In the spring of 2002, I found myself halfway through my year-long exchange program in Florence, Italy. In addition to each new experience- and the fact that the world was beginning to slowly open itself up to me, I met two very special people- my friends Michael and Susana. Amongst everything that happened and all that we lived through that year, Michael fell in love with Susana.
Despite the years that have passed far too quickly to note- and the substantial geographic gap between what we independently call home, Michael and I have remained extremely close. He’s been a shoulder for me to cry on in bad times and shared in a number of good times. He listens to me bitch about my jobs or relationships and in turn, I found him a job and did some emotional coaching myself. Our friendship has been one of those solid relationships on which I know I can always count. Furthermore, his happiness has always been of great importance to me.
That is why, when after almost seven years since our “vita Fiorentina”- Michael called to tell me he was marrying Susana, I promised to fly across the ocean, miss a week of classes and attend his wedding.
I know we all think we know about love- or at least we have a certain amount of knowledge from our personal experiences. As I get older, more practical and less naive about love and relationships, I’m starting to realize that maybe I have no idea how to define love at all.
However, this past weekend, when I saw Michael’s face as Susana walked down the isle- I caught a glimpse of the kind of love I know I want- and this small realization, something so simple that I should have figured out years ago- awakened some kind of waterworks inside of me. I was one of those distressing individuals who makes a spectacle of themselves at someone else’s wedding. The unfortunate guests sitting behind me had to peer over my heaving shoulders, while the boy beside me timidly rubbed my arm asking me if I was ok as tears were seeping out from between my fingers.
As much as I would like to say they were all tears of joy for the happy couple, being that my friend finally “got his girl” after years and years of loving her, I was partly weeping out of self-pity.
It's not, although it may seem to be, that I suddenly need to get married, or that I want the big white dress and the honeymoon- there is no internal clock ticking, I am sure of this. But it was the look on Michael’s face that made me wonder where my Susana is. As the entire congregation turned to see the bride, who was absolutely breathtaking, I looked at one of my best friends looking at the girl he was promising to love and cherish forever. I saw his desire to take care of her, to treasure her, and to grow old with her. In his face, I saw how grateful he was to have her- and she him. And in this momentary exchange- I had flashbacks of all my boyfriends, all the times I thought I was in love and all the times I actually may have been in love. I scanned through my memories wondering if I let my “Susana” go at some point. I wondered if that person is in my life now- and if one day he will look at me the way Michael looked at Susana at that moment.
Eventually, I pulled myself together, ordered a stiff drink- congratulated my friends, and danced until dawn celebrating the union of two people who love each other unconditionally.
The rest of my time in Miami was spent visiting a number of other friends- consisting mainly of newlyweds, new parents, and about-to-be mothers and fathers. Considering the recent unease with my place in life and all the confusion with respect to where others are- weddings and babies may not have been the best move to make psychologically.
However, it did clarify a few things.
For one, I’m not ready to be a mother. No way. Secondly, as nice as having someone to love you each and every day, and as fun as one’s own wedding must be- I don't think I will even consider marrying until I am sure that the person standing at the altar with me will look at me the way Michael looked at Susana. Forever.
Lastly, I could not wait to get back to Barcelona- to my friends here who are all still figuring it out- to my classes where I haven’t yet ceased to learn from books and lectures- to my cover letters whose purposes are to initiate my next path- and to my Barcelonian friends and loved ones who fill my life here with their own individual brands of love- sans eternal commitments.
Last week was a break from school- but by day three, I realized I needed a break. I don't think I have ever been happier to get on an 8 hour flight with classes and group meetings waiting for me at the other end. And here I was, this whole time, thinking that I needed to get home for a bit- when all the while- I have been here, at home in Barcelona, exactly where I should be.