Sunday, October 09, 2005

Ten Years

There are worse things than be unloved by your beloved.

On the outside, she was sunshiny and humorous. It seemed as if life itself gave her a reason to live it to the fullest, to disprove the self-possessed, strained way its inhabitants lived it. She would sing in her loudest voice, laugh her loudest laugh, and anyone who dared to challenge her freedom she would curse to hell.

I am nobody. I am faint, colorless, dull. I am a man who cares so much about what they say; I am a man aware of the comfortable prison I lock myself in as I sleep and double lock as I wake up. I begrudge my prison and rattle its bars as the sun rises and sets in a flame of crimson or purple, depending on its petulant mood. Deep inside my imprisoned heart, though, I know that no matter how hard I rattle, no matter how much blood creeps on my useless fingers, I do not really want to be free.
I am too…comfortable.

And then I met her.
It was fast, too easy. Sometimes I wonder what terrible price there is to pay for such a perfect union of souls. Neither of us is perfect, that is quite clear. We have our fights, small misunderstandings that people our age should just let go but doesn’t. Always, though, we would make up, and say those words that will assure us that nothing is lost but a little pride.

In her hands I am changed. I now sing with her, laugh with her, disprove the world with her everyday. Who are they, anyway? What hold have they on my laughter, my tears--- my life? I wasn’t even aware of it until I realized that I am totally free from my comfortable prison. I do not check the lock anymore, there is no need. My bloodied hands have been wiped clean by her love; the bars have been stowed away for another soul who has lost hope and gained the desire to hide away from the world.
I don’t need them anymore. I have her.

But there are little things, small things I did not notice about her until their frequency became disturbing to behold. Sometimes she would slump down on her chair, seemingly asleep, but she would not wake up even if I shake her shoulders. After those spells, I will always ask her if she was fine, and she always said yes. I did not mind, during the first times it happened. The same way that I did not mind when she abruptly clutches her chest in the middle of an animated conversation, her face contorting in pain for brief seconds of eternity for no apparent reason. I did not mind. Maybe I did not want to acknowledge what I dreadfully, already know.
Until she told me herself.

She was sick. Incurably sick. The doctor said that in a year she would have to be completely dependent on heavy medication, and gave the cruel verdict: she only has at least ten years to live, if she takes care of herself. ‘Taking care’, meaning to forego all harmful foodstuffs she was wont to partake.
She refused, denied the doctor’s verdict. She was being herself; she saw drugs as the bricks of the prison that will alienate her from her precious freedom. I tried to reason with her for at least my sake, and she grudgingly consented only when her attacks were worse than usual. It was not what I wanted, but I love her, and I could give her at least a trifling triumph over the stuff she sees as a threat to her jealously guarded treasure.

But…she is getting worse everyday. She is still herself, with her boisterous laughter and her carefree voice, but her attacks come more frequently. Me, I just put it at the back of my mind. I love her. I do not want to lose her. I reasoned that if I thought more about it, I would only get depressed, and upset her in turn. I would pretend like nothing happened every time she gains consciousness from her spells. What can I do anyway? I am helpless. I am miserable.
But I love her. It is better that she doesn’t know I am dead by every second her face contorts in pain.

You might think that ten years is a long time. But we have many plans for the future, like stargazing on a roof until our old, dilapidated lungs can take it and people-watching on the porch when they cannot. We plan to get those nice granma chairs where we could sit in and chat when our arthritis gets to be too much. We plan to have a big house with ghosts and many windows to let the sunshine in on nice summer mornings. We have many plans…and ten years… ten years…
Is nothing.
Even if they were something, how do I spend the rest of my life without her?

It was a normal day, with sunlight making dappled shadows under the trees. It was a nice time to spend outdoors and listen to the silence of the subtle mists. I had in my pocket what to many men may be a symbol of the worst prison in their imagination but to me the ultimate emblem of my emancipation. She set me free. All I could do is to ask her to continue setting me free, even if I could not do the same for her.

“Will you marry me?”, I said, a bit shamefaced. I was startled when her face swiftly turned sad.
A soft tear fell on her left cheek. “You shouldn’t be asking that. You have nothing to gain and everything to lose. I have eveyhting to gain but nothing to lose. What can I possibly have that you need from me?”
“To laugh with me. To believe in me. To be there with me when everybody walks out. The list is eternally self-sufficient…” I gently took the ring from my pocket and offered her a life with me for as long as eternity could last for both of us.
She stared at the ring.
And gave a tentative smile.


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