Saturday, October 24, 2009

he could never love me, just as I could never love him

johanna wallin

I was emailed this very touching story.
I appreciate her willingness to share this with us and appreciate her trust.
I still can't wrap my mind around it:

I thought I wanted to share a story of my own, if nothing, just to get it off my chest. I never told anyone, but maybe I can simply tell everyone.

I have never been the type for love. I’ve never had any serious relationship, which is quite okay I think, I’m 18 by now, so that might be my excuse. I never fell in love, because I could never actually care about somebody that much. Nobody could ever touch me this deeply to evoke feelings even close to love. I would shrug any sympathy displayed for me off and go on in this arrogant and narcissistic way, just like I always do, at all times. I am not this kind of person. I am not as full of myself as I seem to be, but this is the only way I can avoid hurting people’s feelings. I don’t want to hurt anyone really, but the only way to prevent this seems to be hurting them. Hah.

Eventually, shortly after my 17th birthday, my father would call me to him and tell me a story I just couldn’t believe was true. Even though he only has a very small sense of humour, I thought he was kidding me. I never could have imagined I was supposed to marry somebody my father chooses for me. I had never heard of this family tradition. As I look at it now, it makes sense; I always knew we were a very old and very large family, even a founding family in the city we lived in. I knew my father cared much about the family, but since we are living abroad, I never really experienced his traditional feelings. And, evidently, my grandfather and my grandmother live in different houses, although they are still legally married, because they can’t be with each other. My own parents are separated, but married, and I’ve heard my great-grandparents lived in the same way. It hit me then; those were all arranged marriages. Just, nobody had ever told me.

I don’t want to blame him. I feel my father didn’t want to do this against my will, he asked me if I could imagine doing it. Was it a possible option for me? I couldn’t really answer, I know absolutely nothing of love, not even of family love, I never experienced it in our cold and harsh family relationships, let alone being in love with someone and wanting to marry him. But one thing I knew; I always felt responsible for my father’s misery, for the hard job he had to do to send me to good schools, the difficult time he had with my mother, who can’t stand me, for him getting old far too early, his financial ruin and his emotional troubles. As a child already, I cried in my bed when my dad had to leave for work Sunday at 10pm and only came back Saturday afternoon.

I saw all of this and then I knew I was supposed to agree. I never could have said no. This was the one thing, besides good marks at school or playing the lead violin at grand concerts, I could do for him. I hated all those things, and I also hated the thought of being forced into this and probably ending up like my parents, but what could I do? This is how things were supposed to be. And I agreed.

In December, when we went home, to Russia this is, like we do usually on holidays, I was introduced to my fiancé; a man of 26 years, who finished the University of St. Petersburg with a Summa Cum Laude and as valedictorian, who did his Master in Yale and quite recently his PhD at Oxford University and who now worked as the CEO’s right hand in Russia’s biggest gas company. He was very tall, much taller than I, wore a dark suit and had a very dismissive and apathetic expression on his face. It was a very formal occasion, namely our engagement party, and both families were present, even at a larger scale. I had to wear a satin dress and was told to behave well. Slowly I understood how they had chosen an extremely prestigious and, sadly, I realised, extraordinary wealthy family. It was a horrible farce. As we greeted, my fiancé and I, we shook hands, and his hand was cold. During the whole evening, I didn’t talk to him once. His younger sister Natalia, who is 22, and his brother Gavriel, 23, addressed me immediately and I couldn’t help but wonder on how different a character they were; both his younger siblings were talkative and warm, especially Natalia, who is one of the loveliest and kindest people I ever met. Gavriel entertained me the whole evening and half of the night, making me laugh all the time. Only from the corner of my eyes I dared to cast a glance at my fiancé, who seemed unmoved by all of this, and mostly talked to our fathers and grandfathers at the other end of the table. The next day I officially received an old ring, a family heirloom, which was brought to me by his father.

