My name is Aleksander and I’m fairly certain I’ve made the biggest mistake of my life. I teach physics at a prestigious university and am married to a woman I thought loved me. We don’t have any children-she never wanted any. She hid this fact from me for sixteen years. I couldn’t very well divorce her over this deceptive truth. But I don’t want to talk to you about her, she isn’t important right now.
Fifteen years ago, there was this lovely young woman who blew into my life and hunkered down for three years and patiently waited for me to make my final decision. The decision to merge our lives into one. Her name was Liska Nikola Demkov, a stunning twenty-five year old painter. I made her acquaintance through a fellow co-worker at our university. Zachary is an art enthusiast. Zach invited me to an art show; I still to this day have not the slightest idea why I even agreed, I had no interest in the world of art.
I attended though, walking here and there glancing from painting to painting; some had a single dot, another, a simple curved red stroke, and they were priced at a staggering half million dollars and up! For a dot, a stroke! As I stood staring, silently mocking these ridiculous canvas’s, Zach pulled me through throngs of admirers; I heard oh’s and ah’s along the way, and we stood behind a short woman with beet red shoulder length hair. Her back was facing us until Zach tapped her shoulder.
She turned and the first thing I saw was her eyes, they were big like a child that had been caught in a lie, round and inviting kind of like the sun shining into my bedroom window gently caressing me from my slumber. Her lips were a soft plump cotton candy pink and when she smiled, her front teeth just slightly crossed over each other. Somehow it all worked for her and I felt my heart begin to climb up my throat. Up until that point, I’d never been at a loss for words.
“Liska. How’ve you been?”
“Great. I’m glad you made it to the viewing.”
“I promised you I would. Now, how about selling me one of your lovely paintings?”
“Ah, you tease!”
“Just a little. I brought a friend along. This is Aleksander. Aleksander, Liska.”
When she laid her eyes on me, the only feeling I had was to run and fast. My legs failed me and there I stood in a trance.
“Hello Aleksander, it’s nice to meet you.”
After what seemed forever an abysmal silence, I felt a sharp jab at the left side of my ribs. Once I found my voice, I returned her greeting. She stood staring at me with curiosity in her gaze and a slight grin for what felt like a millennia. From that moment on, Liska sought me out for coffee, a bagel, or time resting on a park bench in silence.
I obliged. I wanted to know more about her. Something about Liska set me on edge and it wasn’t because she was Russian. Her yearn for home, she shared with me. She’d previously made up her mind the night Zach and I arrived at the art viewing. Liska changed her mind because of me, because in her words, she saw a life with me the moment she laid eyes me. Maybe it was the fact that I’m from Crete. I’m something foreign yet familiar, home to her.
As I’ve said, I’ve made a mistake. Liska attended to all of my needs, she knew when something was amiss in my life, she cooked me dinner, laundered my clothes and listened to me ramble on about physics. Every important holiday she came up with something creative to surprise or humor me with.
I loved it all.
Then one day Liska arrived at my house unannounced, she sat me down and told me her desires. She wanted babies, a husband, she wanted to be happy with me. I should have expected this but it came as a complete shock nonetheless. I asked for a little more time to think things over and saw her spirit falter.
I was guilty.
There was something I neglected to tell Liska. Before she came along, I’d been dating another woman. It was nothing serious.
Asking for more time, I was just stalling. I never wanted kids or marriage. I never intended for things to get so serious between Liska and I. I was perfectly fine dating her. Yet when the time came again, Liska asked if I wanted to build a life with her and I promptly said no. She had every right to walk away angry and hurt but I couldn’t go along with something I didn’t want.
I spent months in my study in the dark pondering my decision. At odd times I discovered gray hairs announcing their presence in my coal black hair. Then it dawned on me-I’m not getting any younger! What was I doing with my life? I come home to an empty house every night, no dinner prepared for me like Liska used to do. The laundry was piling up and spilling over, there’s eerie silence. No one was home waiting for me.
I made the rash decision so many years ago to pick up the phone to call Amanda, the other woman I’d been dating while dating Liska. I invited her over for dinner, all prepared to ask her to marry me.
I proposed and she said yes! I thought this would be the start of our happy lives.
But I was sorely mistaken.
Year after year there were no babies filling our rooms with their soft cries. I actually thought there was something wrong with me, that maybe I needed to see a doctor. But when I broached the subject of expanding our family, Amanda finally told me she never wanted babies, that they would be too much of a hassle and that she had been on the pill all this time! She wanted to keep working, keep things like they’ve been since we got married-simple.
I’ve spent all these years regretting my decision. Misery is my lot in life, not because fate chose it but because I deserve to suffer. I had a better life handed to me on a plate, I didn’t even have to look for it, but I tossed it away couldn’t see.