The Billboard that Made Me Sob

I was driving along a stretch of Roosevelt Street I rarely go to, but it was a necessary route on my mission to obtain Blue Ribbon paan masala (no betel nut) from an obscure international market. As I turned the car homewards, I was stopped at an intersection and noticed the large billboard to my right. In large letters it read, “Happy Anniversary to Deborah, my beautiful bride of 35 years!”. In the corner of the billboard was a tall man in a brown tuxedo, dark hair, long sideburns and a handlebar moustache. In front of him was a young woman wearing a bridal veil, a granny style wedding gown, her face glowing with happiness. It was a beautiful photo, taken straight from the 70s. And I thought to myself, “There is no way they look that good now, but that is how he still sees her.” At this point, the waterworks started.

I was reminded of a passage from Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking:

“… ‘you can love more than one person.’ Of course you can, but marriage is something different. Marriage is memory, marriage is time. ‘She didn’t know the songs,’ I recall being told that a friend of friend had said after an attempt to repeat the experience. Marriage is not only time: it is also, paradoxically, the denial of time. For forty years I saw myself through John’s eyes. I did not age. This year for the first time since I was twenty-nine I saw myself through the eyes of others. This year for the first time since I was twenty-nine I realized that my image of myself was of someone significantly younger.” p. 197


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