The tale of my wedding should start with the engagement. And, just like the wedding itself, it’s contradictory. Completely true and painful with the fact it had to happen thrice. Our engagement is a story about mistakes and the love that has the power to undo them. About strength and weakness. About high and low tides.
We make to put off the fire. The spring night is surprisingly warm. I think about how just a few hours ago we were sitting by the Milovský rybník dam and wondering whether to stay in a small hotel or spend the night in our tent. I’m glad we chose the second option. We went back by motorbike to a forested hill where Lukáš left me to set up a camp and look for wood while he went back to the nearest town for wine. From time to time I recall the time – nearly an hour – when I was all alone in the forest, looking around like a scared hare at every sound until I heard the ‘saving’ one – the little motorbike, growling its way up the hill.
While I pack the things, Lukáš goes somewhere (surely to the ‘bathroom’, I think) and then comes back, reaching his arm. ‘Come with me for a while.’ With one eye I make sure the fire is under control and follow him along a non-existent path between the trees that leads to a big opening. I look above and the sky is full of stars. I comment it but Lukáš doesn’t look so enthusiastic. So we’re not here for that. I move my eyes away and search the meadow – something is shining on the ground in front of us. While we’re walking, several absurd thoughts simultaneously begin to dance wildly in my head: ‘A solar-cell lamp?’ (Yes, of course, amidst the forest.) / ‘Aliens?’ Only after we reach the light do I see it’s a candle.
‘Oh, this is so sweet,’ I say because I know the candle can only symbolize one thing – our first anniversary. I hug him but with his whole being he shows I am missing something terribly important. Confused, I look down and in the semi-dark periphery of the light I see a box.
From now on everything gets ‘foggy’. I don’t remember who picks the box up – I or he. I don’t remember if he kneels in front of me (he must have). I don’t even remember the sound of the word ‘Yes’. I only remember how I hug him under the stars and how – when we open our eyes – we’re surrounded by fog. This time a real one.
Frightened, I look back at the forest. My first thought is that our campfire grew into a forest fire. However, I don’t smell smoke. We exchange looks and silently agree the only reason for the stars to disappear in the time of a hug can be magic. At the moment we don’t understand what kind of a sign this is – good or bad. However, we both like the idea of nature taking up a leading role in our engagement.
In the fog, we find the way back to the forest, the motorbike and the tent-home. Right now we have everything in the world.
I don’t like the way I look in the picture Lukáš just took me with the white wall for a background and which I have to give to ČD so that they can make me a discount card for traveling by train. I insist that he takes another picture with flash. He says no. I say I know very well how to take a picture of myself so that I look good. He thinks I know nothing.
The entire conversation is being screamed. Hurt, my ego expands, grows bigger and bigger and finally it gets out of me and starts living its own destructive life. While walking down the street – I and my hurt ego – towards the photo shop, the ugly picture saved onto a flash drive, we talk and reach the conclusion what I (we) did wasn’t a mistake. That the returned engagement ring was the best expression of what I/we feel convinced in – that Lukáš and I are just not meant to be together.
Later I go back home. My ego is not with me anymore. I’m weak and full of guilt.
When Lukáš and I argue, I always get the insurmountable feeling to go out and buy myself something I don’t normally afford. This is either a revenge on him or a consolation for my ‘internal woman’, unfairly hurt by a man.
Armed with that same frantic wish, without a single speck of doubt, I enter a shop on the central street in Burgas and buy myself a pair of pearl earrings. Its beautiful pouch in my bag, I go further down the street, walking briskly and trying to swallow the fact Lukáš didn’t come to our pre-arranged date and instead remained at home so that he could repair and old rusty Balkan motorbike in a hopeless condition. I sit with my sister and we order the most expensive sandwiches in the milk shop. Pearls in my ears, I eat the tasty sandwich, talk to my sister and don’t really feel humiliated any longer that my own boyfriend didn’t come to our date. That he stayed at home to fix the rusty Balkan instead of coming with me to a surprise place – on a boat journey to an island during which I would propose him. I would return the ring that has been trapped in its little box for the past few months. To atone for my guilt.
Well, perhaps I deserve it. And honestly – looking at these nice earrings and this expensive tasty sandwich – maybe I do a really good job at taking care of myself alone.
Everything is set up.
The letter in which I propose him is written. To add heaviness, I wrote it in Czech, albeit with the help of Google Translate. It’s placed into a bottle and made to look intriguing. I also found myself some associates – the kids that live in the camp next to ours and who spend the whole day running from the sea to the forest and back again, doing mischief. The plan looks like this: one of them should ‘accidentally find’ a bottle with a letter inside in the sea and – ‘accidentally’ – to give it not to his mother or father but to Lukáš himself. Content of the letter: a proposal and a map leading to a buried treasure – an inflatable float or Lukáš’s summer dream. No matter what I do, I will never think up something that’s more beautiful and magical than my first engagement but I better act before the atonement period is over.
Everything goes according to plan.
The engagement is valid again.
I again have a ring.
And Lukáš has a float.
I no longer remember when and why but after another low tide in our relationship the ring ends up on the window sill and neither of us wants to even move it. It sits right over our bed where we sometimes sleep back to back and other times laugh or go to sleep in a warm hug, but neither of us talks about it. It sits there as a symbol of something that’s both easy and hard to reach. It sits and waits.
But while it’s waiting, time goes by and each time I wipe the dust off the window sills and carefully put it on the Nutella jar, where – accidentally – we keep our savings of 10 crowns for our wedding trip along the Trans-Siberian Railway, I see it gradually gets covered in black spots. It’s probably the moist but something inside of me – that same thing that makes me take everything metaphorically – tells me the black spots are actually caused by lack of wearing. The ring suffers.
I love engagement stories. By now one of the nicest I’ve ever heard is the one about my first engagement. And yet, as both my engagements with Lukáš prove, the moment of kneeling down and putting the ring is just one peak of the long mountain range of love. A moment when love gathers its strength and erupts like a firework lit by the word ‘Yes’. A moment that lives forever.
But I already know. Love is not measured by the duration or the amount of such intense moments. It’s measured by its ‘medium state’ – its manifestation in daily life. Engagement and wedding, for that matter, are like two framed photographs hanging in a prominent place at home which have simultaneously captured love and ‘missed’ a million of its manifestations. Love in its ‘medium state’ is so trivial that it’s not even worth capturing or framing. But it is this love which – like a heart beating in a normal rhythm – maintains life.
That’s what the story of my third engagement is – a simple one. And maybe because everything happens in the third go like in the fairytales or because the ‘medium state’ of love is the most durable it is my third engagement that managed to perform its function to lead to a wedding.
One day I just decide to put the ring back on my finger. Because I need some occasion I chose Lukáš’s nameday so that I could give him a symbol of my own growing up. To promise him I will never take it off again, no matter what happens, because I’ve already grown enough to accept the low tides of love. That I’m smart enough to know each of them precedes a high tide – and that’s a law of nature.
No matter how hard I try to clean it up, the black spots won’t go away. But I accept that, too. Something more – I’m glad they’re there to remind me about the hard times and the fact we went over them. With no black holes or abysses, without negativity, love can never reach that calm healthy medium state. That’s why I welcome them.
So, I’m extremely surprised when one day I examine the ring and see that the spots I so stubbornly tried to remove have just disappeared by themselves. Because I wore them. And accepted them.
This simple magic changes my life.