“Well? What brought us here? I don’t think the beach is the best place to be at this hour. It’s way past two and it’s so damn cold!”
“Oh c’mon! It’s a great place to drink these!” Ian grabbed a cooler full of ice cold beer and placed it under a coconut tree.
“Seriously, it’s really cold out here. Give me your jacket! You’re so damn ungentle man, d’you know that?” She continued “You shouldn’t have disturbed my beauty rest or you could have at least told me where we’re going.” Claire took a packet from her handbag and lit one of the cigarettes in it.
Both her smoking habit and unsolicited remarks did not bother him at all. In fact, Ian and Claire had known each other since 10th grade and they were already used with each other’s odd behaviors.
They placed a picnic mat on the sand and sat about two seats apart. Ian opened a couple of beer, gave one to Claire and took the other one for himself.
“Hey, let’s continue where we left off. Now, where were we? Oh yeah! About your—“
“Claire, please. Enough with the topic. I told you for the nth time, I wasn’t the one who made the first move. She was obsessed with me, plus she got me drunk then—“
“Ohhh so she got you drunk!”
“Yes, she came over to my place with her friends, and they invited me for a drink.”
“– at your place? Now that’s weird.”
“Yes! They brought bottles of whisky with them and we drank until they almost drop. Got that?”
“Ohhh whisky…” Claire gave a malicious stare at him with a mocking tone in her voice. She loves it when she creeps in to his nerves and looked annoyed.
“Yes, whisky! Anne knew that I was a whisky person like my dad and she brought a lot.”
“And now we’re drinking beer on the beach at almost 3 a.m. How ironic?!”
“Oh come on,” he sounded more pissed “I can’t do this anymore”
“Okay, I’m sorry! Go ahead with your story.”
He calmed himself by reaching for the lit cigarette from her hand and finished the stick for her. He knew that, not ending the story will never get him unhooked from her scrutiny, hence he offhandedly went on with his narration.
“Her friends left us alone in my apartment. We were drunk… then we had did it! Of course we did. I’M A GUY!”
He opened another bottle of beer and munch on the chips that he brought with him. Claire lit another stick and fell silent for a few sec. She then continued…
“You made love.”
“No. We had sex! I told you I didn’t love her.”
“Right. You didn’t, but she got pregnant and you married her! IN THE CHURCH! WITH ME! AS THE BRIDE’S MAID! How convenient was that?”
“Are you mocking me?”
“I’m not mocking you. I’m telling you a fact that you made love with her.”
“But I didn’t mean to!”
“What? You’re married to her for what? 8 years now? Is that right? Wait…” Claire counted the years in her hands from the date of the wedding to the present
“ Eight. It’s eight years but we’ve only been together for less than five.”
“And your point is?”
She stared at him with that prying look in her eyes, waiting for an answer but he never conferred. She opted to change the topic to lessen the tension, but she gave out yet another heavy subject for him.
“How’s your annulment? If you don’t mind me asking?”
“I always mind you asking but you never seemto stop, you little monster!”
He smirked and patted her head. He gave it a deep thought knowingthat she will not allow him to get away from it.
“Let’s just say that it’s tough. It’s quite an emotional encounter especially for my mom. You know how theatrical my mom is.”
They mutually leered recalling the instance when Ian’s mom made a scene on his wedding day, telling everyone that she wasn’t prepared for her boy to get married just yet. She always treated him like a kid even now that he’s almost thirty two.
“Can we move on now, please?” He asked.
“So you never loved her?”
Ian asked her yet again to stop. He had grown tired of the topic that she was indisputably familiar with. Claire has this unusual habit of making fun at his expense. He was irritated but he liked that part of her. For him it was endearing and irksome altogether.
Claire finished up her first bottle and didn’t get the next one. She opted to filch the bag of chips that Ian was munching on. All of a sudden her humor disappeared and carried on to her third smoke.
“Just a question”
“Why didn’t you pursue me instead?”
Silence fell and she felt embarrassed with her own inquiry. She began to play with the sand beside where she was seated as she rehearsed inside her mind how she will continue with the conversation.
“J-John told me some time ago that you liked me way back in college. He even told me that you were tempted to tell me that you lo—“
He burst into laughter while she was dumbfounded. She couldn’t understand why he was acting that way. Ian was aware that Claire got annoyed so he stopped. He gulp on the beer on his hand and composed himself.