After this, I didn’t see him for almost a year. We went for a dinner once in April, when I was in Russia for holidays. It was the weirdest thing I ever experienced. It was only us two, and I couldn’t help but feel insanely stupid. From all my friends I am considered the silliest and most childish. I play videogames and watch children’s cartoons and skip lessons at school and get drunk with my friends on weekends. I often get tickets for speeding and I sleep until 2pm in the afternoon. Sitting in front of me was a man, who, at 26 years old, had already lived a whole life. He had spent most of his childhood in boarding schools, lost his mother at the age of four, lived years of his life abroad, completed a superior education, built an immense career on his own, and went to war. He never told me any of this, I learnt most of it in the very recent past from his siblings. He was intimidating. I felt like a child around him. It felt like he was my older brother, especially with our waitress flirting with him the whole evening. I couldn’t help but notice how handsome he was, it was almost too much to take, with his tall and lean figure, the pale skin and lantern jaw, the piercing blue eyes, the jet black hair – it only made it even worse.

Sometimes he called on Sunday afternoons, and we would talk some minutes, about school and work, and then hang up soon enough not to let the awkward silence take over. Sure enough, I developed an aversion to his phone calls, and I knew for sure it was an annoying thing for him he only did because he felt it was his duty. At times, I feel a stitch when my friends talk about boyfriend issues. I imagine them cuddling in bed on a rainy afternoon in November and I know I will never experience this kind of thing. When in summer he asked me if I wanted to go on a short trip with him, for three days or so, I knew our fathers came up with this. I knew he didn’t want to, but we both had to. The mere thought of being in the presence of this cold man made me cringe and I was sure he felt the same way. Also, I was sure this was the time we were supposed to get closer. I thought, we were going to sleep together. I was terrified when I was sitting next to him in his car, noticing I was sweating in my dress and on the beige leather seats although the air conditioning was on. He was a man, and I was nothing but a silly girl, and I was a virgin, too.

It happened I got an upset stomach, I don’t know how it happened, but the same night I found myself sick over the toilet after I had slept for less than an hour alone in the huge marital bed, as he had lain down on the couch. And eventually, as I continued throwing up for minutes, he showed up and held back my hair the whole time I was vomiting. I asked him to leave, I was horribly embarrassed, but he wouldn’t. He’d just kneel beside me and hold back this awfully long dark messy hair of mine, silent. When I was done, he’d helped me up, brought me back to bed and order tea, additional blankets and a hot-water bottle while I was trembling in bed. For the next few days, I was delirious with fever, but the whole time he didn’t leave the suite. Whenever I woke up, he was there. And one thing he said I will never forget is, “I will look after you.”

This is when I thought, we can make this work. Maybe, in the end, we will work it out. Although we have nothing in common, although we don’t know anything about each other, we can manage this. This was, until I found out he had a girlfriend for a year and a half and he broke up with her in order to obey the family traditions and be with me. When I decided I could live like this, the day my father asked me, I only considered myself. I thought I had enough to be fine with this, but I forgot to mind I wouldn’t marry a thing, but a human being. I never thought of his feelings. I have destroyed these people’s lives without even noticing it.

I always knew he could never love me, just as I could never love him, but now I know he hates me.

I have done my A-levels and am about to start University in Vienna in fall. This September I am going to marry Aleksandr.

Still, I have never been in love. My close friends asked me, ‘What if you find someone and fall in love?’ I don’t know the answer. I think I wouldn’t even notice it. I know Aleksandr suppressed his own feelings when it came to it, and so will I, in case it happens. I also don’t know exactly what I want to say with all this ... it took me a while to write this down, and I think, maybe it could help someone on something one day? Maybe people will shake their heads on the absurdity of this? Maybe it lets us see how precious real feelings are. You can’t fake them, even if you want to. There are no lovely photos of us. In fact, I don’t own a single picture of him. There is no happy ending, too.

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