by Josh T. Alto
A young couple visit Casablanca on their honeymoon
|The curtain fell, the film was over and she still sat there crying. She had already seen that film at least a hundred times and still she started crying every time she heard Rick saying “If that plane leaves the ground and you're not with him, you'll regret it.”
Leslie, her future husband, who was sitting on the next seat, attempted to console her, "It’s alright sweetheart,” he said, caressing her arm, “it is just a movie.”
But Rick continued. “Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.” Leslie on the next seat gave up. Who was he to rival with Bogart?
She, still sobbing, was thinking of herself; would she regret it? She tried to imagine herself standing there having to decide whether to leave with her husband or to stay with someone she loved. It was in fact a very sensible question as she and Leslie were going to marry each other the next day and it was her last wish, as she funnily announced, to see that film before their wedding. Her favorite film.
It was her birthday. She was born on 29 August 1982, the same day as Ingrid Bergman died. Her mother watched the funeral on TV in the hospital and she even saw her ashes being scattered in the sea; a solo violin was playing the song ‘As time goes by’ and it probably influenced her whole life. She cried when she first heard that song although she did not know what it was about.
Later, every time she saw the film she wept afterwards the whole evening, she just could not see them parting, could not see her sacrifice herself for something that did not exist. Her mind was full of questions even that evening. How can anyone be sure when marrying someone that they will stay together forever? Can a marriage bind someone to another person even if she loves someone else?
A few days later in Casablanca. They arrived by the Royal Air Maroc plane late at night; the lights of the harbor could be seen perfectly, one of the largest artificial ports in the world. In the distance a pathway of moonlight emerged sparkling from the water. It was obviously her idea, to spend their honeymoon there, in the city of her dreams. Ever since she had seen that film she was fascinated by that unbelievable love.
She just could not believe there was anything worth giving up one’s dreams for, she just could not believe there was anything there she would sacrifice herself for. Never. She had decided never to do that. But she was a romantic, a helpless romantic. Not her husband, he was levelheaded, standing with both feet on solid ground. Someone who never did anything that he had not thought over at least a thousand times, he was a realist and in that sense they complemented each other perfectly.
She just found the idea reassuring to have someone around who thought of everything. She was the one who even in the last minutes had doubts whether she should marry him but her husband, Mister Confident just could not imagine that such a perfect pair would not be worthy of a lifetime of happy marriage. But was it really the perfect marriage as he imagined it? The plane landed.
“Au revoir Madame, au revoir Monsieur. ” The steward smiled at her when she passed by. They took a taxi from the airport, it was not cheap but she could not miss it. She often tried to fancy what her favorite couple would do in that situation; she tried to live their lives somehow. But whose life? They were actors, and Rick and Ilsa existed only in a novel, in a film, her husband would say. But she often fantasized being Ilsa from the film and she tried to act as she would have done. She wondered whether Ilsa would have married Leslie?
The hotel was marvelous; the room was big and richly furnished, planned for honeymooners. They gave some money to the boy who brought up their luggage and they both lay on the double bed. What a honeymoon! She could have slept right away so they took a quick shower and crept into the bed.
The first day they just stayed in the hotel room, although they had been together for more than a year, it was logical somehow to act as honeymooners, but in the afternoon her husband already started to plan some programs for the next days, not because he had tired of her but because he also wanted to see more of the country and the city. But the truth was that their sexual life was not at all as exciting as she had expected. She often dreamt about someone else.
She had known a man before with whom she could creep into bed anytime when he asked. They had been friends, even lovers a few years before but then she left him one day. He was a cop and her snobbish friends had made quite a lot of fun of it. She certainly regretted it but she was too proud to go back to him.
She suffered because she loved him and afterwards she deliberately chose someone who was more in love with her than she in him. She thought it would be enough for a marriage. A quiet family life with children, in a comfortable house, some pets around, nice neighbors and casual sex with her husband without passion. Nothing exciting but it is a sort of life. Was it really what she wanted?
Next morning they looked up a travel agent and booked a desert program for two days, a camel ride, in the evening gazing at the huge red ball go down over the Sahara, as the reddish horizon slowly faded into the brown yellowish sand with all the colors she liked. It was simply marvelous; they had never had a similar experience in their whole lives.
“Le coucher du soleil, Madame. C’est magnifique. ” she heard one of the guides say. Her communication with their escort was minimal, although she could understand some French, it would have taken hours to think of a suitable answer.
Returning from the desert, the next few days they spent in Casablanca just roaming the streets, sitting in a restaurant when they were hungry or in a tearoom to have some refreshment, she just could not have enough couscous, she loved it.
One day near the harbor they went into a small bar to have a drink. She ordered a cocktail called Casablanca, something she had not even heard of before, and started sipping it, the crushed ice were tinkling in the glass. She looked around in the bar and she had the feeling she had already been there before, it just looked or felt familiar in a way.
The engaging bar music with a sole piano, it had always been one of her favorites, she almost expected somehow to hear the song, ‘As time goes by’ when the piano man started playing it, yes, unmistakably; and then she caught sight of him standing behind the bar, the man from her previous life, her love from a time she had almost forgotten, whom she just left a few years before.
They saw each other but neither of them wanted to take the initiative, of shyness and shame. Yes, she was ashamed, that time she just did not feel they would make a nice couple, a policeman and she, after all her studies with her snobbish friends; she simply expected something more.
On the next day when her husband was taking his afternoon nap she went back to the bar to talk with her ex-lover, she just could not let it go, he meant too much to her. They talked a lot, she explained why she had left him and he talked about his career, how he left it because she was ashamed of his being a cop and how he had started over again in Casablanca with the small fortune that he had inherited from his uncle.
She heard her voice saying that they could start it over again but did she mean it seriously? Being married what could she do, was it a decision she could take without consequences? Not anymore. She was desperate. She could never forget those nights and days they spent together, she had never had such a passionate lover ever before or after.
On the next day she went back to the bar with her husband. He introduced Eric, her old friend to her husband. He suspected there had been something between them, but he was sure in her love; she had chosen him after all. But there was something he did not know. Her only reason in choosing him had been to have a comfortable relation, a quiet life with someone; they were the perfect combination she thought. They went a few times into the bar even later but she did not have the opportunity to talk privately to Eric any more.
On the last day Eric took them to the airport, it was an attention to her and she appreciated it. They sat quietly in the car, small talked a little from time to time; she felt miserable, she thought she missed something again. She had a second chance to continue with him and she was throwing it away a second time.
At the airport she thought she heard Rick’s voice saying “…you will regret it… for the rest of your life” but she was Ilse now and she did not want to make the same mistake again. She was determined: that plane must leave without her. She felt perfectly calm and contented. She tried to listen but she could not hear Rick’s voice any more.
(Word count 1648)