As promised, here I am! Back real soon with an update to this series.
(I simply had to boast about this because it’s probably the first time that I’ve actually kept a promise. Atleast when it comes to blogging…)
For those who haven’t read the prologue, here’s a short cut!
Alright! So now, we are all set!
The back up plan
Monica’s eyes sparkled with tears upon reading the prologue, a wave of emotions overwhelming her conscience. Much of her disappointment and annoyance at the absence of Chandler on their anniversary had now been replaced into a longing for his presence, be it his warm embrace or even his awkward jokes. Yet, seeing that his words were all she had right now, ploughing on with the book was the best way she could make do. And hence, she flipped the page and began reading the first chapter, yearning to relive one amongst the many memories of their life.
1. The back up plan
Everyone has a back up option. A plan B if your plan A doesn’t work. A safety net.
But when it came to marriage, I didn’t even HAVE a plan A, being the commitment-o-phobe that I had always been. So it came as a surprise to me when Monica told me that I not only had a Plan B, but that she would’ve been the one for me even then.
11 May 1995
There we were, in the waiting room of the hospital in which my friend Ross’s lesbian ex-wife Carol was about to give birth to their son, Ben. Weird, right? When it comes to Ross’s love life, it’s always been complicated. I have promised him to write a book on it if I have the time. Trust me when I say that it’ll be VERY entertaining.
Anyways, so we were waiting there while a couple walked in with a kid neatly tucked in their hands and that was when I opened my big fat mouth to ask Monica to be my back up the stupidest way one possibly could have. Actually I had simply done it as a way to make her feel better. I understood the ramifications way too late.
“Not fair! I don’t even have one! How can they get two?!” Monica asked, visibly upset.
“You’ll get one.” I said, only too used to her baby fever.
” Oh yeah?! When?” she demanded.
“Alright. I’ll tell you what. When we are 40, and neither of us are married, what do you say you and I get together and have one?” I had blabbed not even completely aware of my own speech.
” Why won’t I be married when I’m 40?”
Damn it! Why couldn’t I ever think things through? Now I had succeeded in making her even more upset.
“Oh no! No, no, no! I just meant hypothetically!” I tried, back-pedaling immediately.
“Okay. Hypothetically, why won’t I be married when I am 40? I mean, seriously, is there something fundamentally unmarriable about me?”
Oh my God! How the hell had I led her to think like that?! Didn’t she realise the loads of ‘fundamentally marriable’ things she had? Of course she would be married before 40. A LOT before. As soon as I realized that the situation was getting out of hand, I had turned to humour, which was the only defence mechanism I knew back then.
” Oh dear God! This, this parachute is a knapsack!”
Luckily she chose to either forgive or ignore me. I shut up, too late as usual but grateful at the lack of her response.
The way I had asked her left me in little doubt that she won’t even remember it. But, as usual, she managed to take me by surprise.
Ben’s Bar Mitzvah – 13 years later…
As it so happens, the next time we ever spoke of this disaster was when we were returning from Ben’s Bar Mitzvah. As was usual, Monica was driving (By the way… Did I mention how laid-back I am?) and I was in the shotgun seat. Jack and Erica, my two amazing 4 year olds were deep asleep in the back of the car, tired by roaming around in the party and hanging out with Emma, their mischievous yet loveable cousin. There was a lazy, peaceful silence in the car. I decided to take a short nap. In my defence, balancing five kids on your four limbs for an entire evening was an exhausting task. Suddenly though, Monica broke it by her soft voice, almost whispering so as not to awaken the kids.
“It’s amazing, isn’t it?”
“Hmm?” I asked, still not fully oriented.
“Kids grow up so fast you don’t even realise it” she said, her eyes having the tender look she always had whenever she said the word ‘Kids‘.
“Speak for yourself, personally I feel old enough to be a Grandpa!” I replied, indeed feeling weary after being attacked by the kids left, right and centre. She smiled in response and I was grateful that my lame jokes never grew old for her.
“I mean Ben is a teenager already! We have a nephew who is boasting about his first date now”
“Yeah, thank goodness he didn’t wait ten years for her to come back by some miracle!” I exclaimed , to which Monica snorted in agreement. It’s an inside joke. I’ll explain this in detail if I ever write Ross’s biography as I mentioned earlier.
As the car continued speeding on the interstate, Monica seemed to passively gaze at the road ahead of her, lost in her own thoughts. And though I was intrigued as to what she was thinking, I couldn’t help but be overpowered by exhaustion and soon returned to my peaceful slumber.
Not long after, the car swerved violently in the adjacent lane. Mon had apparently lost herself in a reverie, but had recovered quickly enough to steered the car back into it’s lane in no time.
“Sorry! I’m really sorry! You okay?” she exclaimed, while passing a quick look behind to check on the kids, who were sound asleep, completely unlike me who was now bewildered and widely awake.
“What’s up, Mon?” I asked, a bit worried.
“Nothing” she claimed, like always.
“Hey, I’ll drive if you are tired” I proposed, knowing that my wife never ever liked to admit that she couldn’t or didn’t have the energy to do something.
Monica smiled at my genuine concern for her “No, I’m okay. Was just thinking…”
“Chandler have you ever thought that by this time next year we’ll both be in our forties? That’s like half of our life gone already!” she exclaimed, with an urgency in her voice.
I frowned for a moment, confused about where this was going. Everyone hated aging, but Monica had been dying to live like a mature grown up since ages. Hence I chose a diplomatic answer.
“Well, think of it like this – We still have the other half to ourselves.”
