I couldn’t have saved him. I didn’t even know he needed saving. I only knew that I loved him with everything that I was.
“We should have told you he had problems,” they said.
“I thought getting married would be the thing that made him happy enough to make him better,” I was told.
“We should have pulled you aside and let you know what you were in for.”
Each of these statements, and more along the same lines, were said to me in the immediate days following his death as I slowly put the pieces together of his history of mental illness. I felt like I was involuntarily signed up for a job that I didn’t know needed to be done. I felt as if all of this pressure had been placed on my head without my knowledge. It wasn’t until after he was already gone that I realized there was more to him than I could have ever known. A dark side, depression, mental illness, suicidal threats and tendencies. A long history of these bricks laid end to end that lead right to his death. I didn’t realize I was walking on the perfectly laid pathway until I reached the end of the sidewalk.
To me, he was one of the happiest people I had ever seen. He was literally larger than life. His gorgeous smile, his infectious laughter, his zeal for a life less ordinary, he had me in the palm of his hand almost immediately. From our first conversation, I knew that I had found something that I had always sought. He was unlike anything I had ever experienced. He was immensely intelligent, had travelled across the world in a way that made my own travels seem sophomoric. He made me feel like I was the one for which he had waited, searched for and finally found. We talked for hours, sent messages back and forth like there was no tomorrow and when we finally met in person and sat side by side, I was almost hesitant because I knew that he was my missing piece. I knew immediately that he was my twin flame.
His voice resonated inside of me like a perfectly tuned major chord. The overtones sang of pure bliss and a happiness, a completeness, I never thought I would find. He was my perfect match. He filled me with dreams of traveling the world together, the two of us making a family with my two wonderful children that would mean a better world for them to live in. He promised me that we would be together forever and I, for the first time in my life, trusted that what he said about our future life together, about our family, was true. More importantly, I believed and trusted that the way he felt about and saw me was true. I had never felt more beautiful, more valued, more loved. I felt invincible standing inside of the love he offered me. The way he looked at me, I will never forget.
Our first night together, I knew he was going to be my partner in crime. We met at a local bar to have a couple drinks and when it got too loud to hear each other, he asked me if I wanted to go somewhere quieter. He looked at me and flashed that intoxicatingly gorgeous smile and I agreed. He suggested we find a place that had good whiskey and I led him through downtown to a place that was quieter and more intimate. Once we got there, we enjoyed two glasses of whiskey together and sat beside each other telling stories and laughing out loud. He was more than I could have hoped for and he was there, staring at me like I was magical. When it came time to close the tab, the bartender asked, “what was the last name?” As he said his last name, I tossed it around in my head and did what every lovesick girl does and said my own first name paired with his last name. I knew it was destined to be my name. Our name. I knew, more than I had ever known anything before, that he was going to be my husband and I would be his wife and that day couldn’t come quick enough. His presence as he walked beside me was too much to take. I could barely contain the love I already felt welling up inside of me as we walked back toward the bar at which we started our night. When we got there, he said to me, “Can I take you out again sometime?” I said, “of course. When?” “How about right now?” he answered. I laughed and said, “Sure. Where do you want to go?” He said, “Take me somewhere we can get dinner.”
We walked back downtown and I took him into a restaurant that was open. They led us to the back of the restaurant and sat us as a two-top. We faced each other and barely took our eyes off of the other throughout the whole meal. We laughed about everything we talked about. We made fun of the political talk that was happening at the table adjacent to us, we joked about the suspender-adorned hipster bartender and his insatiable knowledge about spirits who had served us whiskey at the previous bar and we laughed so hard at the fact that we were laughing so hard. We finished up our meal and walked out onto the street to wait on our ride we had called.
While we were eating, it had begun to rain. We stood huddled in the alcove of the front door waiting on our ride in a way that was reminiscent of every overly-romantic chick-flick I had ever watched and loved. He had his arm around my shoulder, holding me close to him to keep me warm. I reached down and grabbed his hand and held it in my own as I looked up to see his face. He let a luscious smile consume his being and he looked back down at me, wearing so much joy on his sleeve, and we just stood there, looking into each other’s eyes, holding onto each other as the rain fell to the ground right in front of us.
