When I was in grade school I liked to play secret agent. I was Napoleon Solo and my friends were Ilya Kuryakin, James Bond, and other such notables. Our games usually involved lots of racing around, swinging from tree limbs, and vanquishing invisible foes.
The other boys liked to pretend that they were single-handedly breaking into the underground headquarters of a generic evil genius bent on world domination, blasting the whole shebang to kingdom come, and escaping unscathed (just barely). But I tended to come up with more elaborate scenarios.
I liked to pretend that Napoleon Solo, while on a top secret mission to Venice, falls in love with a beautiful Russian agent. Together we renounce both of our homelands and flee into the night, pursued by paranoid spymasters. Against all odds we escape and live happily ever after in some inconspicuous Portuguese fishing village.
I guess I've been looking for that beautiful Russian agent all my life. For the last few years you all have endured page after page of "voice card sex" (as Drury calls my melancholy ponderings). I've looked high and low and gone through many changes. But when Betsy opened that door on a soft Wednesday evening, my long search was over. And in the twinkling of an eye I changed forever from a searcher into a finder.
I like to think of it as "coming inside." Looking for love always felt to me like standing in the rain. Sometimes the rain was sweet. Sometimes the wind was in my hair and I was as wild as a tiger. Ultimately, though, I would wind up with my nose pressed against the glass while somewhere inside a hearth fire glowed.
Now I am one of the indoor people and everything is different. Sometimes I stand at the window and look out, but I am not wistful. I simply smile at what was and turn back into the waiting arms of my Russian agent. I have never doubted for a moment that my future is with her.
So in a few short days we will take our vows and officially start our life together. For me the best part of the whole absurd, over-complicated weekend, other than Betsy herself, will be that so many of my friends were able to make the long and expensive journey to Indiana. Half of Archipelago will be there in person, and the other half in spirit. The most profound thing Betsy and I have in common is the importance we place in friendships. And now our two wide circles of friends have joined hands and become one extraordinary circle.
Thank you all for your generous presents, your steadfast patience, and all the shelter you have given me over the years. I owe you all a debt of gratitude. And special thanks to my best friend, Betsy. Because of you I will return from South Bend a better man.