I sat down to write my vows. But, I’ve decided I don’t want to vow or promise anything.  Promises are nothing more than threats dressed in their Sunday best – that’s how I see it.  I’d much rather just describe you, try to make people see what I see when I look at you, try to make people know things, for example the way my skin smells after I’ve slept next to you all night long – not like me, not like you, but some alchemy of the two of us, a smell that is a little bit like smoke.

I want to tell people about the time I parked on Market street and started running to the theatre, in high heels –  I wasn’t even late, I just couldn’t wait to see you.  And how the punch line to that story is that I parked more than a half mile away.  And when you kissed me and gave me a hug, you didn’t say anything about my sweaty back and neck.

I want to tell people about how you always put your arm around me on the ski lift, and feed me tidbits from your pocket – chocolate, black licorice, beef jerky.  I want to tell people how it was the first time I was naked in front of you, hardly even shy about it. I want to tell people about the way you look at me quick, sideways, after a joke, to see if I got it, and the pleased expression you have when I always do.  I want to tell people how we like the same book, the one about the man who lives with his passions buried until they rise up and destroy him and everyone around him, and how he is not sorry. I want to tell people about the inexpressible sympathy we felt for that man, and all the losses he suffered when he reached for the one thing he should never have denied himself.

I want to tell people how the texture of your skin changes in the cold, and how the hairs on your arm are so fine that they do not stir in the wind.  I want to tell people about how the color blue makes your eyes gray, and how the color gray makes your eyes blue.  I want to tell people how, when you sing, you always sound as if you are smiling.  How your fine neck and the shape of your head sometimes makes me think of those noble looking hunting dogs.  How I wish I had the talent to sculpt you naked, and capture forever the long line of your thigh.  I want to tell them how easily you fell in love with me, leaving me breathless.  How the shape of my body, something that always felt amorphous to me, was permanently outlined by your hands, beautifully.

I want people to be able to picture how surprised and happy you looked when you first told me “I’m in love with you, I think about you all the time.”  I want people to know that you like to fall asleep with your left arm under me and your right arm and right leg over me, so that I am trapped, sweating and giggling, as you drift off to sleep.  I want them to see the way you clean your kitchen, bleaching the sink and treating the cutting boards with salt and lemon, and somehow managing not to seem fussy or anal but simply, fully and unresentfully engaged in the chores caboosed to your love of cooking.  I want them to smell how often the house is dense with the smells of my favorite foods: rack of lamb, steak, paella, banana bread.  I want them to see the princess cake you make for me at age 43, how it was just like the one at the bakery but even prettier, and the way Sophia jumped excitedly as I took it, speechless, and how my eyes in the picture you took are red-rimmed, my smile so wide you can see my gums.

I want everyone to see you on skis, the elegant way your knees spring your body side to side, how gravity seems suspended as you fly down  the mountain, face up and into the wind.  I want them to see you in your fedora and the jacket with the blue velvet collar.  I want them to watch you shop for anything  – seriously, with  careful consideration, always preferring the highest quality, wanting to be in love with it before you commit to it.  How, after you commit, you are happily, maddeningly sure that your choices – of anything, of everything, of me – are inarguably the best.

I want them to see your astonishingly pretty, high-arched feet. I want them to know your quick wit. I want them to feel the way you reach out and touch my arm when you are excited about an idea and want to be sure I am listening with full attention. I want them to know how you once stood on a corner dressed in a costume for forty-five minutes waiting for me.   I want them to watch you watching your daughter climb a fake rock wall, the serious way you nod at her innocent boasting, the confident way she tips her eyes to you for reassurance.   I want them to know how it feels to be interrupted from a dull gray passage of hours by an insistent honking sound and go to the window to see you on the street below, your motorcycle revving, a spare helmet strapped to the back your inviting grin as open as the day itself.

I want them to suggest a horror movie on a Friday, tentatively waiting for the surprised disapproval but getting instead a hug that lifts them off their feet while being told “you’re the best”.  I want them to be in on the joke, the one where we stand in front of a monument – the Eiffel Tower, the Steps of Rome, a Turkish mosque, a Barcelona park, the Eye of London – and you take a picture of you with your big insincere Cheshire grin and just the tippy top of my head. I want them to see the appreciative way you admire my vast collection of lingerie, and never ask me ‘how much was that?’  I want them to feel how warm and easy your forgiveness is. I want them to know the lift and swoop of spirit like I had when you read something I wrote and said, simply You need to be discovered.  I want them to hear what you said to me that one time, I want them to hear exactly the way you said it when you said to me, I will always love you, I’m sure of it, there’s nothing you can do that will change it, nothing at all.

© Copyright Sandra Stephens (nee Sandra Miller)

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