When our car arrived, he stepped out to the sidewalk, into the rain, and never let go of my hand. He walked us around to the side of our car and opened the door for me, let me climb inside in front of him, and like a proper gentlemen, sat down next to me, closed the car door and pulled me close to him with his left arm. It felt so wonderful, so warm and so very right to be at this man’s side. As he always did with every stranger, he engaged the driver in such effortless conversation that it made my admiration for him grow with every silky word that was released from his mouth. He was amazing. Outwardly welcoming of new interaction with someone he had never met but would be able to recall details about months down the road. He filled what would have been an introverted and uncomfortable silence had I been in the car alone with the light of someone who saw people the way they wanted to be seen. It was genuine, sincere and so lovely to feel the mood of the driver lift at this man’s words alone. This was his superpower and I loved him for it. He was able to make every person he came across feel valued and feel like they mattered. He was able to lift every person up with his presence and when he left, they would remember him for his amazing spirit. And this man, who was looking at me like I was his superhero, was going to be mine from that day forward. It was the greatest feeling in the world. I was home and he was home with me.
The driver dropped us off near where I had parked my car earlier in the night. We got out of our ride and stood under a shop awning as the rain picked up speed. He asked me at that point if I wanted to go out for a third round. I laughed and said I was tired and that I was ready to go home. “Can I come over?” he asked, hopefully. “No,” I said, “not on the first night,” He smiled and said, “Ok. But can I take you out for breakfast?” “Of course,” I said. “Good,” he said, smiling back at me, “you choose the spot.” He leaned over, arm still around my shoulder, and kissed me. I melted on the spot. I wanted to invite him over so badly. I wanted to spend the night next to him, to wake up next to him, to begin the rest of our lives at that very moment. But I restrained myself. I just knew this man was going to be around for the long haul and I was willing to wait to make sure it was perfect. He held me even closer and pulled his hat off of his head and placed it on mine. He asked me, “are you ready?” “Let’s go,” I answered.
Hand in hand we ran through the pouring rain to my car. I unlocked it en route and he hopped into the passenger seat as I ran around to get into the driver’s side. As soon as we were closed in the car, the rain pounding on the windshield, he placed one hand around the back of my head and one hand on the side of my face and the way he looked at me is etched into my mind forever. His eyes so wide and hopeful, his breathing a bit shallow, but his hands….his perfect hands, with his long, slender fingers that exuded his quiet strength…made my heart race as he ran one finger over my cheek, back and forth, staring into my eyes, smiling the most wonderful smile I had ever seen before. That moment is one of the most powerful moments of my life. I breathed him in and felt him return the favor. We were breathing for each other, into each other. We were absolutely one person in that moment inside of my car. He leaned in and kissed me with such intent and I gave it right back to him. I had never known symbiosis until then. But there it was. In my hands. Or were they his hands? I couldn’t tell the difference and I never wanted to again. He was mine and I was his.
I eventually told him I had to go before I changed my mind about inviting him over. He laughed, told me he’d see me in the morning, laid one more kiss on me and climbed out of the car into the rain. Off he ran. I watched him as his strong, lean body with his perfectly built and muscular arms, his long legs that stretched out under his shorts, one of his amazing calf muscles boasting a tattoo of a compass telling a silent tale of the places he had been and the places we would now go together. I admired the coordinated grace of his movement as he glided across the sidewalk and disappeared down the street. I sat there for minutes, it seemed, trying to catch my breath. He had taken it with him and I knew I needed him next to me to be able to breathe deeply again. I knew I needed him next to me to feel whole again. I wanted to run after him, to take him home with me, to feel whole with him, to never let him leave my side or ever leave his again. But I let him go. I knew it was what I needed to do and I knew it was best for us both.
I had no idea as I sat in the car that night, inside of my newfound and unbridled bliss, that this was the exact sentiment I would need to muster up at a later date as I struggled with his final decision, as I wore his wedding ring that would never be around his finger again, around my neck instead, feeling like I would never be whole ever again and fighting every second to catch my breath that he had, yet again, taken with him, this time, forever.