Gone

Just a love story I wrote.
 
The rain pattered against the top of the restaurant’s roof, and as she sat on the stool, her right leg crossed over her left, one hand on her thigh and the other cradling a glass of champagne, she imagined that someone up in Heaven was gently tapping on the ceiling as if it was a piano. Somewhere in the place a string quartet was gently performing a haunting Baroque piece, their performance nearly being drowned out by the sound of ordinary people conversing about their mundane lives between mouthfuls of chicken as their knives and forks clinked against their glass plates. The girl couldn’t have been more than twenty-five, thirty at the most, but there was something in the way that she sat alone, her back against the bar, her eyes scanning the room and watching everyone else around her that hinted at the existence of a deep dissatisfaction with the essence of her life. Her hair was the colour of dark chocolate with a streak of blue in the side; her eyes were soft as grey pearls. She wasn’t particularly outstanding in any way – one could criticize all manner of things about her appearance – but oftentimes it is not a physical perfection that draws one human being to another in the way that I found myself drawn to her. This was not the primal lure of a particular body shape or a particular shaping of the nose, no. It was too dignified an attraction for that, too intellectually and spiritually encompassing to be simply the result of a haphazard, tardy lust. Glancing at her from the corner of the room, I knew that she was the one for me. That she was the perfect, faultless girl with whom my life would suddenly become infused with a meaning that I had never previously realized.
 
I placed my empty glass on a table before glancing back at her. She was still analyzing the room when our eyes locked for the briefest of moments. Although it could not have been more than half a second, the twinge of electricity which shivered down my spine during that time solidified my certainty that she was the perfect girl for me. I knew that fate lands her hands once, and once only, so grasping the moment, I maneuvered around the restaurant’s patrons and before long I was standing less than half a meter away from her face. Up close, she was pretty and not unremarkable, but if you were to ask me to describe something about her face, or her clothes, or her hair that really stood out, I would be at a loss for an answer. Her eyes were now gazing at me and her eyebrows were raised slightly. I opened my mouth – what was the best thing to say? Was I to comment on grand subjects such as philosophy? No, that would be unfitting for the situation. Maybe tell her some story about my life that she could find interesting? No, small talk would be defeating my purpose. Perhaps the best thing to do was to tell her outright that she was the perfect girl for me… but I convinced myself against it. It would only seem strange and eccentric.
 
“The music is good here, isn’t it?” I found myself saying. The girl blinked. 
“Yeah, I guess.”
I was about to reply when she cut me off.
“I’m waiting for someone. I’m hoping they’ll be here soon.”
“Oh,” I began, “well, I hope you enjoy your night.”
And that was the end of our conversation.
 
As I was walking towards the exit of the restaurant, I realized exactly what I should have said. It was a story about a boy and a girl that began with “Once upon a time” and ended with “She was gone.”
 
Once upon a time there was a young boy not older than 15.  He didn’t overly stand out – if you were to spot him in amongst a crowd of people, you would most likely not give him a second look. He was by almost all accounts, completely average. On one spring afternoon, he was jogging around the suburban shops when he saw his one true love walking towards the local post office. There was nothing incredibly outstanding about her – indeed, there was nothing excessively special about either of them. The girl was simply out to post a letter to someone and was wearing a Tweety-Bird t-shirt and a well-worn pair of jeans. Her orange-streaked hair was untied and was naturally wavy. Her mundane clothing was not chosen to make much of an impression, as there was no need to. Any other person would not have given her a second glance, but this girl was the boy’s one true love and as he walked towards her and her towards him, young as he was, he knew that he had found his perfect girl.
The two stopped in front of each other and met at the postbox, and as the girl placed the envelope into the slot, the boy touched her shoulder and said “Hi”. The moment the girl looked into the boy’s eyes – even though she was only fourteen – she knew that she had found her true love, her perfect boy with whom she would be willing to spend the entirety of her future with.
 
