Let me start off with the hard hitting facts. I am 21 years old, a college student, and planning a June wedding to my wonderful fiance who also happens to be, wait for it, 21. We are no stranger to opposition, to weird side glances, and almost disapproving looks from many. Many moons ago getting married at 21 was by far the norm, the days of our grandparents where getting married by 18 was something to celebrate. Getting married at 21 in the year 2014 is more like being a traveling circus or an exhibit at the Ripleys Believe it or Not museum. Most people handle it pretty well when the topic comes up, from peers its usually goes something like this ‘ohhhhhh wow! You are engaged? How old are you again?’ and from older adults it goes a little something like this ‘Wow, um Congrats! you both are so young!’. Which, is true, we are young. The rest of the truth is, I have been with my fiance for almost four years and, we have never had a conventional kind of love. He is from Brazil and the day we met was the day we kissed and the day we started dating and, if you ask him it was also ‘the day he fell in love’ (what can I say, it took me awhile to make sure). We were 17 and widely in love and that feeling hasn’t gone away through long distance, holidays, graduation, college, and now living together. We are a normal couple we have our arguments and fights but one thing we decided long ago not to fight was societal standards.We decided long ago that we would do what was right for us, not what the world expected from us. Now don’t get me wrong, if life had not taken me on the journey I am on today, I would probably also have respond to a young woman’s engagement with a little bit of confusion and a whole lot of sass. I also understand how older adults, my mothers generation, tend to be suspicious and how they love to give out the ‘well this isn’t going to last long’ look, with the rapid divorce rate among that age group how could you blame them? But what I don’t think people understand is that every love is different, and this is our love. Every love moves at a different pace, it falls apart at a different time, it works through its own unique obstacles, it fights its own fight. This is our love and for once in my life I have decided not to take my love up to the thrown of society and asks what it wants with me. I have decided to let our love evolve naturally and without reservation. I have decided to not let the disfavoring looks of my peers and my elders and society to control our love. Because, this love is ours. It talks different, walks different, moves different than his kind of love, or her kind of love, or your kind of love. Every love is different. And, it is about time we start to revel in that. We need to not let our own ideas of love and our own prejudices dictate someone else’s. Because, in the end we are the only ones who have to deal with the consequences. If it end we are the ones that suffer, or enjoy, why then should we allow society to mandate unnecessary love guidelines if we are the ones who have to face the music in the end? Will we have children, will we settle down in New York, L.A., London, will be get along, will be be married until death do us apart? The thing is I have no idea and, man, how happy that makes me. Once you cut the ties of normalcy and the irrelevant standards set by society over your life and love you will experience a freedom unlike anything you have ever known. Cut the ties. Experience your love. Enjoy your life.
Sometimes the words flow easy. A thought drifts causally across my mind and like a Polaroid, within moments I am able to compile my every thought and do so with drastic detail. I am able to showcase the exact way I am feeling at an exact moment. The way the sand felt on my sunburned feet that one perfect summer, the way the chill in the wind whipped through my hair bringing to attention the first glimpse of autumn. Sometimes I am able to capture a moment and a place and a feeling. Sometimes I can effortlessly be completely present in the moment. To laugh easily and cry with intention and dream without boundaries. Sometimes the days are so smooth they run into weeks and weeks into months and months into years. Sometimes the doors always seem to open and the path always seems to be one of little resistance. Sometimes there is always rainbows after rain and a silver lining and a friend to talk to. Sometimes it is easy. Sometimes it is hard. The words don’t come easy and it is as if I am a wily child again spending hours upon hours upon hours with a shiny net running across grassy yards trying to capture a butterfly, getting rather close but never quite having the ability or agility to fully capture the creature I so long for. Sometimes I cant focus or perfectly recall an outstanding moment. Sometimes the school work adds up, the bills become mountains, the long hours at work begin to take its toll. Sometimes I cant describe how I feel, or what I want, or who I want to be. Sometimes the loss of a loved one comes back with a force unknown by any creature except humans. Sometimes I lose my way and the doors always seem to close and the path always seems to have the most resistance. Sometimes I questions the goals I have set for myself and the ability I have to achieve them. Sometimes it just rains and there aren’t anymore good friends left. But always I pick myself up and try again. Always I take the blow and the rainbow-less rain and get right back up. Always I take the punch in the gut and the confusion that follows and dust off my fabulous clothes and stand tall again. Always I find an open window or an open crack if all the doors are closing. Always I refocus my intentions and refocus my life. Always I continue to chase that sneaky, cunning butterfly. Always I try again.
