I think I want to marry you.
Updated: Aug 25, 2019
"You should tell him you're not interested," he said in a gravelly voice.
"I'm sorry, what?" I asked. "Hey, don't dance with me anymore? Or what should I say?"
"He likes you, you know!?" he said as it was a bad thing. "I've seen you two dancing."
"It is you, him and one other guy I can dance with. You've seen my dancing moves. Common. He's nice and he's helping me improve."
"Yes, but he also told me he went running with you."
"I'm game," I said, laughing quietly.
He was silent for a moment, wanting to confront me in a way I wouldn't find offensive.
I looked at him and couldn't stop smiling. "Hey, what is this about?"
"You know how women are: they like to keep the men hooked, in case they want some attention - at some point when boredom comes and they don't feel pretty anymore. And that's not fair to men. You should tell him you can only be his friend." He looked at me wistfully. "Unless you want to be more than his friend."
"This is ridiculous. He came with me running once. Once! Besides, anyone can come, you know that. It's not a secret that I encourage people to join my routine. And it's nice to be liked..."
I waited for an answer, but he was silent, so I raised my voice hoping to make things clear - or clearer: "In fact...I enjoy that form of attention. That hour when someone is running beside me, I feel like I accomplished something - they chose to be outside instead of sitting on the couch and watch TV. What is wrong with that? And why am I apologizing for this?"
"It is not only this. He likes you! He likes you," he repeated like he was trying to clarify something too.
"Well, next time I'll see him, I will talk to him, OK? Although I don't see the point. He never said anything...And I think you're reading too much into this. Have you considered that he might like spending time with me rather than him liking me?" I paused and examined the shoes I was wearing. "I need to put on my dancing shoes and then we can hit the floor."
"OK, I will wait for you here," he said, touching my arm. He then took his drink from the bar and held it down low, away from his chest.
"But please don't talk about me with other guys, OK? If anyone has something to tell me, he should man up and say it to my face." I walked away being slightly annoyed. <Aaaaah, men and their need to mark their territory. 'I watched you two dancing.' Then you noticed that he had never inappropriately touched me. If you paid attention, you know I kept my distance.>
<Why am I still thinking about this?> I was giving too much importance to an event that shouldn't even be discussed - or at least, this is what I thought at that point. But I remembered another time a guy talked about me with other guys.
"You know, Ioana, back then - Marc was so in love with you!"
"No, he was not. Where is this coming from?" I laughed while turning up the volume of my phone.
"He told Jonas that he's in love with you. And Jonas told me," Eleanor said, not knowing if she should continue.
"And why are you only telling me this now?" I was stunned. "Why didn't you...why didn't he...what?!"
"For Marc's feelings and his desire for you to be happy had humbled him even to talk to you about this. And, Ioana...we all thought you knew."
"How could I have known something like this? Did Marc also think that I knew?! Oh my God! How did I misread everything?"
"Hahaha, you were in love, you silly girl. You were about to get married. Don't you remember that day in the park, when the three of us were listening to that girl playing the guitar?" Eleanor was amused by my sudden need to ask question after question.
I wanted to be angry at her for not telling me sooner but I was too dazed at the sensations running through me. "Yes, I remember that day. I told him that... and Marc was friends with this girl, so she asked me that on purpose?"
"Yes, Ioana. We all knew. Do you remember how Marc reacted when you told us the wedding is on? He said he is happy for you, but he pities your poor friend who imagines he can convince you to break up with your fiancé."
"I have no words...I don't..."
"Ioana, I'm sorry I'm laughing at you, but you must have noticed that." I could hear Eleanor trying to bring her breathing back to normal, but she was still giggling.
"Well, I had no idea. I thought we were friends. I didn't know he had feelings for me. He knew that I... and... Ben already moved away. Ben!"
"Ioana, don't worry about it. He knew you were in love and you invited him to your wedding! He got over you, in time. But he loved you - I mean he talked to Ben about you. In the first week, you introduced them to one another and decided to extend the group of friends, they talked about you." Eleanor was about to confess everything.
"What? Ben and Marc talked about me?" I said with a half voice.
"When Marc asked the guys about you, Jonas said 'Ioana is not that type of girl'. And...you know what, it doesn't even matter anymore." Eleanor said, not wanting to get into more details.
"But I spent so much time with Marc. Alone. At his place. We were hanging out in the park. I just want to know... was he mad with me? Did I hurt him? I never meant to hurt him. You need to believe me - I had no idea. Does he know I never meant to cause him pain?" I almost started crying, for Marc was a person I cared deeply about and the thought of harming him in any way nagged me.
Eleanor considered a moment and only after she started talking, I realized I was holding my breath. "No," she said, "and I'll tell you why. When he first moved here, Marc didn't know anyone. And you approached him with a smile and gave him your number."
"Well, I knew how I felt in the first weeks being in this city and didn't want him to think he's alone. He seemed like a nice guy and...frankly, he was a bit confused. But who wasn't at the beginning?" I paused again. "You know, I still remember what he was wearing when we first met."
"And exactly for that," Eleanor said in a way which was about to make me feel better, "Marc loved you. He was grateful for having you as a friend because you were the first person who treated him with kindness, in a time in which he desperately needed a friend."
