by Len Kuntz
She was a constipated mail-order bride who had yet to arrive. So he sent her emails and texts in her foreign language, sometimes misspelling words. Eventually, he even reverted to old-fashioned letters.
After a while, he wondered if she was real. The advertisement claimed she was and he had had those initial contacts with her. He’d sent money, too, via his credit card over the internet.
Afterward she, or the website, kept updating her life. New photos showed she’d gained a little weight and now had an adorable muffin top. She wore less jewelry and had cut her hair in an choppy bob. He adjusted his computer settings so her images could be magnified, yet the closer he looked the less he could tell if she was happy or content.
His friend told him he was being played, that he’d be best off calling The Better Business Bureau, yet he didn’t want to spoil his chances of meeting her by looking flakey and indecisive.
Even though the flights sometimes arrived late, he showed up at the airport each Monday an hour early. He knew many of the TSA agents and, for fear of being thought a terrorist, he was always overly polite while waiting as close to the exit gates as allowed. One of the uniformed women was nearly a granny and she often greeted him with a sad little pouch of a smile, as if she was disappointed or depressed for him. But she couldn’t possibly know, could never understand.
This was the great love of his life. His father had told him we only get one of those, and his father had demonstrated as much, waiting by his wife’s bedside as she struggled, then withered, then died.
While driving to the airport, he played mix tapes of songs he thought his future wife would enjoy. He constantly rehearsed his greeting. He was going to make a good first impression if it killed him.
One day she sent a Friend Request through social media and his heart soared. She was so glad he hadn’t given up on her. She missed him, too. Times were very rough in her country and her mother had grown sick. He told her he knew what that was like. Be patient, she said, and he told her would, no matter how long.
Then they started talking on the phone. For hours they spoke. As incredible as it was, he fell even more in love with her.
Their impasse went on for months, years, decades, and still they kept communicating. On his death bed, a very old man now, he imagined what their life would have been like if they’d ever physically met. Almost every married couple divorced, often in bitter dispute, and so he realized they’d been spared all that. Smiling as he passed away, he said her name aloud, said, “I love you,” and whether it was true or not, he believed that somewhere, wherever she was, she heard him.
published 24 October 2012