Carlo Alcos finds that only in hindsight is the truth plainly obvious.
It’s 6:34 p.m. The sun is moving towards New Jersey; soon it will be sinking behind the skyscrapers, creating a sunset scene that I know is cliche, but will take photos of anyway. There’s a four-piece jazz band playing in the Hudson River Park, comprised of a keyboard player from Spain, a double bass player from Connecticut, a drummer from New York, and a harmonicist from France. A steady, refreshing breeze is blowing from the west, rustling the long, uncut grass that is providing a soft cushion for the concert-goers.
Some are couples resting in each others’ laps; there are singles lying down, heads propped up on their backpacks; a burly cyclist in spandex shorts catches a nap on the long benches that line the walkway, his shiny red shoes hanging off his handlebars.
Airplanes and helicopters intermittently fly overhead, adding to the city din of boats in the water and car traffic in the distance. The Statue of Liberty is in clear sight. It feels quintessentially New York. If there was a postcard that could capture sound and ambiance, this is the one you’d want to send to your grandmother.
Yvonne and I are sitting on one of those long benches, listening to the last of the band’s songs. They finish their set, but are pressured back on by the crowd’s encouragement for an encore. The drummer switches his kit for the microphone and starts to sing a song, backed by the band. The song is called Solitude, by Ella Fitzgerald.
In my solitude you haunt me
With reveries of days gone by
In my solitude you taunt me
With memories that never die
I sit in my chair
Filled with despair
Nobody could be so sad
With gloom ev’rywhere
I sit and I stare
I know that I’ll soon go mad
In my solitude
Dear lord above
Send back my love
I feel the tears welling up, hidden behind sunglasses. I look to the sky to keep them from falling out of my eyes. They couldn’t have picked a worse song. Or maybe it was perfect. Too perfect.
Earlier that day we were sitting on a different bench, in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Yvonne had already expressed her wish a few days prior; she wanted us to go our separate ways. After the initial shock, I came to understand the reasons, and I even realized that she was right. We needed to be alone to re-learn our independence and to figure out how to be happy without relying on each other.
“You know, I never wanted to get married,” she tells me. It’s not the first time she’s said that in our four years of marriage, but it’s the first time that I see she really means it. We flashback together to different points of our relationship before the wedding, playing the “hindsight is always 20/20” game. There was the Thanksgiving weekend we spent together holed up in a rustic log cabin in the woods. We had been dating for about three months at that point. It was supposed to be romantic: a roaring fire, hot chocolate, big blankets, isolation. It was the worst four days of our relationship. We fought over nothing. And everything.
It was break-up bad, but for some reason we stuck it out and kept pushing forward. We eventually moved in together. We were in love.
“We should have ended it right there,” she says. “Probably,” I reply.
Almost two years after the cabin incident, things got rough again. Only this time I did what any other rational person would have done with a relationship in jeopardy: I asked her to marry me.
“Yes,” she said, sitting on a bed strewn with red rose petals.
—Photo by Carlo Alcos