It was another life.

Freshly separated, sitting in an empty home.

Bitterness still had its sway at this point. It demanded my fealty to singledom, despite my loneliness. I was prone to grand proclamations against coupling in general and marriage specifically.

I was awash in loneliness. In a quiet house, half emptied of furniture and completely emptied of children, I decided I needed some companionship. Online, I joined a site that was free, being that I was broke and broken. I dug in, reaching out to women, and largely getting no replies. Or if I did, their vocabulary was rather lacking. This was not going as I had hoped.

Then a photo captured my eye. A ginger haired lady, face half wreathed in darkness, hat slightly shielding her eyes, mischievous smirk curling the lighted side of her lovely face. There was an allure that was written in nuance, born of more than physical beauty, that enraptured me. I read her profile, and I was smitten. I knew I needed to craft a message that reached her level of intelligence and frivolity. I poured over every word, nervous that the tiniest mishap would ruin the opportunity to learn more of her.

Nerves jangling, I hit send.

I’m not certain, in hind sight, how long it was before I received a response. But I did get one. I could not stop smiling as I read it. She was beyond intriguing. She was beguiling.

Two weeks of long, winding, intense, scintillating conversation ensued. Usually these words flew between us well past the witching hour. Finally, I drew up the courage to ask her to meet. I felt confident that she’d say yes, considering our steamy flirtations and deep discussions on all things. Still, the possibility of her saying no and ending this buoyant euphoria scared me.

Fortunately, you agreed.

We decided to meet in a fast food parking lot, as it was right off the highway. Such was my excitement that I kissed you through a car window. I had not planned that; looking back that seems like a strange place to recount our first kiss. But we did, and I’m not sure if my feet touched the ground on my walk back to my car so you could follow me to our date.

That date was the very best first date I’ve ever had.

That date was also ten years ago. A decade. Decennium.

In the time since, we’ve lived quite a life: raising children and step children, purchased a house, got married, changed jobs, challenging each other and rising to those challenges, traveling (with and without kids), several terrifying moments but more amazing ones, building each other up.

You have been my greatest journey. I thank you for choosing me to weave our way along life’s path. I hope that I’ve been a partner that gives you joy and wonder, as you have been for me.

The years we’ve been collaborators on our story have been a gift beyond my hopes. Let’s keep adding pages and chapters, devotionals to our love and our voyage as one.

Happy decennium, Moon of my Life. Many more await us.

Ritual As Love

Light pushes between my eyelids, announcing a new day. For a few seconds my eyes battle the morning, wanting more time to dream. Ultimately, morning wins as it always does, and I blink away the remnants of rest. A small stretch follows, soft grunts escaping me. These are the songs of age that come with the years I’ve amassed.

That very same light bathes my sleeping wife, highlights and shadows playing upon the face I love so. It is serene, idyllic, and beautiful – that face.

She is perfection in the dawn. So perfect that I dare not disturb that vision.

I slide my legs out from under the comforter, an exaggeratedly slow action of putting my feet to the floor and gradually raising my body off the bed. This goes much clumsier than I would have liked. A glance back reveals my lack of gracefulness hasn’t awoken her. Steady and rhythmic breaths come and go – telltale signs slumber still has her under its spell.

Awkwardly, I tiptoe out of the room hoping that the carpet will mask my steps. The remainder of the way is pure hardwood, old and unforgiving, and unconcerned with my need for quiet. My first tentative step elicits a creak and I freeze. I look back to insure my wife has not awoken. Still no break in her breathing which gives me hopes that my quest can continue. I resume tip-toeing, navigating to the steps. The descent is a chorus of complaints from the wood, each one making their best effort to expose my secretive trek. There’s no way of knowing if the floor has given me away, so I keep moving. I lightly step through the living and dining rooms and finally reach my destination: the kitchen.

My ritual can now begin in earnest.

I reach for the kettle to test its weight. It’s roughly a quarter full, so I migrate to the sink and fill it. When water finally reaches the rim, I shut off the faucet and return the kettle to its home. Switched on, the heater under the kettle coaxes the water to boil – a crucial element to the ritual.