Screw Cancer. It’s like a burglar that comes at midnight. It comes in the middle of an unsuspecting night, while you lay fast asleep cozy in bed next to a loved one, or your favorite stuffed animal. Whether it tricks the lock or scales the windows and doors it somehow manages to slip through the smallest unexamined crack, and finds a way in to the place you always assumed would be safe. It defiles your home and leaves you feeling vulnerable and confused. It comes swift and bold and strong. It moves silently, slipping into every room without you having a chance. It ransacks your life, it goes through your belongings and it makes sure you don’t hear a damn thing while it carries out its selfish intentions. It works tirelessly, to gather all the things you hold dear so it can take it for itself. And, by the time you wake up and roll out of the warm comfort of your bed, by the time you walk down the stairs, by the time you catch it, it has removed everything that holds any real value and leaves not a trace of evidence behind to have a culprit to blame. Screw Cancer. It takes your TV and your curtains and all the money you have ever saved. It takes your peace of mind and any idea of security you have ever had. It takes your favorite necklace and your favorite shoes and any favorite you have ever had. Just like the midnight burglar it is needy and silent and fast. It’s only motivation is to take all the things you love and leave you feeling helpless. It has no remorse and no conscience. It is quiet and cunning and destructive. Screw Cancer. If only we had a vague sketch artist drawing of you that we could pin down Criminal Minds style and lock you away for life. If only we had a leading witness to testify against you in trial. If only we had a face to blame. If only we had a way to get all the things back you stole. If only you weren’t the best thief there ever was.
They were already there when we found a place to sit at the other end of the long worn down leather bench. I sat on the bench and you sat across from me just as she sat on the bench and her husband sat across from here. A simple bench length separated a lifetime. As they were eating and chatty quietly a couldn’t help but to sneak a peek. I began to see you and I at that age, I began to see our future flash through my mind like a reel of a movie. In five minutes the extension of our lives played for me like a prime time movie. I saw myself walking down the aisle in an overpriced lace gown toward you. I saw myself tucked quietly beside you in our large and cozy bed. I envisioned you and I dancing around our new home with smooth wood floors and a colorful doorway. I saw us drinking wine in Italy and taking pictures by the Eiffel tower. I saw our hair begin to grey and I felt the way your dark skin began to feel after holding mine for 50 years. I watched our lives, or rather my hopes and dreams of our lives play in rapid speed across the well traveled free way of my mind. When reality forced my derailment off the free way, I finished with a look at the people on the other side of the bench, hoping that one day, 70 years from now that would be you and I.
During her soft discussion with her husband over lunch, she couldn’t help but to take a sneak peek at the young couple at the other end of the bench. While her husbands voice began to tailor off her mind went into rewind. She saw the first day she met him on the crystal summer day on that beach in July of 1940. She saw the long days and nights she cried over her bed waiting and praying for him to return from war. She saw the way he grabbed her by the waist and gave her that kiss that would forever burn on her lips, in his sailor uniform the first day he got home. Her memories flew through the time he got down on one knee on that beach 5 years later and asked for her hand. She saw herself walk down the aisle in her mothers soft dress and the new home they saved up for. She saw their first child being born and the over worked hand that he still holds hers with. The reality of the restaurant snapped her back into the world at hand and stopped her black and white rewind reel. She stopped her husband mid speech and held his hand. She gave him the same look that she gave him that blue sky day they met so many years ago.
Each couple secretly sneaked peeks of each other from the ends of that smooth leather bench over lunch that day. One woman looked at the end of the bench and her mind flew into fast forward, one into rewind. Both not knowing that the other is wishing for their beautiful lives.