Seven years ago this minute I was frantically running through the aisles at King Soopers in search of something. I can't remember what it was, but I do remember my friends running along with me as I loaded my cart with all of the wrong things… seven different Annie's dressings (because they were on sale), a few boxes of cereal, and a number of scratch-and-dent items that I'm certain weren't destined for use on the honeymoon.
We had finished playing charades with an apartment full of friends, and I was on a mission. No one seems to be able to remember what it was (which was the name of the game in those days). I was always running. Perpetually frantic.
I was in self-escape mode.
This is not the space in which one should consider getting married, and despite thinking that several times (and sometimes writing it down and saying it out loud), I allowed my body to ride one conveyer belt while my mind rode another. My heart? It was in a blender. Still contained but in no way intact.
We never really celebrated our anniversary. We wrote our vows on the spot. We went separate ways after the wedding.
We had a different kind of love, and were the best of friends. We "made it" through a year in Iraq, through nursing school and admission office travel and file reading season. We almost made it through two years of night shift.
We almost made it to seven.
Three months after I got married, a friend made a Facebook account for me. I loaded in an album of my wedding pictures, and I titled it, "Let's See How Far I Get." At the time I told myself it was in reference to how long I was willing to sit around and painstakingly upload one photo at a time.
It has new meaning now.
His things are either out or packed up, save for the wedding stuff. My bouquet. The pictures. The empty photo albums we never filled. Where there used to be a pile of his papers there is a small stack of our papers with my signature and a notary stamp, and they're staring at me. The house feels both gargantuan and stifling. And whatever home-ness was once here has blown away. It is simply a space filled with memories, history, and a bunch of things that feel foreign.
A life I used to live.
Tomorrow would be seven years from that inane Seal song, the reception music by Schindler's List, the Time Warp. Nine years from the day I proposed on the top of Pikes Peak. One year from, "oh, well, we don't need to spend every anniversary together."
I've learned a lot over this time, and I don't regret it for a second. In some ways, there's a lot of pride in making it seven years. Wonderful things that might improve your relationship, like walking around the lake each New Years to talk about our upcoming dreams and goals for the year. Like finding a way to manage finances that never involved a moment of fighting, disagreement, or even mild irritation. Never going to bed angry.
There are probably reasons we didn't make it further, and perhaps it isn't appropriate to broadcast those on the internet. And maybe we had simply walked as far as we could hand-in-hand, and now it's time to break stride like we're crossing a bridge. If I figure them out, I'll be sure to let you know.
So now, atop a very tall glass of grief, is a thin layer of gratitude. Thank you, My Ben, for walking in and walking out with me. Thank you for never making me fearful, for listening and trying to keep me calm despite my inner tempest. Thank you for doing your best, always. Nine years ago you said you would call whenever you could, and I would always answer. I get that things will be different now, and that you may not call very often.
But I will always answer.