“It’s… it’s not that simple. I mean, all my life I had been looking forward to leading a mature adult life, but sometimes I feel like just going back and reliving those carefree years of my life.” she replied, sounding nostalgic.
I was certainly taken aback on hearing her say that.
“Sometimes I do too. But all I have to do is to look at you and our wonderful kids to remind myself that what I have now is something I don’t ever want to risk losing” I answered honestly, upon which she simply looked at me, confused.
“Why would you ever lose what we have?” she asked.
“We came together by a lucky coincidence, the courtesy of your stupid brother.” I began, in an attempt to explain her what I thought was obvious.
“Hey!” she exclaimed, taking offence.
There was a short pause as Mon contemplated the events surrounding her brother’s rushed wedding.
“Meh. Who am I kidding? You are right.” she replied, rolling her eyes as she did so.
“I mean, what if it all hadn’t happened? I still count myself very lucky for how things turned out.” I concluded.
She simply looked at me before smiling deeply and saying “Me too”
I couldn’t think of an appropriate response to that, as I was positive she was just being kind to me.
The conversation came to a halt, and the silence resumed for a while. Soon, the exit to Westchester came in sight, and our car parted way with the interstate. Suddenly, as though struck by an epiphany, Monica said,
“Know what? Actually we still could have been together.”
“How?” I asked frowning. I couldn’t see any other way. Drunk and vulnerable was the only way she could’ve fallen for me.
“Remember the night Ben was born?”
“Yeah”. Vividly, I thought to myself.
“You had told me that if we were both single by the time we were 40, then we would get together and have a kid” she said, triumphant.
“You still remember that?” I asked shocked that she would recollect something which I had spilled so carelessly many years ago.
“Of course! Why wouldn’t I?” she asked.
“I say a lot of things and well… you guys never actually take me seriously” I replied, ears turning red as I did so. Seriously I just went on and on about stuff. It never occurred to me that it was even remotely worth remembering.
“Oh my God Chandler! You still think like that? We do know when you mean it! And I don’t know about others but the only reason I pretend not to listen is to shut you up.” she exclaimed, as I yet again revealed the insecurities I possesed.
“Because sometimes in life, you have to keep quiet!” she said, smiling.
“I know” I replied, grinning. I just couldn’t help myself.
“I would never ever ignore you Chandler, I thought you knew that”
Yet again I was rendered speechless. She indeed loved me more than I could ever think of. She glanced at me sideways and our eyes met. Even though it was only for a few seconds, they managed to convey emotions which words could not.
“You know, I didn’t really think you were serious at that time. But once I got out of the hospital I gave it some thought and you know what?” she said, as she resumed their conversation.
“What?” I asked, dreading the answer.
“I thought….Why not?” she replied.
“Really?” I had thought she would consider it as a joke, so her saying that she had not only considered it but agreed to it threw me in for a loop.
“Yeah! Even then I knew I could always rely on you. You have always been my safety net, Chandler. It felt nice to know that if things didn’t work out for me, I would still have you”
“Not if I had gotten married first!” I blurted out, only meaning it as a joke. Me getting married before her?! Impossible.
But Monica seemed to have taken it seriously, and her face suddenly paled. Really, when was I gonna stop being so stupid?
“Oh yeah…” she said, her voice losing it’s charm.
“Hey, who am I kidding?! Of course you would have been the one to get married first!” I exclaimed, truthfully. It seemed to work, as she smiled, the colour returning to her face.
“You think so?” she asks softly.
“Why not? There is absolutely nothing ‘unmarriable’ about you!”
Monica let out a laugh probably remembering the rest of our conversation, and how it had ended with me awkwardly backing off. But then, another thought seemed to cross her mind and she regained her serious expression.
“Honestly Chandler, do you really think it would’ve worked out?”
I wasn’t quite sure what to say. Now that I knew that there had been a Plan B, I still wasn’t sure it would’ve been the best way to marry her. Out of convenience rather than choice.
“I don’t know… I mean I would like to think yes, but maybe not…” I stuttered, unable to continue.
I was still lost in thought when fortunately, we found ourselves in front of our driveway. Monica stopped the car in front of the door, while I got out to open the garage. Once done, I opened the back door and gently shook the twins.
“Guys? Come on! We are home”
It took some prodding and convincing, but finally they were rubbing their eyes in order to detach themselves from their fairyland. Deciding that they were too tired to walk, I picked them up in my arms and pushed the door shut with my torso.
“Get them ready for bed while I park the car in the garage” Monica told me while fondly gazing at them.
I nodded in response and headed towards the front door. But soon, Jack began to wriggle in my arm.
“I’m a big boy! Let me down!” he complained.
I couldn’t help but grin as I let Jack down. Jack had apparently inherited Monica’s independent nature. Though he was still sleepy, being carried was something which he hated. Erica in the meanwhile chose to nestle peacefully on my chest. She was laid back and easy going just like her father.
As I turned to open the front door, I suddenly realised I didn’t have the keys in my pocket. Just then, a piece of metal hit me sharply on my back. Chuckling, I moved to retrieve the keys fallen on to the ground. When I looked up, I found her looking at me, the expression of blissful happiness tinged with humour on my forgetfulness filling her eyes.
We had suddenly found a new respect for the way things had turned out for us.
At that instant I thanked heaven that though being almost 40 we had not needed the back up plan to make us the perfectly happy family we were. I don’t know what would’ve happened else, but what I do know is that things could never ever have been this good for us.
For what could be better than perfect?
So. That was chapter 1. Stay tuned for Chapter 2! 😊✌️