“Just one bite, c’mon!” I wave the ambrosial cupcake toward you, knowing you can’t not get a whiff of the peanut butter frosting.
“I don’t want it.”
“Come on.” I know I’m nagging, but I’m also doing you a favor.
You take a bite, probably just to shut me up.
“Very. Do you want another?”
“Hmm....” In seconds, I conduct a cost-benefit analysis of such fleeting pleasure versus the high amounts of what’s certainly white flour and white sugar. Besides, my jeans are already tight. “I obviously want one but obviously shouldn’t….”
“I thought calories don’t count on birthdays?”
“True, true! You’re so smart—now I remember why I date you!” That I’d taught you that biological anomaly on the train a few hours ago serves as testament to both the quality of my memory and of your attentiveness. “Hmm, let’s find something at the Weihnachtsmarkt.”
You tighten your arm around me, not knowing that the gesture is enough to turn the unforgiving winds into the steady, innocuous breathing of newborns, as we head toward the towering, late-gothic cathedral for the first market. As a Christmas addict and a market addict (farmer’s, super-, I don’t discriminate), I could think of no better place to turn 30—although you said we could go anywhere in the world—than Strasbourg, a city with five main Christmas markets and eleven smaller ones. You do the math.
Everything here is so perfect (not just the city, but also our meals, the hotel room, our energy) that it makes it hard to doubt the existence of a God who wants nothing but bliss for his children. Even the short walk to the cathedral is doused with Christmas: giant, glittering stars with angel wings on each side hang every few meters overhead; illuminated outlines of trumpet-playing angels grace the walls of the low, tightly packed medieval houses; even the streetlamps present themselves with poinsettia-colored bows.
Snow starts to fall, and I can’t help but laugh at the thought of reality bending to please me, self-sacrificing in its metamorphosis into a snow-globe. I glance upward, trying to catch snowflakes on my tongue, and notice a three-story building with at least twenty identical, cream-colored teddy bears hanging from the windowsills. The building is painted in the same muted hue, allowing for an elegant pop of green and red: each windowsill covered in mistletoe, and a bright red, oversized Christmas tree bulb laying at the foot of each bear. It should’ve all been tacky, absurd, at best a comical commentary on societal distortion of a “holy day.” But somehow, the idea—too childish in nature, too adult-like its precise execution (one bulb per bear, all bears equidistant), came together. An artist would’ve thanked the color scheme and symmetry, but a narcissistic dreamer saw God, the painter, adding elements (a perfectly-textured macaron here, a perfectly-unexpected kiss there) to his work in progress, “The Perfect Day.” One of those days so perfect that you don’t cynically expect something bad to happen to cancel out, or at least infuse some reality into, the good; rather, you’re as confident as a roulette player on a hot streak, convinced that the laws of probability have graciously taken repose.
If the snow had been the final touch, it already would’ve been a work of art to revisit under any pretense—daydreams during never-ending meetings, sweet thoughts before surrendering to sleep, an anticlimactic story (well, more of a scene) that you tell your friends now and your children later. But He wasn’t ready. The hours passed in a blissful blur of sensory overload. The gleeful garbling of passerby, the high-pitched exclamations of wide-eyed children, the smell of roasted marshmallows, candied almonds, too much perfume, the sickly-sweet marzipan and festively bonbons, all washed down with orange-infused gluhwein, the refreshing snowdrops landing on my forehead, nose, cheeks (“Here’s an eyelash, make a wish.” My wish has always been and always will be you), the sparkling lights from all directions, artificial neon signs and bulbs and Moravian stars inside the stands, manmade snowflakes and stars above, cosmic ones even higher, a smattering of diamonds accompanying the pale crescent moon against a velvet sky as she blesses the huddled hopefuls lighting votive candles in one of the cathedral’s nooks, praying for a brighter, more permanent light, praying for—
“Andie,” you pause before the cathedral’s main entrance and look square at me. Something shifts in the air and I hold my breath. My eyes trace you— silhouetted by snowflakes and gleaming Christmas lights— and follow as you drop down on one knee and pull out that turquoise box that I’ve dreamt of for so long.
I exhale into tears, crying and nodding, wondering if this is even happening, as you try to speak over me, but you can’t because you’re crying, too, and we’re both made fools by our emotions. But oh, what happy fools! You stand and slide it on my finger— this glittering symbol of our future together, the unending circle that continues forever. We’re laughing, and we’re hugging, and we’re happy. Happy fools, high off life and love and the certainty that comes with the same delusional foresight that makes the gambler pause—for dramatic effect, never caution—glance around, and push all his chips onto Red.