(Originally written: April 4, 2020)
I love my wife. Always will.
This is my story.
January 1, 1990
I’m born at 8:33 P.M. with a head covered in brown hair. I’m wet and gross and covered in bodily fluids. Despite that, I can hear the doctor telling my parents that they’ve got a beautiful baby boy now. He could have just said ‘baby boy’. My parents would have been just as happy.
Just like always, I don’t cry immediately. I just stare at the doctor’s stupid face. Then, when he smiles and makes his face more stupid looking, I start crying. Doesn’t matter how many times I’ve seen it. It’s scary every time. That man should not be delivering children.
The rest of that day is free of any incidents but they keep my mom in the hospital for the night since she bled quite a bit giving birth to me. She insisted that she was fine but the stupid faced doctor knew better so they listened. I don’t care. I don’t mind that I am completely unable to move on my own, that I am entirely dependent on adults to do anything besides shit myself. I just lay in my bassinet happy with the fact that my future wife would be delivered in two weeks at a hospital a hundred miles away.
Her name would be Rory.
January 16, 1990
Rory is born at 7:49 A.M. She’s born bald but she’ll be a brunette in a month or two. Her mom bleeds more than mine did and dies because of it. That’s something that Rory will talk about in therapy when she starts going at the age of 19 at my insistence. Her single father did a magnificent job raising her. Even got his sister to help for womanly matters. But it wasn’t the same as having another parent. It’s a hole Rory had for much of her life. A hole that she learned to live with but never truly went away. Not until we have our children. But that’s later.
December 15, 2007
I get accepted to Yale and I can’t contain my excitement. My grandfather had gone there, then my dad, and now me. There wasn’t any pressure on me from my dad to follow in those same footsteps but I, at a young age, decided that I would. That was a significant amount of pressure on its own. I didn’t even know I’d be meeting Rory at Yale. The knowledge that I had accomplished a life long goal filled me with energy and I run around the house. Our dog, Tito, joins me in running. He doesn’t understand why I’m so happy but he’s eager to join in on my celebrations. Just happy to be there. Relieving this moment is one of the best parts of coming back.
A few hours later that happy high is forced to come crashing down when my girlfriend, Abby, breaks up with me. She had also applied to Yale in the hopes that we’d go together but she had been rejected. After I suggested long distance, not even considering going to the local university that we had both gotten accepted to, she ended it. She wasn’t willing to try long distance and didn’t feel right asking me to stay when I so obviously wanted to go. I’m heartbroken of course. My first love. A first love that had lasted for two years. A love that I foolishly thought would last my whole life. I had dreamed Abby and I would be one of those old, old couples you’d meet and be surprised to learn they were high school sweethearts.
She’s the first of many dreams to be burned. But for the reality that is Rory Foxhorn to become a part of my life, Abby had to go. I understand that now. Still. The break up stings me to my core every time.
August 12, 2008
Number 5 in my top five favorite days.
It’s move-in day at my dormitory. Nothing special save for the teary goodbye with my parents. It’s especially hard since I’m their only son. My dad jokes and says they’ll have to stay in a hotel for the night and cry the rest of their tears before actually starting the 10 hour drive home. I now know – after finding out for the first time at my college graduation – that that is exactly what they did. Not so much to cry. But to process their feelings for a little while so they wouldn’t do it on the road.
That evening a Freshman Mixer is held for all the new students to meet and potentially make new friends. That’s what makes today so special. Of the dozens I meet in my eagerness to talk to as many people as possible, four end up being important to me. Noah Terese, Tony Anders, Celeste Lopez, and Rory Foxhorn.
I meet Tony and Celeste by the pizza. Tony and I reach for a slice, the last slice of sausage and pepperoni, at the same time. I shrug and say he can take it. He shakes his head and offers it to me. Celeste laughs and steals it for herself. We start talking and I learn that the two were dating and had been doing so since sophomore year of high school. A memory of Abby stabs me but I suppress it. We talk for longer and learn we have some classes together. After exchanging numbers and promising to hang out, the two leave. I’m still not ready to head to my dorm so I wander for a little bit longer.
