I have a very important anniversary coming up. The 24th of July was when my husband and I went on our first date. It was nothing very romantic. We sat just outside the Engineering canteen at NUS eating soupy noodles from plastic bags, and he listened to me patiently as I railed at him about the repressive power of culture. That day is even more significant to me than my wedding day, because it was the first time I knew what it meant to be cherished. Here was someone who saw me at my aggressive worst, dressed in scruffy jeans and t-shirt, slurping from a plastic bag, spouting naive nonsense. And yet looking at me softly, indulgently. Two days later he told me he wanted to marry me. Again no violins and fancy preparations. Just a quiet declaration of honourable intent.
That whole first week stands out for me in my memory, even though it happened so long ago. I remember every single thing we ate, every outfit I wore. I remember that at the end of the week, I was to meet him at 7.30 on Orchard Road. I told the folks at home that I was meeting my friends at Holland Village (I hadn’t told them about the guy in my life for various complex reasons that I won’t go into here) and had minor cardiac arrest when they insisted on driving me there. It was sweet of them, even though it wasn’t where I really needed to go (though they weren’t to know that of course). From Holland Village, it took me ages to get a cab to Orchard Road. And when I finally did get one, there was a huge traffic jam along Orchard Road. I don’t remember how far away from our meeting point I was when I finally decided that sitting still was killing me slowly. I paid the cab driver, jumped out of the cab and raced down the sidewalk, heart pounding, hoping against hope that he would still be there. He was. Even though it was an hour after 7.30. As I sweated and apologised, expressing my fear that he might have left, he said something that captured my heart more than any diamonds could have done: “I will always wait for you.” It wasn’t just the words. He had proved it with his actions. That night he kissed me for the first time, and my life was transformed.
Every couple in love tells each other: “I will always love you”, “I will want you forever”. They use various terms of endearment like “baby”, “darling” and “sweetheart”. When we are in the NOW moment, it seems as though forever is a given. But anyone who has ever had a broken heart will know that promises made in the heat of the moment mean little. When someone says “I love you always” they really mean “I love you NOW”. Forever takes time.
If you want to know how much a man loves you, it is all the little things in between now and forever that you must take into account. When he braves encounters with your family because he thinks you’re worth it, when he waits ages for you to make up your mind about something, when he calls you during the day just to tell you what he is doing because he knows you think about him, when he teaches your children how to express their love for you, when he goes out of his way to protect you from all the things you fear, when he reveres you as a mother yet gets turned on by the way you look in a certain dress, when he urges you to follow your dreams, when he takes your every wish as his command, when he actually likes to hear the things you have to say, when he holds your hair back while you throw up because of morning sickness, when he massages your feet just because you like it, when he gets angry with people who hurt you, when he gets the car serviced because he is going to be travelling and he doesn’t want you to get stuck somewhere…
That is when you know he loves you. It happens between now and forever. I don’t know if I can do a mad sidewalk dash again, but I know I don’t have to. Between then and forever, I have learned to trust that he will always wait for me.