My Once Love
by Michael Lawrence
She slowly descended the aisle toward me. She was dressed like an orchid. Mascara was smudged beneath her eyes. She painfully clutches an ominous bouquet of red roses and baby's breath. The man whom she is about to marry stands beside me. Yet she looks at me. Wondering, I bet.
The sight of her reminded me of ancient, painful memories. 1974. We were in college. We met at my friend's house during a party. We discussed the finer points of the cinema. I never stopped loving her. I asked her out on a date. She accepted. We went to Gari's. I had a hamburger. She had fish. We liked each other a lot. We went on hundreds of dates. It was 1976. I proposed marriage. She accepted. I petted her hair. I kissed her. She kissed me back. I never stopped loving her. We went to a tavern. We had beers. We laughed. We kissed some more, and more, and more... We were going to get married that June.
But she left me in May.
I never knew where. I never knew why. She was gone. I cried. I cried. I cried. I never stopped loving her. I became Catholic. I became a priest. I would never love again.
And there she was. Walking down the aisle dressed in white. She's about to marry this man. This man whom I never met. And I must perform the ceremony. I never thought I'd meet her again. Much less like this. This is painful. I wonder if she recognizes me? She doesn't look too happy. I bet she recognizes me. Her steps toward me seem forced. I bet she recognizes me. I wonder what she's thinking? As she grows closer, her eyes avoid contact with mine. I never stopped loving her.
I never knew why she left me. Should I ask her?
Or perhaps this calls for something rash. Should I do something? Should I take her and leave? Should I grab her by the waist, jump through the stained-glass window and run away? Could we? We could.
She's crying. I never stopped loving her. The groom looks concerned and touches her back. He thinks it's his fault she's crying. She glances at him. Reassuringly.
I don't have to perform the ceremony. I don't have to marry them. If I don't, that would set her back weeks. I could show up at her doorstep with her favorite flowers (which were always daffodils) and tell her I don't care why she left me. I just want her to go with me now. We loved each other once. We could love each other again. We could get engaged again. Surely, she can't love that man now more than she loved me then. Impossible. One cannot reach beyond the infinite. I never stopped loving her.
I look at her finger. My engagement ring is not there. It is replaced with another.
"Dearly beloved," I say.
I am about to cry. I frown. She looks up at me. Her eyes are sad, too. But she smiles.