I could never decide if it was newlyweds or elderly couples I disliked more.
See, they both annoyed the hell out of me with their … obvious affection for each other. From my earliest memory, I see myself walking around my city with my eyes roaming, catching their soft eyes and smiles and most importantly to this story — the strings connecting them.
I mean, I could actually see the strings. They were physical things, attaching meant-to-be couples to each other. They also would lead from one person to the other that they were destined for, even if they were total strangers on different continents. The lines were shiny, thin, like spider’s webs. Every one was a different hue of a different color and they were special, unique for each special pair. Since I was born, this was how it was. I know that I could see the strings between my parents, the same light chocolate-brown as both of their eyes were. Isn’t that sweet?
See, I wish I could say that having this … ability taught me to be humble and appreciative of what others had. I wish I could say that it made me a kind person. Unfortunately for you, I do not lie even for myself. The truth is this; seeing Love turned me into a hateful little thing. I knew jealousy and unfulfilled want even as a child, when I was not able to process such emotions in any healthy way. Not understanding myself perhaps made it worse, but I’m not so sure. Knowing exactly what my power meant only instilled a ‘why me?’ attitude. Growing up only opened my world to more Love, which I had learned to hate. Inevitably, I wanted nothing to do with it. But it would never leave me alone. The strings were always there, and I could not escape any more than a fly could escape from a spider’s web. Having the Love-Sight was not a blessing, it was a curse.
Until I met her.
It happened like this; she got dumped by her boyfriend on her birthday, in public, and I just happened to be in the area. The local coffeeshop was a place I could be at peace; I was somewhat of a recluse, but I liked coffee as much as the next guy and there were never very many people there at one time. It was a rainy day, and it suited my mood. I wore a long coat with a button missing at the top, and my hair was a mess. There were circles under my eyes too. I just looked terrible. Anything to keep people away from me. People had a habit of avoiding unpleasant things, and as I had learned, I was quite good at being unpleasant. So I walked into the quiet coffeeshop just like this and stepped up to the counter with little regard for anyone else sitting at the tables. The man behind the counter was an unfamiliar face, strange for a small town, and he was obviously new at handling machines that dispensed delicious drinks. He screwed my order twice — all I wanted was a Steamer — and from the strange sound he made as he finally passed my cup over, I think he burned his hand. But anyway, I paid him and made my usual donation to the current charity with the spare change he gave back to me. Expectations of society, and all.
It was then that I heard it; the sound of a glass being slammed down on the surface of a table. It was so loud in the calmness of the coffeehouse that I actually jumped, and quickly turned around to find the source of the noise. Immediately my eyes landed on the table in the corner where I usually sat, when I decided to remain in public for my drink. Occupying that table today were actual people, two of them. A man, and a woman, with no strings between them. That was what struck me first.
They sat across from each other at the table, and as I watched, the man leaned over into the woman’s space. From across the room I could hear his angry mutters. It was something about — well, something that can’t be written down and presented to any possibly child-aged readers. Though he was facing me and only the back of the woman’s head was visible, I could see her reaction. God, I still remember how much she cringed from him. She shrank like a whipped puppy. She was so still, until the man got up and left with the small population of the coffeehouse staring after him, and then at her. I had to stare too. The blonde locks flowing over the back of her skull shone even in the dim lighting, and I could see her slim shoulders draw up as she placed her head in her hands. I still remember the ragged breath she drew in, so loud even across the distance of the space between us.
Now, I have to admit, I didn’t want to get involved. Whatever had just happened had nothing to do with me. I could have walked out without saying or doing anything — I had abandoned others in need before. But for some reason I still cannot fathom, I could not have walked out of that place without guilt. I could not have walked out on her. So although it was more of an involuntary reaction, I felt genuine pity, and I went to her with a bundle of rough brown napkins snatched unceremoniously from the table of an older woman with a green line leading out of the café. With my heated milk in one hand and the napkins in the other, I slunk around to the table in the corner and stood silently. Well, she didn’t notice me at first. I had to cough. I remember how she jumped and turned her head so quickly to face me, tossing part of her golden mane back to reveal her face. Oh, and how exquisite she was. I think I saw her eyes first and couldn’t look away after that. She had doe eyes, large and dark and deep. They were far too expressive for her own good, and in that moment I know I saw everything that even the Love-Sight had never revealed to me. I saw everything I had always wanted in her eyes. How does one describe that?
“I don’t need your help.” It was the first thing she said to me, spoken in such a hurt and hateful tone, that sealed my fate as hers. I had told myself I didn’t need help so many times that I knew the lie as soon as I heard it. “I can tell,” I responded. When I sat down right where her so-called company had been, she looked angry. It was like looking in a mirror, but only for a few seconds. She was exhausted, the poor thing, from whatever had just happened and whatever had led up to it. Anger was like a fire, intense, but it took energy to maintain. Energy that we had both run out of. Within a few moments her fury fled her, and for a while it rained on the table as it did outside on the streets. After the storm passed, we had a perfectly pleasant conversation that had nothing to do with any awful things like jerks-for-boyfriends, ditzy servers, or half-assed Steamers. When I think back on it, it was no natural. It was so incredibly easy to sit back and speak with a stranger. I fear often, still, that I have forgotten how to smile. You know, for real. But I know that we both beamed on that dismal day, and that when it was time for her to leave I was actually … sad. There’s a difference between feeling sorrow and feeling nothing — and I had been numb for a long, long time. I knew the difference. “I really must be going.” She said softly, with her latte drained and her face flushed. There may have been some warmth in my cheeks as well as I cleaned up her used napkins and held the door for her. I remember watching her walk away, and that was when I noticed; she didn’t vanish even after I couldn’t see her anymore. She could not disappear, because directly in the center of my chest, above my heart, a shiny golden thread had formed. And when I lifted my gaze, I saw it attach to the center of her back, between her shoulder blades, just before she turned the corner of the street. In the coffeehouse, whose threshold I still stood on, the audience that had watched me save the day erupted into applause.
