My marriage was a hastily drawn picture, looked upon as the work of madwomen who painted in unthinking urgency. For me however, it felt less a matter of haphazard color splotches and more so that the strokes were simply confident, and unrestrained. We were linework without preceding sketch.
My wife was an amalgamation of thoughts untethered, beautifully complicated and unfinished from the frayed ends of her faded platinum hair, down to the tips of her chipped nail polish. Her first name was the same as my middle, which always seemed like something we should call fate. Humans did this a lot; search for a drop of lemon juice in a pitcher of water so then we could say something was lemonade—far more important than it really was.
My wife’s voice was a huddle of whispers, rolled in a sweet jam that bounced in steady beats, bound for the stringing of my heart. She was the spaces between a slow song where you weren’t sure if something beautiful had ended until the next part continued. She was art, all the things I could say that continued to change nothing because if there was one thing for certain to know about my wife Marisol, it was that I did not love her.
I found myself asking how to stretch a feeling into foreverness. How could I continue to expand and grow a love to be everlasting when, in the nature of everything, it felt more appropriate for things to be fleeting. Marisol’s presence was the faint echo of a cicada whose hollow shell clung to the bark of a tree, crisping away constantly under the push of a breeze. I studied her often, the lines that danced and intertwined over her skin like a map to what made her. I held the blueprint to a Marisol only I could read, and still the meaning escaped me. I could not understand myself, not in the curves of a form I no longer spoke fluently. So then came the next question; if I loved before, why couldn’t I continue to love now?
It felt cruel to ponder the things that possibly made Marisol unloveable. Who was I to say? I was nothing, nobody. So I chose to not say, instead falling back to things I’d said before. She was art, she was oven-baked clay and ripe watermelon on a vine, she was the bubbling of a fountain and she was the ebb and flow of tides on the lulling warmth of a sun setting beach. She was my wife, and I clung to the sand of her, wondering why and how and in what ways have I become so wrong for a marriage that was once so beautifully painted. Who was I to my wife if my love had long gone, and where in the world had it escaped?
This answer proved simple in a bustling diner a mere ten minutes out from our apartment. It smelled of berries and syrup and the makings of gravy, all piled on top of the smooth droll of throwaway conversation. I came here once with Marisol, a month before our marriage, when our eyes were full and brimming with the warmth of soups in winter. I returned, searching for a sense of something that showed me where we stemmed from, where the love for my wife truly lied. I wanted to hold it again, and present it to her fully, as the offering to a masterful mural. Was it hiding in a slice of overpriced pie, in a booth by the furthest window under a precariously hanging light?
It was in my fifteenth visit, on the waitress’ face, that I found what I was so fervently looking for. It was in the familiarity of her smile, and the eagerness of her eyes. She spoke in nostalgic, excited whispers that I’d come to know, and her steps were light, as if too enthralled in the idea of the following step that she scarcely walked, almost flying. I knew immediately who I’d found—someone I’d missed terribly. It was her. It was Marisol. Not truly Marisol, but the essence of her, beaming from a waitress who knew nothing else but the grin on her face and the pies on her plate. But if I saw Marisol in a stranger at a diner across town, who did I see in Marisol herself?
It was clear then, my wife did not love me either. I thought myself too important. I unraveled my own feelings and their course in my marriage that I’d failed to see hers. To put my changing feelings under a microscope while expecting the most important factor, Marisol’s feelings, to remain the same, was nothing short of delusional.
I thought back to Marisol’s gleeful chatterings and how stilted they'd become, her smile a stretched line, all too focused, and all too worrying that perhaps she’d given herself away. When this began, I couldn’t be sure. I remembered the days it felt as though she studied me as much as I did her, and I wondered if perhaps she was searching for answers too. In the waitress I saw that I still loved Marisol, only that I loved a version of her far distinct from the married one sitting in our bedroom. I could not find the answer in searching through her faults, because she was still a work of mastery. She was still the cascade of autumn leaves, and the eccentric dance of a crackling campfire. We were both still beautiful, it just seemed we were no longer beautiful together.
Our marriage was a picture formed in the haze of a heartbeat, and the love lied there still, trapped underneath tempered glass. I could then ask, whose love escaped them first? Did my love leave simply because hers did, or vice versa? With my diner revelation came another incomprehensible question that wanted to know the intricacies of how love faded. Where did it go? Why did it go? I stared out the window, musing with the sweetened taste of blackberry pie between my cheeks, knowing that the answer would not reach me.
Simply put, the only way to love a married woman was to see that she loved you in return. Without that, I was just a girl in a diner, clamoring for the essence of a wife that wasn’t truly there. Then again, neither was I. Marisol waited at home. I decided I’d stay just a little while longer; I had a difficult conversation to chew on, and soon we would both have our fill, my beautiful wife and I. There were still things to digest, and perhaps we could.
I would continue to see.