the game of genetics, molded by sparse bits of experience resulting from living in a gilded cage for far too long.
Finally, I turned from him and looked to the sea for help. It answered in a tide of images I could hardly believe were my own memories.
The two of us sitting in just this way a few days ago, upon our arrival into town, two entities completely separate but for his touch on my knee. The night we met, his crooked teeth protruding from an awkward smile that warms the very marrow in my bones and makes it sizzle. A day spent lazily walking around town, visiting a few galleries and eating salad from the same bowl. The way he knew I loved him even before I figured it out myself. Late-night calls after binge drinking with friends, his (and mine). Late-night talks about music and life, and families. The way he kissed me once while we were sitting on my couch. The weight of his legs wrapped around mine the first morning we woke up together. The way he turned off the light, then turned it back on to talk to me some more the night before.
„I never considered myself to be much of a talker after sex,“ he mused and I laughed. Said I didn’t mind in the slightest.
The night he fell asleep while we were watching a movie and I thought he didn’t love me anymore, then told him so in the morning only to be ridiculed by salves of his good-tempered laughter.
„You’re an idiot,“ he told me. I had to agree.
In many ways, he was more perceptive than me. He knew things – things that could not be learned from textbooks on human behavior or heard at university lectures I so meticulously jotted down. His intelligence far surpassed my own when life’s realities were concerned, but as smart as he was, he was also a child in many ways and I felt an overwhelming need to protect him, to piece his errant bits back together and see him become the man I thought he could be.
To do so, I needed to be a woman who could do the same for herself. Am I this mythical creature, I wondered. Could I ever be so stable, so confident, so unencumbered by expectations and other people’s judgement?
It hit me then, what I failed to recognize in all those many pages of alcohol-induced monologues and contemplation on how to become who I thought I ought to be. We were both changed merely by the presence of the other. In many ways, we had grown together in a very short time and bridged the gap of years that threatened to divide. In acting on my desire to help him, I had helped myself and brought about a change so fundamental, so hidden, I did not even notice it at first – until that morning by the sea when I turned to him again, and saw sunlight mixed with sweat dancing on his face, reflected by the water, illuminating his wrinkles differently from one second to the next and making him appear ever-different.
This is what the sea had shown me, that words could not divulge. Tides, waves, the dynamics of constant movement. That we are forever-changing in form, if not matter, that we are never whole but achieve consistency through alteration. There would never come a time – the right time – when I would be able to say „This is the final me, and this is the final you – and now, we are perfect.“ The only question was whether our movements could be synchronized, the answer far outreaching the wisdom of both words, and sea.
I turned toward him again and as if expecting my sudden movement, he looked back at me.
Analysis and metaphors be damned, I thought. Words have no place in this moment. So it came to be, that I made this one decision myself.