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Friday, November 23, 2012

The Bride

Among the dozens of photographs shot on the wedding day, only two showed the bride with a tight little smile on her face. In all the other photos, she looked as grave and serious as the day she had taken the university entry exams, unlike the spontaneous, glowing smile on her graduation photo.

The groom was but slightly taller than the petite bride: a square-faced, confident young man. He had recently received his license to practice medicine and been accepted to a prestigious American hospital for his residency. The girl had only met him on three previous occasions and had only a few days to consider his proposal.

"What's to consider? He and his family came with excellent references." Her parents urged her. "He's a doctor and is going to America to make big money. He is well educated and went to the best university. It's a perfect match." 

Indeed it was, as her father and brother were dentists and she grew up surrounded by the smell of disinfectant. She wished he had been taller and more handsome, like the lead actor in the movie she had seen last week, but his square jaw and self-assured manner smile seemed to suggest professional success and familial prosperity. He did not drink, smoke, or gamble. He had a clean romantic history and did not have an ex-wife, mistress, or bastard. Go to America with him, live in a skyscraper, raise a few beautiful children, and have a charmed life. The prospect was irresistible.

It all happened so fast. Before she knew it, they were engaged. Family parties were held at restaurants and hotels. Gifts were exchanged between parents. She was not without ambivalence, but neither did she have any specific objections. No, she had no objection besides "I have not had much time to know him well" or "Is this going to be the rest of my life?" Neither was sufficient to slow down the inevitable train of events arranged by both families. Time could not be wasted, for the girl was soon to be 25, almost too old to find a good match, and the fiance would depart for America in a month. The plane tickets were bought, which caused a stir as no one in the two families had taken a plane trip before.

Yet she was not entirely convinced. Doubts trickled in the back of her mind. A part of her could not quite grasp the concept of becoming a doctor's wife or living in another country or not being able to walk up the street and talk to Mom and Dad whenever she wanted. It felt like a dream, even on the day of her wedding. A big party for the families, that's what it was. She was not sure why she was going through the motions in a clumsy white dress with a lace veil pinned to her hair, but surely no polite young woman from a decent family would make a ruckus in such an occasion and cause her elders to lose face. So she played along and followed orders --- It was easy enough, as someone was telling her where to go and what to do every step of the way.

Indeed she had doubts, but she hardly had time to acknowledge or contemplate them. There was simply no time. The union must go on. 

Forty some years later, when she looked at her photos of the wedding and the grave young face that was once herself, she would remember how odd it all was, the day that began the rest of her life.

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