I had just arrived home. I put the keys on the table in the entrance hall and turned the living room lights on. Deborah, as usual, was already upstairs locked in our room. It was barely nine o'clock and she was already curled up under the sheets asleep, or pretending to be asleep.
I sat on the couch, trying to watch TV. I looked around and I felt such a void that it brought tears to my eyes.
‘Come on, man! Men don't cry!’ I said to myself.
At that time, that was how it used to be; the tears rolled down my cheeks and I wondered what my father would say if he saw me crying. But I couldn’t help myself; the situation troubled me and I didn’t know how much longer I could stand not doing anything about it. I certainly wasn’t old but I wasn’t getting younger. I couldn’t continue to live as if nothing had happened. We didn’t function as a couple. I couldn’t say where we got lost, but the reality was right there in front of my eyes and I couldn’t ignore it any longer. We weren’t happy, period.
I remember when we met and everything seemed to be magical. There wasn’t a day we weren’t together, and when we weren’t together we spent hours on the phone. I would pass by her house in the mornings and we’d walk to school holding hands. During classes, we would sit at the same desk and study together. We went to the same university and took the same course. We were always together and we never got fed up with each other. Getting married was the next logical step, as essential to life as breathing, and so we did. It was a dream wedding; she had always wanted to get married like a princess, and both her parents and I made sure that her desire came true. When I saw her walking down the aisle towards me, my heart fluttered and I felt as though I would die at any moment. I recovered my senses when the priest had pronounced us husband and wife, and let me kiss the bride. Our lips touched and colour returned to my cheeks. Regardless of all the kisses we’d exchanged, of so many nights of love that we had lived, that one kiss before God made me reborn as a new man. I left the church as Deborah’s husband and protector, as well as her best friend. I had to ensure that from that moment on she had everything she needed. I couldn’t break the vow that I’d made before God: to have and to hold from this day forward; for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish; ‘til death us do part.
During those early years, we were happy. I’d even say ecstatic. Although we worked in different companies, we spent our nights together. We cooked together and enjoyed our meals looking eye to eye, and hand in hand, not wanting to miss a moment. I don’t know exactly when this began to change, but the dinners together gradually became fewer, the holidays ceased to exist, the plans together failed to materialize…
Wait… I am fooling myself. I know very well when things started to fall apart: it was with the first pregnancy test. The disappointment was etched in Deborah’s face when the sign was negative, and that was the beginning of our downfall. The three pregnancies that never crossed the first trimester, the nights crying after the doctor said that it would be physiologically impossible for her to bear a child. She would never be a mother, and that caused her so much pain. The kisses and the hugs I gave to her to relieve her pain; the gifts and the holidays I gave her just to see her smile again. The mixture of joy and pain when our friends called us to tell us that they were going to be parents; I know she had a really difficult time and I know she suffered a lot. I tried to ease that pain, but from my perspective, only a child could bring my Deborah back to me.
I suggested we adopt a child. She looked into my eyes, like she was going to punch me, and told me that it really wasn’t the same thing. She wanted a child who had my eyes and her smile, a child who was lovely like her and wise like me, a child who would revive our love. How could she love an adopted child the same way you love a child that has grown inside your own body? The bonds that form during pregnancy, the love that grows day by day, from movement to movement, from kick to kick. That, in her opinion, would be impossible to recreate. I tried to explain to her that that wasn’t true… That the love for an adopted child exists from the moment we both see it and grows as we realise that this child will be ours forever. And that love strengthens from day to day, from hug to hug, from kiss to kiss. I really believe in that. I think nurturing and raising a child makes a father or a mother. Making a child, for most people, is easy. Loving and nurturing a child isn’t for everyone. I think Deborah thought I didn’t mean it when I said that, or that I’d only said it to make her feel better.
One day, in a heated discussion, she asked me to leave her and be with a woman who was one hundred percent woman, a woman who could give me the children that I desired so much. In anger I answered that I was going to do just that. I opened the door and left home. When I took the first step and took a deep breath, I thought about the way she looked at me when I spoke those words. I realised that I had made an unforgivable mistake, but I had already spoken and I couldn’t take back those words. And on that day, on that same day, I lost Deborah. When I think back over that event, I am quite sure that it was on that same day I also lost what was left of our marriage.
Sitting on the couch, I wiped my eyes trying to avoid the tears.
‘Men don't cry,’ I whispered to myself again. I got up and went to the kitchen to find something to eat. Gone were the days when Deborah left food for me. Gone were the days when we cooked together. Gone were the days when we were happy. As I was going up to the bedroom, I could hear her sobbing. I felt a tremendous urge to fly up the stairs and hold her. I was her prince, I had to do something. The truth is that I no longer knew what to do. I stopped in the middle of the stairs and went back downstairs like a coward. It was ridiculous: Me crying in the living room while she was crying in the bedroom; neither one of us able to search for some sort of relief in each other’s’ arms.
“For better and for worse”, it even seemed like a curse. “‘til death do us part…”, but would that be death? Perhaps we were both dead and we didn’t know! Perhaps we had both died when the doctor gave us that damn diagnosis
‘Enough! Enough! This has to end,’ I said to myself in a temper.
‘We have to turn the page to the next chapter of our lives! I’m thirty-eight… We have been together for more than twenty years, but we still have our whole lives ahead of us. This death in life will not separate us,’ I decided at that moment to fight with all my strength to save my marriage.
I remembered that when we met, Deborah loved to dance. She had an Angolan friend and she learned how to dance Kizomba with her. They went to matinées at a disco called RockLine, in Loures, and danced all afternoon. I didn’t know how to dance, and when we started dating, she stopped going there. In the beginning, she tried to teach me and awaken the passion for dance, but I was always such a bore that I never got interested in it. I told her that the only dance we needed was in bed. A few years ago, before our lives fell apart, she signed us up for Kizomba classes near home. I went to two classes and I refused to go back. My two left feet betrayed me and, instead of having fun, we ended fighting, leaving us even more frustrated.
I confess that I could've tried a bit more, made more of an effort, because she was so happy when I told her that yes, I would learn to dance with her. I remember the hug and the kiss she gave me like it was yesterday. She said I was the best husband in the world.
That was it! I was going to enrol us both in a Kizomba school! She had always told me that Kizomba was the dance of lovers and that if I didn't dance with her she had to stop dancing because she didn't think it was appropriate to snuggle up with some other guy. Who knows if dancing could bring the closeness we had lost? Who knew if we would remember how to embrace and how to kiss? Who knew if we would dance in bed again? It seemed a lovesick teenager plan, but it was the only plan I had at that time. It was the only idea I had to try to save my marriage.
‘Until death do us part…’ no such thing will happen.
‘Until dance join us…’ I encouraged myself.
‘Deborah, my Deborah, I will find the way back to you. I will learn how to dance in your arms. I will feel your scent again, my love. Your Prince Charming is on the way. Wait for me just a little longer…’ I said softly with a glimmer of hope in my eyes and a sad smile on my lips.
The future of my marriage depended on my two left feet.
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