I sat in the second middle pew. The wedding congregation had been gathering slowly and noisily since I had come,when I had sat at the very last pew at the end of the church. Now the church was filling quickly and some folks were frantic about. I figured it must be the elders and the liturgy folks and those assigned to make sure all was in place before the wedding mass was due to start. On the bench I sat on, there was about six of us, though it could sit a lot more and so there was lots of spaces between us. When I had left the back of the church earlier to take my spot when the church was filling up,I had thought about sitting in the very first pew at the centre but my guts had left me. Would he be brave enough to just look at me and go on with the marrying business? Then I got up and sat to the adjacent pew though still in the middle of the church and still with perfect view of everything. I sighed.
Last night I wasn’t so sure I would come to witness this marriage. I had been telling him since he told me about the wedding that I would come to the wedding . That was a year ago but we didn’t speak much about it as we went on with our lives. Occasionally when he couldn’t come over for the weekend because he was needed either at the fiancés or at his parent’s I would make a comment about how this wedding must just happen so we get back our lives and he would sigh and smile. Twice in the last year I had broken off this relationship and then to find myself back in his arms again. I did not want to be in this relationship. I wanted to do right. I did not want him to not marry his fiancé but here I was falling in love with him more each passing day. Each time I would tell him I do not want to be the other woman,nor the woman that would be the end of someone’s marriage. We were very careful about everything.
Three years we had had this parallel relationship. Yesterday morning after I had checked in to the local motel he had come to see me and show me his suit. As he sat at the edge of the bed tying his shoes he said “it’s not too late” and looked up at me. I held my coffee mug and held his gaze strong across from humans said sternly “no!”. He looked at me and he knew I meant all of it. He got up and I swooned. He looked so handsome in his jade suit with his clean shaved head. I put my coffee down and walked to him and straightened his bow tie and stood back. “You are a handsome man,with a handsome heart and I love you madly and God knows I wish things were different but they are not. Go get you a wife”! We both laughed and both had tears in our eyes as I took off his suit and we made out before he left to do what needed to be done. I had the whole day by myself and I was beginning to get scared of my thoughts so I left to go and see a friend who lived in this little town. She was kind enough to agree to an early lunch and I had stopped her from going back to the office and we sat out drinking copious amounts of coffee,and wine for her, and catching up.
“Where do you know this lady from?”
“I know the guy. Remember Seolo? He was two years ahead of us at university”
“Wait Tseleng,the one who had a manic crush on you?”
“What are you talking about,the entire university knew danmit. And you just played dumb to everything. Well except the weekend you spent holed together in his room and then you played hard to get after. You’re friends?”
I looked up and steadied my voice “He is my lover. Three years now”
“Oh gosh!” she said stunned and shook her head in disbelief but said “are you okay?” And the river Nile cued in my eyes and we spent the rest of the afternoon crying and laughing about the whole situation. I told her everything and how badly I wanted to stop loving him and leaving him to be with his family and how I came to be at his wedding as a way to end things. When she dropped me off much later she said “I am not going to judge you.
Neither am I going to tell you to stop,as wrong as this is. You’re in love with this guy,that’s what you need to stop doing,being in love with him because otherwise you won’t be able to get out,you’re making yourself promises you can’t keep. Maybe leave the country. Or marry him!”
“You know I can’t!”
“Yes you can,he isn’t married yet,is he? Stop the wedding. When he comes over later leave both of you. That will be the easier way”
“You know I can’t do that”
“That is the problem. That has always been your problem Tseleng,everybody deserves to be happy but you. One day if you find love again I hope you’re selfish about it. Enjoy the wedding and visit soon” and she drove off.
As the church hushes for the groom coming in to a ballard my heart leaves it’s place and sits between my ears and I am afraid to turn and look as he walks in with his groomsman,handsomer than I remember him when he left early this morning. I wait,he turns and tears sting my eyes and I see his lip tighten for the briefest second and no one notices as he blinks the threatening tears and we share a wink. When he came to spend his last unmarried night with me after the running around all afternoon we both ended as an emotional mess in each other’s arms as I told him it’s the end.
“I know you deserve more than anything I can ever give you. It kills me to know I can’t be with you totally and the thought of losing you cripples and numbs me.” he had said as we lay in each other’s arms.
“I love you and I need you to be a good husband to her and a great father to Mowana. This is my gift to you”
I’m startled out of my thoughts by the arrival of the bride outside. The music changes to hers and she does a slow sensual dance into the church, up the aisle to marry her lover,my boyfriend. She has always been beautiful, Setshego, but today she is even more beautiful than I remember her. Her wedding gown is exquisite and everything looks just perfect. It would be a perfect wedding had I not been here. As everyone is clapping and gasping and ululating I find my boyfriend’s eyes. I find him looking at me and I wink and make sure he follows my hand as I make the smallest wave as his face falls, and my eyes sting as I sneak out of church and leave.