you’ll never know

You look across the room and smile at the man who’s been your entire world for more than a decade.  He looks up, just knowing you’re looking at him, too, and winks.

“Well you’ve certainly done well for yourself.”

You don’t know the name of the man standing in front of you, but he’s some higher up with some firm at a competing company, and your best friend told you to play nice.  He hasn’t made the comment out of turn.  He is genuinely complimenting you on your accomplishments.

“Thank you, sir,” you tell him, offering him one of your dazzling smiles.  “It means a lot coming from someone as talented as you.”

“Simi.”

Jake greets you with a kiss on the cheek.  He wraps an arm around your waist, greeting the man you’re speaking to with a handshake.  “Nice to meet you,” he says.  “I’m Jacob Wessner, Simone’s husband.”

The man lights up then, and inundates you with questions.  Where did you meetHow did you meetHow long have you been married?

             Montauk.

             It’s actually a funny story.

             She cornered me.

             I sought you out.  I just couldn’t see you and not introduce myself.

             I’m glad she did.

             Married about six months now.

The man laughs along with you, taken in by your story.  It’s rare to see two people so obviously in love.

The two of you share a look.  Your husband’s wedding ring catches your eye and you are, not for the first time, completely taken aback at all that has happened, all that has transpired.

He walked away.  You walked away.

You came back.  He came back.

Wash.  Rinse.  Repeat.

It took ten years and one failed marriage, but you finally got it together.  He finally married you, after he came out of surgery and went to rehab and testified in court and waited for the guy who shot him to be sentenced to twenty years in prison with the possibility of parole in fifteen.

It took a village, as your other best friend said to you the day you married him.  You were married in Montauk, in the exact same place he kissed you when you were seventeen, before you were even old enough to know what love was.

Exactly eleven years to the day after he kissed you on the beach, he married you.

It took a village indeed.

The man you were talking to excuses himself and you turn to look at your husband.  He’s in his nicest suit, wearing a green shirt you bought him on your most recent trip to Texas to visit your stepsister and take care of things with some new talent signed with your label.  You’re wearing a green dress, too, loving that the two of you selected your outfits without even consulting one another.

             Great minds, Simi, he’d said to you.

“Few more schmoozes and I think we’ll be good to go,” you tell him.  You straighten his tie and smooth your hands over his shirt.  He looks amazing.

“You look even more amazing,” he says to you, and you blush, still not accustomed to him showering you with this much affection.

He really did change, though, after you left him, after you married someone else, after you told him that he needed to get his act together or lose you forever.

He follows you around the room as you kiss up to the executives your best friend didn’t want to face tonight.  He is the doting husband, though he isn’t playing a part.  He is genuinely happy for your success, proud of your accomplishments, listing them off without even having to look at a piece of paper to remind him of what you’ve done.

He knows you.  He’s always known you.  You wonder for about the thousandth time why he picked you, why he stayed.  You don’t need an answer to that, though, because he asks you the same thing every day, and your answer is always the same.

”More,” you say to him after you both settle into the town car waiting for you after the party.  He is watching you, having just asked you for the billionth time what you see in him.

You will always see more.  You will always love him more.  You will always choose him, even if, as you’d put it so many years ago, the Queen herself showed up.  He is yours.  You are his.  There is no question.

And he leaves it at that.  He does not push you for any more details.  He doesn’t ask you if you’re sure – though you know he will at some point in the coming days.  He accepts your explanation the way he’d accept it if you told him the sky was purple.

Because he loves you just as much – if not more so, you realize as you both make your way to your bedroom later in the evening. After all, he was the one who waited for you while you were married to someone else.  He allowed you to see what else was out there.  He didn’t push you then – though he certainly doesn’t mind doing it now.  You don’t mind, though.  He pushes you, and you push right back.

             Fire and ice baby, he’d said to you long ago.  You both run hot and cold, but you both know there isn’t anywhere else in the world you’d rather be than with each other.

The New York City skyline is visible from your bedroom and you thank him again for having the presence of mind to get this place when it was available – even though the two of you weren’t together at the time.

“Of course,” he replies as he comes up behind you and wraps his arms around you.  You lean into him, relishing the feel of his arms around you.  He is your one in ten billion.

And you are his everything.

“My reason for existing,” he whispers to you before kissing your cheek.

You stand and look out the window a few minutes more before climbing into bed.  You snuggle close to him, and he envelopes you.  He is all over – and always will be.  He will always be what you want.

And while the thought would scare a normal person, it doesn’t frighten you.  Eleven years later, and he still gives you goosebumps, makes your insides gooey.  He still gives you butterflies.

             Mine, mine, mine, you whispered to him the first night of your honeymoon.  Tonight, he repeats the sentiment, and tells you that he’s so proud of you.

You tell him you’re proud of him, too, and that you’ll never love anyone else.  He is your forever.  He is your safe haven.  He is yours, and you tell him that the greatest feat you ever accomplished is not the numerous journalism accolades you’ve received over the years, but the fact that you have the love of this man.  You can’t imagine what your life would be like without him.

“You’ll never know,” he says to you as you drift off to sleep in his arms.

             You’ll.

             Never.

             Know.

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I do not know John Green

I do not know John Green.

What I do know, however, is that in some aspects, he got it right when he wrote The Fault in Our Stars: the pain, the agony, the grief that follows when you lose the person that you love.  It’s unbearable.  It’s… the big, fat ten.

He also got it right about how it’s not important that a million people love you, or that you touched and inspired a million people.  You just have to be loved and inspired by one.  My mom didn’t reach a lot of people.  She didn’t inspire millions of people with her fight or her smile – but she inspired me.  She touched me, and that, I think, was enough for her.

My last letter to my mom was intended to be just that – the last piece I ever wrote for or about her.  While I think it was fitting at the time, I’m coming to realize that my story – and, in turn, hers – is still going.  I may not want to write about my grief all the time (at present I’m mulling over a piece on how mangled my heart is, and yet how I’m still open to the possibility of love and isn’t that the strangest and most brave thing a person can do?) but I will want to write about her.  I will want to write about how she inspired me, how she made me who I am today.

My mom was my best friend.  For years now – eight years, three months, and twelve days, if we’re going to be exact – I’ve struggled with how I wanted to write her story.  But her story is my story, and mine is hers, even in her absence.

My writing is what kept me going – even when I wasn’t sure what to write, I wrote.  I knew if I could do at least that, it would keep me from going crazy.  It would keep me from losing my mind on days when the grief was just too much for me to bear.

And I think that the best tribute to my mom – the only fitting one that I can really think of – is to show how I’ve evolved since she left.  I want to show how the strength she imparted to me is still there.  I may have days where I want to stay in bed all day (April 15 and April 21, for instance) but I also have days where I need to get out of bed, and go and make a difference, even if it’s just a tiny one.  My mom didn’t raise a quitter, and she certainly didn’t raise me to wallow in my grief.

So it is in that spirit that I write this.  I write about how I do not know John Green.  I write about how, in spite of not knowing John Green, I can say with certainty that he knows me, and he understands the grief I have felt for the last eight years, three months, and twelve days.  I write this, the hopeful final prologue to the book that I will write for my mom – and for any girl out there who has ever lost her mother.

We are a tribe, ladies.  I cannot say that I am honored to be in this tribe, but I am honored that I am here with you.  I hope that I can do you the same justice that John Green did for me.