The silly thing about what ifs is that it often comes to you only when all is done and dealt with. Like the kind of person who would throw unwarranted advices at you only after things have happened and what good does that do now? And yet, some nights, you’ll find yourself staring into your bedroom’s ceiling, thinking, what if I had chosen a different path? What if I had done that instead of this? What if I had said something instead of nothing? Would things turn out differently? Would things turn out better? Would I find myself in these prolific bothersome moments, feeling rather remorseful of the past and inquisitive of the future; and thinking, what really could have been. And if there were some sort of miracle where we were miraculously given another chance to do it all over again, would we have done things differently? Would I?
Thinking about it now, life is constructed by a series of reactions and decisions, both bad and good. A domino effect if you’d like to call it. If you wish to extract that very moment you wished gone from the equation, it will change the rest of its course and there are just some moments and people you would not trade for the world –the faces of people you cannot live without and all those good and despicable moments that come with it. Those moments that make up who you are today. Hopefully, someone a little wiser and mature.
It is indeed amusing to see how the universe works, if you are a believer, how God works. One moment, you feel like everything is crashing and burning with simply no way out and the next, everything seems to fall into the right places and makes complete sense. I guess, “to have faith” goes deeper than just the surface.
In between the skyscrapers, the moon was in its grandest form and the city unnaturally bright. It was a little before midnight, and one of the busiest streets in Kuala Lumpur is completely vacant again. There were only the sounds of our footsteps in steady rhythm, leaves rustling in the wind, crickets chirping from the bushes, and occasionally, a roar of laughter of boisterous crowds of drunken tourists and students from afar. I have always loved this city of mine – despite the potholes that could end a motorcyclist’s life, the high chances you might get robbed, the almost non-existent walkways for pedestrians and all of its endless antics. But it is my home and truthfully, there isn’t any other place like it.
My apartment was only a few blocks away from Café de Paris and I thought, walking back seemed like a brilliant option. It was not until a few metres in when I was struck with absolute contrition. It simply was an injudicious decision to walk in a pair of 4.5” Jimmy Choo’s. It took me several more steps before realizing that if I was to reach home with my feet attached, I needed to take these off. I stopped, which led him to stop, one hand holding his shoulder, and simultaneously, shifting all my weight into one leg as I removed the expensive clutch of the devil on the other until both feet were liberated from such absolute torment. I heaved a deep sigh of relief, completely oblivious to the chances that I might step on glasses, or catch diseases but, it didn’t matter at that point.
Aiden shook his head with incredulity and smirked in pleasure. I knew the words “I told you so” were already at the tip of his tongue. He had asked me three times if I was “really, really, sure” to go for those stilettos before we left the apartment. In my defence, how can one be really really sure with anything? Also, I thought it went perfectly well with my black waist-hugging dress with spaghetti straps I was wearing (another injudicious decision of the night). The dress was so tight it was almost impossible to walk like a decent human being I think I was. And writing about this know, perhaps, these were the clear-cut signs for me to start rethinking my every life decision.
We continued our stroll along the non-existent walkway with our hands intertwined and my other hand holding the back of my stilettos as though we were walking on a sandy beach. As an anniversary tradition we had conjured ourselves a while ago, we would reminisce about the past, the humiliating moments, the beautiful memories and every now and then, he would pull me into his arm and plant a kiss on top of my forehead. For a moment, life felt wonderful and I, for once after a very long time, felt unreservedly and unequivocally happy. It was one of those moments you just wanted to pack up your things and move into and remain in it forever.
That night marked our ninth-year anniversary since we met. It felt like a whole lifetime and truthfully, I could not recall the life I once had before Aiden. It seemed unnatural and peculiar to think I even had a life before him, like a surfeit of imagining. Throughout the course of nine years, Aiden was there to witness it all – every momentous anecdote that I could conjure up. My first year of college, first time living abroad, first long-distance relationship, first graduation, first job interview, first failure (accompanied by a series of other failures), first job, and of course, the thing that truly mattered most, the first and the greatest heartbreak of a lifetime. And I had witnessed his momentous anecdotes just as much.