I fetch two mugs, stoic receptacles awaiting their prize, and set them down next to the now-heating kettle. A small mason jar of sugar yields its contents to the mugs; one spoonful for her, two for me.

The ritual continues with final preparations.  The French press now is pulled to the fore. A container of coffee offers its contents for use. Six level scoops are dropped into the French press and await the steaming water to rain down and release its potential.

The water reaches its penultimate boil, signaling the time to join the roiling water with the inert coffee grounds. I do just that and am rewarded with the smell of java and caffeine, a partnership of elementals that fill the air. A spoon moves in circles in the press, creating miniature whirlpools of foam and coffee. I pull the spoon out, satisfied that union is complete. For a moment, I watch the eddies and swirls move about, fighting for supremacy.

I settle the lid on the press and gently push down. The key is to go slowly so no grounds find their way free. After what seems to be an interminable amount of time, the pressing is done, plunger at the bottom compressing the grounds.

Holding the lid and plunger in place, I pour the coffee into mugs which have been waiting patiently for its passenger. I pour hers first. I always do, but I can’t say why. Hers I fill to the brim, or as near as can be. Mine, I leave a bit of room for a splash of milk. My wife needs no such accompaniment. She prefers her coffee strong and stark; mine, not so much. Milk is poured into mine, and then both are stirred. Hers is a dark mocha; mine is caramel colored. At last, the ritual is close to complete. Now for the final part of my stealthy journey: deliverance.

Across the hardwood I go again, trying and mostly failing to avoid parts that protest my weight. As I reach the steps, a smile escapes my lips. This happens each time I begin my ascent back to our bedroom. The smile of anticipation looking forward to that face I adore giving back its own smile, dreamy and struggling to remain before a yawn overtakes.

The steps groan just as loudly as they did when I first made my way down them for my morning ritual. I send a disapproving scowl at the wood, but it pays me no mind and continues to do what floors of its age do. Just a few more steps to the relative quiet of the rug floor of our bedroom.

Cautious steps carry me to the rug, wary of both noise and spillage. Now that I am back at the beginning, I bring the coffee to her side of the bed and set the mug down on her night stand. I touch her face, lightly caressing it, and just as lightly, “Good morning, my love. I brought you coffee,” as I lean down and kiss her.

The smile she gives is as lovely as I envisioned. It always is. And it is unfailingly worth it.

On Handsomeness and Pedestals

My wife thinks I’m handsome. Pretty, even. She tells me this of her own volition, and quite often. It’s never contrived. Her eyes and her actions confirm her words.

I feel much the same about her. She’s stunningly beautiful. Her smile and laugh are perfection to my senses. The variety of conversations we have draws me into her depths, drowning me in their poetic rhythms. When her skin touches mine, fires race along every nerve, my body on the precipice of uncontrollable desire. I do not withhold how I think and feel with her, either. She’s as aware of my longing and adoration as much as I am of hers.

The incredible part of this love story we live is that I do not believe her.

Oh, I do believe she well and truly means these words. That our loving and lustful times are transcendent and real. There is no lie in her enraptured gaze, nor in the thoughtful ways she cares for me. I have never felt so well met as I do with her.

Yet I don’t believe her.

This is not an indictment of her intentions or her honesty. It is my inherent doubts that trump her earnestness. I don’t believe that I am handsome or pretty or sexy because I do not believe that I am worthy of such affirmations.

I WANT to believe her. More than anything I want to accept that I am as she sees me. But those niggling insecurities creep in and wage their silent wars on my marriage.

On the surface, it seems simplistic. If I can see her in such a radiant fashion, why can’t I accept that her view of me is just as brilliant?

For nearly seven years, I’ve held her on a pedestal, above all others. She belongs in the clouds, a visage of beauty that I have somehow finagled into loving me. She’s held me on the same pedestal. Yet I try, repeatedly, to descend from that pedestal, knowing that she alone is worthy of lofty space.

But that’s not really true, is it?

We belong together, at whatever height we ascend to.

Those bastard doubts are chains, forged within to hold me down. She has worked ceaselessly to smash those links so that I may climb up and claim my space with her, as we have claimed each others’ hearts. Our journey lies together.

I want to believe her.

I WILL believe her.

And I will love her as we traverse this life, and any others that follow.