A little more than three years ago, I went on an artist residency in Vermont, where I thought I’d do a lot of writing and maybe a little hooking up. I never expected my month there to alter my life in the way that a whirlwind romance at a self-reflective retreat in the woods does in a Lifetime movie.
At first I played it cool with my man-artist in the evergreens, because like most sane women, that’s what I did at the start of a fling. It wasn’t my style to acknowledge that I already sensed from those very first days in Vermont—when he cracked, “You know someone here is blogging about this residency” (verballeakage.blogspot.com, ahem), and he spooned me in my single bed while chuckling in my ear at all the inappropriate creepy-uncle jokes during a Family Ties rerun—that he knew me before he knew me.
After the residency and having spent the summer in New York, I came back to Portland, where I was finishing my MFA. Over drinks with a friend one evening (I know, so out of character of me), I spoke giddily about the guy I met, while throwing in a few disclaimers, just in case, well, I wound up getting hurt. She just sat there, smirking.
“What?” I asked.
“It’s the start of something special, isn’t it?”
I grinned like a dweeb, nodding and nodding. “It totally is,” I told her.
Special was the most precise way to put it. I knew that whatever happened to us, he was going to be the one who showed me what strength and gentleness and smarts and smarty-pantsness and inspiration and crazy-hot chemistry felt like all in one tan, toned, loving man. He was going to show me, sensitive lady in a hard-ass package, what I deserved.
Eventually I did lay all of my tingly guts before him—love yous, you’re specials, and all. I had never given so much of myself to a relationship before, a relationship where there were no guarantees—we had to be long distance, we had both come out of fundamentally different long-term experiences—but I could not let him slip away. This was the first time I took a risk where the greatest control I had was to be honest with my own feelings.
Three years later, and nearly two weeks ago, he proposed. For the majority of my life, marriage wasn’t something I romanticized. My divorced parents kept it real about how difficult marriage is to sustain and how a couple’s problems don’t often change, but feelings can. And to be honest, the strangeness of the institution and its rituals still isn’t lost on me: For a split-second, when he was proposing, my mind left my body and pointed down at it, as if to say, “Hello, Jessica, you are having a monumental life moment right now, one that you’ve seen played out in two dozen mediums in three zillion different ways.” And as someone who crafts her life stories as her life’s purpose, I was aware I was having one of my greatest life stories happen right then and there, one you’re asked to tell again and again, which is unlike the stories you spend years crafting for seven people to read, and that’s pretty fucking surreal.
But what I don’t question is whether I want to make it to forever with this guy who knows all of my garbage and continues to find (most of it) charming. A guy whose eyes are full of empathy when I’m hurting and who nestles me into his chest and shields me from the rest of the world. A guy who doesn’t drive me nuts—which may sound simple, but after being in a few relationships, I realize is of the utmost importance.
I’m not a religious person, but making this man my husband is the closest thing to unwavering faith I’ve ever felt. And that, my friends, is pretty goddamn special.