There is a small, uneven sliver of red nail polish on each of my big toes. It is my wedding nail polish — the unseen painted toes beneath my dress, a secret red rebellion against the yellows and charcoals of our celebration. In ten days it will be six months since our wedding, in case you were wondering how long toenail polish can last when left unattended, or how slowly toenails grow. (And yes, I have been showering; it’s strong stuff.) It wasn’t an artistic choice to let the color fade with our memories — I was simply caught up in non nail polish-related life, and then winter kept me in socks and slippers so that I completely forgot until our first days of sandal weather. Now, of course, it is a sentimental choice…how can I wipe away these last remainders of such a joyous time?
I’m not used to being married. Friends and strangers ask how married life is, and I don’t always know what to say. Partly because I am so blissfully happy to choose and be chosen by a person who is so overwhelmingly wonderful — it sounds sappy and braggy and somewhat naive. But also because part of me hasn’t registered the full impact of what I’ve done; the commitment I’ve made, the family I’ve created and joined, the journey I’ve started.
Even now, after three years together, I still feel the parts of me that he doesn’t truly understand. The relationships I’ve had my entire life, the chunk of myself that doesn’t belong in America, the hidden corners of my mind and self that take years to unravel and discover. We didn’t grow up together, but we will grow old together. He tells me that he likes the wrinkles under my eyes and looks forward to my changing face. I tell him he is crazy. He is an anomaly in America’s youth-obsessed culture. I think maybe it is because he isn’t afraid of death.
His old soul is dressed with button downs and blazers even in 80 degrees and he says he is excited to be 30 and that maybe he’s reached the age where his fashion freezes. I wear sandals and mismatched socks — sometimes together — but I am brushing my hair more now.
Two nights before the wedding, I twisted my ankle. The DJ turned on the song I requested, and I ran to the dance floor, forgetting that there was a lip, and my ankle slipped and contorted almost cartoonishly. It wasn’t an auspicious start to the festivities. My aunt and cousin asked all for all of the symptoms and declared that it was probably broken, as it wasn’t too swollen. I spent the next day hobbling, and sitting with my ankle up, frustrated as people served me when I wanted to exercise my right to run around like a maniac the day before my wedding.
We thought about eloping. When we got engaged, we thought about the drama, the stress, the production, and thought that maybe we were elopey-people. But we also thought that maybe we were ceremony and community and customy people and we liked the idea of publicly sharing our lives, joining our families, creating a covenant. So we decided 50 people would be a good number. Six months and 150 invites later, we stood in front of a group of family and friends from around the country and world, and we promised each other the world. And it’s okay to promise the world to someone who has transformed yours. So we made promises and stood and smiled and kissed and maybe kissed a little too long and walked down the aisle, hoping that people would remember the love, the beauty, and not the streams of sweat running beneath their dresses, creating darks patterns where they pooled.
There was so much support, so much joy, so much tangible love and presence that we felt. It turns out we are not elopey people. Our mothers were right.
The reception is in my husband’s family’s backyard on a bluff overlooking water and the dock his grandfather made. The weather cools, the tables are lit by candles and wine and conversation. They are filled with our clan, inherited and chosen, and it is sad that we don’t get to see any of them on a regular basis. The lanterns in the trees look like fairy blessings and dreams. We laugh and drink and dance and my ankle is better, but my heels still come off and the bottom of my dress gets dirty and everyone is beautiful in candlelight and we try to talk to everyone properly but it is hard. There is a flashdance. To “It’s Raining Men.” And it is glorious.
My husband’s friend has a microphone and he tells everyone that the highlight of marriage might be a Whataburger, and it is so surprisingly eloquent, and my dad tells everyone that he could have sold me for a million dollars worth of camels in Yemen or Oman or Tunisia, I can’t remember, and I wonder why he priced it when they offered the camels. Why not just say “no” when they suggest a trade? And then my husband is telling everyone about Kierkegaard’s love story, about how he had broken an engagement to the woman he loved because he wanted to focus on his work and on God and later came to realize that loving her was a path to God. And I don’t take the microphone because I don’t have words.
Marriage is being tied to a human. Humans are messy and crazy and weird. The best thing for our marriage is my terrible memory. I can’t remember events well enough to hold grudges. Places and events are always new and exciting because I don’t remember them — I can even rewatch a movie from a few years ago and not remember the spoilers. It’s an exciting world I live in. OK, actually there are no grudges to hold because we are only six months in and even when he is tired or angry or hungry, my husband is never intentionally hurtful. As far as I can remember.
At the beginning of a relationship, each moment is imprinted. Even though my memory is terrible, I remember specific comments he made, phrases he used, the surprising ease of our conversations, his goofy anecdotes. Our first meeting, our first kiss, the first time we held hands, walking in the Seattle sunshine, reciting poems with strangers who told us that we were a picture of love and how it was awkward because we hadn’t used the word yet, but it wasn’t awkward because the Word was there. We shared our stories and hopes, eager to be known, reinspiring our own selves with our dreams and poetry and artists.
Barring tragedy, we will be spending the majority of the next 50 or so years together. And each moment will not be imprinted. They will slide by like someone rushing through a picture powerpoint they think might bore you. My bad memory will once again prevail and the inside jokes will slip in and out of my grasp. But instead of individual memories, I will have a cohesive sense of lives joined, a sense of trust in the person I have spent my years with. The toenail polish from our wedding day will be distant past. But I will still paint them red because that’s his favorite.
The Cloths of Heaven
Had I the heaven’s embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light;
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
- WB Yeats