And I thought to myself; Bloody Hell.
Needless to say, I couldn’t just let it go. The appearance of my very own thread was something I had never expected. I actually had never considered it; for some reason, being able to see the love of others had excluded me from ever being in that position in my own mind. But as the doe-eyed woman and I were now bonded, I had to pursue her. And it was actually quite easy, as I learned to use my Love-Sight to follow her. Another almost-involuntary action on my part, to seek her out. It proved to be a worthy effort. We met quite a few more times at that coffeehouse. I came out of my home for her. I put aside anger and jealousy and numbness for her, for the sake of not jinxing the apparent chance of possible happiness with my pessimistic demeanor. At our table in the corner we talked about anything and everything under the sun. She loved to talk. She talked and talked, and I listened. Her voice was something I craved. I remember that she used her hands to speak; her expressiveness was not limited to her beautiful eyes. For many months we continued on in this fashion, and we were indeed happy. I was comfortable.
That was my mistake.
Because as soon as I gained that small amount of sunshine on my multitude of rainy days, I was blinded by it, by her. I had never been exposed to such radiance before and I let it consume me because I wanted to keep her. With my foresight clouded, I could not see that there was still always him. I found my sight again in the worst way possible.
It was a clear, sunny day, and it suited my mood. I made my way down to the coffeehouse and successfully ordered my Steamer and her Latte. The clumsy server had improved by that time, and I even tipped my head to him. I usually got there first, so not seeing the lady at our table was normal. I sat down, placed her Latte on her side of the table, and I waited. And waited, and waited. Our drinks got cold, as did I. With the tiny hairs on my forearms and the back of my neck stiff and standing straight up, I left the table and went to order fresh drinks. I was halfway across the café when I felt it. It was a sensation that stopped me dead and made the full containers slip from my hands. There was a horrible wrenching in my gut, like I’d been punched on the inside. I shuddered and moaned, and the brilliant golden thread protruding from my chest was suddenly … gone. I couldn’t see it anymore, and it frightened me. I had loved that thread, the human it bonded me to, so much that for a moment, I didn’t know what to do without it. I didn’t care to see if I could see other threads. For a single, horrifying moment, I knew nothing. The cups crashed to the floor and their contents pooled around my feet. My heart pounded like a wardrum, echoing in my head and sending blood roaring in my ears.
Then, I ran. I turned and fled from the coffeehouse and took off up the street. I had never run so fast in my life, the and when the sirens reached me I only pushed myself faster. It was several excruciating minutes before I could make the six blocks to her apartment complex, where the sirens of police cars and ambulances were coming from. The place was surrounded, and as I ran up to the crowd of onlookers, two stretchers were wheeled out to the view of everyone. All I could see was the bodybag covering the occupant of one stretcher, and the awful blood-stained clothes of the other — I know that I truly cracked that day, in that moment. I know that the sunlight had deceived me that day. I tore through the crowd of onlookers, through the line of uniforms keeping them back from the scene. Some of them gripped my arms, and I screamed something incoherent but effective at them. I forced myself forward and forward, following the yellow thread that was now faintly leading me to her. It shot straight over the first stretcher, with the bodybag, and indicated the blood-covered form being loaded into an ambulance. I was pale with relief as I staggered to her side, or at least as close as I could get. I had to explain myself to the paramedic team. I did so in a rush of semi-conceivable sentences. I had to explain that I was hers, and the golden line proved it. Of course they didn’t understand that part — but by some miracle, even though I had been deceived by the sunlight on that day, they understood the urgency in my eyes. They told me the story.
Michal, that leech that had changed my life by dumping his ex-girlfriend, hadn’t quite gotten over it as well as she had. All those times she and I had been talking, smiling, laughing, he had been there. He’d followed my love to her apartment and — to this day, I cannot stand to speak of what he did to her. I remember so clearly, so hauntingly, riding with her to the hospital. The heart monitor had kept time with her attempts at staying alive, and the pressure of her fingers squeezing mine every few minutes, when she could gather the strength, was all I focused on. The time when I was separated from her, during her surgery, was truly the worst time of my life. It was a dark time — but that golden thread, the power granted to me by whatever force, was no longer seen as a curse in my eyes. It let me see her, let me see that she was still the sunshine breaking through on a cloudy day. I felt it when the operations to piece her back together were a success. It is another thing I cannot describe; the intensity of my relief.
Much later, when all physical wounds were healed and mental scars were being stitched up, we were together again. Since then we have been that close; never out of each other’s sight. Often when I hold her at night, both of us unable to sleep, she tells me that having to kill Michal to save herself was the hardest thing she has ever done. She tells me that she feels awful, and sometimes her guilt overflows in her eyes and spills onto our sheets. Hearing that from her makes me clench my jaws, especially knowing that I also hold guilt for not being there. Often I am guilty too, for I would have done anything to protect her; I would not have hesitated to kill Michal, therefore sparing her the experience of doing it herself. I would have even kept her from watching me do it, to save her eyes from the sight. It is something that still haunts me; her deathly pale face in the ambulance. Her small, cold fingers struggling to form a grip around mine. It casts me into darkness now and again — but that’s just it. There is always that thread of Love that I used to hate, leading me to her again. In that sense, we are immortal.
I could never decide if it was newlyweds or elderly couples I disliked more.