The sound is familiar and I sit up straight in my uncomfortable chair. I’m at a café, sitting outside under the summer sky. The warm rays of the evening sun caress my shoulders, the wind is playing with my hair, and somewhere close by, someone is walking along, dragging a suitcase behind them.
The tiny wheels on asphalt make a sound I would recognize anywhere. It’s a sound that holds so many memories for me. Listening, I close my eyes and the warm Finnish summer becomes something altogether different.
The sweltering heat welcomes me as I step out of the airplane. I’m dressed for the Nordic climate and for the air-conditioned comfort of the plane, not for the Mediterranean sun. I take a deep breath, greedily breathing in the hot air rising off the black tarmac. I’m in Rome.
I turn around and grab M’s hand, laughing. His eyes are warm, and I can see that even though he seems calm and collected on the outside, he’s just as excited as I am. Together we make our way from the airport into Rome, his hand in mine. I lose my wallet with all my money and my credit cards in the darkness of the Roman subway, but we make new friends at the local police station.
A week is what we get. A week of eating pizza and pasta, admiring the architecture, walking on narrow streets and using Italian hand gestures to communicate with angry people on scooters. M and I have been together for 6 months, and hand-in-hand we’re climbing the Spanish Steps.
Back in the now, I blink and Rome is gone. A mere second has passed, and the sound of the tiny rubber wheels is getting closer. Such a distinct sound those wheels make, carrying their heavy load of summer memories.
I turn my face towards the sun, and suddenly it’s late May 2011. M and I have been together for 2.5 years now, and as I step off the airplane, I’m once again dressed for the Finnish spring and the cool climate of the airplane, but welcomed by a Mediterranean heat that leaves me gasping for air. M’s hand on the small of my back guides me down the stairs and safely into the ancient city of Athens.
Together we spend the days eating souvlaki and gyros, walking on marble cobbled streets, living and breathing ancient culture. As the dark clouds roll in over the city, we’re standing at Acropolis. M is in need of a haircut, and in the oppressing heat of the thunderstorm, I brush a damp lock away from his forehead. I love you, he tells me, where the ancient gods once stood.
Prague, perhaps? Our plane is delayed and M and I are spending the night in Stockholm, courtesy of Norwegian Airlines. Our complimentary meal doesn’t include wine, but I have some anyway while I listen to M tell me about his work. My foot brushes his under the table and work is forgotten.
We arrive the next day. It’s New Year’s Eve in Prague. My fingers are cold as I stand on the Charles Bridge with a thousand other people. M is at my back and I’m leaning against him in a sea of euphoric strangers. My attention is on the fireworks, my camera capturing the beauty of the moment, when I feel a light tug on my sleeve. I lower my camera and turn to look at M. Happy New Year, he whispers against my lips, and we’re the only people on the bridge.
A train takes us to Berlin. M is in his element in this well-structured and organized city, talking to people in German, eagerly showing me all the things he loves about it. I can’t help but fall in love with him again when he patiently teaches me the basics of the language. Rechts, I say, and he smiles at my pronunciation. We ride the subway across the city. We only have two days, but it’s enough. We’ll be married soon; we have a lifetime.
The woman with the suitcase looks over her shoulder and crosses the street. She’s headed toward the bus station, and as I look at my watch, I know that the next bus to Helsinki and the airport and new adventure leaves in six minutes.
It’s dark when we arrive, and though we look, we can’t really see anything. The air is saturated with the fragrance of tobacco and exotic spices, and we get on a bus headed south. Narrow mountain roads take us to our hotel, and we fall asleep, exhausted. When we wake up, it’s high summer in Turkey. The sun is bright and hot, the Aegean Sea is blue, and the diamonds on my new wedding ring sparkle. It’s our honeymoon, and M brings me cold drinks while I’m lounging by the pool. Never before have we experienced such a heat. We spend the days cooling off in the water, and even at night it’s too hot for skin contact. I brush my fingertips against his as we drift off to sleep.
It’s our last day in Turkey, and we spend it on a remote beach in Dalyan. Earlier in the day, we stood knee-deep in a pool of mud, and laughed at each other as we slathered the mud all over ourselves. Now we’re standing knee-deep in the Mediterranean Sea, one last time before we go back home. The waves are coming in tall and dangerous, and they’re getting more powerful by the minute. M has never seen anything like it before. The Archipelago Sea doesn’t have a temperament like this. I take his hand and together we dive under as the waves break over us. We’re in the middle of a whirling, frothy mass of water, so salty that my eyes hurt. We’re holding hands even as the water tries to break us apart. I’m not letting go, M says, and laughs at me when I tell him we’re going to become shark food. The power of the tide gets too strong, and we swim back to the safety of the beach. Under the Dalyan sun, my hair dries into a salty mess of curls. I hug my husband close, and he puts his arms around me. His skin tastes of salt and sun and the future.
At a café in Finland, the summer sun is mild and the nearby sea calm. The woman with the suitcase has reached the bus, and I watch as the driver hurries to her, gently takes the suitcase from her and lifts it on board. She joins him on the bus, and I think back to only a few weeks ago.
It’s midsummer in Finland. A rainy day, like every midsummer. All across Finland, people are celebrating, but M and I find ourselves on a plane. Below us is the United States of America. A place so full of life, brimming with diversity and dreams. M shows me around the streets of San Francisco. Together we meet new people, generous and kind, and we hold hands in the rain, our very own summer of love.
Our journey takes us east. In Denver we stand on top of the world. For a brief moment we touch the stars, and I lean into his embrace and just belong. We’re there for but a moment, but it was a moment to remember.
Further east, New York City is alive. Under the surface she’s simmering, fates are colliding and lives forever changed. I wear sundresses and pile my hair high on top of my head; M carries the umbrella. I point out the sights, and pretend to be lost so he can show me the way. Amidst good friends and strong drinks, M’s my constant. The anchor that keeps me from floating away on the tide that is New York City.
At a quiet café in Finland, I watch as the bus drives away. Across from me sits my husband, nursing a cold Pepsi Max.He’s looking at his cell phone and is deep in thought. I can tell that the sun is taking a toll on his fair skin. Today M and I have been married for a year. One year ago I stepped into the church, my shaky hand on my father’s strong arm and the wedding march from A Midsummer Night’s Dream signaling that something huge was going to happen. Everyone in the church stood for me, and as I spotted M down the aisle, I felt feather light in my two-ton dress.
I’ll never forget that feeling of rightness, of squeezing M’s hand and locking eyes with the minister, then with M.
And his soft eyes, the way his hair curled at the nape of his neck. His warm hand on my back, always touching me, as we walked into the reception hall. The wild white flowers on the tables, the laughter and the games. The beautiful speeches and the wonderful food. I kicked off my shoes and danced with my friends until the sun set, the carefully placed pearls falling from my hair and rolling across the floor, too beautiful and free and wild to stay confined.
So much has happened since then. So many decisions have been made. Change is in the air as I lean forward and steal the cookie from his plate. M pretends not to notice, and I smile as I lean back in my chair. Change is in the air, but as long as we’re together, we can do anything.
Jag älskar dig, M.
Grattis på bröllopsdagen.