But his memory is flawed. We had been living together barely a month when he suggested it, and it took me another month to agree. In my journal, I put my anxiety about that rock — and a relationship with a man 17 years younger – on paper.
Wednesday, July 22, 1992
My boyfriend wants to carve our names in stone, a prospect that has filled me with angst since he first suggested it a month ago.
Etched in stone? What if we break up?
Then we walk to the middle of the Cochecton-Damascus bridge and toss it into the Delaware River, he says.
We are living on the Delaware for the summer, having taken leaves from our jobs and pooling our possessions for the first time after a year and a half. This summer arrangement isn’t really “living together,” I have told him. It’s just that we’re taking an extended three-month vacation together.
But after almost two months, I cherish the routines we’ve established together. I like the sound of him in the next room. I love hearing the door slam and knowing it is him, coming home. Mostly alone in the woods, our worst fight has been over how to make chocolate chip cookies.
Still, I haven’t thought of this as permanent. Not that I’m looking to leave. I just haven’t dared to think that a relationship of two people separated by 17 years could last.
Are you still thinking I’ll leave you when you’re 67 and I’m 50? he asked this morning.
Actually, I worry it will happen sooner than that – say, when I’m 57 and he’s 40 (midlife crisis!) or when I’m 47 and he’s 30 (reality arrives at 30!)
But he has an equanimity about these matters. And although it signifies a commitment, carving our names in stone seems a natural step to him.
I’ve thought of this as permanent for a long time now, he says.
I have found all sorts of obstacles to throw at the idea. What if we don’t live together after the summer – who gets the stone? Will it have a hyphen? I don’t want a hyphen. Where will we put it? How big will it be? I want the perfect stone. I want it this way, or that way. I’m scared.
I’m scared you’ll carve our names in stone, and then you’ll leave, or I’ll leave and that stone won’t. You could throw it in the Delaware River, but – wouldn’t you know it – the water’s shallow there at the bridge and it would land face up. Or, worse, when the water runs low it would even be uncovered, and then I’ll have to wade out there and move it.
Michael doesn’t see all these pitfalls.
If it were wood you could burn it and the letters would be no more. With stone it would take eons to wear away. There is not enough silt and grit in all the Delaware to wear away those names in my lifetime. Maybe that’s the idea.
OK. But just the names. No hearts or any of that stuff. Just the names. And no hyphen.