Andy was 21, Auli was 19.
It was not Andy she had come to New York for. Auli had met another young American man during a summer jazz festival in Finland. The man had invited her to visit New York. He was living in a loft apartment together with his business partner, a young photographer called Andy.
Andy and Auli fell in love. They began a trans-Atlantic romance. That meant writing letters. International telephone calls were expensive at the time. You had to say the things you wanted very quickly.
Auli spent three summers in New York. In 1984 she and Andy got engaged.
Andy was a New York boy. He was starting a career as a magazine photographer. His life was busy. He was photographing famous people and his photos were published in newspapers and magazines like Village Voice and The Rolling Stone.
Auli had grown up in a small town on the west coast of Finland. She was adventurous, yes, but compared to Andy she was a country girl. After graduating from high school she had started university studies in a small town in Eastern Finland. She was studying to become an English and textile craft teacher.
Andy’s loft and studio were located in Mid-Manhattan at the corner of the 6th Avenue and the 26th Street. Auli did not particularly like New York. It was exciting, but it was also dirty and noisy, and even dangerous at times.
At nights she was listening to the sirens of police cars and ambulances. It was often difficult to sleep.
They were planning to get married. Andy was encouraging Auli to find work in fashion industry in New York. But Auli could not imagine herself in the New York fashion scene. It was too tough, too competitive, and full of weird people she could not deal with.
Back at home things were straightforward and felt secure. She would graduate and get a job as a teacher in secondary schools.
It would be foolish to abandon such a secure and sensible career.
She got cold feet, and called off the wedding. The romance was finished.
That was in 1986.
Two years later Auli got married to a Finnish man. Andy was heartbroken. He thought he would never see her again.
He moved from New York to California. He was hoping he would meet someone like Auli there.
He had gotten well-known photographing some of the most famous musicians in the world, like Michael Jackson, Neil Young, Patti Smith, and Bob Marley. Now he was taking portraits of rising entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley.
Later there would be his personal photo projects, too. He was getting recognition as a photographic artist. Museums were buying his work for their collections.
He had relationships. The women were very nice and interesting. But he never married. He never had children.
He never met anyone quite like Auli.
There were times when he would try to find her. He would google her up. But the Internet knew of no one with the name Auli Sookari.
What he didn’t know was that she had taken her husband’s surname when she married.
In July 2015 Andy flew to Hawaii. His photographs were being exhibited there, 18 large colour prints beautifully lit.
He had turned 56. His new photos examined the strangeness of the art world: dealers, gallery patrons, museum guards, people in galleries with their cell phones.
It happened that two people from Finland, a man and a woman, came to see his photographs. Life is like that, a series of random encounters.
Andy told them that he almost married a Finn once.
”Oh!” they said, quite excited. You must find her. Have you tried Facebook?
Back in the hotel room he opened his laptop. He signed on Facebook, clicked the search bar and typed her name.
And there she was. Pixels on the computer screen.
She was 54 now. She had recently divorced and thus had begun using her maiden name again. She was living in Helsinki and was training future teachers in the University of Helsinki.
On his laptop Andy was glancing through her Facebook pictures. He was searching photos of her husband, her children, her grandchildren. There were none.
Oh my god, he thought. How could I blow this 29 years ago.
They met in Ravello, Italy, the next summer. It’s such a beautiful place, the coast of Amalfi. Auli was spending her summer vacation there.
It had been 29 years since they last met. That’s when they were planning to marry, back in 1986, the Reagan era.
One, two, three... six... sixteen... twenty-six... Twenty-nine long years. Now those numbers were running backwards. Twenty-nine... twenty-six... sixteen... six... Three, two, one.
There they were, in the beginning, again.
Andy told Auli how he had lost his younger brother some ten years earlier. He told her he had taken up gardening.
She told him how she had lived in Nepal, Laos and India, and in Indonesia, too.
She felt like she had met a dear old friend. She thought he was not much different now than when he was 20, only he had calmed down and was more relaxed.
He felt like they were just picking up were they left off in 1986. She was thinking one does not change that much.
They travelled together in Italy for three weeks. Then Auli flew to California to visit Andy, and Andy flew to Finland to visit Auli.
And then they were married, in California, in October 2016.