Looking For Love In The Right Place
I have a lovely story about romance and fate to tell you. I need to say something first.
I know the world sucks. I know it’s tense out there, and neighbors are suspicious of neighbors, family members have stopped talking, passions are high and protestors line the streets.
I understand this. I live in it. I could write about it every week, about the horrors of separated families and old bigotry masquerading as new ideas, about extinct diseases popping back into existence because of crackpots scaring parents about vaccination, about resistance to education and science and just plain truth.
I’m not hiding from ugly facts, in other words. Whether you need to read about them from me when they’re covered in detail elsewhere is another question, but none of this is the point.
I just wanted to tell you a sweet story about love and romance. Feel free to turn the page to the bad news. My feelings won’t be hurt.
If you’ve been paying attention to this space, you might have noticed a little tendency lately toward nostalgia. This makes some sense. I’m getting older, and sometimes I get nostalgic for an imaginary past.
Occasionally it’s not imaginary, as I’m about to tell you, but first a word or two about nostalgia.
Combine the Greek suffix “-algia,” which means pain, and the concept of “nostos,” which refers to a long, often perilous journey, and nostalgia literally refers to a painful homecoming. Sort of like seeing one of your favorite childhood TV shows rebooted, and Roseanne is still on it. Painful.
These days, though, nostalgia is just about sepia tones and soft music, faded memories that most likely have little connection to reality but are still fun to think about.
Last weekend, an old friend was in town. She’s about as significant a figure in my life as there is. She was there when I met my wife, for one thing.
I’ve mentioned many times how my wife and I met in college, working summers in a small mountain town, doing dinner theater entertainment, some singing, some dancing, some silliness. We had a great time, met and fell in love, and one summer we got married during the run of the show. It’s a pretty nostalgic story.
We have plenty of pictures from that summer, and even a video of that show, faded and a little wobbly but still watchable. We sometimes watch, too, marveling at our slim bodies and unlined faces and hairlines that don’t seem headed in the wrong direction.
There was another summer, though. It was the previous one, when we were first introduced. We were only coworkers that summer, just friends with no hint of romance, although in retrospect we can see some hints.
One of them was a moment my wife remembers. We were onstage that first summer, the entire cast, and she was singing a solo. It was beautiful and haunting, and she remembers glancing over her shoulder one night to catch me staring at her intently.
But who really remembers, especially 36 years in the past? It just became a story, a moment of prescience, a glimpse of what would come, maybe. Maybe it didn’t happen, either.
My old friend brought me a present, though, a videotape of that 1982 summer show. And I watched it, of course.
The tape is what you might expect after nearly 40 years, faded and washed out, and definitely not high definition.
It’s definitely watchable, though, and certainly nostalgic. There were things I have no recall of, and other that seem only shadows of vague notions of that summer.
Then there’s the song. I watch my young, not-yet wife begin to sing. I’m on her left, and as the camera pans I slip into the frame, in the background.
And I’m staring holes through this woman. “Intently” is not a proper adverb for this expression.
This is not really about us, or me. It’s about the fluidity of memory, the mistakes and the corrections that always eventually come. Just not this time.
Just an anecdote, told at parties to illuminate our strange but successful courtship, works just as well when it can’t actually be proven. It’s harmless, and romantic, and we’ve been married for 35 years. That counts for something.
But I have proof, now, and it made my jaw drop. I can barely grasp the consequences of that glance, the life that would result, the children that would bless my life, and the love that would sustain me. I was far away from the Northwest, and babies and mortgages and Amazon drones, and yet now it all seems there, in that one look.
It’s all about me, of course. There are more pressing problems, as I said. I just wanted to share an extraordinary find, which is less about detective work than acknowledgement that such things actually happen.
Photographs capture moments in time, and sometimes they lie, and at other times they mislead, or inspire regret. In some cases, though, they will show human beings immersed in romance.
They just rarely capture someone actually falling in love.
And now I have such a picture, and how cool is that? The look. The meaning, the moment, the life to come, and the best part?
I look at my wife, and realize I’ve been seeing her in the same way for a long time. And now I have the picture to prove it.