I was invited to five weddings that month. But this wedding was not similar to others. It was my first love’s wedding. When I knew she would get married, I felt nothing. It made me surprise and be a little harassed. She used to be my whole world. We had a lot of memories together. I thought I would be so sad if she marries someone else but the reality was different. Perhaps, time blurred my feelings of her. I received her invitation on Facebook and clicked “Join” indifferently. But when I put my feet on the hotel lobby, I began regretting. I saw our common friends there. They all knew I used to love her so much. They looked at me with compassionate eyes. And when I entered the wedding hall, a sight made my heart sting. She was standing there, in a splendid wedding dress, hand in hand with a stranger whom they call “the groom”. I had never seen her like that before. She was so beautiful. I came to her, shook her hand, and smiled bitterly:
She smiled happily at me as she did with everyone else, as if there had been nothing between us. In that brief moment, I tried to seek the regret or something unusual on her face but I found nothing. The only thing I saw was happiness sparkling in her eyes.
I remembered those radiant eyes used to look at me in a starry night. That was when we studied abroad in Wisconsin, where the air is pure and the sky is high. Sometimes she invited me to go out for a walk at midnight although it was against the dorm regulations. The night road was scarily long and quiet. Occasionally did a car arrive but its engine sound and clamorous music were quickly swallowed by the curtain of night, leaving the endless sorrow on the road. However, I did not feel that sorrow when walking with her. In those circumstances, we did often not talk about what people often talk about such as our studies or difficulties of life abroad. She prefers talking about weird things, something deep and far, which normal people can’t reach. Luckily, I am not a normal person. I just try to integrate to their world, and now when I was with her, I could finally be myself. She raised her eyes, looked at the starry night and asked me:
“If you had a wish now, what would it be?”
“I’d wish I had a billion dollar”, I said.
“Why was your wish so boring?”, she laughed.
“Because if I had much money, I could use it to make my dreams come true.”
“So, what would be the first thing you do after having a billion dollar?”
“I would build an amazing school where kids could learn interesting and useful things. They could play a lot, not have to do much exercises or take after-school classes.”
“Sounds great! If your wish came true, I would send my children to your school.”
“So, what’s your wish?”
“I just wish I would be a good doctor to help people.”
“It’s very simple, you still can do it yourself.”
“Oh no, I won’t apply to the medical school. After graduating, I will come back to our country and get a job”.
We continued walking in the peaceful night. I could hear the echo of our footsteps on the sidewalk. The opposite houses had no light. Some of them had “For sale” signs in the yards, which perhaps was the consequence of the financial crisis a year before. Suddenly, she asked me:
“Which color do you like?”
“I have no idea. When I was a little child, I liked yellow a lot because it’s so beautiful. When I grew up, I also liked some more colors. Still, when you asked me, yellow came to my mind first.”
She nodded repeatedly, meditated for a while and then continued asking.
“Which food do you like most?”
“Food cooked by my mom.”
“So you love your mom most, don’t you?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Me too! My mom worked hard to earn money so that I could study abroad. I just want to finish my study soon to come back home and take care of her.”
We just discussed such pointless matters. Suddenly, she went to the middle of the road.
“Hey! Be careful! What happens if a car comes?”, I said.
“Just let it be”, she smiled, then lied down on the road as if she wanted to tease me.
I estimated that cars arrived every five minutes. Therefore, I was somewhat scared.
“You want to die, don’t you? Stand up!”
“Why are you nervous? Just lie with me!”
Although I was so scared, I still followed her. There was something unique in her personality: naive, innocent and crazy. She woke the sleeping person in me up. I had been like a sleepwalker who had wandered through my life for twenty years then suddenly woke up. Just at that strange moment, I felt that I truly lived instead of staggering in this world like a zombie. I heard her soft breath. I heard my heart beating. It seemed to tell me that I was falling in love. I had not believed in love before I met her. She had changed everything and messed up my life from the very first second she appeared. Now I knew what true love was. I knew I could die for her. I turned my head to look at her. She was still watching the stars.
All of a sudden, I heard an engine sound in the distance. A car was coming. I stood up quickly and raised her up. It took her a while to get up. Then I grabbed her and took her to the sidewalk before the car came. Afterwards, she smiled and waved her hands to the car. Whereas, I was anxious as the hairless driver mumbled and looked at us as if we were two creatures from another planet.
I lived that glorious night again in a moment. I still felt like that I had just evaded the car with her. But now I had to returned to the present. In a few minutes, she would belong to another guy. I looked around and found a table where some acquaintances of mine sat. I came sitting there, hoping they would not mention old stories between me and her.
“Ah, here is the ex of the bride!”, a guy slapped my shoulder.
I startled and felt painful. The guy turned out to be Linh. I did not know if we had any feud but he mocked me every time we met. I had not expected he would appear in this wedding.
“How do you feel? You must have been sad as she got married”, he smiled mischievously.
“Normal”, I replied indifferently.
“So, have you got anyone recently?”
“No, I’m still single.”
Going with Linh was a pretty girl with beautiful eyes.
“Is she your girlfriend?”, I asked him.
“No, this is Vân, my sister.”, he said.
“How come I’ve never known you have a sister?”
“Social sister. Do you like her? I will make a match”, he replied almost seriously.
