I thought of you today, as I sifted through the boxes of memories in the attic of my mind.
I remember the first time we met. How after my brother introduced me to you, your eyes never followed another girl that whole night. I was wearing that teal dress I thought made me look like a movie star. I thought that was the reason why you watched me.
Next time I saw you, you were picking up my brother to go to a conference. I didn’t know you were coming, so I was in the yard, my unwashed hair in a tangled bun, wearing a too big T-shirt and ratty shorts. But when you pulled in the driveway, you rolled down the window and called my name. I can never forget the smile on your face. The rest of the day, I floated on the ghost of your smile.
When my brother got home from that conference, he told me you wanted to go on a date. I agreed to meet you at the theater to see the latest Marvel movie. I spent hours agonizing over my clothes and makeup, but in the darkened theater, you didn’t notice the tiny tear in my jeans or the hastily applied makeup.
When I dumped my cup of Coke all over us during the opening scene of the movie, you laughed and handed me extra napkins. After the credits, you bought me a T-shirt from the tiny theater gift shop.
I’m wearing that T-shirt now. It’s old and worn, but it still fits.
I remember the night you proposed. We went onto your parents’ deck and sat on the porch swing. The crickets chirped as you wrapped your arm around my shoulders. You had put on some cologne that night, which struck me as unusual. Even though we weren’t talking, I was more than content to rest my head on your shoulder and watch the winking fireflies.
I remember you whispering, “Can I ask you a question?”
“Sure.” When I think about it now, I laugh. I had no idea what you were planning on asking.
“I’ve thought about this for a long time. Will you marry me?”
I sat there for a minute and I remember you kneeling on the deck, grasping my hands in yours. “Please, don’t get angry,” you said.
I laughed. “Why would I be angry?”
You shook your head and stared at me so earnestly, I thought my heart would break. “Will you?”
I remember our wedding day. It was so small, compared to the huge affair I’d always dreamed of. But I wouldn’t have changed it. The smile on your face took me back to the hot summer day in the front yard.
I remember all our dreams for a family. All the laughter and late night ice creams we shared.
And at the back of the attic, I found the memory I didn’t want to find.
The knock on the door. The flashing lights and howling sirens. The crumpled car on the side of the road.
Standing alone beside the graveside, all our friends long having gone home. Then my brother coming, wrapping his arm around my shoulders and taking me home.
Ever since that day, I’ve shoved these memories away. Stuffed them in boxes and buried them beneath hours of TV shows and movies.
But today, I had the courage to open up the boxes. To remember and to heal.