I don’t write a lot of love letters. In fact, I don’t write many letters at all, which is a shame, because I love letters. It may have something to do with the fact that I work at a newspaper, or that I write a column that uses the word ‘I’ and blends a public and private persona.
Or it may have something to do with the fact that one of the things I love about my wife is her dogged privateness, which is like a protective hide pulled over a heart so deep and abiding that it can drown you. Bethany hates it when I mention her in my writing. I understand why. But in the age of oversharing, sometimes I feel like a prude not to drop her name, or at least deceptive, like I’m holding out.
Since this week I’m introducing a feature that consists of seven people telling stories about love, I can’t help getting in on the act. And since Bethany and I just had Lyle six months ago and are in a decidedly loving-but-not-that-romantic moment in our relationship, isn’t it kind of a good time to think back through that high speed video montage to the moment when our eyes first met, hers blue lamps casting a cool light on my soul, asking the only question I can never really answer.
On our first vacation together—an ill-advised, ambitious canoe trip with too many mosquitoes, and portages, and rainy days—we got into a fight delving into past love stories as we descended the eastern shoulder of the Sawtooth Mountains towards Lake Superior, gitchi gummi, that mysterious blue hole in the middle of the continent. I felt something break and I let it. Such a different feeling from the hot, breathy, questing kind of love I’d always dreamt of and practiced—willing, unwitting, or unrequited.
It’s a funny thing about love. I once knew a monk who would always say, “Jesus likes you,” because he hated the idea that his personal God practiced something Hallmark could define. We mythologize the capital ‘L’ word, something Tristan and Isolde died for, but the ferocious force we feel as mates is so different. We finish each other’s thoughts and break each other’s rules. We make love and we made Lyle.