Photo by Shaira Dela Peña

Not much can prepare you for a life-changing event, not even if it comes in the shape of a programmed video call.

I tend to doze off in moments like these, try not to think too much of the meaningfulness of it all. I go into a safe space, trying to imagine something different. I pictured myself fixing my hair in front of a mirror, the window behind me slightly open, letting in a soft breeze that carries the faint smell of the orange blossoms from the garden. Our House from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young plays softly in the background. I take a deep breath focusing on Nash’s lovely voice, letting myself drift away…

“It’s TIME! Only five minutes to go for the call!” shouts my brother from the other room, forcing me out of my daydream.

My imagination, running wild thanks to the crippling anxiety, left me hoping for a sprinkle of magnificence that I wish this moment had, but I was nowhere close.

I’m sitting at my desk in my small flat in summer-soaked Berlin, Germany, eating cherries while my dog sits beside me, licking her paws, impatiently waiting for me to take her outside for all of her sniffing delights. Thousands of kilometres away is Santiago, Chile. Some snow has accumulated in the Andes already, a beautiful sight to catch during the early mornings when the sky is clear.

I give out a loud sigh and turn my computer on. I had two things to take care of before I joined the call: my physical appearance and the background. I used the screen reflection to put some makeup on and fix my hair quickly. The background was more important. Everybody is more curious to see what is going on in your house instead of staring at your face anyway, I figured. I added a few plants to make the place a bit more cheery; it was my wedding after all.

Yes, I was getting married, but it wasn’t a big deal. Surely, Zoom weddings were in a different category. “It is only paperwork, not much to worry about,” I repeated a few times over to myself like a twisted mantra. “If you want to join, you can, but don’t worry if you’re busy,” I had texted my family only hours before, keeping up with the blasé attitude. I didn’t even tell my friends. The situation was ridiculous and ironic but also extremely real, although I was swimming too deep in denial to notice.

I pressed the Join Meeting button.

“Hey! CAN YOU HEAR ME?!” yelled my fiancé. I could see his pixeled-self looking dazzling with a sharp navy suit, combed hair, and matching facemask. He was at the Civil Registry Office with his family. They were all dressed like this was the real thing. I was 10 seconds into the call when, after seeing my mother-in-law wearing a white dress no less, that it finally hit me. This was truly happening. I was a guest at my own wedding, watching it all happen through a 13-inch screen thousands of kilometres away. Was this even legal?

It still feels like yesterday when I first travelled to Chile. During the last night of the trip, my friend and I went to a bar to celebrate. After two extra-sugary cocktails, we were dancing and chatting our souls away. I stepped outside the bar for a moment for some air when I noticed a man with his back against the wall, casually smoking a cigarette. He had black, messy hair, a stubble of a beard, and wore large, squared-shaped glasses. He looked like a hot, mad scientist. I immediately gravitated toward him.

Family members started to join the call. My sisters joined; his cousins joined. I checked my background to make sure the plants looked good enough. It had taken us 10 years to get here, countless Skype calls, MSN messenger texts, YouTube links, Facebook wall posts, and now we were using Zoom to make the most important decision of our relationship, and arguably, our lives. I looked up for a second. I imagined God sitting on his couch with a bucket of popcorn, laughing while he watched over this particular scene. “Nice one,” I muttered with a smile. Of course, the classic long-distance millennial couple would end up marrying each other online.

He crossed the entire continent by bus three months after the night we met. Then we waited around 10 months to meet again, saving up the little that we had as college students, taking turns visiting each other. Our relationship grew with the distance, slowly building a solid foundation out of the constant, open communication we needed to make it last.

Living in two different countries eventually did become too painful to handle. Although life and its complications got in the way, we still managed to find each other again years later when we both coincided in Paris. It felt like we had paused our story for a while but now could finally witness its ending, or its new beginning. We went for the second option. We moved back to Latin America, this time to the heart of the Andes: Cuzco, Peru. The long-distance was finally behind us, or so we thought.

“You can come in now,” said the lady of the Registry Office. My fiancé gave his phone to an uncle who would be doing the filming. The lady indicated where he could get the best filming angle, making it clear this was not the first, nor the last, Zoom wedding she was officiating. “Are you ready?” she asked my fiancé. He nodded. “Let’s begin then,” she said. My hands started to shake.

This was the polar opposite of the wedding we had in mind when we got engaged. The plan was to move to Berlin and have a ceremony there. I would go first to settle in and start my new job, and he would come later with our dog. Being together would prove too much to ask for in 2020. The world as we knew it changed, and no plan could save us from facing the dreadful distance again.

It would be eight months until we saw each other again. It was heartbreaking. We were our own little family already. We were experts in long-distance, but the uncertainty of the pandemic cut deep. No one can tell you how lonely it is to live in an apartment that was meant for two.

We knew how to wait patiently, though, and kept busy looking for ways to be together again. The Love Is Not Tourism campaign that came into effect in Germany in August allowed us to be together for three months. In the meantime, we evaluated our options for him to come back with a long-term visa. We only had one choice: We needed to get married as soon as possible. With the borders closed and limited travel options, the only solution was to get married long-distance. I granted my mother-in-law a special power so that she could represent me, and thank goodness she agreed.

“Will you accept Jerónimo as your husband?” the lady asked. I stared blankly for a second or two before realising she was facing the camera. To my surprise, she was expecting me to answer that question. I wasn’t just a guest anymore; I was an active participant. No, I was a protagonist! My House started playing in the back of my mind as my heart beat faster. I lingered for a moment before I smiled wide and said, “I do, I do!” That second was one of the happiest moments of my life, although I am sure I looked like a maniac smiling like that with my face only inches away from the screen.

We got married over a 15-minute Zoom call. It was not part of the plan, but it ended up being just right, a sprinkle of magnificence.

When I said, “I do,” I realised we were living our own perfect, quirky story. Our wedding was a testament to all that we had overcome and the willingness we both have had to be together, despite the difficulties. It was a celebration for all of our years of talking and dreaming of being together again. It was a celebration of patience, a celebration of love. I was extremely lucky to find him 10 years ago that night. I now get to call the man that has travelled all over the world for me my husband, and I cannot be more thankful. It did not matter if it was an online wedding; it just proved that nothing, not the distance, and not even a pandemic, could stand in our way.

As I wait for my husband to cross the ocean once more and finally come back home, I think of how many other countless couples are in a similar situation. We are not alone in our struggle; COVID-19 has affected all of us in one way or the other. But I like to believe this moment will go down in time as one more chapter we will tell our children about and recall it as a moment in our lives when reality taught us more about resilience and the triumph of love than any fiction could ever do.

Marcela Munoz

About Marcela Munoz

Marcela is an emerging writer living in Berlin. She is also an activist, academic, and avid reader of philosophy and literature classics. Although she dedicates most of her time working for charitable causes, her passion for writing is now taking her to publish more of her creative work.

Marcela is an emerging writer living in Berlin. She is also an activist, academic, and avid reader of philosophy and literature classics. Although she dedicates most of her time working for charitable causes, her passion for writing is now taking her to publish more of her creative work.

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