|The beginning and the end are always blurry lines of in between. The beginning can be defined as the moment you meet someone, the moment you recognize who they are to you. The end doesn’t have to be with trumpets blaring. Sometimes, when you aren’t even looking at it, it can be the stepping on a landmine that begins to count down the last moments of life as you know it in a whisper.
Sometimes the beginning is the end. Or the end is just the beginning, as the saying goes. But ultimately, wherever you decide to count your in-betweens in one direction or the other, the results can be paradigm shifting.
Marriage is a funny thing. No two marriages are alike. The definition tends to be a constant work in progress that starts out as a nebulous idea and blossoms into a living breathing monster in your living room demanding to be fed constantly and the very best you can give it. Marriage, turns out, nobody would ever enter in to, if they knew what it took to maintain it. Not because they didn’t want it, but because if anyone ever mentioned the work it took, most of us would quail at the sheer weight of it.
We met at a wedding. One could argue it was meant to be. I caught the bouquet, he caught the garter. We were introduced to each other repeatedly, so that people knew we’d met. My roommate, whose word I took for gospel, asked me why I wouldn’t give this normal nice guy a chance. If we had been more romantic we could say that we were meeting in circumstances that were more for fiction than real life.
Looking back on it now, in the wake of the ticking of the landmine we unknowingly stepped on, I should have been in awe of our story’s beginning. I should have been swept away by the beauty of how rare it is to meet in such circumstances.
If love is a battle field across which marriage must travel, mine is the bloody soldier that's been found ripped apart in the base of a smoking crater. There’s been insurmountable damage, the body so broken it seems that there’s no hope. But you got to it in time, it’s possible save it if you try. It’s the beginning, not the end.
Over the course of our relationship, we weren’t sure we were going to make it. It was touch and go for a long time. The damage was so extensive, the wounds so deep. They weren’t healing; merely scabbing over only to let fresh blood flow at the first strain. We were too different; there was just no basis to build on. All the professionals said so.
Then infection set in. The bandages we’d desperately wrapped around the wounds weren’t working. The heart was still beating, the lungs still taking in air but the body was decaying around it. The prognosis wasn’t promising, fatigue and sickness setting in. We stopped trying so hard. Wouldn’t it be better just to let it go than to suffer so horribly?
As we waited for the inevitable death of our marriage things began to change; the infections began to come under control. After everything, all the time and hardships, we finally got the dosage right. The spread of the decay was slowing, the wounds beginning to finally heal. There would, of course, be scars but they would finally be closed.
Two very different people arguing over the amount, the time and the concentration were finally able to come to an understanding. Looking into one another’s eyes we could see the hurt in the others. Hands that struggled against one another stilled, fingers intertwining. If we couldn’t save our marriage, save this form we were building then no one else could. It would be dead on the table and we would only have ourselves to blame. We had, each of us, spent so much time insisting that we were right and the other was wrong. Two different opinions about what should be done, two different opinions about how we should do it. In that moment we knew that if we couldn’t work together then it was all over. Like the landmine our marriage had stepped on the timer was ticking and we had only seconds to take our foot off the trigger and run. We had only seconds to save the beating heart that had struggled so valiantly against the worst the world could throw at it.
The landmine didn’t affect our marriage the way it might affect another. Like us, it’s conditioned to fight, that heart of yours will beat, goddammit, because you don’t know how to give up. You didn’t come this far, suffer through this much, to let something as trivial as a landmine blow your whole life up. You can hear the ticking better than anyone else can, you can recognize the disk being triggered and systematically plan your escape. You might spend those last moments contemplating the end, the taste, the sound, the smell. You might even consider that it might be better, might be the way it should be. But in the moment you can calculate how many steps your heart can take because that’s information you know like the back of your hand. You run for it because you know what you’re heart can take and what it can’t.