True Love

An Essay by Soul Fishing

We live in times where phrases such as ''true love'' provoke a cynical reaction rather than anything else. Couples are getting a divorce at the first sign of trouble, saying later they just couldn't make it work. The singles are staying single because being single is everything they know, or in the words of my friend, let's call her Mary: ''Teja, I am afraid that if I meet a guy, I am going to lose my freedom.'' And I, the hopeless romantic, say: ''It's more likely that you're going to, um... upgrade it.'' ''No,'' she says: ''I am seriously afraid that everything I had built will just fall to pieces and I will totally have to rearrange my life to make room for my boyfriend.''

The sad thing is that Mary is not alone in this fear. Another friend of mine, let's call him Dick, when asked whether he has a girlfriend said: ''No, and I don't want one.''  ''Okay,'' I say: ''What was the longest relationship you were in?'' ''I've never been in a relationship,'' he simply says. He’s 32 years old, has an apartment, a steady job, he's good looking, he's straight and... there’s no way in hell, he’d want a girlfriend. Dick cannot be bothered with relationships. And neither can Mary. So much about true love in 21st century.

Then I think of the couple in this picture. Can you see the woman on the far left and the man behind her, his hand on her arm. It looks old, doesn't it? That's probably because it is. The photo was taken in 1946 in probably the least romantic place in the world – in the Soviet Russia. It was after the WWII, when everybody was pretty much starving, and there was no time for over-analyzing relationships because one was pretty much busy just surviving.

 They met at a military dance. Yes, the Russian military organized dances. The woman, who, to be honest, wasn't a head-turner, caught the man's attention. He greeted the woman: ''Hello, comrade.'' She replied: ''Hello, tavarish. Would you like to dance?'' The man panicked because he didn't know how to dance: ''Em... no, thank you.'' The woman wasn't easily swayed: ''C'mon, tavarish! Just one dance!'' ''No, thank you, tavarishitsa.'' And he abruptly left with quick steps, too embarrassed by his lack of knowledge of dancing to continue the conversation. The woman watched the man go, quite disappointed.

A few months later she received a letter from him, asking her, in a very careful manner, to marry him. She said yes.

She had to wait one whole year before she heard from him again.

When I asked the man, fifty years later, why didn't he reply to her letter of acceptance to his marriage proposal, he simply said: ''I didn't have any money to financially support  a family I'd make with her. So I waited until I'd get a job.'' ''You could have said something to her, grandpa! You could have written a letter to grandma, saying you were looking for a job and politely asked her to wait.'' I said. ''Well, Teja, I had a plan. First, I'd get a job, then, I'd marry her. Then, we'd have children.''  ''That’s a good plan, grandpa,'' I agreed.

A year later, he wrote her another letter, asking her to marry him again. And for some reason, she said yes. Again. And then, they finally got married.

Their wedding day was probably the least romantic wedding day in the history of mankind. They both had to wear military uniforms as they were still in the service. And quite frankly, after the war, everybody was so hungry and desperate that one could only dream of a white wedding in a church.
The reality was that it was a civil ceremony as they lived in the times of communism and Grandpa didn't have any money for a nice military uniform, so he had to borrow some nicer pieces from his friends.
''Comrade, take my nice shoes. We're the same size!'' one friend said enthusiastically.
''Comrade, take the bottom part of my uniform, I have a spare one,'' another friend kindly offered him.

After the civil ceremony they had a simple meal containing of potatoes, cabbage and meat; there was no wedding cake, just some pieces of pastry and coffee, and then everybody went home.

My grandparents ended up being married for more than fifty years, not knowing how to live without each other. They were best friends, life companions and soul mates. They hardly argued and if they did, all the arguments were always won by my grandma.

When asked how the hell did he know that the woman he’d met at the dance was his soul mate, my Grandpa replied: ‘’I just knew. The moment I saw her, I just knew.’’

That has to be true love, right?


Teja xoxox

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