On the second day of our cruise around Norway, the CruiseCritic.com community hosts a “Meet and Greet.” Couple after couple introduce themselves. They all say where they’re from. Some say how many cruises they’ve taken. Others say how long they’ve been together.
When our turn comes, I say, “I’m Mark, and this is Clyde. After twenty-one years together, we’re finally getting married next month.”
There is no hesitation at all: the little group of thirty or so total strangers breaks out into spontaneous applause. They’re smiling and cheering for us. It’s a moment I didn’t expect.
Later, the same group meets for happy hour in the Crow’s Nest: a spacious lounge at the bow of the ship on the very highest level. Through the wrap-around windows, we can see nothing but silver sea and a chilly gray sky.
I’m sitting by Ken. He’s probably in his late seventies or early eighties. He is very tall, with lots of slicked-back, white hair and bright blue eyes. The conversation with him, his wife, and a handful of others is relaxed and easy to follow: you just say a word now and then, and you’re carried along, like a leaf on a river.
At one point, Ken leans over to me and says, “I just want to say a personal congratulations to the two of you.”
I smile. “Thank you, Ken.”
His blue eyes shine. “Just a few years ago, nothing like that would have been possible. Now, things are getting better every day.” He beams at me. “Isn’t it wonderful, Mark, how the world is changing?”
My heart is so full, I can barely speak. I nod in agreement.”Yes, sir. Yes, it is.”
His wife sits across from him; my husband-to-be sits across from me. The four of us, two couples, linger there together, staring out the windows at the vast and limitless expanse of the sea.