When he put this ring on my finger, my skin was smoother, and more supple. My hand was thinner, and less freckled than it is now. When he asked me to marry him, he got down on one knee in front of the London flat where he had once lived, and where our love had blossomed—when we were both study-abroad college students living on Dunhills and half-pints of lager and takeaway curry fries, and falling outrageously in love with each other. On the night we got engaged, we lay in a hotel bed after too many pints and too much chicken korma at our favorite Indian restaurant, and after a delightful round of holy-fuck-we’re-getting-married sex. We hadn’t called anyone yet to share the news. We wanted to linger in this deliciously private status for another day or so. We were betrothed, and it was a beguiling secret. Months later, we bought our wedding bands from the same shop owner in New York City’s Diamond District where he had purchased my engagement ring. I picked out a plain, hand milled band formed from white gold. “She doesn’t want a fancy band,” the old man said to him. “She just wants you. She’s a keeper for life.” A few years ago, we sat together in a restaurant on West 16th Street. Friends were dying, our babies were entering middle school and high school, and our birthdays seemed to show up earlier each year. I said to him, “If my life ended right now, then you need to know that this was enough and you were enough and that we both know how much we were loved and that it meant absolutely everything.” As simple as the message seemed, I wasn’t sure I had made that clear to him, in the midst of fights and dishes and child-raising and so much else that can make a worn, lived-in marriage feel banal and common. He cried, took my hand and said, “I know,” and looked out the window to watch New York hurry past. I am afraid of aging and even more afraid that I won’t live long enough for the privilege—in no small part because I want more time with this man. I’m not even sure why I’m writing this, but I looked at my hand in disdain today, feeling so blech and old and ugly and unlovable—and remembered that I am none of those things to him. His love doesn’t define me, but Jesus—it has bettered me.
Kathleen McKitty Harris is a fifth-generation native New Yorker whose work has appeared at Sonora Review, Creative Nonfiction, Full Grown People, McSweeney’s, and The Rumpus, among others. Her essay, A Timeline of Human Female Development, was recently published in the anthology MY BODY, MY WORDS (Big Table Publishing, 2018). Kathleen has also performed as a storyteller at The Moth in New York City, and at the Listen To Your Mother live-reading series in northern New Jersey, where she lives with her husband, two children and irredeemable dog.