04 January 2016

Seven Love Letters

I fell in love with Yoko slowly and then all at once, as they say. This picture was part of it. When you fall in love with someone you can't initially communicate with, you fall in love with something inexplicable about them. Their energy, the way they move and touch you on the shoulder while laughing. My Japanese was overconfident and sloppy: Yoko was older and had her shit together. She had a nicer apartment than me and clothes that fit well. She was perennially optimistic, and this day that I took this picture, we walked out to the beach with our group of friends and I strung together simple sentences with simple verb structures. I am teaching English. I am going to do an MA by correspondence (I had learned that word). I am happy in Japan.

In a year, almost exactly one year from when this picture was taken, we were married. It was madness — complete madness. We held hands and then kissed and then we were engaged without stopping to breathe. When we went back to America in March, four months before the wedding, I sat at our dining room table with my friends, confident in the way that makes other people confident. Confident enough that my parents projected happiness and support. What would you say to me anyway: I was mad and in love. I was speaking in tongues, in simple Japanese verb structures.

At the end of that trip, after getting through security and on the plane, the wave of madness crested, hit the high water mark, and began to recede. We argued — I don't remember about what. We got on the plane and then, as if madness was suddenly gone, we started sobbing, Yoko first and then me, on the right side of the plane, the sunlight streaming through the windows. We sobbed in the way you can't control, something guttural, something that if you tried to stop would only get worse. We held hands and a man threw a packet of tissues to us over the seats. This was real — there was no going back.

We married anyway. Yoko suddenly went off the pill because she was so sick and we found out on 19 September, two months after the wedding, that Naomi would come in May. All the energy and the chasm between us suddenly gone like two people stranded in a lifeboat together. You can't be mad when a fleck of baby floats inside someone you love. I bought new clothes and lost weight and went shopping for baby buggies and nappies. We went to the classes and I sat with other nervous men in the waiting room of the clinic thinking, this is the great leveler, isn't it. All of us have no clue what we're doing here, do we. It doesn't matter that I'm 24. We're all just making this up as we go along, aren't we.

And then ten years passed.

On Sunday, we went to church: the children had new dresses, so we walked up the hill to St Peter's with umbrellas. Yoko hung back with Mia and Naomi, who were slower, while I dragged Mei on, scolding her for walking into me. The vicar preached on love overcoming fear and I listened until it was time for communion. The vicar said the table is always open to everyone, provided you had been baptised, but really, that didn't matter either. I thought of the times Yoko had gone forward by herself these last two years, how I had sat and waited for her to come back. I thought of all the graces I have experienced this last week, of forgiveness and understanding despite my obstinance, Jesus, the idea of Jesus, of the Kingdom of Heaven coming and having come in Yoko: this woman who had followed me across Asia and Europe. Who had never given up on me.

I stood and experienced St Peters in a way I hadn't before, walking up the centre to the alter. Kneeling and Father Graeme ever enthusiastic and confident saying, Do this in remembrance of me. There's nothing wrong with this, I thought: remembering Christ with my wife and children knelt there. There is no god but god, and there is no god. I ate the bread and drank the wine and remembered Jesus: that's all we need to do, isn't it. We need to follow our conscience and do what we are inclined to do, when we are convinced it is right. Remember Christ even if he died at 33, the age I am now. At least he tried; you too should try.