I remember the day I met you, suddenly standing in the entrance to my office, wearing a suit and seeming somehow gorgeous and accessible at the same time. I remember the first time we talked on the phone, a conversation I cooked up just to hear your voice. How you used to drop the names of authors, how I used to feel so sure. You were like a magnet, like flypaper. Get away? I couldn’t even look away.
And then it was all airplanes and dinners and borrowing your sweaters and learning about wine, and trying to cook things to impress you. I had a chunky blue iMac which I used as a stereo, and I slept on a futon, but at least I had my own place. I was 26, trying to be a grown-up. You were 38, you were definitely a grown-up. You lived in an apartment with two bathrooms, the definition of success in Manhattan. You took me to shows, to tennis tournaments, to a B&B on the Jersey shore, even though you hate B&Bs, too much floral decor, way too much socializing. You met my family and danced with me at a wedding. I wore a black dress and we looked out of the floor-to-ceiling windows and you told me you loved me.
We went to France, and England, where I met your family and ate parsnips. I learned how to cook, something besides Trader Joe’s couscous and salmon in parchment paper. I was content, and I learned that when you were quiet or agitated, a large Starbucks cookie–preferably with M&Ms–would do the trick. (You claimed not to have a sweet tooth, but I still know what happens when ice cream is left in the house.) You tried to buy me shoes, but I was too proud. You bought me everything else instead. We went to Costa Rica, rode bikes through a little town, ate plaintains and drank cold beers on the beach. We played backgammon in a tree house until it was too dark to see. And I was still so sure.
We sat outside an art deco hotel in South Beach and talked about getting married. The piece of paper didn’t matter to you, you wanted to start a family. But I wanted you as my husband. I wanted a ring, that delicate sign of commitment. I went to Mexico on a yoga retreat. You didn’t write, I didn’t call. We were disconnected. It didn’t matter. You bought me a ring and gave it to me in the apartment with the two bathrooms, and the two cats, and we went to Martha’s Vineyard and drank martinis. We went fishing and discovered that your stomach is stronger than mine. We went to DC and ate cupcakes, we went to Whistler and skied and played travel Scrabble.
We got married in Central Park, and I was so happy. We wanted a baby and I spent a weekend in Las Vegas fake drinking, just in case. I was pregnant on our first anniversary, and we decided to move to San Francisco. We bought cars, which I was terrified to drive in and out of our minuscule garage. Our bedroom overlooked the backyard, and we slept wrapped together. Our baby was born, and you would come home from work and find us napping. You told us how cute we were.
When I started to fall, you laughed. Don’t feel bad. I had never been clumsy before, you thought it was funny. Neither one of us took it seriously. That’s why I was alone when I learned that I might have ALS. I was alone when I lost our second baby two months later. I don’t like to talk about that, but it is part of the story, because I was sure that as long as I was carrying that baby, things were going to be okay. After that, we understood that our situation was not good. You were there when I got diagnosed, and you were there for the second opinion, and you told me that we would make the best of it. That we would have a good life, no matter how long or short it was.
And now our only child is six. It’s been too long, gotten too hard. People ask you how you do it, and I know you’re not sure. You feel like you’re underwater, not sleeping, not having very much fun. My certainty has abandoned me, I don’t know where to go from here. I know once we had something that was right and working. And now? I love you, but I’m not myself. It appears you’ve noticed. You are not yourself, and I can’t fix it with a meal or a back rub. We are not ourselves, that imperfect couple who nevertheless had a vision for the future, who planned to walk (or run, or bike) the path together, just to see where it took us.