Healing has a chance in our lives when we have exhausted all our other options.
Getting On With Life
Ide was walking along the main street of Waldmeer with her nine-month-old baby in the pram. His name was Landon. He wasn’t named after anyone. Nor did his name have a special meaning. It was, simply, the only name which neither Ide nor Farkas had said no to. Farkas wanted an “unusual, cool name” because he said he didn’t want his son to be like everybody else; something like Blaze, Hawk or Slate. Ide said, “A baby is not a fashion. A little boy grows into a man. He needs a name worthy of his future.” Ide liked names from the Bible – Peter, David or Timothy – or from other religious books. “If not from an important tradition then, a least, a name which means something of value.” Landon means long hill. Nothing particularly inspirational about that but, by default, Landon it became or Lan-Lan as he was affectionately called.
The first months after Lan-Lan’s birth were a happy time for Farkas, Ide, and Ide’s teenage boy, Christopher. Everyone was positive, grateful, and hopeful. However, Farkas soon fell prey to the battle in his mind. He became increasingly withdrawn. Even though there was no longer a pregnancy bump to contend with, Ide and Farkas hadn’t slept together for months. That was writing on the wall.
This morning, as Ide was walking along the street, she caught sight of Farkas a little way ahead. Hurrying to catch up, she didn’t look to see what he was doing. However, as she approached him, she froze. He was walking arm-in-arm with a woman. If he had been a different sort of man, there may have been no suggestion of it being anything untoward but Farkas was not like that. To add insult to injury, he wasn’t even trying to hide it and, more, the woman was Elise.
When Farkas first arrived in Waldmeer ten years ago, he had a brief relationship with Elise who would have been about twenty at the time. Not really a relationship; more of a temporary distraction from grief. After a long absence and numerous failed and belittling relationships, Elise had returned to Waldmeer. She was more worldly-wise and street-wise but every man she had given herself to so willingly and foolishly, over the past decade, had taken another part of her. Her skirts were too short, her hair was too big, her lips too red, her smile too heart-broken, and her soul despairing. Ide stared at Farkas. He sensed her presence behind him, turned, and stared back at her defiantly. He didn’t bother to take his arm off Elise.
Bryan happened to be in the chemist when Ide and Farkas had their episode in the street. He couldn’t help watching them through the window even though he felt like he shouldn’t. Bryan didn’t particularly like Farkas. There was quite an age gap between the two men. Teresa, who was Bryan’s partner, and Ide were both around forty. Farkas was ten years older and Bryan was ten years younger but it wasn’t the age difference that was the problem. Bryan thought Farkas’s aloofness and his competitive attitude towards other men were arrogant and destructive. “I don’t know how Ide ended up with Farkas,” Bryan would say to Teresa. “She’s so nice and he’s one of those good-looking d***heads.”
“If that were true,” Teresa would reply, “then Ide wouldn’t be with him.” Bryan would shrug and walk off. On his return home today, Bryan told Teresa what he had seen at the shops. “That’s not good,” said Teresa. “Perhaps, you were right.” She had an uneasy, worried feeling in her stomach as one does with impending doom. It wasn’t just about Ide and Farkas. She and Bryan had been having their own problems.
Around the time that Landon was born, Teresa and Bryan had become engaged. It was an unexpected engagement. At the time, Bryan had convinced Teresa to do so by telling her that it could be a long-term engagement until she felt ready to get married. However, over the last few months, Bryan had become more insistent in knowing when they would be getting married. Teresa joked and smooched her way around the topic but that was only going to work for so long. Later that day, Bryan said to Teresa, “I know that I said we could wait as long as you wanted but I feel it is long enough. I want to get on with our lives.” He had enough confidence to ask for what he wanted without shame.
“We are getting on with our lives,” replied Teresa. “Does it matter?”
“It matters to me,” said Bryan. At that moment, Teresa’s teenage girls walked through the flat door full of conversation and complaints about their time in the city with their father. Thank God, thought Teresa.
The next morning, Teresa spoke to Amira in the bookshop. Thankfully, there were no customers around. Teresa was too distracted to deal with them. “I don’t know what to do,” said Teresa. “I don’t think I can put Bryan off any longer.”
“Are you trying to ‘put him off’?” asked Amira.
“No. That sounds terrible.” As it was Amira she was talking to and Amira probably knew anyway, Teresa admitted, “I only said yes to keep him happy.”
“I know,” said Amira.
“He was happy and so was I,” said Teresa. “He said we could wait until I was ready, so if I was never ready then we weren’t going to get married. Right?”
Amira raised her eyebrows, “Was that Bryan’s understanding of the situation?”
Teresa looked away. “If I wanted to get married, I would marry Bryan,” she said. “But I don’t want to get married. I thought I might get used to the idea but I haven’t.”
“What is it about marriage that you don’t like?” asked Amira.
