It was just another hot, sticky, and humid August day in New York City. Veronica walked up the countless flights of steps of her pre-war building on the Lower East Side with her two small children, Maria, 6, and Joey, 3. Veronica, a recently laid-off, young mother of 26 years of age, was just getting back from an afternoon at the park with her children.
She rushed into her small apartment to send out an application for a job she just received a call about from her recruiting agent. She logged on to her email account, but before she could compose the email, she noticed a new email that immediately caught her attention. It was from her ex-boyfriend, Anton, who disappeared seven years ago from everything and everyone in New York.
His email was simple: asking how she was and saying that he was fine and now living in Rome, Italy. Veronica was astonished to see this email. In an instant, a rush of presumably forgotten emotions traveled through her body like an electroshock.
Seven years ago, Veronica was devastated by his disappearance. No matter where and how she looked, she could not find him. He was her first love. She was lucky enough to meet her kind and handsome husband, Nelson, shortly after, who soothed her pain and eventually relinquished most of her suffering. He knew and understood her situation and was very compassionate. She let the residual suffering remain dormant inside her body, leaving it invisible to others.
However, there was a secret only Veronica knew and did not want to share with anyone. This secret made Anton’s disappearance even more difficult for her. Veronica was pregnant with his child when Anton vanished, and she never had the chance to tell him. Despite the shock of his disappearance, Veronica had to stay focused on the future of herself and her unborn child. She met Nelson; they started dating, and she claimed to be pregnant with his child. At that point, Nelson was in love with her. He already bought her an engagement ring before knowing of the pregnancy. Feeling ecstatic about the news, he proposed almost instantaneously, and shortly after, they were married. A few months later, Maria was born.
After all the suffering Anton caused her, one would think she would just be grateful to Nelson and forget about Anton, but this was not the case. Nelson was handsome and kind, but not ambitious in his career or aggressive in any other way. She would still think of Anton when times were difficult in her marriage. Anton was very ambitious and driven. Veronica had to work very hard to provide for her family and would sometimes daydream about what life would be like if Anton was her husband.
Anton left his address in the email in case Veronica would ever want to visit him if she happened to be in Rome since he knew her father was from there, and she was familiar with the city. Anton was from Russia, and when he left, everyone assumed he had just gone back there. But given the type of troubles and problems he had, it was best to go to a place in which he had no ties to start a new life.
Throughout the day, Veronica thought of how to respond to him. She also thought of her secret. She thought, “Would this be the right time to tell everyone the truth?” For the past seven years, this secret had felt like a cinder block inside her stomach.
She finally concluded that she needed to go to Rome and see Anton. She explained everything about the email and the trip to Nelson. She told him that she needed to do it for purpose of closure and would bring Maria with her to ensure that nothing inappropriate would happen with Anton and that she would remain faithful to Nelson. Nelson approved of her trip and let them go. Truthfully, she wanted to bring Maria so that she could meet her real father.
Veronica had a wonderful trip with her young daughter in Rome, including taking her sightseeing (Maria’s expression was priceless when she saw the Colosseum and the Vatican), to the zoo where they saw a hippopotamus (Maria’s favorite animal), evening strolls while eating gelato, and many other things.
Finally, the day arrived on which they were to meet with Anton. Veronica had rehearsed in her mind, word for word, what she would tell Anton, Maria, and eventually Nelson – the truth.
She experienced almost a magical feeling when she saw Anton again. They talked for a long time as they watched Maria play in the park. Then Anton went to play with Maria. From afar, Veronica watched Maria bond with her real father, which was sentimental and almost made it easy to tell her secret. Then this triggered other memories. She then reflected on the many days at the park, vacations, meals, laughs, birthday parties, and all the other things Maria shared with Nelson. At this point, she decided not to say anything to Anton. Saying something would do more harm than good. She thought, “Who would it really benefit? It would confuse Maria, disrupt Anton’s new life, and would hurt Nelson.” The only positive thing about telling the truth would be that it would clear her guilty conscience and remove the “cinder block” from her stomach. It would be a selfish choice. Sometimes we need to just live with our bad choices and try to make better choices in the future.
They ended their day with Anton, said goodbye, and agreed to stay in touch. She never told him or anyone else the secret, and they did not stay in touch because she valued her marriage to Nelson more than her friendship with Anton. However, this time she had the opportunity to say a proper goodbye to Anton. She knew she could not have both Nelson and Anton in her life. Veronica felt that keeping the secret was the better choice, so her “cinder block” was still there, but as time passed, it became smaller and smaller, and maybe one day it will be gone.