Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark | Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

What is Waiting

For Daniel and Bethany

By the time we finally get to your parents’ house, your faces are tired from smiling. The wedding is tomorrow, and what a long road it's been until now. I can see it in your eyes, your mouths: a faint strain, like you’ve waited for this moment for so long and now you just want it to come, to pour blissfully through you and then let you be. You want those rings on your hands, and so these hours will be the longest ones. And yet you’re savoring them, too, drinking each one like the ambrosia it is, smiling despite your tired faces. One more night, a thousand more smiles, a million more pictures, and then all the moments will soften and rest sweet in your hearts, in your hands, sprinkled around your house and scattered over this dry, desert country. You both kiss my cheeks, give me the attention and conversation I'd hoped for but didn’t expect. You know me so closely, you speak to me with such love, and God, it feels so good. I feel wrapped up and embraced; I feel warm and strong and loved. It’s been so long, you know? Already the long flight is worth it.

*

We mill around the ranch's dusty grounds, waiting for the ceremony to begin and worrying aloud about how far the walk will be to the stand of cottonwoods where you'll be wed. We fuss about how windy it is, and how we can faintly smell the smoke from the distant forest fires. Are we going to be thirsty? We’re already hungry, and where do we put these gifts? Our shoes are covered in a fine layer of dust, the wind blows and rustles the leaves, and then we see you.

How beautiful you both look, of course. Daniel; you look so fine in your suit, the flower pinned to the front of it, your hair grown long since we saw each other last winter, your back so straight. Your voice ripples over us, your laughter, as you organize your family for the photos. I am so proud of you that for a moment I can't breathe, and even though the sun is beating down, the hairs on my arms stand on end. Have you ever felt so rich as right now?

And then we see you, Bethany. We knew you’d be gorgeous, you are every day, but we didn’t plan for this. Your dress is so creamy, so elegant, like the designer had your figure in mind before he even drew the sketches. Your hair is all coiled, your veil so delicate and long, and in this light you are radiant. Your sister adjusts your veil and although your eyes are jumping, your mouth twitching, your hands are calm. You have been waiting so long for this, haven’t you? You and Daniel both, longer than you’ve even known each other existed. Daniel wrote that he was with you on Christmas, so many years ago when you were just a little girl. He was there in the shadows, young and pouty himself, growing out of his clothes as fast as he put them on. He was there the day you cut your hand when you fell off your bike, wasn't he? And on the night you wept for a dying friend, did you think for just one moment that you saw the outline of Daniel's face in the darkness? He hadn't met you yet, but he was waiting in the shadows nevertheless, because for years before you met him, you heard his voice.

The walk to the field isn’t so bad as we all thought. In fact it's a lovely walk, a perfect length to think, to admire the cottonwood trees and the brown grass in the meadows and the little hills studded with adobe homes. It’s a time to feel the wind, to smell the earth, to admire what a beautiful place you’ve chosen. We all gather and stand beneath the trees with their pale, pale leaves and their tufts of cotton that blow off their branches and swirl around us, and we wait there for Bethany to come. You have never looked so tall, Daniel, as you do right now. I have never seen such a smile on your face, and all of a sudden there are tears in my eyes.

Right before you kiss her, a butterfly comes. It’s a desert butterfly, with brown wings to match the color of the earth. It flutters against the blue, blue sky, blending in with the cottonwood’s leaves. It flits around us, light on the wind, and then, as you reach for the woman of your dreams, it rises lustily into the sky, flying towards the moon that's just now emerging.

*

I filled out a card for you in our hotel room, right before the we left for the ceremony. I love you both, I wrote. You’re so deserving of each other. And then I paused, bit the end of my pen, and wrote what I really wanted you to know. I hope I find what you have someday. I want to feel the kind of grateful you do, every time you meet each other’s eyes. It's always been inside you, ever since that Christmas years ago. Ever since the time other people broke your hearts it's been with you, and it settled there for good many years before you met, on the night you both looked up into the sky at just the same moment and saw the very same pattern of stars. I don’t think you need to wonder what waits within your cores, because you already know the answer, don't you? It’s the radiance that you've poured into each other, the light that fills you both. Don’t wait for the days that are coming, because doesn’t this present taste so sweet? Life is too rich, I think to myself, watching you lead each other from the stand of cottonwood trees. The love that you've waited your whole lives to find is flowing from you; now it's caught in the wind of this luminous night, sweetening the air and following that butterfly up.

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