There was once a girl who never really thought much about love. When she thinks of it, she is reminded of the Fitzgeralds and the days when their marriage was once without trace of destruction, she thinks of stories about defying all odds once two people are together. Love existed in fantasies and books and dreams that hung through clouds and were out of reach. It most definitely didn’t reside in the world she lives in.
I wish I can write that she met a boy who knocked her off the high pedestal and made her fall madly, but alas, this story, the one I’m about to tell you, hasn’t been that easy. The girl had to travel and wander through various cities, searching for answers, and the boy had to take long, midnight drives to the outskirts of town before they will find each other. And in many more days after that, somewhere in the nights that would consist of spontaneous midnight coffee runs, a blanket of comfort and trust after losing someone, passenger seat concerts, and endless exchange of stories and random photographs, they will fall in love.
Much later, neither won’t be able to tell you the exact moment it happened.
I should warn you beforehand that this is not a love story. I wish I could tell it like it was but sadly, love stories are peppered with grandeur displays of heroic affection, telling us that all forces in the world could never compete against two people who have feelings for each other. This story is far from that. It is far from perfect too, because real stories aren’t always perfectly polished and edited and told in the right sequence like the ones published on paper.
Some people lose each other forever, because not all of us were born to fight, and if you’ve been slashed with scars for so long, at one point you’ll admit defeat.
In reality, there are different forces in the world that could bring either two people together or rip them apart. The universe likes to play games, you see. Some people lose each other forever, because not all of us were born to fight, and if you’ve been slashed with scars for so long, at one point you’ll admit defeat. Some people would battle their ways through these armies, despite having been knocked down again and again, so they can shout into the universe that they’d do whatever it takes and that they wish to stop playing their games. Some people are lucky enough to never have wars they need to face. Some people don’t survive them at all.
Many different forces, many different games.
Some people stay, some people leave.
This story started years ago, long before they met. They were living separate lives, embarking on separate roads, completely immersed in their own worlds without knowing the other person existed. He dated someone and gave his all; they taught each other the blissful rush of being with someone, the bright specks of happiness that come from moments shared. They went on road trips and had dinner dates and were happy for a time. Yet one day, she woke up, counted ghost stars in the empty sky and said,
“I’m letting you go.”
One of the forces in the world that some of us face are people made out of hurricanes, sent by the gods who are jealous of a petty thing such as mortal love, and they leave piles and piles of destruction in their wake.
The worst ones are the ones who don’t say goodbye.
He drowned himself in cheap beer and wine. He drove recklessly in the rain. He lied in bed for hours without moving an inch, wishing for the blankets to swallow him whole. He wasted half a year looking for second chances.
It was a Friday evening when he, on the verge of mending broken pieces of himself, seated on the edge of a leather couch waiting for a miracle, would meet her, standing below the ceiling lights, threading on her path like wisps of dandelions blown in the wind, praying for an ending.
They didn’t like each other at first, no. There were no harmonious symphonies at the first time they shook hands. That happened much later. It took knocking down walls, card games that lasted all night and morning walks in search for coffee in the middle of a deserted island before they reached a mutual understanding of each other.
“He is kind,” she told her friend. “I’ve never met anyone like him before.”
Of course, he is kind and sweet and a Sunday morning comfort she didn’t know she needed, but she didn’t know this at the time.
…their love is often misplaced and they’re left burdened in the sky, before they go in another pursuit of someone new.
Among the forces that wreck, there is another that is neither hurricane, thunderstorm, or friendships that end. These are people who wished to love and be loved in return. They are not sinners and they don’t have wrong intentions. However, their love is often misplaced and they’re left burdened in the sky, before they go in another pursuit of someone new.
There was another boy.
He was gentle and he was sweet, and he was full of promises he wished to keep. He was whole, this one; he didn’t have any broken parts he needed to mend, he didn’t have the need to shield himself. He was bold and assuring and from the very beginning, he was clear of his intentions. But there were still many things he didn’t understand.
“Do you like him?” the broken boy teasingly asked once. It was a weekend and he was free, and he needed someone to hang out with. She was the first person he asked.
“We go out sometimes,” she replied.
“Oh,” was all he said.
The world loves to play games and every so often, they are cruel enough to make you feel like pawns on a chess board. It’s not fun to feel vulnerable and scared and to lie bare in front of the one you love with so much uncertainty you could feel yourself snap in half. There were no rules in this game, but someone always has to lose.
The broken boy would take escape drives to clear his head, would often wonder if in the end, there was a kind force in the universe that will make that one huge difference. He wondered through the realm of possibilities about her choosing the other boy who wasn’t broken, who was bold, who was sure. He wondered, most of all, if he was ready to love again.
(The other boy, on the other hand, would always put his effort in the wrong place.)