Noah calls out to me and challenges me to ping pong. I accept. Then lose. I challenge him. I lose again. I challenge him again and he smiles and nods, just humoring me. I win. Intrigued, he challenges me to another round. I win. We make eye contact. One more round. Winner takes all. There wasn’t a prize. But the winner takes all.
We had drawn onlookers by this point and they all cheer. I smile and shake his hand, telling him I’d kick his ass next time. We also exchange numbers so that we can arrange for the next ass-kicking, and I decide to finally head to my dorm that my parents had so lovingly helped furnish. I barely get out of the bulk of the crowd when I see her. The most beautiful girl I had ever laid eyes on.
Brunette. Round face. Cute ears that noticeably, but not obnoxiously, stick out. In shape but in a normal sort of way. Not athletic looking is what I mean.
“Ah man is it over?” She says to me. “I kept seeing people leave on my way here!”
I realize she’s talking to me. “Huh? Oh no. It’s not.”
“Thank God!” She beams. “I got caught up putting my damn desk together and didn’t notice the time. I really thought I’d miss out. Didn’t even get the desk built!”
“Nah the party’s still going.” I hold my hand out. “My name’s Tommy.”
“Hi Tommy.” She shakes my hand. “Rory.”
“Nice to meet you.”
“I only came out here for a little breathing room.” I say. Her eyes are hazel. “But I haven’t eaten yet. Wanna join me?”
My stomach is fit to bursting but I cram two more slices of pizza into myself along with a cup of soda. I don’t notice since my conversation with her flows so well. It just happens. In about two hours anyone looking would say we’ve been friends forever.
“Sorry to hear your girlfriend broke up with you.” She says. “Mine broke up with me too.”
My heart sinks. “Oh? Did she have the same reason as Abby?”
“Oh shit I didn’t mean my girlfriend.” Rory smacks her forehead. “I meant my boyfriend. Like. I was thinking ‘oh my relationship ended the same way’ and ended up saying ‘mine broke up with me’ instead. I don’t know why my brain did that.”
My heart rises. “Ah okay.”
She looks around. “I think it’s actually ending now.”
I notice that janitors had arrived and were beginning to clean things up. “Damn.”
I decide to take a shot. “Hey want me to help you put that desk together?”
“Would you?” She smiles and I get my reward before I even put the desk together. Lucky me. It isn’t fair for someone to be this pretty. She smirks at me.
“That’s all you’ll be doing by the way. Putting my desk together.”
She was flirting. “I don’t have any ulterior motives. If that’s what you’re implying.”
“Maybe.” She shrugs. “You seem really nice. But you can never tell with boys.” She smirks again. “Y’all can be pretty saucy.”
“So can y’all.”
“True!” She turns and begins walking. “Let’s go! I’m gonna have to sneak you in. No boys aloud in the girls dorm after 11.”
“You live on the ground floor?”
“Nope. First.” She says. “But I’ve got a tree by the balcony. Classic rom-com set up.”
“Yeah.” She playfully punches my shoulder. “The com part is you thinking there’ll be a rom section.”
“Rom can just be me putting your desk together.”
“We’d be the first g rated rom-com.”
“Fine by me.”
“Me too.” Then she winks at me. I look forward to this moment every time and it fills me with joy still. So much power in one little wink. “For now.”
August 26, 2008
It takes me two weeks to ask Rory out on a date. Despite that, our friends all assumed that we were either an item or would be an item. We apparently gave off that feeling each time we all hung out as a group. In hindsight, I now know that to be true. Not that we flirted relentlessly (though we did do that). It’s the small things. Buying snacks. Saving seats. Casual touching. Easy laughter. Even easier teasing. Knowing the limit without being told.
“Took you long enough.” She says. “I’ve been waiting!”
