As I slid into the water, shattering its quiet surface into a million little ripples, I became acutely aware of my body. I could feel hairs spring up on my legs where moments before had been nothing but waiting craters. The fat, wet drops cannon-balled into my pores, surrendering them to their icy touch. It was as if until this very second, I had never known my skin. I had never met a shiver or a goosebump, and had no idea who cold was.
The bath was only half-full—this was way too cold to be half-empty—and glistened from the dozen or so remaining ice cubes floating on top. The tiny icebergs zeroed in on my limbs, buoyed by my fear as they approached.
“Stop it stop it stop it! Stop being so cold!” I pleaded. “How am I supposed to do this for 20 minutes?!”
My mind snuck into other people’s houses, into their bathrooms, into their thoughts during an ice bath. Did it feel like a thousand mini skewers stabbing all over the place for them, too? Did they last the entire time without growing icicle beards on their frosty cheeks? And more importantly, why would they suggest I try this?!
I decided to retreat, but like a fly caught in a wine glass, couldn’t get back up over the edge. The slippery tub was too high for my run-weary ankles and knees, and a pair of frigid hands were no help. As I considered how bad, really, it’d be to forfeit into the fuzzy arms of my robe, I heard Fredo’s key turn in the apartment door.
Before I could get out another shiver, he was on the floor beside me, placing his hand in mind. “Take me through your run,” he said.
I detailed the size of each puddle, the steepness of every hill, and the malice of those Kamikaze rocks that had leapt under my feet, aiming straight for the blisters. As I spoke, I unwittingly sank deeper into the water, never loosening him from my grip.
When there was no more lower body to give, I froze. How could I sacrifice my arms and neck to the Arctic clawfoot I’d created in my bathroom? Putting my arms in would mean putting my hands in. And that meant Fredo’s would have to go in with me.
His warm gaze locked on my face, and with a shriek, I capsized. First arms, then chest, neck and hands. The water swallowed our knotted-up fingers whole, but he kept his eyes on me, never wavering.
I didn’t make it the full 20 minutes that day, but it didn’t matter. I had the support of the man I was going to marry. In that instant, I remembered no matter how many painful, scary situations—The Big Day, a new last name, joint tax forms— lie ahead of us in this next year, he’ll be there to hold my hand as we take the plunge, together.