In the hallways of Manhattan’s High School of Art & Design, New York City, 1989, I saw a vision of a beautiful young girl with a gypsy aura and steel blue cat’s eyes. While walking in trance like rhythm, I bumped into a wall and lost her. I remembered her only as cat woman and was immediately enamored.
She quietly found her way back into my sight while hanging out with a click of girls that loved to tease me. After some time, she handed me a silly note, and for the next year we exchanged love letters and yet we barely spoke.
In one of those letters we philosophized about the meaningfulness of our union; how every event that took place over our lives led us to each other. I was born in Montevideo, Uruguay and arrived in Queens, New York in the early 1980’s. Her mother came in from Puerto Rico while her dad came in from Ireland, meeting each other and raising her in Manhattan’s upper neighborhood of Washington Heights.
Our interest in the arts prompted us to apply for an art high school in New York, and we met the same year we began our attendance at Art & Design. Our relationship would not begin until the following year.
Our love was young, magical, snow white and poetic. We were powerfully attracted to each other and we shared a dreamy mysticism filled with rubies, art, poetry, wine and roses. On the other hand, I was a greasy long haired metalhead with torn fake leather pants and a bad influence. The immaturity of my youth badly ended our relationship.
Years later and after an awkward run-in to each other at an East Village thrift shop, I felt I could no longer contain my loss of her and tried to reconnect with her through a letter. She eventually replied, in a relationship and allegedly engaged.
But this time we were developing a friendship. Strongly attracted to each other yet physically distant, we shared a deep emotional connection as we journeyed through New York’s nightlife and art scene of the early to mid 1990’s. A relationship I entered while she vacationed in Puerto Rico distanced our relationship, but only moments before she announced her breakup and feelings for me.
The final story, three years later: I was in my Astoria, Queens apartment running late. For weeks I had worked on a project at a New York fashion retailer, setting up the visual display for a runway show that was being filmed by VH1 that day. I called my boss to let him know I was running out of my home, but instead a young lady answered. I apologized and hung up the phone. I called my boss again, and again this sweet voice answered the phone, only this time she answered, “Claudio?”
That call started a series of telephone conversations, and within weeks I broke up with my ex, lost forty pounds and started seeing her casually before we entered into a committed relationship. Initially, our relationship was fast and powerful - releasing pent up feelings that spanned a decade.
As we dated, she supported my art career and watched me pour everything I owned and even more that I borrowed into my pursuit. After losing it all, 30 grand in debt and quitting my job, she thought I was crazy but stood by me. I promised her that when I cleared my debt I would take her to Vegas, and she stuck around - I say it was the trip - she says she believed in me.
18 months, 1 week and 1 day later, I was debt free and had enough money for Las Vegas. After a wild trip, we got back home and I immediately started saving for an engagement ring. That February 14, 2003, I rented a room at Times Square’s Marriott Marquis, took her to dinner at their rotating restaurant, and proposed to her that evening. She said yes! The next day we struggled to leave Manhattan while caught in a mob during the city’s biggest anti-war demonstration.
We saved and bought our first home at the end of the year. We began our marriage in July of 2004 and enjoyed our newly wed year traveling to our favorite vacation spots. In 2005 I started a new career drawing technical industrial maps for submission to the Department of Environmental Protection.
The very next year, we were catapulted into parenthood when the Administration for Children’s services called me with concerns over my mother, and within two months we were raising my six year old sister!
Our marriage continued with hardships as we prematurely lost our first baby to a miscarriage, but bounced back with the miraculous birth of our baby boy in 2007.
By 2008 we lost a bunch during the housing crash while trying to sell our tiny suburban home in New Jersey, but got a fantastic deal on a mountainside estate in Pennsylvania, bringing in my mother in law to stay in her own attached apartment.
In March of 2009, we delivered our own daughter under urgent circumstances in a New Jersey hotel room - it was one of the most significant moments in our marriage and personal human experience. She is the baby of the bunch and is a magical, sweet and precious young woman.
In 2010 we celebrated our sixth year anniversary with a beautiful home, three amazing children and a life that exhibited moments of true bliss, coupled with financial challenges during the sinking of our economy and ultimately leading to my current unemployment.
Edit - Now, 2012, I'm happy to report that I've been working for over 1.5 years and my wife has stayed home with the kids. Though times continue to be tough, we continue to pull through with mutual love and strong hope and aspiration.
And even during these tough times, we laugh together, hold our children tightly with pure affection and true love, express genuine affection for each other and celebrate our marriage for the good things we’ve done with our lives.
I often experience feelings of vulnerability and self doubt, but my wife always expresses a genuine belief in me that makes me feel like I can bounce back. And as long as she continues to believe in me, I’ll always continue to believe in myself.
Over the years, for better or for worse, we always felt that our union had the power to influence the world. It may have been the intoxication of a mutual desire, but as far back as I can remember we always worked great together. Back in my Astoria apartment, we would sit at a round table over drinks and music planning our lives; how to buy the house and how much to save, how many children, business ideas that would free us from employers - and even big dreams like harnessing energy and illuminating the sun.
We sometimes feel like our marriage had a hand in influencing the housing crash and the economic downturn, and this time we’re trying to bend the path by introducing self reliance, self employment and continuing success. In addition, we’re doing our best to radiate true love, guidance and wisdom to our children so they can in turn be a positive influence over the universe.
Whether our marriage succeeds in accomplishing these goals or not, we always felt in our hearts, as we do today, that our marriage and union is as powerful as the nuclear fission of ten thousand suns!