She didn’t want to be one of those women in the room. One of those sad eyed women that gazed longingly at other people’s children who toddled past. She wanted to have the air of a swinging single who enjoyed her independence and didn’t want it end; one whose last care in the world was the future.
But everyday that past was further proof that she had bet on a losing horse, and hers had been the last race of the season.
It had been very hard the first Christmas.
For a girl who was no more imaginative - or no less conservative – than to want a proposal under the Christmas tree, on Christmas Eve, this was her Waterloo. It was so difficult that she didn’t show up, taking a 3 week tour of India to compensate for the one week trip to Dominican that he had taken shortly after they met; both unspoken and without a word. He had been talking in January of the trip, he had a gorgeous tan and he had gone with another girl. There was a pain in her chest; her heart literally broke. It was awful to have your mother’s sympathy before you had fully processed the effect of devastation. It was hard to process anything in that much white noise.
She always came to the same question: Why didn’t he love me? And there is no answer.
What she knew about love was this; Love is surrender. These are bold brave words to know to be true. This was hammered out of bitterness and regret. Both of those reactions hammered to sharp points, cooled in cold water and hacked at her own bones until the tools shattered apart. The question had been, would she survive this injury that was no lesser and no greater than true love. The answer was yes, but she barely recognized the ravaged being that stood up again to be counted.
This new being had pale flesh. She was terrifying because she was no longer afraid of anything. There was nothing left to lose. Anything built after this point would have no sense of trueness to it. It was all disposable. Love was surrender.
By the following Christmas, she was prepared for the quietness of deep winter. She looked forward to it. She surprised herself by not thinking of anything greater than her small unit. Mother, friend, self. She caught her reflection in shop windows and while she did not know the woman there, it did not cause her to recite like the beating of a drum, “Why didn’t he love me?” as every action before this had done. Without this death march, her mind wandered. It thought of other things. Small things.
The couples who entered with children, be laden with obtuse armaments of family hood, caused a small explosion in her body. She wanted these children to like her, to love her, to want her as much as she wanted one of them. It was a deeply intense human longing for belonging. She felt this for only a moment before the stillness took hold again. She realized separately that this was loneliness and loneliness was to be expected, loneliness was alright.
It was then she could really hear the couples.
Said through thin lips and tight smiles, the wives complained:
“Well, if he had only married me sooner, then we would have two babies by now, and I might not be so exhausted with just one”
“Can you pull up his pants?”
“If you do that again, he will throw up”
Small shells thrown over the man’s DMZ disguised as friendly fire.
There were the fathers’ thin lips and tight smiles through which no sound would issue; that no sound ever would, like frightening silence of the father’s of her girlfriends growing up. If love was surrender, then loneliness was truly universal because everyone fought to the death.
Capitulation is not peace. There can be no peace without surrender.
Love is absolute surrender.
Peace was found in small things. The simplicity of the clean hardwood floor that met the hallway carpet. The deafening silence of an empty bedroom. The dark empty city streets at night in mid winter. Everywhere that he had feared to tread, barren of memory or sentiment was an oasis. It was proof that a greater world existed, that there would be a future, that this war would end, that it had ended and some small things had survived. She looked within and saw that she was very small. She looked without and saw that she had survived.