How can someone else ever really know you?
How can someone else know the fictional lives that play out in your head as you brush our teeth in the morning?
How can someone else know how you delight in catching patterns of color and light?
How can someone else know why you sometimes need to listen to the same song over and over?
How can someone else know the stories you map using threads of overheard conversation?
I don’t know.
Sometimes I don’t know why we married each other, honestly. He’s a thinker and I’m a feeler. He’s an Excel spreadsheet and I’m a Photoshop document.
Not to generalize, or anything.
Our first year of marriage was uneventful. Marriage is supposed to be hard, everyone always says, but maybe we didn’t get that memo. That’s not bragging. We simply weren’t challenged, at least not any more than the average relationship is challenged. None of our loved ones died. Neither of us dealt with unemployment. We didn’t move anywhere. We didn’t even get a single stick of new furniture.
From the outside in, absolutely nothing changed.
But from the inside out, one thing quietly gnawed at me over the past year. One big, long-running worry that was there even before the marriage.
That the stuff carved into my heart – music, writing, art – isn’t written on his.
We aren’t very similar. At all. That’s it.
And does that mean we’re doomed?
The doubt was there from the beginning, when I was still pretending that we were just casually seeing each other. One night of hysterical crying in the car belied my cool, arm’s-length demeanor. What am I doing with someone so different from me? I asked myself. Who are you? I asked him. Who are we? I wondered silently.
You’re not supposed to ever, ever, ever doubt your choice to be with a person, are you? You’re just supposed to be crazy for him or her. You’re just supposed to know that you two are right. Not to the exclusion of getting angry at that person or battling through hard times together, mind you. Love isn’t supposed to look like glassy-eyed perfection. But it is always presented as a universal truth. Sure, you are going to fight and scrape and work at being good to each other, but you’re never supposed to have to work at knowing whether you should be together.
That’s supposed to be a given.
And if you have to ask, well…
Well, that’s a slippery slope, isn’t it?
Yeah, it is. Having been someone who was once emphatically chosen by a person I never actually chose back, you could say I’m acquainted with the curve of that slope.
I know love is not like movies, but that’s about it. Ever since that ill-fated relationship, I’ve wondered: what is it really like to choose? What is it really like to know that you want to be with someone?
Truthfully, the beau and I not the head-over-heels type. We’re the feet-on-the-ground, arms-crossed, snarky-comment-escaping-from-our-lips type. I guess we are similar in that way, at least. I wouldn’t touch anything that looks like love or sentimentality with a 10-foot pole, at least not when anyone else was looking. I guess you could say that certainly makes knowing love complicated.
That first year, as I snuffled and blubbered in the car about where we were going with this thing between us, he took my hand. “I’m here,” he said. That’s not what I’d wanted to hear. I’d wanted to hear that he understood me. I’d wanted to be comforted by common ground between us. I’d wanted to see that he saw the world the way I did. I’d wanted to know that he knew me, inherently; knew and loved all the same things I loved.
Because if he knew, maybe I would know back.
This year, as I floundered and once more reached for reassurance that we were right for each other, he sat with me again; this time on the couch. He rested his hand on top of mine. “I’m here,” he repeated.
It took me a long time to figure it out, but that’s what I needed to hear all along.
He doesn’t know me, really.
But he wants to.
And maybe that’s the best kind of love I could have chosen.