Two Sides of the Story
The First Time
Looking at the lone black and white picture on the mantelpiece, I was transported back to the past, a time when life was simpler. Twenty years ago, the day Susan and I were married in a small, quiet ceremony held in her parents’ backyard, the day the picture had been taken.
In the picture, Susan had her head thrown back in laughter and I was gazing at her with the expression of a man intoxicated with love. That is exactly what she had been like to me in the early days of our relationship, and even marriage, an addiction, a vice like no other. The picture took me back to that moment in time, when we were young and naïve, with complete confidence and trust in each other. I remember thinking that as long as she was by my side, I could never be unhappy.
The first time I met Susan was a memory so deeply etched in my mind, I could recall every detail with astonishing clarity. It had been my birthday, and my friends threw me a big surprise party. She had been there as a friend’s date. I remember being introduced to her, remember thinking that my friend had really found himself a gem this time. I remember the white dress she was wearing, the sharp contrast it made with her black hair, so dark that it was almost blue.
Even though Susan and my friend broke up shortly after that, she and I kept in touch and eventually became intimate friends. Although throughout our friendship I had known I was in love with her, it had never occurred to me that my feelings were reciprocated. Finally, it had been her who took the first step and one day, over coffee and cupcakes, confessed her feelings for me.
And then began the wonderful, whirlwind courtship, a time when we both were so in love with the other, when we were inseparable. As I relished in those early memories, I could not help but wish there was a way to go back in time, to that lost era.
Twenty Long Years
He had been standing by the mantelpiece, staring at that picture, for almost twenty minutes now. As I busied myself in the kitchen, I wondered what was on his mind. Probably wishing that day, our wedding day, had never happened, I thought bitterly. In twenty long years, my husband, the man I had married so happily, with such hopes for our future together, had evolved into someone else entirely, and I could not find my young love in him anymore.
Twenty years, I thought, twenty years I have given to that man, and he does not even think to wish me on our anniversary, let alone buy a present. Even though we barely spoke to each other these days, and even then it took effort to remain civil, I had still gotten him a present. However, I was determined not to give it to him unless he wished me.
Sometimes I blamed our childlessness for it, other times I knew there was more to it than that. Either way, we were strangers to each other now. The first five years of our marriage might have been bliss, but ever since my inability to conceive became apparent, we had begun to grow apart, and sometimes I wondered how different our marriage, our lives, might have been if only I had been able to bear a child for us.
Even though we rarely fought outright anymore, it felt like both of us were suppressing such resentment towards the other. At least, that was what I felt. No matter how many times I had attempted to broach the subject to him, he had never cooperated, preferring instead to live in his dreamworld, where everything was fine. It is hard for me to believe now that once upon a time his obstinacy was one of the many things I adored about him.
Pushing these thoughts aside, I decided to visit some friends. After all, there was no point on dwelling on the past.
He was still staring at the picture when I left.