In Sickness and In Health by Jenna Galowich
“I, Jessie Anne Silvas, take you, Primo Joseph Santini, Jr., to be my husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.”
“And I, Primo Joseph Santini Jr., take you, Jessie Anne Silvas, to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.”
“You may now kiss your bride.”
Right before, Primo whispered to me so only I could hear him say “I promise to love you long after you are gone.” Neither of us could prophesize what the actual end result would be, but we knew how honest what we had vowed to each other was.
And it surely was a kiss to remember. Not that I will ever forget it, or him. Or the way his lips tasted like a mixture of his favorite Cuban cigar and wine. I can still see his mom staring at me from the pew as though she was a lion preying on its dinner. My mother and father are sitting in the same row as them, an awkward tension clearly filling the air. Out of every single little detail that I remember from that day though, the one memory that will always be etched in my mind is the promise he made me. There is not one moment that goes by where I do not replay those vows in my head.
In fact, those were the last words I ever said to him before he passed away that sad August day, years after our wedding. He could not even respond. All he could do was try to muster a smile. He didn’t have to say anything to me though, he told it to me through his love for me. It was all in the way he looked at me, like I was the only person to ever exist to him. When he lost his ability to speak, we communicated through the language of passion.
It is now nineteen, almost twenty, years later and I still have yet to find a man whom I love as much as Primo, a man who will love me as much as he did. It still does not feel like reality to me, it simply feels as though it is some nightmare that I’m just waiting to be woken up from. One day I will be woken up by him and held in his strong, yet soft and loving, arms. He will comfort me and tell me that it was all but a nightmare, and that I needn’t worry because he is there and he always will be. Then there is reality, which gives me a reality check: he is gone. He is gone, buried in the ground where he will remain for all of eternity.
I wake up on August 6, 2016 only to feel a pang in my heart. Today is the day, the twenty-year anniversary of Primo’s untimely death. I wake up and begin my daily morning routine of brushing my teeth and hair, and changing out of my royal purple satin nightgown into my clothes for the day. Although I honor my husband every single day, today is a special day. While I was looking through Primo’s old files a month ago, I found a key that opens the door to the red barn that we used to sneak into every night as teenagers. I thought that this must be some sort of sign, so I chose to patiently wait until the twentieth anniversary of his death to go and visit our secret getaway.
My maroon Chevy pulls up to the white picket fence that is meant to guard unwanted visitors from entering the property, but it didn’t scare me or hold me back. I got out of the car and stumbled past the fence with my cane and walked back towards the barn. The exterior walls and roof may have rotted and changed over time, but as soon as I entered the barn the feelings and memories came rushing back to me. After walking around for some time I noticed something strangely out of place below me. I looked down to the ground and saw a blur of black and white, but I could not quite make out who the figures in this photograph were and what they were doing due to my poor eyesight. As soon as I recognized who they were, tears started falling down my face like rain clouds on a stormy day. It was an old Polaroid of Primo and I enjoying a picnic he had set up in the barn. He was kneeling on his knees in front of me, my hands covering my mouth to hide the evident shock on my face. It was a Polaroid that was taken the day that we got engaged. On the back of the Polaroid was a note that read:
I assume that since you are reading this that you
found the key in my old file cabinet and decided
to come here for old time’s sake. I came back
here before I got really sick to leave this here in
the event that one day you came back for it.
Please don’t sit there and spend your life
grieving my death. I’d much rather prefer you
celebrate my life and my memory than mourn
the loss of me. I may be physically gone, but my
love for you is never lost. It is something that
exceeds physical means. It is something that
will last forever in your heart. I love you.
As I walked back out to my car, I looked to the sky and saw the most beautiful sunset to ever occur. The sun was setting, yet it left behind tones of pink and orange, with the clouds resembling pink cotton candy. The sun had set on yet another day, and I was ready to wake up the next day and start all over again.