Still, she took him to watch plays, taught him how to order coffee. She told him stories about work, about how she longed for a great escape from monotonous days that would take her far away and closer to her dreams. They had conversations that spiral from warped realities she has conjured in her mind to existential crisis about life, from ambitions and family problems to funny articles found online. They laughed over the silliest things, the craziest things. They would leave together late in the evening, in search of cupcakes to satisfy sudden cravings, of the best cup of coffee in the city.
In a way, he knew he’d have to hide. He tried his best to stay away. His feelings have no place wherein the other boy exists and would only break a girl who didn’t believe in love. But there are other forces that were much, much worst than that.
It was November. He found out she was leaving.
“Do you know when?” he asked her one night, his heart thumping so loudly if she listened carefully through the barriers of silence, she could’ve heard them.
“I don’t know, but it’s probably next year.”
Out of the many forces the universe would throw in to keep two people apart, people made out of hurricanes, words that would leave you shattered into a thousand glass shards, missed risks and opportunities, people with love and affections misplaced, the biggest and worst culprit of them all was distance.
It was a cold, still night without any stars. She was with the whole one, in a desolate parking lot, thousands of words that were wishing to be said loom over them with the blank sky when he asked,
“Do you have feelings for him?”
Surely, at some point, he must’ve known. There were always those small moments of ultimatum, moments when she’s left in wonder on whom she could turn to and trust. And it was always him, the broken one, the one who also knows what the road to ruin feels like. It wasn’t this boy, with bold gifts and intentions misplaced. It was him, the broken boy, who can laugh with her as she sings her way half-key through a Spotify playlist; the broken boy, whom she can tell childhood stories of sleepy singing angels on stage; the broken boy, who knows her deepest fears without asking. Who knew, that in the months she’d spent running away from the one thing she refuses to believe the most, she’d fallen in love without even knowing it.
In another story, she could’ve loved this other boy if she tried.
But that is not a story I wish to tell.
“I’m letting you go,” she said. Whoever said it was easy to tell someone you cannot love them in the way they needed to be? “I’m sorry.”
After all, there are some people who know how to say goodbye.
(But they still hurt, each and every single time.)
Here’s a little secret no one tells you about life. In novels and movies wherein you see two people defying so many odds to stay together, it happens in this world too. It’s just that these wars don’t come in the form of dragons you have to slay to get to the castle and win the girl. Some of these wars come in the smallest bits of reality, most of them are the forces of the universe we have to face.
In this story, there wasn’t a dragon standing in the way. Only a couple of words written on index cards.
They were on their way home. It was quiet, there was a long drive ahead of them and fear hung in the air. This time, she was sure.
“I have something to tell you,” she said, rifling through her purse and taking out cards with words sometimes visible in the passing street lights.
Before I go any further, let me tell you that this story has no ending. To tell you the truth, I have no slightest idea on how I should end it. There were more things that happened after that night, such as walk-dancing through the sidewalk past midnight, twirling in music no one else can hear, playing hide and seek in an empty park, exchanging silliest photos when we were kids. I told you this wasn’t a love story. However, it’s a story about treacherous roads that led two people to fall in love with each other. About big fights regarding the impending future and the haunting past, about two people risking everything without knowing what is going to happen next. About nights that are made of planning, wishing, waiting. About kisses that are sent through a flood wave of messages. About losing habits, adjusting into situations when the other wasn’t there. About waking up alone in bed, in a different timezone, on the other side of the world. About two people still trying to make it work against the biggest and worst force the universe had to throw in existence.
He cut her off mid sentence with trembling lips, and suddenly, everything made sense.
There is a Chinese myth called, the red string of fate. It is said that two people, despite time, circumstance, or any force the world could muster, simply belong together. This string may be forgotten in different paths crossed, tangled in out of place timing through various situations, and stretched beyond 5,000 miles worth of distance. Later on, I learned that love wasn’t epic and it won’t save you from dragons, evil antagonists set on destroying peace, and all the forces in the world. Love is a red string connecting two people – it isn’t perfect, it isn’t smooth sailing. It is, however, a force that is bigger than two people deciding to face these battles together. It is learning how to hold someone’s secrets like 2am, knowing how someone likes to take their coffee. It is midnight drives to nowhere, dancing without music on the sidewalk. It is fights about things in the past that shouldn’t be said, it is conversations that could go on forever. It is understanding someone and taking them at their best and at their worst, without hesitation. It is drinking cheap wine that tastes awful, it is many failed attempts at surprises. It is kissing him for the first time and knowing he is the only person you want to kiss for the rest of your life. It is moments that change you, that make you go from one hopeless cynic to one firm believer. And in that night, in a sanctuary inside a small red car, despite the looming gloom that was to happen in a few weeks, I knew I’d always choose him, every time. In many different lifetimes. In all the universes that exist. Because this was the kind of love that I now believed in.
He cried the night before I left.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen to us,” he said.
“Neither do I,” I replied.
I told you that goodbyes hurt every time.
But thankfully, this one wasn’t the last.