Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Wedding (A story)

"We have set a date for our wedding,” Ana tells me excitedly and opens the menu she’s been holding for a while. Nothing comes out of my mouth. The obvious, appropriate thing to say now is: “Congratulations”. It’s not coming out. Instead, I am speechless, almost motionless. I told her less than a week ago that she should break up with her boyfriend. How can I go from advising a break up to praising a marriage?
“These are the types of things that happen to me for giving drastic advises when I should have kept quiet,” my brain insists.
“How could I have held it in? Those were special times that required decisiveness?” my conscience corrects me.
“Really?” I ask Ana instead.
“Yes,” Ana beams.
She giggles and goes into subtopics. She talks about how much of a mission it’s to stick to a budget and how much they need to save if they want to be married by December of next year. She also mentions Alex and how he has been extremely efficient, researching salons’ prices and the cost of dinner courses. This Friday, she plans to start calling churches to set up the date and time of the ceremony. Supposedly, you need to do that in advance.
“Thank God the pressure is off me,” I tell myself.
I’m happy she is concentrated in the conversation and doesn’t have eyes to notice my distraught, nor the disbelief grimace I’m trying to wipe out of my transparent countenance. I look at her calmly; while she's talking. She almost seems happy. How can that be possible? Where does she hide all her fears and doubts, the resentment and guilt? Or maybe she doesn’t have any. She hasn’t dyed her hair. I can say that for sure, unlike other things. Her black roots make a stark contrast with the blonde ponytail.
“Alex’s parents are going to help us; you know? We can’t do this by ourselves,” she adds.
His family has played a role in more than just this wedding's cost, I think to myself. They are one of the anchors holding her still. And I learned that the moment she asked me:
“How can I tell his family the truth? They are already my family. I love his brother. My parents and his parents spend Christmas together. I don’t have the courage to back up now."
At this point, we were riding our bikes around the neighborhood and I had to refute her.
“I know. It’ll be hard in the beginning, but you’ll hurt them more in the long run. You should think of Alex. Just think of him. Yes, you’ll hurt him but you might hurt him even more by not breaking up now. If that’s not enough, think of yourself. You shouldn’t settle down, shouldn’t sacrifice your life or give up your happiness in the name of someone else’s happiness. Most likely, he’ll be as unhappy as you’ll be.”
“His parents said their weeding gift would be our honeymoon!” Ana tells me while flipping the pages of the same Thai menu.
And I think about how hard it must be to have people treating you nice, when you are trying to leave them. They practically force you into loving them. Then, you do but not in the exact way they seem to demand from you.
“What places do you have in mind for the honeymoon?” I inquire.
“Paris, Italy, Spain, we don’t know yet… But Susan, regardless of whatever might happen, I’m going to need your help. I have to do many things. I still have time; I mean, it’s next year but there’s still a lot to do… Oh, finally, here is our waitress.”
There is nothing like food to ease all kinds of worries, the stomach and the soul’s. I ordered a Pla pao, also known as Thai grilled fish. Ana hadn’t tried Thai food before, but she ended loving the hotness and spice of it, just like I had predicted it. She ordered spicy chicken with vegetables. While we ate mouthfuls of fried rice, we talked about the appropriate food to serve at the wedding banquet and my mind kept on wandering all the time.
I was astounded at how fast everything had happened, in front of my eyes, but almost imperceptible. First, the doubts and questions that increased with the passing of months, then the rippling effects.
I remember the day Ana voiced first revelation.
“I don’t think I am in love with Alex, anymore. I mean. I don’t think he’s as much in love with me, either. We both have changed.”
“Are you sure he's not in love?” I asked her, “You might have changed, but he looks to me like he hasn’t.”
“He does,” she tried to sound convincing. "He does have change." I thought she was trying to make herself feel better by projecting her feelings on Alex. In my opinion, Alex was extremely loyal and wonderful with her.
“No, Susan, he doesn’t look at me the way he used to. We don’t look into each other’s eyes and know what each one is thinking, anymore. In fact, I don't know if that ever happened to us. The other day I asked him to pretend we didn’t know each other and start talking as if it were our first time together. He didn’t want to. We’ve lost something, we’ve lost that which I can’t describe.”
When I heard this I was shocked, I would never ask my boyfriend to start all over again, as if we hadn’t known each other. I kind of understand the idea of the chase and the conquest and the romantic aspect of reminiscing past times. Yet, I wouldn’t like to undo and forget all the way I had walked by my partern's side. Then again, I was never uncomfortable enough with our relationship to the point of make believe we didn't each other. Ana and I had different circumstances.

Her second confession came over the phone.
“The thing is that I’ve been with this guy,” Ana whispered to me from her office. “What we have is something beautiful, so, so beautiful and pure, I can’t describe it. I just have to look at him and he’ll know what I’m thinking. I don’t even say a word. It’s like he knows me. And he’s smart, sensitive, a good person.”

Due to that and much more, I ask myself now, at this moment, in which Ana is looking at me over her Thai food. Why didn’t she stop the affair after the afternoon we rode our bikes around the block. That afternoon I told her that she was going to find someone to love and be loved by; even when she insisted that no-one would love her as much as Alex did.
“Why does that matter, Ana? What matters is that you love passionately, intensely, sometimes to love is more fun than to be loved,” I tried to make her reason. But nothing.
“I can’t hurt him,” Ana had argued. “I mean, I love him, we have grown together. We’ve been together since I was 17 and he was 16. It’s been six years. I love him. He is my soul-mate. I can’t do that to him. He’s my life, Susan. He is my life.”

He is her life. It’s hard to understand it, but all those variables could be possible in this equation. The day we rode our bikes, Ana and Alex were boyfriend and girlfriend. I thought it wasn’t late to break-up the commitment. The day she called me from work and confessed me her unfaithfullness (and not just in her thoughts); they had gotten engaged already. I thought her time was running out and she needed to have courage to break it. The situation was unraveling, but she could gain back control of her life.
“But how do I break the engagement, Susan?” She had asked me over and over. No matter how good or bad my advises were, she never broke it.

Now, while we share my favorite Thai dessert, of doughnuts floating on a condensed milk lake, the question I ask her is:
“Would you rather marry and then get a divorce, than break-up this engagement now?”
“For what, Susan and for who? Richard is too old, anyways. He’s 48; I’m 24. There is no future for us. He’s married; he has kids. He called me today. And he said he was sorry for interrupting my life. He said he knew I had plans and a boyfriend and he shouldn’t keep on calling and getting into my business. He loves me, Ana. I know he does. And I love him, too, but we can’t be together. That’s just the way it is and there’s nothing we can do about it. It’s weird, ‘cause on the weekends I try to decompress. I try to fall in love with Alex. I cook for him. We spend the days together. We go and do everything together. Then, Monday comes, I see Richard at work again and he drives me crazy.”
After a couple minutes of silence, I reply to that:
“Maybe Richard is not your final destination, but just a catalyst, a wake-up call to push you into doing the drastic change you need to make in your life. I get the feeling that he’s not the one. He is just the signal to let you know that Alex isn’t the one either.”

Ana started to cry; she had hidden the fears and the guilt. They had been hidden, but there. I asked the waitress for tour bill and helped Ana walk out of the restaurant with as much dignity as she could manage.


Blogger Arlena said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:13 AM  
Blogger Wayne said...

Arlena, You still have one "weeding" in the story. Please fix's making me crazy !!!
(just kidding) But PLEASE change it...the first sentence. Thanks.
Love you, Wayne

2:42 PM  

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