Spat and reconciliation

“‘Tis the season to be merry” sounded so malapropos to Henri Daniel, aka HD, when he received this text message while jogging on a crisp, cold, early morning in Brussels while vacationing with his sweetheart, “What the hell were you doing hanging out at a blue district? What kind of love is this when you can’t control your zipper?” His girlfriend Theresa must have been really mad, and he was now in the doghouse as far she was concerned. Doghouse as opposed to being on mutual cloud nine for he wanted nothing less than sweep her off her feet. Doghouse like the very last dungeon he wanted to be a resident at because he had made a herculean effort to atone for all his sins. Sins of an exuberant youth besotted with a gargantuan desire for hedonism, aided and abetted by a flock of beautiful damsels that seemed to always cross his path. They also seemed to share his craving for carnal pleasure. Fact was that indeed he was forever in the throes of a rite of passage, a period of his life that has lasted longer than he cared to remember. He kept delaying the decision he knew that sooner or later he had to come to terms with.

The irony was that for all those years he was having a good time and was in an on-and-off relationship with Theresa, she never caught him with his pants at half-mast. For the past six months, he has purged others’ seven-digit numbers to focus on his relationship with Theresa. The bug that bites most of us at one time or another, had instead taken him by storm. It had infiltrated his skin in such a high concentration that it readily dissipated through his pores, with a subtle aroma of an enlivening musk. It also lit a spark that quickly propelled into a brazier heating his heart’s cockles to the brim. HD had discovered love and he liked it because it was acting like an elixir pulsing the endorphins, leaving a trail of intoxication and addiction.

HD couldn’t find out fast enough what was behind the vitriolic message sent. He had certainly not been engaged in any monkey business since a last fling before he made a commitment to make a go of a monogamous relationship. Besides, he no longer felt the need to taste the broth from an unfamiliar cup or the brew from an unknown mix. He kept mulling over what could have triggered such an irate reaction and he kept coming up with a blank answer. He was at wit’s end.

His girlfriend Theresa was also at wit’s end. It took her quite a long time to decide to settle down and open her heart and accept to be in a committed relationship. Professional career, financial independence, emotional liaison on her fickle terms, and the vaunted solitude for quite some time reigned as her credo. However, slowly but surely, the notion of we replacing I was gaining some real estate in her psyche. A biological clock ticking inexorably, her friends marrying one after another had taken a toll on her. The garter from the bride landed on her lap at the last wedding she had gone to. Far from heeding such a superstitious sign, nonetheless the symbolism associated with it dawned on her. Her priorities in life were in the midst of a rearrangement. HD, a friend she has known since her college days and with whom she always felt an attraction to in equal measure to an exacerbation, for a liaison up close temporarily and at arm’s length otherwise. A pattern reminiscent of a flux and reflux pattern.

Yet companionship didn’t come without a steep price. It amounted to a significant sacrifice to give up some of her highly esteemed solitude. Breaking the habit of playing solitaire for a heart-to-heart conversation as reflexive move took some doing. Not surprisingly, just like any birthing, the hardship enhanced the value of the offspring. In the best possible tradeoff, she was slowly giving up a selfish pleasure for a shared one. In the offing she discovered a joy ride and good karma that anointed her soul with bliss. Like the sharp turn of a bend in a road, she was discovering one of the pitfalls of a smitten heart. She was experiencing the searing pang of the sting of a calamity known as jealousy. This was a new territory laden with shards to injure bare feet, burning liniment for the skin, and fetid dung.

The source of her disarray was the discovery by happenstance of a message, ‘Huren in Domburg in HD’s cell phone the night before.  They both were vacationing in Europe and HD had joined her from Germany. All she did was to use Google translate a while after HD had gone jogging and it left no ambiguity about its meaning. That sentence in German means “Prostitutes in Domburg.” No better proof of infidelity than that. Airtight evidence.

Livid, with her nares flaring, her lips pursed, breathing heavily, “Don’t fucking lie to me, you bastard!” She hurled this salvo toward him when he returned from the jog. HD was sweating from the exercise as well as the expectation of the cauldron he would be up against, even if innocent.

“What am I being accused of?” He asked this question softly. The calm tone infuriated her more. She showed him the message and the translation next to it.

“You are making a molehill out of nothing.” He smiled while saying this and that set her off.

“It’s bad enough you couldn’t keep your pecker in your pants, now you are acting like a real dick. I have had it with you, and I should cut it off!” Acting cool or raising his voice could only aggravate the situation because she had it set in her mind that he was at fault. From her perspective, he could only try to lie his way out of it. All the same HD had never seen Theresa in this state before. Later on, she would describe it as “crossroads of fear and temper tantrum, the type of uncontrollable sensation that makes one behave in unpredictable fashion.”

“Ok darling, this is nothing but an unfortunate but easily explained misunderstanding. My friend Achmad from Suriname who works in Germany but travels extensively throughout Holland, advised me in a phone conversation to stay in Domburg, Netherlands. Lest I forget, he texted me the message.”