“Hey,” she responded, smiling gently. 
The boy offered her his hand, and together they walked down the street, hand in hand, with the rest of the world oblivious to the gentle intonation of fate that had just played out between the two.
 
The conversation between the two played out perfectly – every word was what the other person wanted to hear, every joke hit the right note, every topic was engaging, grasping and consuming. As the two talked about all manner of things, from philosophy to religion to their lives and their futures, the two fell deeper and deeper into a true and perfect love. The girl told the boy things that she had never told anyone else, and the boy shared his deepest worries, both with complete trust in the other. They walked through a park where the stone track was met by vibrant grass and handfuls of golden-brown honey-coloured leaves on the floor, where the towering trunks of hundred-year oaks on either side of the path offered a feeling of the most sublime grandeur, where the grass-green leaves waved about in the wind above them, creating an intricate dance of shadow on the ground below. It was as if the Earth had decided that the pair’s perfect love had to be accompanied with a perfect setting, and as the two sat down on a park bench before a pond, they felt a serene serendipity like none other.
 
 “I can’t believe that I found my true, perfect love” the girl said, “you know, just like that.” 
By now they were staring deep into each other’s eyes. The girl continued.
“I think that we don’t really have free will. I believe that, to an extent, you can predict what our lives are going to be just from analyzing what is happening right now. You know, the way how if I hadn’t met that person who I was writing a letter to, then I wouldn’t have had to send that letter, and then I wouldn’t have met you at the post office, and then we wouldn’t be here. But I did end up sending that letter, and I did meet you, and now I’m here – it’s almost as if meeting you was predetermined.”
The boy agreed to what the girl was saying, and the two decided to test their free will. After some time, they decided that if their love was really true and perfect, and if they were really meant to be together, then they should leave each other at that moment, with no way of contacting each other. That way, if Fate really meant for them to be together, then Fate would bring them together again in the future, and when they did, they would marry each other on the spot, no questions asked.
                                                                        . . .
So the two parted ways at the pond, and went back to their daily lives. The boy eventually finished school and went on to gain a stable job in finance. He married twice – the first marriage falling apart within a year, and the second one kept for convenience, as they already had school-aged children and a family. He spent much of his life working and travelling around the world, and at times with certain people, he felt love, sometimes great love, but never the perfect love which he had felt one summer’s day in his youth.
 
The girl grew on to study in art, and travelled overseas for years at a time, wondering around the globe. Eventually, after a number of failed relationships, she settled down and likewise started a family of her own. Her husband loved her more than she loved him, and like most of the other couples around her age, her marriage only continued because of their responsibility to their family, and not of love.
 
As the two grew towards their old age, each became sick and only partially recovered. Their bodies became frail, and their minds dampened with the pressure of the years. The love that they had felt throughout their lives had been comfortable and satisfying, but nowhere near truly perfect. One day, with the best of their years behind them, both the lady and the gentlemen were back travelling on the same street where they had both grown up.
The man was in a wheelchair, and wheeled himself towards the post office, and the lady hobbled along, leaning half her weight on a walking stick with every step. The two of them moved towards each other, and as the man looked into the lady’s eyes, and the lady gazed into the man’s, each felt a flicker of love flow throughout their body. For a moment, the man’s eyes lit up, the kindling of a romance in his heart, but the flame quickly tapered off. It had been too long, the number of years too many, for them to remember each other. The years of time had worked at their memories, until neither could remember the other. And just like that, the elderly man passed the elderly woman without saying a word.
The thing is, Fate really meant for them to be together. The love that they felt for each other was the truest, most perfect love that they would ever find. The boy was really ‘the one’ for the girl, and likewise, but they made the mistake of testing Fate when they already had each other. There was no remedy to their error, and Opportunity gave them no other handle to seize her by. Such is life.
                                                                        …
I turned around just before I walked out of the restaurant, and looked at where the lady had been sitting before. Who was it that she was looking for?  Maybe I could go back and talk to her again. I almost began to walk into the restaurant, but the stool where she sat was empty. She was gone.
 
Eric Xie
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