Elizabeth and Ou Yang never had the chance to meet up, either in the US or in Montreal. Both were busy with work, with children and with their own love affairs. Even in a world of easy communication, these methods are always and forever just means, never the will.
They were always different, and they hadn’t gotten any closer with Ou Yang’s migration to Canada. In Ou Yang’s mind, more so back in China than in Montreal, Elizabeth had been an idol for Ou Yang, a woman who sparked Ou Yang’s aspirations in a special and nourishing way.
But Ou Yang had almost forgotten that she had a friend living not too far from her. Elizabeth, on the other hand, had simply been consumed by her duty as a mother to four children, the disturbance of her divorce, and the relationships that never fit just right.
Elizabeth had had a nice year dating Patrick Simard, but towards the end of 2011, they stopped. Most people assumed it was because of the distance. But it was something else, something that was key for any conventional relationship – it was commitment.
After a full year of dating Elizabeth, Patrick had failed to commit to marrying Elizabeth with no further intention of doing so. Elizabeth was disappointed and was soon exhausted by the long distance when she saw that there was no light at all at the end of this long tunnel.
After all the years of waiting, looking and searching, she thought she had finally found someone who suited her just fine. But life showed no mercy for her romantic and kind heart, no reward for her persistence, no compensation for her honesty.
Life left her aspirating uneven breaths of despair, a dull brain that could look and plan no further, and a face wrinkled with sagging skin. To her, life was more odd than she had expected – indifferent to good and bad, impartial and insensitive to all she had believed in as the reward for good deeds.
Elizabeth was at her wits’ end. Neither the Bible, Confucianism, nor the Koran had teachings specifically for women dealing with men who failed to or were unwilling to commit. These books were written by men with instructions for men; women were not part of the big picture. Instead, they were told to commit themselves to their children, their husbands, and their families, and the societies made sure of that in brutal or subtle ways.
Women, generations after generations followed their men’s – and God’s – instructions. They were ready to commit, and in return, they expected the reciprocal commitment from the men, though many of these men failed from Day One to honor their oaths, and would continue to fall short in this “decent play” of gender roles.
Elizabeth didn’t just feel disappointed; she was disconcertedly helpless. The convention of marriage was just like the religious institutions that had somehow failed to commit to her a loyal husband and to feed her more internal needs – the need to keep the balance of her body or the need to have her heart and soul in harmonic concert.
Elizabeth had a strange, unspeakable desire for a new balance, a new mechanical system that could filter the toxic stuff that life had ungraciously thrown at her – one that would also keep the basic elements by which life could still thrive, despite of the most vicious or banal changes.
Apart from her inherited Christian teachings that needed reinterpretation, Elizabeth was quietly learning the laws of nature and of the universe. She was also beginning to adjust her own system of belief. She slowly stopped leaning on expectations hidden behind rituals and social customs.
Oddly enough, with time, those ugly wrinkles started to appear less deep and some just disappeared while her face retrieved its youth’s glow, her hair became shiny and smooth again, and her body repositioned itself as if it were that of a twenty-eight year old…
To be continued…