The atmosphere is perfect, if perfect exists.
I’m sitting in my favorite restaurant in the world with -one- of my favorite persons in the world. Placing alternating morsels of exquisite sweet and savory foodstuffs (this date concoction is incredible!) into my mouth. Luxuriating in the gentle breeze of a fan. Behind me, plays one of my favorite movies: Casablanca.
I’m distracted by the movie, even though I’ve seen it a million times. I love old movies. I try to refocus myself on the conversation with my partner. But then something catches my attention, again, and I put my fork down so I can just watch this scene.
There’s something I hadn’t noticed before.
Or hadn’t paid much attention towards. It’s the part where Elsa is sitting on the bed with her husband, Victor. Something has happened between Elsa and Rick, the man who has the power to help them escape the city of Casablanca. And now Rick wants Victor to ask his wife why Rick won’t help them. Victor doesn’t know what he means by this, but he knows Elsa was alone in Paris. He knows that Rick was in Paris, too. So he asks Elsa,
“When I was in the concentration camp, were you lonely in Paris?”
“Yes, Victor, I was.”
“I know what it’s like to be lonely. Is there anything you wish to tell me?”
“No, Victor, there isn’t.”
“I love you very much, my dear.”
“Yes. Yes, I know. Victor, whatever I do, will you believe that I…?”
“You don’t even have to say it. I’ll believe.”
“Good night, dear. -Good night.”
I don’t know what feelings that conversation is supposed to elicit from the audience.
I never feel I react in quite the right way to romance in film. All I know is I watched that scene, and I felt pained. Perhaps it is romantic to hide how one feels…but maybe it isn’t always.
Because it does matter. It’s not just about her shoving her emotions beneath her consciousness. I think Victor knows what happened– that isn’t the point. She’s quiet, reflective. She isn’t looking at him. She’s not asking about the past. She’s asking herself, as much as Victor, if she is going to do something now.
She didn’t say, Whatever I did. She said, “whatever I DO.” She is asking him if he’ll forgive her and believed she did and does love Victor, even if she takes a plane with Rick and leaves him behind. Because this is exactly what she believes she is going to do. I don’t know if she is lying or telling the truth when she says there’s nothing she wants to say. She may not want to tell him anything. But I would think her husband just -might- be owed a response of, “I am planning on leaving you behind.” Perhaps even a conversation about said topic.
What if she did tell Victor the truth?
I don’t think he’s playing games- something about the tone of his voice and the look in his eyes tells me this- by asking her that question. He isn’t trying to trap her, but to free her. To give her permission to tell him anything, because he loves her and wants to know.
If she were to tell Victor, “I fell in love with Rick when I thought you were dead. And I still love him. And I think I want to be with him again,” I believe Victor would understand. I believe he would listen. And perhaps neither could come to a perfect solution. But at least they would have tried. Perhaps they might even, shockingly, include Rick in the conversation. Because it’s his life, too, is it not?
What if she allowed herself to admit she loved both?
She loves Victor. But she also loves Rick. Because she fell in love with him in Paris, when she thought her husband was dead, and now, “I don’t think I’ll be strong enough to leave you again,” she tells Rick. She believes she cannot love both, however, and she is questioning her love for Victor because of seeing Rick again.
She holds back. She lets the words stay unspoken between them. Because it’s romantic or expected, or I don’t know what. But my inner voice screams, “Just tell him!” After everything you’ve been to him, after all he’s gone through for you? Don’t you owe him that much? Say something real to him, because he deserves that from you.
But I know she won’t, because nothing in her whole life, despite what she’s gone through, has taught her how to handle that truth.
In the end, she chooses Victor and leaves with her husband on the plane.
She doesn’t know she can love two men, so she risks hurting herself, her husband, her other love. But it’s okay, because in the end, it all works out. She and Victor are happy together. And it turns out that Rick might be better off with his “beautiful friendship” with another (male, if it makes a difference) friend.
I still wish she knew. Because maybe, just maybe, this love story could have been all of that…the love and partnership between her and Victor as they saved the world…the beautiful friendship that blossomed between Rick and Louis…but maybe…
Life is so funny. It could have been just that, and that is amazing and beautiful and wonderful. But maybe, just maybe, it could have been more.
I nibble on my lemon tart and consider ordering another cappucino.
After all, none of this is real. It’s a movie. Even if I’m the sort to lose myself in a fantasy, as I’m watching it. I know it’s not real.
I still wonder. About the true Elsas and Victors and Ricks of the world. The ones that live in the real world. I hope they get everything, or as much of everything as they can manage. I hope they never lose anything, just because they don’t know what is possible.
You never see what happens after the “happily ever after.” Just the lovers walking off into the sunset (or taking off into the clouds, in this case). It’s okay, though.
In my mind, Elsa, Victor, and Rick find their happiness, after all. The only problem, my mind pokes at me, is that I don’t know if I can say the same for the people in my real world.
And this is why I teach and share. Because if just one person learns something new, it’s worth it.