“It’s the whole damn stupid thing,” said Teresa with her volume rising. “I look at friend’s wedding photos and think, Idiots.” Amira laughed at Teresa. “They spend a fortune on a dress (that they will never wear again) for an event (that takes a year of their life to plan) for family (half of whom they have issues with) and friends (most of whom will not withstand the test of time) and, anyway, weddings are boring. They are so self-centred. And when it is over, the couple have to recover from the stress of the whole thing which probably caused numerous arguments. If it went well, they try to hang onto the high of it all like a drug, trying to relive it but, of course, it can’t be relived because it is supposed to be a non-repeated event.”
Amira smiled. She wasn’t at all bothered by Teresa’s intensity. In fact, Amira was always pleased when people cared enough about their life and thought deeply enough about its problems to struggle with any issue.
“As if couples can live ‘happily ever after’,” said Teresa. “People are not that happy and neither are their relationships.”
“You are older than Bryan,” said Amira, “and you have already been married and divorced and have watched the lives and relationships of your peers.”
After a few minutes, Teresa added introspectively, “I am terrified that if we get married, after a few years, Bryan will not want to be there anymore.”
There was a noise outside and Teresa and Amira watched through the shop window as the surf life-savers yelled instructions to the kids they were training in the waves.
“Bryan is making marriage very important as a positive event,” said Amira. “You are making it very important as a negative event.”
“What do you mean?” asked Teresa. “Isn’t it important?”
“The person is what is important,” said Amira.
That evening, Bryan was back on the topic. He wanted to alleviate the mounting stress of the situation. “Will you marry me or not?” he asked directly. Teresa was resigned. Bryan knew the answer by her silence. “It’s alright,” he said, “I know you tried your best. However, I must also respect my own feelings. I want to be in a relationship with someone who wants to be with me; only me, publically committed and making a life together as a team. I need that.” They looked at each other and knew they had to let the other go.
While Teresa and Amira were talking in the bookshop that morning, Farkas had returned home, if but briefly. Ide did her best to salvage the sinking ship but Farkas had no remorse. The line had been crossed and he was not backtracking. Ide knew that he would not cope with her being the one to say the relationship was over.
“You need to say it’s over,” said Ide barely loud enough for Farkas to hear.
Farkas looked hesitant and, somewhat, panicked, although, one would wonder which part of him would not have anticipated this. He gathered himself and said with a smouldering viciousness, “I told you right from the start that I wasn’t going to stay. What you made up in your head about me is your problem, not mine. I never had any intention of staying. Why would I?”
Ide was taken aback with the unwarranted ferocity of it all, however, for some reason, she heard a tiny voice between the raging of the screaming voices in her mind. It may have been the desperation of the situation; the realisation that she may not get another chance to say anything to him again.
“Farkas, before you go,” said Ide, “I want you to know something.” Farkas turned to her and prepared for what, he felt, would be a scathing comment about his character or lack of it. “I want you to know,” continued Ide, “that my intention has never been and never would be to hurt you.”
Farkas looked unsure what to do or say but before he let himself consider his options, he walked out of the house defiantly. Who he thought he was defying was unclear. He saw that he had a missed call from Elise. Opening his phone, he didn’t return the call. He blocked her number, put his phone back in his pocket, and headed out of town.
That evening, Farkas was tossing and turning, vainly trying to go to sleep. Just get through tonight, he told himself. It’s the hardest one. Every one after this will be easier. Tomorrow morning the sun will come up, it will be a new day, and there will be hope of something better. There were three other people sharing his prayer with the same desperation and the same sincerity that very night.
The next day, Teresa, Ide, and Amira sat together in the cafe. Lan-Lan was on a rug, on the floor of the play area next to them. He was fascinated with the antics of the children around him. As he needed no attention, at the moment, the three women were free to talk. There was more crying than talking. On the family farm, Bryan cried a lot too. He cried when he was way down the paddock where no one could see him. The cows were a nonjudgmental crew. Farkas didn’t cry much. His tears stayed inside him. They came out as anxiety. Lan-Lan laughed at the other children. Unlike everyone else, he was in the best of moods with not a care in the world. The women smiled and felt a little better.
Amira took the opportunity to ask a practical question of Ide, “Who’s going to look after Lan-Lan when you are at work?”
“I don’t know,” answered Ide. “I’m not sure when or if Farkas will be back to help with him.”
“I will help you until he has sorted himself out,” said Amira.
“I can’t ask you to do that,” said Ide. “You have your own work.”
“You can ask me,” said Amira emphatically, picking up the smiling, cooing baby. “There are always people needing help and words to be written. My work can wait. Babies can’t.”
On the way out, Teresa quietly said to Amira, “I can think of someone who might not be as enthusiastic as you about your having Landon.”
‘Yes,” admitted Amira. “Gabriel may not be so thrilled with the idea. Perhaps, I won’t tell him whose baby it is,” she smiled.
Teresa rolled her eyes and said, “That can hardly end well.”