I found Chris' wedding ring tonight.
I lifted the laundry basket and heard it clink to the edge, teetering there a second before falling to the floor. I stared at it, laying there on the carpet. I picked it up and held it in my palm, its weight much lighter than my own heavy platinum band. For me only platinum would do. But, for Chris, white gold was just fine. He would take less so I could have more.
I fingered its hammered edges, stunned that he so carelessly discarded it somewhere. How could you be so careless with your wedding ring? And a voice in my head immediately responded "How could you be so careless with your marriage?"
The truth is we'll never know if it was carelessness that ultimately crushed us.
Or money problems.
Or our age difference.
Or that we both come from divorced parents.
In the end, it doesn't matter. Because we're not trying to fix it anymore. We've been rowing against the current for so long - struggling, pushing, forcing - trying to get even a glimpse of land, that it's almost a relief to stop. A relief to look at each other - breathless, exhausted - and with a resigned nod finally let the oars slip out of our hands.
To finally stop fighting the inevitable and give each other a sad, knowing smile. And say with our hearts "I know. Me too."
And drift off into the sunset.
I turn in my desk chair to the sound of his voice. It's 1997. I'm 19 years old and it's my first week on the job. You must be the infamous Lena. I look up at him, his eyes sparkling as they lock on mine. Another admirer.
It's 1998. We talk for hours at the bookstore, refilling coffees and asking, answering, searching. One night, he brings my hand to his lips. It's like coming home.
I lay on the couch of my tiny apartment. He stands in the doorway in his coat. The baseball game we completely ignored ended hours ago. I should go. You should go. He comes toward me instead.
It's 1999. His ex-wife won't sign the papers, is begging for a reconciliation. He's emotional, honest, confused. He drops me off at my car, canceling our date. I crawl along the hallways of my tiny apartment wailing. I sit on the porch all night, smoking cigarettes, hiccuping.
It's 2000. He's not himself. He's distracted. He stops at the bank on our way to the beach. While he's gone, I lean across the seat and feel around inside the pocket of his door. My fingertips touch the tiny velvet box. I pull my hand back, gasping.
It's 2000. My veil blows behind me in our convertible. Passing cars honk and wave. Everywhere we go, we bring happiness.
It's 2001. We make a baby one sunny Sunday morning. We eat pancakes after.
It's 2001. We're scared. The doctors are scared. We pray for God to save me. To save her. To save us. When good news finally comes, Chris hangs his head and quietly cries.
It's 2003. The realtor hands us the keys. Chris takes pictures of me in every room.
It's 2005. He's gone, I say over the phone, I don't have a dad anymore. I drive as fast as I can to his waiting arms.
It's 2007. I thought it was us against the world. I thought...we...?
It's 2011. I won't lose you, he says. He picks me up and runs with me down the path behind our house. We laugh. We cry. This is a start.
It's Today. He texts me "I miss you so much". I respond "So do I". Somehow it's not enough.
I dream. I stand on the edge of a cliff, the fog rising up, obscuring the depths below. The wind pushes at my back. I close my eyes and fall forward. I pray I have wings.