In the beginning of our relationship, things went somewhat swimmingly. It felt as though I was living straight out of a low-budget romance movie of some sort. Like that scene when the girl shoves an ice cream in the boy’s face and they both laughed? We were that couple just not as pretty; we even went for stargazing ( and became a feast for mosquitoes). It lasted for about a year until we began to bicker so much that up to this moment, it was surprising to me that none of us died in the hands of one another. I reckon, it is the process of ‘getting to know’ each other as one would call it but at that moment, our relationship was dangerously volatile that we could have actually killed each other.
Every little thing could trigger a screaming match – even the most inconsequential things like where to eat. Neither one of us would concede defeat. Both so caught up in our own egotistical world. I wanted things to go my way as much as he wanted his. We were both fire and fire and what good can come out from that except for a massive destruction? I remember wanting to leave this relationship after every squabble, thinking, this is it this is my way out every time I flinched at the bruise on my arm from his grip and believe me when I said it happened a lot. (In his defence, I was always the one throwing the first thing I could reach at him when in argument and for him, it was merely an act of self-defence). And yet, we didn’t.
In the most messed up way, we both loved and despised each other in equal measures. We were, after all, both very young and irascible, temperamental to say the least, leading lives ruled by our heightened desires but before we knew it, we were already in too deep – five years deep — and it seemed to us that if we could stand each other this long, we might as well find a way to make it work, make ‘us’ work. And this was the longest relationship I have ever been in. I could not pinpoint the precise moment when everything changed its course to the better. The precise moment that brought us here, two adults being in an undemanding, mature relationship and very much still in love.
Standing before him, I could see his conspicuous transformation. From him being a broke undergraduate that was a little too irascible and just as clueless as any mid-twenties to this successful investment banker standing before me who looked like he has got his life all figured out. The most kind, generous, patient and responsible man who possessed every bit of admirable quality one should look for in a man. He is a completely different person. After all, nine years felt like a lifetime and with everything that had happened, it surely changes people. Time changes people. Experiences change people. And in Aiden’s case, it was for the best. And it is a privilege to be able to witness his growth and knew that I was a part of it.
“Aiden, are you having a heart attack?”
His face was bloody red and his forehead glistened with slight sheen of sweat.
We were only a few steps away from my apartment when his steps came into a complete halt. My mind had constructed some form of contingency plan. From dialling 999, mentioning the landmark, yelling for help, googling how to perform a CPR, calling his parents – how am I supposed to break the news? He took my hands in his and squeezed them lightly, enough to haul me out of my reverie.
“No.” He laughed but his eyes were sombre. “Emi, we need to talk.”
Those words pierced through my heart and made its way into my stomach that felt like a punch. I hated those words. “We need to talk”. Those words unleash millions of possibilities in the back of my head; is he breaking up with me? Who is the other girl? Is he gay? Oh god, what did I do?
“Stop panicking,” his face was calm and he pulled me closer into his chest. “We have been together for nine years. And perhaps, you aren’t ready for this and if you say ‘no’ I won’t take offense. But….”
That was when he gingerly genuflected on his one knee and this beautiful enormous chunk of diamond appeared out of thin air, clasped firmly in between his fingers, “Emilia Farrace….” I felt my heart weighed a million pounds, fell to the ground, brushed itself up and slid back up to its place.
At that juncture, it felt surreal. His eyes were teary, so were mine, and he paused for a bit, trying to clear his throat before continuing and I was struggling to get a clearer vision from behind those blurry eyes; trying not to snort and everything. “I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I want you to be the mother of my children, I want to grow old together, and argue over petty and major things like if we were to send Aminah to a private school or government school, or whether or not we would name our daughter Aminah.” We both chuckled at that thought.
“So, will you do me the honour of becoming my wife?”
** TO BE CONTINUED (FINGERS CROSSED)