Here I am sitting at the centre of the top table with the most wonderful woman in the world. She’s wearing a gold and silver sari; I’m dressed in Montrose, jabot and a kilt of Ancient Anderson tartan.
I’m to give the bridegroom’s speech. It’s going to be a short one. I stand. “Ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys. Welcome and thank you for gracing our wedding. We’ve broken so many traditions today but I’d like to break one more and ask Varij to take the opportunity to make this speech in my place. The reason for this is that she does so many things better than I can.” I look at her and wink. “No one has ever outclassed me so much and in so many ways.”
She rises, speech notes at the ready. She’s all smiles and confidence as ever.
Looking right round the tables, both families represented at each one, she speaks in her clear musical voice. “Our greetings to both families and our humble thanks for being here today and for the courtesy you extended when you saw what had happened between us. I want to tell you how it happened. Most bridegroom speeches contain jokes: this one does not. However it won’t be unpleasant: I’ll leave out the worst of it.” She looks down at her notes. “We had worked together for some months – merely colleagues. Well, he is rather handsome and says I am beautiful, but we’re from two different races, cultures and religions – it was strictly hands off and get on with the work. We attended the triage course as the only two participants and were thrown together again. After it concluded we worked more or less side by side every shift.” She glances at me, falls silent for a moment and looks back at the relatives. “Then came the riots. Nothing too bad in the first few days but the situation exploded out of control. Let me tell you about that night. I have more experience than Harry – having worked in A&E, sorry, accident and emergency, for three more years. Harry is a bit wild, like a race horse, and doesn’t like taking orders except, as I noted that night, from me.”
There is a murmur of laughter from the families. “We made a perfect team. I am best at organising the support staff around us and liaising with any departments that are to receive the casualties passing through our unit. Harry is best at assessment and immediate care. He was utterly fearless, dealing with violent casualties much stronger than him and has an almost supernatural ability to find wounds quickly, cutting away just the right bit of clothing. No matter what the emotional condition of the casualty, he’d be talking them down into a relaxed state in which they complied on the understanding that the very best was being done for them. He says I taught him that. Then he’d hold out a hand and I’d have the right dressing ready. I’d decide to set up a drip and he’d be tapping a vein and swabbing the area without me asking or telling him what I was planning. The next thing a Venflon was opened and placed in my hand and my choice of fluid, normal saline, plasma expander, O-negative blood, or whatever, magically appeared, again without me saying anything. This went on all night. Yes, with less experience he needed some support and direction – and I seemed to be the best person to give it. The point is that he never ever questioned a request, as if he had total faith in me.”
She takes a moment for a deep breath and turns the paper over. “No one has ever had so high an opinion of me or made me realise just how good I am at my job. He never lets anyone get away with a bad decision no matter who they are. He just won’t tolerate fools. The significance of his lack of criticism of my decisions was not lost on me.”
She pauses, looking into the distance, collects her thoughts and goes on, “We both nearly cracked up under pressure several times that night but were able help each other out every time. I’ve so many notes and instances of our conscious and unconscious mutual cooperation and emotional support for each other through what was by far the most extreme and devastating night of our lives but I’ll spare you them.” She withdraws two hand-written cards from the others and places them on the table.
Another deep breath, with a slight tremor in it this time. “Before the disaster began he said something like ‘if we get through this night I want to marry you’. I thought it was a joke at first. After the casualties stopped coming in, nine hours later, so many porters, doctors and nurses simply dropped where the were and fell asleep in a state of shock and total exhaustion. We did likewise. When staff woke us up, because we were blocking a corridor, Harry and I ended up side by side sitting against a wall. This time he really proposed to me. I tried to put up some argument, mentioning culture, religion, colour and resistance from families – though none of these became the slightest problem in reality.”
Actually there were some problems but by saying there were none she’s just given the relevant people a bit of a verbal ‘your opinion is not that important’ slap. Gods, I love her.
Varij’s breath catches. “How could I say no? We both know exactly what the other is thinking and feeling – and what to do about it. Not just at work but all the time. This is why I am wearing gold and silver woven together. That night was the crucible in which we finished melting into each other. Sometime during that horrific ordeal we finally became one. I knew a relationship so close, so profound, so beautiful could never happen again, nor do I need another – with a man – just with each of our children that we hope will come along.”
©Gary Bonn, 2016