“You could have asked!”
“Do you really think I could manage that?”
“Nope.” I smile. “Where do you wanna go?”
“Anywhere with you.”
“Nah I’m not feeling Italian.”
“You said anywhere!”
“I lied.” She smirks. That damn smirk. “But really. Anywhere.”
September 20, 2008
Number four in my top five favorite days.
She’s studying and I’m with her. She enjoys having company while doing things, whether or not the company is doing the same thing. She says it’s like having a dog around. It’s not studying. But looking at it every now and then or, at the least, hearing it breathing provides comfort. I’m more than happy to be that presence for her since I get something really nice to look at.
“You can study too, you know?”
“Can’t focus with people around.”
“Then you can go.” She smiles. “You don’t have to keep me company. I’ll study with Celeste or something.”
“I’m better than Celeste.”
“Fair.” She says. “But not as good as Noah.”
“You’re just saying that because he’s gay and you want a gay best friend.”
“Yeah! And I can talk about cute boys with him. I can’t do that with you.”
“Sure you can.”
“You wouldn’t care if I talked about a cute boy I saw?”
“I mean there’s a limit.” I say. “But if you just say something like ‘Hey that barista today was really cute’ or something like that I wouldn’t mind.”
“Yeah. I know I’m not the only cute guy you know.” I say. “As long as you don’t sound super horny and act like you wanna fuck them.”
“That’s fair.” Rory says. She nods her head in the direction of the computers.
“What do you think of him?”
There were three guys there, only one of which I’d consider attractive. “Blondie?Yeah. I’d give him an eight.”
“Me too.” She says. “What about his buddies?”
“A five and a one.”
“A one?” She laughs. “Tommy that’s so mean!”
“He’s a one to me.” I say. “Not saying he’s a one to everyone.”
“Still. I’d say he’s a four.”
“You’re very generous.”
“I’m fair.” She says. “Okay point out a girl you think is cute.”
I point at her.
“Other than me.”
I pretend to look around. Then point at her.
“Tommy!” She laughs. “I’m serious.”
“Of all the girls that I can see right now, you are the prettiest.”
“Fine then name someone you think is pretty.”
“Tony is lucky.”
“Not as lucky as me.”
“I could never do this with my ex.”
“Same. Wanna know why?”
“You and I love each other.”
“You just said you love me.”
“And that I love you.”
“Am I wrong?”
“Knew it.” I smile and kiss her ear. My favorite thing to do. “Say it.”
“I love you, Tommy.”
“I love you, Rory.”
March 3, 2009
We have our first major fight. It resolves quickly. I still hate watching it. I hate seeing her so agitated and I hate being the cause of it.
“How hard is it for you to text me when you make it to work?!”
“I just forget sometimes!” I shout back. “I’m not purposefully stopping myself.”
“I’ve asked you a million times.” She says. “It makes me so fucking anxious just sitting there waiting.”
“Rory what are the chances of something happening to me on the way to work?”
“It’s not zero!”
“Nothing will happen.”
“You can’t say that for sure.”
“I’m a better driver than you!”
“AND OTHER PEOPLE ARE BAD AT IT!” She screams. Her ears go red when she’s angry. “That’s not what this is fucking about, okay?!”
“Then what is it?!”
“It’s about you not listening to a basic request. You do this simple thing and it’ll give me peace of mind. Can’t you give me that?!”
“I can keep trying. I swear I’m trying.” I say. “But you need to stop accusing me like this! Why would I intentionally hurt you?!”
“I know you’re not doing it on purpose. Doesn’t stop it from hurting. Doesn’t stop me from jumping to the worst possible conclusion.”
“Okay. Okay. I understand.” I say and step closer. She lets me hug her. “I’ll be better.”
“This anxiousness of yours needs to be addressed, though.”
She’s silent for a long time. “I know.”
“I get anxious too. We can both get help.”
“Anxious peas in a pod.”
