A cigarette and a stupor


– I was meant to marry another.

Her words came out of her month like spit, a grossly recharged spit gathered from deep down her chest. Like a dark secret she could no longer keep to herself.

Why me? I asked silently, feeling an overwhelming sense of responsibility rushing down my spine.

She was 60 and something, the epitome of ordinary… at least to me! – sure, she smoked cigarettes but, so what? Many people did. I was not the one to judge, or to jump into conclusions based on one single bad habit. The truth is that up to now I seemed to know everything I ought to know about her and it was nice, simple, sweet and uncomplicated and I liked that… After all, us the teenagers were the ones entitled of life dramas and complexities,  not the adults, they have had enough time to figure it out, they have had enough time  to turn any pass pain into a blur, and she was, beyond adult,  she was so old in my eyes, she was ancient… it was impossible to imagine that she could remember anything other than to be my nana… Or the beloved mother of my mother or my grandfather’s devoted wife. No matter how I looked at her… she was mine, theirs. his, but never just herself, a whole entity entirely detached from family ties.  My sense of respect for her matriarchal assertiveness was knocked down by a much more primal instinct, my utter need to listen to another woman when her eyes were saying, please just stay with me…

No, I truly did not have a choice.

She opened up a pack of rolled up cigarettes and pressed one between her lips, she had a different look on her face, a look I had never seen on her, in all my 17 years. Her eyes where determined after all, my grandfather was ill and we both her and I had time to kill while waiting for the nurses down in the hospital lobby. Perhaps she was afraid that death would call upon herself and no one would ever know what truly happened.

– I was engaged to marry another man…. – She deeply exhaled and continued..

– If I close my eyes I can still see his face… -(she tried not to cry)- His blue eyes and his dark hair… his name was Luis.

She professed her love with such a reverence that was impossible to think about anything else but her and what she was about to say. Her voice crackled with emotion every time she mentioned his name. I  was not particularly a big fan of the name Luis but the way she said it.. Made it sound like a melody or some rare majestic name, I have never heard before.

My grandmother cried while venting about the love of her life who tragically drowned in a river before they had a chance to get married, perhaps for the first and only time ever, she talked about her feelings, her loss…. With no apparent resentment she spoke about the fact that her mother persuaded her not to become a nun but marring my grandfather instead, perhaps based on her own experience of social humiliation ,after all, my grandmother’s mother raised two daughters alone and paid the price for desiring acceptance from a society that was more self righteous than kind. My grandfather was a distant cousin, who have always loved her. He asked my grandmother’s hand in marriage while she was still in despair and promised to love, to honor and to respect her… and he did.

For the first time, it dawned on me, that before me sat another woman, just like me, not my grandmother needling a crochet piece or making coffee, but a friend with a broken heart and a story to tell. And I listened, with love and empathy, I listened… cigarette after cigarette, tear after tear. It was the saddest love story I’ve ever heard.

I often think about her and that day at the hospital. How raw and real it all felt. How distinctively pungent was the after taste of a story that forever changed how I viewed her journey and my own. years went by. She passed away and we never spoke about it again… at times when it all sound like a dream… I remember the look on her face when she spoke his name… Luis.. and I know it was real.