"Okay, but this is also about Ben...you know I liked Ben, no? I liked him a lot. I was thinking about running away with him and live in a small house in Italy."
"You never told me this," Eleanor said. I sensed a "but" coming and so I took a deep breath.
"It was a secret. I never told anyone. I only asked my brother once if he thinks Ben is in love with me...because..." I whispered, trying to fight back my tears. "Because of that night, remember? But Ben had a few beers that night and guys sometimes say things they don't mean and...I...guess..." I paused for a moment, trying to organize my thoughts. "Anyhow...Marc, huh? Marc was in love with me?"
"You know brunettes have more fun, no?" Eleanor said and launched into another subject.
"I remember you telling me that. But it's funny, say it again!"
Hearing the story once more time, I remembered why I love talking to her - she always has a joke ready or a story about her aunt, but our last conversation brought back many memories. After hanging up the phone, I ate a solitary late-night snack and climbed into bed, trying to do some reading. I found it difficult to concentrate; distracting thoughts were running in my head and eventually, I searched Ben's account on Facebook and pondered the hypothesis 'If I had…'
He has the same profile picture he had when I first met him. I miss those big brown eyes that looked at me wide and wild. It was that perfect summer day in the park when we talked about flowers, stars, and memories on waves. It was then when I had the feeling that there was something worthwhile in my brown eyes, too.
And then the joyful afternoon came when we played basketball one on one. "You're terrible at this game, Oprita!"
I wasn't terrible, I was just nervous and when he smiled as I yelled "I'm gonna kick your ass. Watch me scoooore!", I missed not only the basket, but the ball didn't come near the backboard.
"You're lucky you're pretty," he said laughing and cheering, "because you're very bad at this game."
"I must let you know that I played basketball in high school and once I scored 15 points in a match, OK?" And took the ball from his hands.
"I like your eyes when you get mad," he said. "They glow like embers."
"Oh, so this is another line you tell girls when you're afraid of losing, huh?" I went beyond the three-point line and looked over at him with pride - we were having fun, but I wanted to win.
Weeks later, when we were in a group of friends and I was packing my things to go home and take the train, he hugged me from behind and kissed me on the cheek. Then I heard him speak - barely a whisper - as he went back to the table and smiled, "Happy holidays." He turned away before I could think of what to say back. I became immobilized - his lips never touched mine before, but at that moment I knew that a simple peck can convey as much meaning as a full-on kiss.
But that night - the night - when we were out, walking through the narrow streets of a city which became a home for both of us, I stared at him more than I wanted to. His messy curly hair and his deep brown eyes make me wonder how our children will look like. And then he smiled - so charming that it made my heart melt - and for a brief moment, I imagined that he is thinking about us too. But Jonas was leading the way to the bar and I refused to think further about what it could be. The bar is near the city center - but hidden from tourists - and it was our place to hang out when we weren't walking along the canal. That night the music played over the dance floor and Ben started singing out loud"You're a good singer, you silly!" We were dancing between strangers, but it felt we were alone. And time stopped when his eyes met my gaze and we both smiled - it was purely magical.
More people joined us as we were walking to the new location where Jonas was meeting a potential girlfriend - and Ben and I were behind the group. It was the first time he mentioned Italy, not knowing I was dreaming about a tiny cottage also. "Me too," I smiled, but there were no light streets to illuminate my face and so he didn't notice. "I want two girls and a boy," I said when he counted how many children will call him "papa".
And when he started about his future wife, he was interrupted by Jonas: "Hey, you two! Get a move on. It's not a romantic walk to the pub." Ben yelled back: "It's not a race against time, is it?" and walked faster toward our friend.
I started talking to my brother, asking if it's time to call it a night. "Or a morning," he said, checking his watch: "the sun will come up in a few hours." We took the street on the left, wishing the rest of the people a fun morning. Ben looked at me with a big smile and said: "I love you, Oprita!"
I was hesitant and indecisive on what to reply - once again - so I only waved goodbye. But before going to sleep, I discovered that I have feelings for Ben. I wasn't looking to fall in love again, because I was already in love and I thought you can't love two people at the same time. And I didn't want to consider that I could be able to start something new while my boyfriend was faithful and caring. I closed my eyes, convincing myself that Ben is a player and what I feel for him is only a crush.
And so, nothing happened between Ben and me. I never asked if he was serious about loving me or about teaching the children Italian, and Ben's behavior went on as before. He was smart and funny in his responses, with a hint of flirting but without crossing the line. When our hands accidentally touched, we both looked away and pretended there wasn't a spark. And months later, when he told me I deserve better than what I was settling for in my relationship, I chose to ignore his advice. I was too scared to admit it to myself - because back then I wasn't too keen on taking chances. I was OK in a relationship that no longer worked, but one I was too comfortable to get out from.
I did imagine marrying Ben though, even one year after that night, but it was too late for us - he met someone and decided to settle down. I looked at his pictures on Facebook and I smiled - he is so charming, no wonder his girlfriend is one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen.
And then I went to look at Marc's profile, trying to remember if I ever imagined being with him - and the answer was "no". Because Ben was the big crush I didn't allow myself to explore - and after Ben, no one was a person of interest, for I wanted to marry the guy I already had so many memories with.