“Yeah.” She hugs me tightly.
I counted it. After tonight, I forget to text her a total of 15 times. We were together for 65 years.
June 25, 2012
Number three in my top five favorite days.
My family, Rory’s family, and all our closest friends are standing behind me in the backyard of Rory’s childhood home. Most have their phones or cameras out, ready to take pictures. Two of the professionals I hired are to the side, away from the main group. Tony and Celeste, escorting Rory to what she thought was a normal summer barbecue, open the backdoor.
“Oh my god!” She yells when she sees all of us. Then she sees me get on one knee. “OH MY GOD!”
“Rory Foxhorn,” I say when she gets close to me. “I love you more than I ever thought possible.”
“Oh my god.”
“You are perfect for me in every way. I don’t care how cliche it sounds. You are my soul mate and I’ve known it for years now.”
“Oh my god.”
“Will you marry me?”
“Oh my god.”
“Is that yes?”
“YES!” She screams, barely holding still while I push the engagement ring onto her finger. She latches on to me when I stand up. “YES!”
June 25, 2013
Number two in my top five favorite days.
I watch as Rory’s dad walks her down the aisle towards me. Her shoulders are bare with lace sleeves stretching just past her elbow. The rest of the white dress contoured her body perfectly until her thighs, where it gracefully flared out to drape down to the floor. It left a minimal trail since she didn’t want one that dusted the church floor as she walked up the aisle. Her hair cascaded, yes cascaded, down just past her shoulders. I could see her ears and it made me happy to see that she was wearing the cheap earrings I had gotten her for our first anniversary. It had been all I could afford. She had gotten upset that I had spent even that meager amount.
“You look handsome.” She whispers when she stands in front of me.
“So do you.”
“Thanks.” She giggles and looks at Noah, who is officiating our wedding. “You can begin, Noah.”
April 5, 2015 and July 8, 2017
Number one in my top five favorite days.
They’re the birthdays of our two kids, a girl and a boy, Charlie and Juno. Of course they’re going to be equal.
If I thought Rory was beautiful before she became a mother… What she was after couldn’t compare. The gentleness she used whenever picking up our children. The strict, but affectionate, extension of her pointer finger whenever they got in trouble. The laugh she had just for them whenever they did something cute. The look she’d give me whenever Charlie did or said something that’d prove her belief that she was my clone. The separate look she’d give me whenever Juno did or said something that’d prove her belief that he was my clone as well. She could find a similarity to me in every little thing they did. She claimed it wasn’t fair. But I saw the delight in her eyes whenever her children acted like their dad. It was the very same delight in mine whenever they acted like their mom.
August 9, 2034
Move-in day for Charlie. Rory cried in front of her. I only teared up and refused to let go when Charlie pulled away from the hug goodbye.
Rory had to drive on the way home. I didn’t want to get a hotel.
August 11, 2036
Move-in day for Juno. Rory had to drive on the way home again.
I really don’t like crying in hotels.
October 3, 2072
Rory gets diagnosed with cancer. I don’t like paying attention to this day. But that’s part of the deal. I have to experience the worst parts as well.
She still smiles for me. But I know what her face looks like when I’m not looking. I’m glad I never actually see it.
November 12, 2073
My Rory is gone.
November 13, 2073
“Ah. Welcome back, Thomas.”
“I prefer Tommy.” I say.
“Did you get your fill this time?” He asks. “Are you ready to move on?”
“I’d like to go again, please.”
“It won’t be any different.”
“I don’t want it to be.”
Look me in the eye and say you’d be able to move on from a picture perfect life like mine. Tell me you’d say no to heaven.
He sighs. Then smiles at me knowingly. “Confirm with me one more time. You wish to repeat it all. Every moment from the second you are born to the second you die. It will be exactly the same. You will be an audience member of your own life, feeling every second of it as if it’s all new but unable to control your actions.”
“As you wish. I will see you in 83 years.”
I love my wife. Always will.