Romeo and Juliet: The Sequel

Let’s indulge in a fantasy that Shakespeare’s final act of the now infamous tale of star-crossed Italian lovers was accidentally lost. What if it had really ended with a nighttime scene of them, lilting off into the countryside on horseback in secret, giggling gleefully at their cunning ruse? They would have stealthily slipped off into the Italian countryside to live a life of true love and happiness forever after.

 But what would have happened 30 years later?

Would we see an overweight, drunk, balding Romeo, pounding on the bathroom door waiting for Juliet to take four hours getting ready for the ball? Would we see 25 years of anger and resentment beading into tiny droplets of sweat as he looks desperately around the room for something to bludgeon her to death with, if only she could finalize the caking of her makeup over withered skin, sagging eyebrows and nagging voice reminding him to pay the servants?

Perhaps it would look less like “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe” and more like “On Golden Pond” as they celebrate three decades of American Gothic stoic love, draped in weathered gaiety, an unbroken circle of joy emanating between them like a Tesla coil even though the petals had long-since withered on that honeymoon bouquet.

Nobody, while lightly traipsing down that floral aisle, knows what the future holds. Weddings are full of promise and joy, but reality will always find a way to slip into the cracks and fester in the corners of fading optimism. The real work of the marriage begins when the honeymoon is over.

Last year, I attended a friend’s wedding in Sonoma and wrote an article about it, adorned with white lilies and hopes for the future. On their one-year anniversary, I caught up with them to ask them some questions and figure out how the reality of marriage stacked up to the fantasy of the wedding.

I found them in their backyard in Sonoma, cooking dinner. The smoke was wafting off the grill as one of the dogs quietly peed next to the vegetable garden.

 What were some of the biggest challenges in becoming a married couple?
Zakk: Well we live together, and we work together. I guess one of the hardest things for me is that I miss missing her. It’s bad to say, but it’s nice to be happy to see your wife when you get home after being away from her all day.
Alaina: For a while all we were doing was venting to each other about work when we got home from work. It got to be so ridiculous we created a rule that once we got physically away from work we just stop talking about it.

 How has being married changed your relationships with personal friends, mutual or otherwise?
Alaina: I think that I talk to my friends less, or at least I talk to certain friends more and certain friends less. And those friends always seem to get annoyed when I don’t.

 Are those the single friends?
Alaina: Yes, they are!
Zakk: Actually, a friend of mine was looking around the Town Square the other day and remarked that we are the odd ones out now that we don’t have kids.

 Is there anything that changed immediately after the wedding? Did you feel any different?
Zakk: Well, as you know we were both seriously social and independent people before we were together. We were like the rock stars of the community in that sense. But as soon as we were married things were different. It was more defined.
Alaina: I felt a lot more security almost immediately. Zakk is a musician and I always had a hard time letting him go play at bars and places, especially with the girls everywhere. But after being married I felt more comfortable letting him go out and play.
Zakk: I know and it’s as if now that I’m wearing this ring and we’re a couple…
Alaina: You’d better wear that ring.
Zakk: Everyone in the community knows that we’re a couple and if anything did happen everyone would know about it instantly.
Alaina: Now if I have to work early the next day and Zakk has a late show he sleeps in the guest room so he doesn’t wake me up and try to tell me a play by play of the entire night.
Zakk: I usually try to tell her anyway though.

 What are some of your coping mechanisms to keep things in sync?
Alaina: We like to cook together a lot. Doing something like that in unison gets us into a good synchronicity and we can work together on a common goal.
Zakk: I wasn’t much into cooking, unless you were really into Top Ramen, but Alaina really taught me a lot about preparing food and now I really enjoying doing it with her.

 What do you think it’s going to look like in 30 years?
Zakk: Well I know there will be babies. Damn, did I say babe…ies? As in plural? I hope they won’t be 30 years old by then.
Alaina: We definitely hear a lot of people ask us the question. Not “How are you doing?” but “when are the babies coming?” But I guess we can expect that.
Zakk: I think we’ll still be together, older, enjoying some wine together somewhere here in Wine Country in a house we own. Petaluma maybe?

 I have no doubt I’m going to do the follow-up in 30 years, and I will be ecstatic to recap it all with you.
With that I left them to their wine and dinner, having a gonzo-style deadline looming. I was happy to see that Romeo and Juliet, far from my apocalyptic scenario, had settled into a nice groove and were adjusting to the harmony of holy matrimony with much less resistance than I would have ever suspected. They seemed happier than ever, existing quite easily in a modern world that almost seems determined to make such a thing impossible.

 It’s so easy to allow cynicism to take hold, but when you see a relationship work really well, it’s like peering into the mechanics of a Swiss watch with every gear elegantly connecting the movement and energy between two unique individuals.

Of course, there are ill-fitting pieces in every piece of “relationship engineering.” But what makes us fabulously unique is our ability to re-form aspects of ourselves in order to mesh better with our partners.

So Happy Anniversary, Zakk and Alaina! One year down, 29 to go. VT

R. Chase is a local writer and surveyor of single life on the Bourbon Trail. Follow him on twitter at @_Rchase