We vowed these things to each other and to our community, and that includes you.
(Jill) The little man in the voodoo shop explained about his pythons, about
the spells he cast with them. But I was already alight with magic. I
walked down a cobbled street and phoned you. I’d taken you everywhere
in New Orleans, through the markets and cafes, along the water. I’d
read to you. I had your letters in my pocket, and went over them as
though they were maps. But this day, the day with the pythons, you
told me a story about your list. About the things you had learned must
not be compromised in a relationship. I stopped walking. The rain
fell, and a wind kicked through me and I listened. Your relationship
is supposed to nurture you. To make you more capable. More likely to
thrive. I had stopped at a garden surrounded by a wrought-iron fence.
I held onto the gate and listened as hard as I could. I could see my
life, like this city, the haunted decay of it. I felt you pull me,
through the phone, you drew the best of me out. Love was a physical
force: it prickled; outside that locked garden, it hummed through the
city. And I knew I’d marry you. I knew it. I saw it as clearly as I
saw my child before he was born. I recognized you at last.
I was so sad before we met. This grave little thing. You are my act
of faith. Who doesn’t love a good redemption story? You are my
favorite defiance. My purest rebellion. I promise to love you as
though there were no injury. I promise to love you as though there
were no disappointment. I promise to love you. To keep faith with you.
To be your counterpart, this half of the circle. I promise to feed you
ice chips. To worship and adore you. I promise to work, to bring you a
new and earnest heart each morning. I promise to get it wrong, and get
it right, and start again. I promise to be your guard against
cynicism. To be supersonically silly. I promise to dance with you.
Our bodies were built for joy.
(Mary) Dear Jill, okay that’s dumb. Dearest Jill: When I met you, I’d relented. I was cynical. I was cynical about love and the benefit of lovers. In fact, I had determined to become a spinster. I had cats. I started watching television.
All through my growing up years and into adulthood, I had this dream where suddenly, I could not speak so that anyone could understand me.
I would speak and I understood what I was trying to say, but no one else did. Awkward … and lonely.
Being with you means I have someone who always hears me when I speak. It’s a relief and a comfort.
Here’s what I have to offer: I will always orient toward where you are. You are my comfort and my home.
I will always rely on the best in you and assume you are the woman I know you to be.
I will trust that your love for me, the thing I am most sure of, will always win over details.
I will treat your enthusiasms with reverence, because I know that your sense of joy guided me to you.
I will trust your instinct to make me happy; it is more true than my drive to sacrifice my self.
I will love your true love, which is to say — I will put family first and be a mother along with you.
No one was as born to mother as each of us in our own ways.
I will never treat you as a friend; you are not just a companion, you are my consort.
You will always be mysterious and wonderful to me.
More than anything else I can articulate, this is truth: You are singular in the way you make my life worth the struggle. Together we are so much more of all the most and best than apart.
Will you marry me?
Will you stay with me?
Will you feed me ice chips when I’m dying?
Will you actually hear me every day for the rest of my life?