Paper [ 2004-02-20, 1:17 a.m. ]

They say the first year of marriage is the hardest, and baby, soon you and I will be able to make statements like that and sound as if we know what we�re talking about, because it�s been one year since you made an honest woman out of me, one year since I said, �I do,� one year since I took that long walk down that deep red aisle and was met halfway by your sweet face. One year.

We�re married, holy shit, I still think sometimes. Married, and I�m a missus and you�re my mister, and inside I still feel like some dumb kid waiting to be told what to do next. What is marriage? How�s married life, people ask me. I don�t know how to answer, do you? Because married or otherwise, it�s just life. You and me together is just life because I don�t know what it would be like if we were un-married. This is it, you and me, and I think it�s good and fine and strong. Married life is a lot like the life we shared Before, except for those times when I get a little panicky at the realization that this ring will be on my hand until the day I die, or those dark days when I�m homesick and just want to leave this big, bad city and run home to my mom and dad. Forever still sounds scary, but it was scary before you became my husband, and I like sharing the journey, like having you at my side. Married life is us plus best friends plus romantics plus roommates plus business partners plus family plus me wearing the same old sweat pants every night and not shaving my legs often enough, and it�s you coming home late from work or forgetting to take out the trash, but we still go to bed together and you always hold me tight. It's Sundays and pizza and phone bills and holidays and laundry, sometimes sexy, oftentimes not.

How can this year be the hardest? It sure as hell wasn�t easy, but you and I have a lifetime of love, hurt, anger, joy, growth, pain, family, friends, tragedy and triumph waiting for us. Was this year hard? Yes, my love, it was. Do you remember the fight we had after Thanksgiving dinner, both of us hoarse and teary, me so angry I could spit, and you, hurt, hurting. Sure, it�s been hard. But was it ever really easy? Who has it easy? Easy just means there�s less at stake, at least for us it does.

But I didn�t sign up for easy. I took your hand and became your wife because I don�t see any way for us to walk through this world if not together. Easy never figured into my decision. Easy isn�t a word on which to base a marriage. I like �longevity.� Not a sexy word, but there�s a lot there. Love me and hate me and hold my hand. Grow old with me. Never leave me, because I�ll never leave you. I�m your wife.

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