By Marva Gregorio De Souza
The evasion of love plagued Anna. It was a one-sided game they played and Anna wanted out.
Of the school friends she kept track of, four were married or in seriously committed relationships. Three of the four would lose in a fight if good looks were the weapon of choice, adding to Anna’s confusion as to the cause of her own affliction of singleness.
Proposals came in left, right and center. Dinner dates. Chats over coffee. Maybe even a movie. But none from the worthy. And they all left Anna feeling deserted in a desert. Anna often wondered to herself, while voicing rather loudly to the female of her friends, and anyone else prepared or unprepared to listen, if there was a prescription for her ailment.
There was never a shortage of suggestions. Don’t be so fussy. Catch a millionaire and forget about love. Mr. Soulmate is making his way to you. Patience. Perseverance. Perversion. Anna cried.
Craig was tired. Tired of falling in love in spite of his best efforts to remain alone. Love loved Craig.
He left Susan and thought Janet was right. Split from Amanda and joined with Beverly. The process of disentangling himself from Karen resulted in being tangled up with Monica. Every effort to be alone was thwarted. Craig couldn’t catch a break.
Dubious and desperate Anna decided to beat love at its own game. This was her last attempt and if it didn’t work, her next internet search would be a list of convents sorted by distance.
Dulled and debilitated Craig decided to beat love at its own game. This was his last attempt and if it didn’t work his next internet search would be a list of wedding planners sorted by price.
Anna became unavailable. Signing up for three years of voluntary service involving round the clock observation of the feeding patterns of the crested red back guinea pig only found on a remote section of Peru and facing extinction, meant she would have almost zero human contact for this period. Anna’s game plan strategy was to make things as difficult for love to find her as possible.
Craig became readily available. Instead of running from the crowds he decided to embrace them wholeheartedly on the assumption love wanted to give him whatever it thought he didn’t want.
Anna checked in at the airport. Craig was in the airport restaurant joining random women without invitation. A little creepy, but that was his intent.
Anna, bags checked and time to kill, went to the airport restaurant to wait for her flight to solitude. Craig, successfully dismissed from yet another group of wary females, pounced on Anna.
“Where you off to?”
“Where you off to? You’re travelling aren’t you?”
“Perhaps you could consider Paris with me instead.”
“You heard me. Paris right now, me and you, honeymoon before the wedding.”
“It’s strange because you don’t actually look like a freak.”
“But I am.”
“Obviously. Or perhaps not.”
“No, I’m definitely a freak. Do you want me to leave?”
“You’re not a freak.”
“No, you’re not.”
“What makes you so sure?”
“Two reasons; for one freaks don’t normally know they’re freaks, and you seem extremely confident that you are one and secondly you offered to leave pretty much straight away. You can never get rid of freaks.”
“Certainly can’t argue with your second point.” Craig gets up to leave.
“Where are you going? Sit down and entertain me while I’m waiting for my flight to nowhere.”
Craig sat down and entertained her for two hours. They shared stories. They shared reasons. They shared predicaments. They shared thoughts. They shared.
Craig made the suggestion. Anna agreed, with nothing to lose she could think of no logical reason to say no. In the gift store they found what they sought, purchased it with legal tender and found a secluded spot in the airport where their vows to each other could not be overheard.
Craig vowed to remain faithful to Anna for the next three years. He would date no one else.
Anna vowed to remain unfaithful to Craig for the next three years. If Anna fell in love she was to release Craig from his vow of faithfulness.
In three years Anna would return and Craig would meet her at the airport and if love had triumphed and Anna was still alone Craig vowed to marry her as payment for his own defeat of love.
Peru was all it was hoped. Her days and parts of her nights were spent; observing through observation holes, eating food prepared on her camp heater, washing in the river, counting the stars, being happy. Occasionally taking out her half of the pair of socks she would chuckle to herself.
A healthy change in Anna’s focus left her in a place of extreme peace. Being married was no longer her primary vision, alternatives were now perfectly acceptable options devoid of shame. On the plane home Anna made her decision to release Craig from his vow to marry her and only hoped he had enjoyed his absent fiancé.
Her suitcase back with her, Anna made her way back to their spot. Nothing had changed, including Craig. His smile was brighter than she recalled. And his eyes perhaps a little more intent, certainly less tired. He carried flowers.
Craig’s heart skipped a beat as he saw Anna approaching. The flowers in his hand trembled slightly. He realized for the umpteenth time the next few minutes would determine the direction of the remainder of his life. He tried to see if there was a ring on her finger but her left hand was hidden by her grip on jacket and luggage. Her smile was as vibrant as he remembered, possibly even more so. As for her walk, the new confidence lit her path ahead and left a luminous snail trail behind her. Craig shifted his feet: a nervous reaction.
Standing directly in front of him Anna giggled. How could a stranger feel like her oldest friend?
“Craig, I release you from your vow of faithfulness. You’re free to go.”
“Yeah, I had so much time to think out there and get a real perspective on life, finding that ‘someone’ is no longer my ‘be all and end all’.”
“Really. So there’s no need to marry me. You’re free to walk away. Did you have fun on your own? Were you faithful?”
“I was faithful. But somehow still managed to fall in love.”
“You’re kidding! Who is she?” The vague feelings of jealousy made no earthly sense to Anna.
“That’s what I’m planning to find out. I met her three years ago and haven’t been able to get her out of my mind. Haven’t wanted to get her out of my mind.”
Craig and Anna faced off. The answers were in the eyes and the odd socks peeping over Craig’s shoes. Anna put her bags down, took her sock out of her pocket and put it on the opposite foot by pure coincidence. They matched.
The kiss probably wouldn’t go down in the world’s history books of momentous moments but it would be carried by Craig and Anna for their life time.