love has always had a large presence in my life. from a young age, i often believed myself to be deeply in it, only to discover it was nothing more than a glimmer that quickly faded away. as life went on, the glimmers became brighter and brighter. these glimmers included: vanessa and jessica and april and skylar and others whose names i can no longer remember. but as quickly as the love came, it vanished, and the strangers turned lovers turned strangers once more.
but despite all these failed loves, i never once gave up. i pursued love diligently. i pursued it with my every step and breath and heartbeat. if i believed a certain route had the possibility of leading to love, i would take it. no matter what i was leaving behind. love always came first.
which brings me to emilia.
it was late in may when we first met. at the time, i was living out my final days in new york city. you see, i had just accepted a job in los angeles that i was scheduled to begin in two weeks. it was the job i had been striving for my entire life. my entire career. i was ecstatic and eager to begin. but there were still a few things left for me in new york.
so, i sat down and made a list. all the things i need do before leaving new york city. one of the things on that list was to finally walk across the brooklyn bridge. i had lived in new york for nearly eights years and had never even stood on the bridge. i had driven across it in a taxicab on multiple occasions, but the feeling of walking across it with the crowd, i soon found out, was incomparable. tourists from every corner of the earth walked across it with wonder in their eyes. the beautiful skyline towered behind me while selfie-sticks began to rise in front of me, almost mockingly.
as i reached the center of the bridge, i felt a tap on my shoulder. i turned.
“do you mind taking my picture?” the stranger asked me in the softest voice i had ever heard.
i was immediately mesmerized. lost in the intricate details of her irises. i couldn't even respond. my knees and lips and tongue were too weak. so all i did was silently stare.
the stranger lifted her hand to the loose hairs that had fallen over her face and brushed them behind her ear. she smiled small while biting her lower lip. then looked shyly off to the side.
i swallowed hard and finally whispered out, “sure.”
then her eyes met mine once more. i will never forget the sound of that first laugh. i came to memorize it over the years, but nothing will ever compare to hearing it for the first time. it was like hearing the sound of god. she handed me her camera then backed up, never breaking eye contact, until her back was against the railing of the bridge.
and with the snap of the camera, emilia entered my life.
a stranger soon to turn lover.
after taking her picture, i couldn't let her go. i asked if she wanted coffee. she said sure. so we walked the rest of the way across the bridge until we found ourselves in some quaint coffee shop in brooklyn with lattes in our hands.
that following morning, i turned down my dream job in los angeles and begged my old boss to rehire me. he did. i took a severe pay cut. totally worth it.
from that point forward, emilia and i were attached at the hip. the word love first slipped off the tip of my tongue after three weeks, but i felt it the moment our eyes first met.
after eight months, i got down on one knee. and told her everything i had wanted to tell her since that may afternoon.
late in july, emilia and i stood in front of all our friends and family and a few third cousins that our parents forced us to invite and declared our love to them all.
our reception was beautiful. it was filled with everyone we loved, and those third cousins i mentioned earlier, yet all emilia and i wanted was to be alone. it was an outdoor wedding, so we decided to go deep into the woods. where it would just be the two of us.
hand in hand, we ran until the disco lights and the sounds of others could no longer penetrate our private moment. we ran and we ran and we ran. until finally, we were alone in the woods. i grabbed her by the waist and we swayed back and forth to the music in our heads. i smiled at my wife. and swore to myself that there was nothing that could ever bring me down from that high.
but highs do not exist without lows. where it ebbs, it flows.
emilia and i had been taught about love all our lives. we were taught to find someone you love and to marry them. for us, marriage was the finish line. once we said the magical words i do, we had won the game and there was no longer anything left to play.
we stopped chasing the romance that once burned so fiercely within the both of us. i stopped holding the door open for her and she stopped falling asleep on my chest. i stopped reminding her of how beautiful she was and she no longer sent me loving text messages in the middle of the day.
we had mistaken the first lap as the entire race. so, as we slowed down and came to a stop, love and romance continued to run. and by the time we realized the race wasn't over, it was too late. our love had lapped us so many times that there was no way we would ever be able to catch it. we lost a race we thought we had already won.
i wish i could sit here and tell you that the end of our marriage was handled maturely, but i don't want to start lying now. we dragged lawyers into the room by the tip of their toes and had them write and rewrite novels about our possessions and to whom they would go to. neither of us wanted to live in the house we once called a home, so we sold it to another hopeless couple with a destiny similar to ours. we split the profits with a middleman to hand us the checks, as we didn't want to risk our hands touching the dust of what our love once was.
in just a few short years, i went from falling in love to defeating love to having it all slip away. my life fell apart before my very eyes and all i could do was watch as it collapsed. and as the dust covered my skin.
the story of emilia and i is old news. our love crashed and burned nearly seven years ago. since her, i have met many girls and even fallen in love with a couple of them, though those loves also ended with goodbye. it would be a lie to say emilia doesn’t still cross my mind every now and again. out of all my failed loves, my failed love with her will always hurt the most.
losing emilia was like discovering god and watching him walk away. the pain will always remain, but the pain never felt more real than it did the other night. i walked into a restaurant with a buddy of mine. as we headed towards our table, i saw emilia across the room, sitting at a table with another man.
time froze, as it did so often when emilia was involved, but this time it was agonizing. our eyes met and locked for multiple seconds. i smiled, but all she did was turn away. she looked at the man across from her and gave him that sideways glance i always loved so much. at that moment, our entire history flashed before my eyes: the bridge, our first i love you, the proposal, our wedding, and the war that ensued.
and with the slight turn of her head, i realized it was gone. forever erased from history as if it had never happened at all.
our eyes had locked once more, no longer as lovers, but as strangers.