Several months ago, a close friend told me a story. We both agreed that it was almost unbelievable. Nonetheless, I asked to tell it, and my friend agreed. So here it is. The names and other details have been modified, but it’s all based on true events.
The base of the bottle landed with a thud on the edge of the table, nearly knocking the other two off. Ed clumsily flung his head back onto the sofa, before sagging into an awkward posture. It was very quiet. The television had been turned off, and the night had died down. But something was loud in Ed’s mind. He had tried to drown it out, but his brain was as alive as it was in the scene that was vividly playing out in his mind. It has to be a bad dream, he thought. But it was real.
She was staring at his back, and she could see the man behind the black trousers and white shirt. She knew all the muscles, all the detail.
“Waiting on Ed to finish, ay?” teased Mark. Her boss was very personable.
“Yeah. He’s so much into that case,” Melina replied.
“He’s a great intern.”
“Of course you too,” Mark said, smiling and flashing two fingers at Melina.
Ed finally took a deep sigh and turned. He fixed his eyes on Melina. He couldn’t see her eyes behind the late afternoon light’s reflection on her glasses. But he didn’t need to. Everything else he saw was great. Perfect. Especially after a long Friday.
Collecting his laptop and files, he walked out of the office building, holding Melina’s hand.
They walked slowly towards the taxi spot, speaking rather quietly.
“Okay I’ll see you soon,” Melina said as she finally walked towards the taxi.
“Okay babe. Enjoy church tomorrow.”
Ed waved slowly as the taxi took off. He could see her smile behind the lightly tinted windows.
Church was livelier on this particular day, but Melina’s mind was already drifting away by early afternoon. Her heart skipped occasionally, but her face remained as peaceful as ever. She even smiled when her friend quietly made a remark about the sleepy lady who sat in the row in front of them. When everybody finally got up at the end, she quickly walked out. Nobody noticed. A few minutes later, she was texting on her phone.
“Sory bby I cnt come 2nyt. M sory”
“Ah rily? Y not?”
“Smthn came up. Sory. 2moro aftanoon def”
“Wel ok. C u then.”
“M sory. I lv u.”
Ed took a minute to reply.
“I lv u 2 bbe.”
Standing up, he looked at the clock before putting away the two glasses and the tray. His friends must be at the game already, he thought. He would make a fool out of himself if he went now. He knew what they would say. But that still did not change the way he felt about the girl who smiled at him from the phone screen. Her polite smile still brightened his eyes, even after a year. That smile was on his mind when he woke up the following morning.
Ed came running out of the shower, but he still missed the call – for the second time that morning. Without enough phone minutes to call back, he decided to text.
“Kp missn ur call babe. U’r so elusive haha..wassup?”
“Cnt come 2dy bbe. Sory.”
“Haha u’r playn gal i kno u.”
It was late morning and Ed knew she was playing. She had done it quite a few times before. He had a wide grin on his face as he fell back on his bed, his hair still wet. Melina was hottest when she played him that way, he thought.
By evening, it was almost obvious that Melina was not coming. Ed had been mulling over texting her, but at this point he had to.
“Wher r u bbe?? Im on fire ova here I wnt u ryt nw…”
The response came almost immediately.
“Who is this?”
“Eddie is Melina ther?”
“Who are you and what do u want?”
“Whoz ths?? Whrz Melina?”
“Well Melina is my wife so quit playing with me”
“Ay stop messn arwnd here man giv Lina her 4n.”
There was no reply. His heart was racing, but he was not sure why. Surely it must be a prank, he thought. But he had not seen her since they left work, and something suddenly felt out of place. He had to get phone minutes now. Slamming the door shut behind him, he disappeared into the moonlit night.
Dowry ceremonies are always absorbing experiences. The host family usually starts out seemingly disinterested, as if the visitors came uninvited. But, as the occasion wears on into the evening, the atmosphere changes. Even the bride-to-be and the groom-to-be can exchange smiles, and the two sides begin to talk freely. The two love birds can even find a chance to talk together, away from the gathering. Melina was talking to her man in the adjacent room. But at some point something did not seem right. The two were getting louder than the music coming in from the living room. Melina’s mother went to investigate. She stood right behind her daughter, and she could see all the anger in Nelson’s face. Several exchanges followed. A few minutes later, Melina’s mom was screming. “Who is Eddie? Who is Eddie!?” She did not care for the answer. Nelson was already walking out through the main entrance with his two uncles and brother.
Half an hour later, Melina was on the phone. Ed’s heart was beating madly as he listened to her. She sounded vulnerable, but not in the way he preferred. She began sobbing and she could not talk. At that point he tried to picture her in his mind, without her eyeglasses this time. He cared to look into her dark pupils this time. But he got lost. He was trying to find his way out when the voice on the other end came alive again.
“Please tell them there’s nothing between me and you. My mom, she’s very upset. I’ve put the family to shame. Please, please tell them. Tell them or…”
“What the **** do you mean? What the ****? Lina how could…**** ****!”
“Please Eddie tell…”
“I ain’t telling jack ****! How could you do this? ****!”
Ed suddenly sat up on the sofa. It was past midnight and he was only half asleep. His thoughts had morphed into a dream. Except it was not a dream. It had all happened the previous night. He slowly pulled himself to his feet, staggering and knocking the coffee table to the side. The three empty bottles rolled off onto the carpet. He tried to pick them up, but he could hardly hold them together. He finally gave up. There was no use anyway. This was the way it was. The time would come to pick them up. For now, he needed rest.