The night before our wedding, I was surrounded by my brothers and by good friends I considered brothers. My heart was smiling like it had never smiled before. My face hurt from trying to keep up with my heart.
You were at your sister’s and you had an early morning of wedding prep ahead of you. Besides, it was bad luck to see the bride before the wedding ceremony. We didn’t want any of that because we’d had enough bad luck already. I told you I’d miss you, you told me not to stay up too late and that you loved me with your entire being. We texted each other emojis, and I stayed up for a long time even after you’d stopped texting back.
I passed the time with my brothers in any way I could. We talked, watched movies, played games. We even went for a walk. After they couldn’t stay awake with me any longer, I stayed up alone, reflecting. Anticipating. Believing.
I never told you any of this but I sat outside for a while that night by myself. It was October and it was windy and cold, but the sky was clear. Leaves swirled around me at intervals, raking the ground in soft wisps. I thanked whoever was listening up there that I had found you and that I’d had the fortune of crossing paths with you. I cried some. Happiness. There was something else, though, something that took me a while to accept.
“I finally made it,” I thought to myself. “FINALLY.”
You see, out there in that October cold, watching my breath curl up into the air as I smiled like an idiot up at the moon, feeling the soft just-mowed grass in between my fingers…I finally felt worth something to someone. It felt SO good. The moonlight washed over everything in its pale glow and it felt like things were glowing just for me.
All my life, whether it was my fault or not, I haven’t felt worth a damn to anyone. But there you were, ready to declare the next day to everyone that you thought I, Joseph Adam Carro, was worth something to you.
I barely got any sleep. I was still smiling when my eyes closed and I drifted off. When I woke, I wondered if any of it was real.
Early the next morning we all left for the cemetery. Ironic that we should have been married in a place for the dead. A movie set couldn’t have been more picturesque,, though. The chapel stood like a castle against the tree line, stained glass windows popping, accentuated by the bed of vibrant and rich autumn-colored leaves which covered everything. There were some small hiccups, as invariably there are at any event, but eventually I stood in front of everyone, waiting for you to appear. Proud, scared, happy.
Every muscle in my body was vibrating with emotion and expectation.
You entered through the massive doors in your sweeping white dress and your arm tattoos. I couldn’t take my eyes off you. You saw my reaction and I saw your mouth turn into a grin. Here was the woman I was going to spend the rest of my life with.
To this day, I’ve never seen the wedding video that your sister and her husband shot, but I know that I cried while telling you how much you had changed my life and how much I was prepared to do for you in our life together. I told you that I’d tell you I loved you every day, and I did right up until the day we separated.
Life is kind of funny. You think you get the hang of it and it goes and throws you some bad directions. I don’t regret all the time we spent together. You, without even meaning to, taught me to be a better person, though we certainly butted heads toward the end. Sometimes in the past when I was still hurt by you, I would think of that little upturned smile that you showed me at the altar and I would get cut by it all over again. We used to mean so much to each other, and now that I’ve seen you occassionally out in public, we are strangers. We’re both married to others. We’re both leading different lives and moving further apart with every passing day.
The only thing I kept that reminded me of you were two photographs that fit into my wallet, back when I carried them around to show people. One is of you, in your white dress, holding a bouquet of flowers in your hands in front of you. That crazy painting-like carpet of leaves is at your feet and the chapel is in back of you. You’re smiling.
The other is of the two of us, inside the chapel. Three of the stained-glass windows are above our heads, perfectly symmetrical. The photographer did a great job. In the photo, we’re about to kiss. Your eyes are closed but your long lashes are visible against your features. You’re still holding your bouquet and my left hand is resting on your stomach.
These photos are slowly fading. The edges are white and there are slight creases marring the images. I thought about throwing them away, back when I couldn’t bear to be reminded of how far I’d fallen, but I decided to keep them. The images, the vibrancy of the colors, the looks on our faces…those will all eventually go away. Soon, I suspect within a few years, the photos will be just white squares with patches of color and meaning. Eventually, they’ll just be paper and maybe I’ll even have forgotten they were once photos.
I used to think that I’d hurt forever, that I’d never be able to shake your ghost. But, as with most things, I was wrong. Life is complicated, and now I’m with the woman of my dreams. The people in those photos I used to keep in my wallet, the young twenty-somethings who married in the cemetery that October – those people have faded too. They don’t exist anymore. The past is always there as a memory, but only the best memories stick around. The rest are doomed to be forgotten.