“John wasn’t lying.”
“Hmmm… Then why didn’t you pursue me? Was there something wrong with me? I mean…”
And then there was this awkward silence. They went on listening to the sound of the waves as they both sank in with their own thoughts while indulging their senses with smoke and beer.
At that very moment, there was a battle inside Ian’s mind. He was in the urge of telling Claire what he feels, but there was a voice inside that was holding him back from doing so. ”You’re too good for me Claire, and there’s nothing that I can offer you.” He told himself.
“There’s nothing wrong with you.” He broke the long silence. “It’s me.”
“Oh, what a cliche!” She exaggerated. ”You’re such a dumbass! Sometimes I wonder why you’re one of my best buds.”
“That’s because you’re a dumbass, too.”
She playfully threw some sand at him and gave him few strikes on his arm. In her heart she was hoping to hear answers that will set them free from their never ending what ifs. She didn’t bother to probe, though she was dismayed.
Ian handed over another bottle to her. She took it and they both drank again. They tuned in to the sound of nature while they were seated on the sand, now closer to each other.
“So, is this your dramatic goodbye?”
“Yes, this is goodbye. Are you going to cry?” Ian jokingly responded as he took some chips out of his bag and munch them. Claire allowed him to joke about it. She kept on gulping on her beer and indulging herself with cigarette while keeping her composure.
“Ahh, don’t be such a douche bag. I’m going to leave the day after tomorrow. We can still do this tomorrow. Oh shit!” he took a peek on his wrist watch “It’s 4:43. I mean, we can still do this later today.”
“You’re still going to leave. That won’t change a thing.”
He emptied the bottle on his hand and opened another one. He wanted to tell Claire that he doesn’t want to leave anymore. He was thinking about all the possibilities that can happen once he decided to stay. “I can get a job here, though it’s not as high paying as my current job. My money in the bank is more than enough to buy a house for us Claire” He told himself “But I won’t do that. I can’t do that to you.”
“I will wait for you.” She said straight, right after she finished her drink and was heading for the third one.
“Enough for you Miss” Ian made an effort to pull the can of beer off her hand but he failed “You’re drunk.”
“No I’m not. And I’ll drink as much as I want to, if you don’t mind.”
“You don’t know what you’re saying.”
“I know what I’m saying.” She said to herself as she lifted the pin and drank half of the can’s content.
“I told you I will wait for you. Do you understand?” She said again with confidence.
“Don’t do that. You don’t have to do that.”
There was an abrupt change in the atmosphere. The romantic scene of the beach under a starry night disappeared all of the sudden. There they were seated in a room filled with their misery and doubts.
“I know it’s hard, but I will wait for you.”
“My wife left me a year ago, and that’s because she can’t wait for me.”
“I’m not your wife.”
Pain was evident in his voice. That episode in his life deeply bruised his ego and that made him question his capability as a husband, a father, a provider, and a man. He wanted to move on, and his life and work in a foreign land was his only salvation. That was what he believed in from the time when his wife left him to find her own version of adventure with another man.
“I thought you never loved her.”
“She took my daughter with her, that’s why I’m kicking in.”
“I know. Anika was the only reason why you wedded her in the first place.”
He didn’t give a sign if he agreed on that particular note. He just raised his bottle and continued drinking with his eyes fixed on nowhere.
“Sir, that’s your 8th bottle for tonight”
“Correction, it’s morning.”
“Right.” She sighed “I think you have had enough for this… morning.”
“Don’t worry I’m a hard drinker. You’re the one who gets drunk easily.”
“Well, who got laid for being drunk?”
Ian and Claire stared at each other and laughed. The atmosphere turned lighter.
“The dawn is breaking.”
“Are you trying to sing now?”
“Of course not! You know I don’t sing.” He mumbled “You’re being such a brat again. Why don’t you grow up?”
“I’m just kidding.”
He got this unusual light in his eyes while intimately gazing at her. He pulled her closer to him as they watched the horizon slowly glows. In quietness they agreed that some things are better left unsaid as to not to spoil what they had at the moment.
She wrapped her arms around him and softly she said…
“I will wait for you.”
[Original version was published on June 29, 2012]