“Shit! You are now taking me for a fool! How does that square? Of course, since he lives in the country, he is a connoisseur and is well placed to tell you where to go to find these lowlifes. Ain’t this right?” So convinced was she of his guilt that she felt nothing but hatred at the time she sarcastically emitted these words, and she started throwing his clothes on the floor in the hotel room.

“Darling, what he sent me wasn’t in German but in Dutch, the language spoken in Holland. It resembles German and at times uses the same words that carry different meanings. I grant you this translates into “prostitutes in Domburg” in German. However, in Dutch the words mean “rent in Domburg.” Don’t take my word for it. Look it up in Google translate. Domburg happens to be a lovely seaside town in the Netherlands. I wanted to surprise you and take you there, but no, you had to spoil it and curse at me, making me out to be a bad guy when all I wanted to do was to please you. How does that make you feel?”

Love causes the heart to go through all sorts of acrobatic pirouettes in short order. Theresa was mad one minute and then perplexed, remorseful, ashamed, upset at being shown up, embarrassed of letting her jealous instinct overcome her better judgment and yet flattered by the courtship. Sensing the tug of war raging inside of her and wanting to defuse the awkward and tense situation, he did her the honors of doing the Google translate. He then dutifully showed her in Google images some really lovely pictures of this seaside resort town and her 2 other namesakes: in Germany located no more than 100 miles from Berlin as well as the one in Suriname, also a seaside town.

“So, would you like me to take you there?” HD asked in a sotto voce manner, the type of murmur barely whispered into the ear that carries far more heft in persuasion than a loud exclamation. HD was searching for the best way to slide an off-ramp option to lessen the destructive storm and pave the way to the necessary, soothing calm. Like from fisticuffing to spooning.

“Perhaps,” she answered like an ingénue, far removed from the impish, feisty woman with a tart tongue. Her voice was as soft as the decibel of his whisper. As if on cue, she was latching on the olive branch tendered, and segueing by ridding her mind of malevolent darkness and inviting the uplifting grace of brightness.

Theresa was finding out the hard way, even this late in her life, about some feelings she hadn’t known she was capable of harboring. As much as she liked the serenity of a tete-a-tete by a moonlight, she disliked the sensation of fear of a tremendous loss associated with a jealous fit. She also held her pride at bay to thaw the ice of dissension, a measure she wouldn’t have taken when younger and easy prey to surliness for its own sake.

“Darling, I am sorry, but you have unleashed some powerful feelings I wasn’t aware I was harboring. So yes, I am jealous, and I can’t help it. It comes with the territory. Yes, love can’t stand sharing. I am discovering this the hard way.” Just as spontaneously, Theresa picked up his clothes and neatly folded them. ‘Was a time she would have remained upset for quite some time and finding it hard to concede she was at fault and perpetuate the hard feelings. She was happy to be more lucid and comfortable in her skin to go beyond these little pesky habits that nag, dog, irritate a companion over a trifle.

“Actually, you had better take me to Domburg so I can see with my own eyes how pretty it is.” Theresa smiled when she uttered these words, giving the clearest signal that the recent fit belonged to a bygone era bereft of appeasing snuggle and unifying coddle. That resonated as  pure music to HD’s ears since he had plotted the trip carefully, like a dry run of a honeymoon. Needless to say, she kissed him and that escalated into their customary playful carnal merriment.

The spat among lovers is as quick and intense to uncork as to fetter, to fester and amplify as it can be buried and forgotten all in a seamless progression. This one was no different. HD, just like his soulmate, always looks for the eclectic. She had impressed him with her elaborate birthday celebration she threw in Carmel, California the year before and he wanted to pay her in kind. HD was drawing from his well of experience with humans to find the happy medium with his lover.

From Brussels, they caught a train to Amsterdam and then rented a car to take a very picturesque excursion along the coast to Domburg. The countryside in Holland displays the evidence of mankind learning to live in harmony with a whimsy environment and yet achieving resounding success. Engineering derring-do and acumen conflated with artistic sentience to wow and create one gem after another.

Accustomed as Theresa was with the quaint little towns along the New England coast, especially Cape Cod and Rhode Island, she couldn’t help but be astonished with the display of earthen-hue windmills, lattice of tree-branching  canals acting like natural sponges, variegated but lush meadows, rustic homes, splaying a bucolic imagery ad infinitum. Like a fairy tale. She pinched herself to ensure this was not part of a daydream but real, sultry tapestry of colors, forms, function. In vivo postcard pictures abounded as HD drove from a beautiful hamlet after another. They had exotic names like Zierikzee, Harlingen, Naarden, Giethoorn. They stayed overnight at Giethoorn and she liked it so much she didn’t want to leave but relented and went on to Domburg. It turned out to be what the doctor ordered, an artists’ colony, old, quaint, with nice beaches. She came, she saw, she liked. She especially liked what happened next in Domburg.

Over dinner, HD did the ultimate gesture to jettison any remnant of bachelorhood. When she least expected it, “Darling, would you like to marry me?” He genuflected like a true gentleman and a scholar. The diamond ring was shining and rivaling the glint on Theresa’s face. Theresa who was beginning to wonder about this next level in their relationship felt a levitation skyward to the firmament on this cold day of December.


Reynald Altéma, MD.

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