His words made me and Vân both be shy. Just at that time, the light went out and the MC made the wedding opening announcement. Vibrant music started playing. All eyes were set on the bride and the groom as they walked on the red carpet. I looked at her radiant makeup face, which reminded me on the prom a few years ago. It was a summer vacation and we came back to Vietnam. Our high school hosted a prom which we joined in. In that prom, boys mostly wore suits and styled their hairs with gel while almost every girl wore evening dresses and make-up. We held each other’s hand and walked among people. I felt so happy. When I was a high school student, I usually went to proms alone and felt lost. But now I had her by my side. When the prom began, the light went out and DJ started playing music. Everyone danced while she just stood still and watched others. I invited her to dance but she shook her head.
“Why don’t you dance?”, I asked.
“I don’t know how to dance.”, she said.
“Nobody knows. Just dance. Move your body to the rhythm.”
“I can’t do it.”
I was a little surprised and wondered if she was the girl who had invited me to lie down in the middle of the road. Afterwards, we sat on the chairs watching others dancing. Other girls danced so enthusiastically that their make-up was smudged by sweat. After more than an hour, when DJ changed to a gentle rhythm, she finally agreed to dance with me. I embraced her and we almost stood still, just swung a little to the rhythm. Finally, we only stood still and embraced each other.
“I love you”, I whispered in her ear.
She said nothing but smiled. After that night, we became a couple. However, there was always a matter of concern to me: did she really love me?
I had a feeling that our love was so vulnerable. I couldn’t reach the bottom of her heart. Sometimes she gave me a feeling that I was about to occupy her heart, but sometimes I felt absolutely lonely in this relationship. She did still not change, still floated in this life like a balloon. She did not want to lose me and attach to me at the same time.
“Are you sad?”
I startled. Vân’s question brought me back to reality.
“No. I’m okay”, I replied.
At that moment, Linh had visited another table so that I could talk with Vân comfortably.
“Linh told me that you used to love her so much”, she said.
“Right”, I replied briefly.
“I know your feeling. I used to be betrayed, too.”
“She didn’t betray me!”, I said a little angrily.
“Ah no, I didn’t mean it”.
Repressed feelings made me suddenly want to tell Vân my intimate stories.
“She doesn’t like attachment. I let her go with her freedom.”
I quickly realized that I had made a slip of the tongue. “If she doesn’t like attachment, then why did she get married today?”, I thought. Terrible feelings in the bad old days began coming back to me.
“Hello. Is it you?”
“Can you guess where I am?”, she asked.
“You are on the streets, aren’t you?”, I guess, according to the noise around her.
“No, I’m on the beach.”
“Really? Which beach?”
“Nha Trang! Do you hear the sound of waves?”
“Yes, I do”
“What are you doing?”
“I’m walking with you on the beach. Don’t you see me?”, I smiled.
I guessed she was smiling, too.
Sweet memories now were like poison which was slowly absorbed to my heart. I reminisced about phone calls which lasted more than an hour, the times when I held her hand and walked around the Sword Lake, and about the gentle hugs we had together. Although everything in this relationship was so confusing, sometimes I felt that I was the happiest man in the world.
“You know that feeling, don’t you?”, Vân asked me.
“Which feeling?”, I said.
“More painful than death”, she whispered.
I watched the strange guys placed the ring on the finger of my ex-girlfriend. I remembered the awful feeling.
“Why did you not set in a relationship with me on Facebook?”
“I don’t want to reveal my private life”
“Why don’t you want your friends to know that I’m your lover?”
“You don’t love me, do you?”, I almost shouted at her.
“I...do...”, she was embarrassed.
I threw the bunch of roses which I bought for her to the ground. Then I turned back and rode away on my motorcycle. My tears overflowed and my throat choked with emotion. I realized that she didn’t love me. All that I was given was compassionateness. Was I that pathetic? My pride didn’t allow me to receive pitifulness from anyone.
I let her go. I let the bird fly back to the freedom sky...
I watched the champagne froth overflowed the tower of glasses. The bride and groom were full of joy. My anger seemed to overreach the limit. I stood up, running to the stage, which left a surprise to everyone in the wedding. She looked at me bewildered. I flung glasses to the ground that made them break into pieces. I hurled her wedding cake. She burst into tears while I burst out laughing savagely.
No, she was smiling happily besides the groom. It was only my imagination. The truth was that I still sat there doing nothing. Linh left the wedding early and asked me to take Vân home. I knew it was his matchmaking trick. I thanked him secretly because now I needed a person like Vân, who understood the heartache caused by love.
I came to the bride saying goodbye. She gave me a regretful look.
“Why do you leave so early?”, she asked.
“I have to take my friend home. I wish you all the happiness in life”, I said.
The groom threw me a doubtful look. He might have realized something strange between us. Maybe he knew I was her ex-boyfriend... Maybe not...
I turned back and came to Vân. I had a feeling that my ex was still watching me. But should I care?
“Let’s go”, I told Vân.
“She’s still watching you”, she said.
“It’s not important anymore”.
“You still love her, don’t you?”, Vân asked.
I pondered and answered with another question:
“Do you think a wedding would end a love affair?”
“Do you think a wedding would begin a love affair?”, Vân said.
“Maybe”, I said with a smile on my face.