Every so often, two people collide even when their destinies exist worlds away from one another.
She was a few years away from becoming a doctor; I was a writer and a martial artist. She showed up for our dates with wet hair and clumsily-composed outfits; I was a fashionista who always had to look my best. She was born under the most dominant of all water signs; my star-alignment was that of infinite flame. She was timid and tame; I was audacious and wild.
All of this was lucid from the beginning but, in some way, we refused to consume our reality under the anodyne and overshadowing umbrella of our shared heritage.
The first time I’d met Amber was magical – we’d rendezvoused at the quirkiest coffee shop and connected in a way that I’d grown to believe was impossible. I remember she insisted on dropping me back at my car at the end of our sparkling time spent together, and I requested a kiss from her at the type of deserted stop sign halt that neither of us would’ve shared guilt over prolonging.
I felt prompted by her warm enthusiasm – I leaned in for that kiss and for a few splendid moments, enfolded myself into the welcoming fissure between her lips. We pulled away from each other with astonished sighs; she released a dazed “wow” into the spark-ridden air. This sentiment was entirely mutual. A begrudging departure from the stop sign which had stood witness to our first kiss was followed by silly conversations and that type of laughter which can only be birthed in the deepest part of one’s gut and launched from the heart of the throat.
Thus, we embarked on a few more inconsiderately long pauses at stop signs – she would jolt the vehicle, our miniscule metal cube of solitude, and we would steal more fervent snogs from one another. We reluctantly departed at my car, locking lips once again and giggling at each other until we’d slipped out of each other’s sights, thoughtlessly consumed by the clutch of the twilight’s looming darkness.
Life grew busy – a strange month passed before we saw each other again. The second time we went out was subtly shocking and heartily heartbreaking. It honestly may have been doomed from the moment I hopped into my car to go see her – she’d already had a long day before coming to meet me at the location I’d thought was clever for our second date, but ended up being a bore. It was a pumpkin patch/apple orchard I’d discovered during the slowly-chilling folds of mid-October – the crisp air and cooling sunshine felt like a beautiful location for a second date with an extraordinary human being.
We wandered along the cornrows, and our chatter felt forced. The few kisses we dared to sneak had changed from our first date – there was some invisible barrier forcing us apart, but something in both of us desperately clung on anyways. We even stumbled upon these peculiarly gigantic pumpkins, and she went ahead and told me all about the condition which caused their unusual sizes. Eventually, the early autumn stomping grounds grew stale, and we agreed to relocate our date to a lounge down the street. Of course, we both got stuck in the worst kind of traffic, and were both wearing more than a bit thin by the time we’d found our dark, dusky corner in that smoky salon. Our kisses became more flirtatious and eager than they had been earlier, but they still weren’t the same as the ones on our first date, that time when it felt like we would never get enough of each other.
I stopped speaking to her shortly after this this encounter; I was doubtful she wanted to see me again, so I did us both a favor and took my hard exit from her life.
Four more months passed, and frost danced comfortably across the desolate winter grounds. Her name fondly came to my mind as I overcame the disquiet caused by the girl I’d dated after her, and I knew I had to ask her if she’d have dinner with me. I needed to know if our previous date, the one which had occurred on that stroppy October eve, was a blessed foreshadowing, or just another wasteful fluke.
We reconnected at a delightful little “mom and pop” restaurant, chatting with each other as if though no time had passed – aside from a stressful phone call she received, we had a great time together. Unfortunately, this time she was a bit under the weather, and when we had our goodnight kiss, she expressed concern about making me ill. This kiss felt like plain lips on plain lips, unengaged flesh on unengaged flesh – nothing else connected us aside from our physical forms in that unsettlingly hasty instant.
We’d had a charmed time together but, after that third date, we both told each other to “have a nice weekend” and, without even having to verbally express our mutual discomfort, released our short-lived romance into the abyss of forlorn love.
Summer had arrived. Sneaky as ever, the enticing elixirs of our blessed, beaming star had just begun to shower us in its generous warmth, and the world was immersed in its glorious golden hues. I was shoulders deep in my martial arts training; I also had correspondence with new friends and even a few women who I was deeply compatible with. Amber felt like a distant memory, a shooting star I may or may not have actually beheld – one I hadn’t gratified since the night I last saw her.
And yet, her occasional reappearances insisted on becoming a consistent theme in my life, for she came to me once again – now for the fourth time.
I don’t remember the circumstances which brought us to that hotel room. I just remember that there was nowhere else we wanted to be – even from underneath her terribly shy exterior, I could feel her energy imbibing me. I secured the door to our fortress – our encasement of solitude had truly grown from the time when we only had her car.
I spun around to gaze at her, this beaming person I couldn’t seem to get enough of, and was taken aback by the woman who approached me. She radiated a whitish-gold light, and it seemed to almost carry her across the marble floor, closer and closer towards my open arms. Her hair wasn’t frayed by the agonizing acids of stress, toil, and sleep-deprivation as it usually was – it flowed, for the very first time, dark, long, and sleek. The shadows which generally overtook her face were long gone, and she smugly wore a grin on her face which I never would’ve assumed belonged to her. Her white, silk slip only added to her grace and glory; she was a woman consumed by the heavens.
I reached out to touch her joyous face and, with her gentle fingers, she adoringly brushed my tresses back behind my ears. The current of her touch startled me, launching a jolt through every part of my body and mind – I had to be with her in that moment, and her eyes told me she felt the same.
A knock at the door interrupted us – I told the hospitality staff that we needed some time to get settled in, and requested that they come back later. I closed the door and turned around again to face the angel who was so lovingly gracing me with her enchanting presence.
Alas, her previous radiance had disappeared during those few abysmal moments I’d looked away! She suddenly seemed sad and confused again and, in a scratchy voice, told me, “I think I just want to go to sleep.” I nodded and proceeded to prepare for bed. A profound amount of disappointment attempted to wash away the electricity of her touch. Yet, something optimistic remained in me – perhaps that, at her very core, she seemed to want me in the very same way I wanted her.
There were two queen-sized beds in that suite, and she’d already chosen one of them. She laid there completely still and propped up on her pillows; she was finally beginning to relax again. Her form had picked up yet another a tinge of brightness, identical to the one from earlier – it was this which encouraged me to lay down next to her, knowing that she would tell me if she didn’t want me there. I made myself comfortable on one pillow, laying flatly and as far away from her as I could manage – she was elevated slightly above me, so I rolled onto my side to gaze at her. Her eyes fluttered open and she, too, turned onto her shoulder to stare back at me. The substance of her soul had overtaken her once again; she’d morphed into her most angelic form, unburdened by the human world.
There she was, a slightly bronzer than tan shade, straight hair and round eyes darker than nightfall itself, comfortably wearing the exquisite curves of her body – the same ones which she generally went through great trouble to hide. I laid there, my long and warmly-hued dark brown hair curly and reckless as ever, my almost chocolate skin stretched over my face and body, and my eyes even darker than hers. I wore sweatpants while she wore gown, and yet, the moment was still and fated.
I nervously reached out to touch her, unsure by the almost invisible, upward curl of her lips, and found my hands immersed in her ink-dipped mane. She lovingly pressed her head into my forearm and grazed it with her lips. With her eyes facing downwards, she smiled with the luminosity of trillion stars and said, “This is it. My one true love.” She began to kiss me passionately, and, for a short while, we allowed ourselves to be young, exultant, and madly in love.
I peeled open my eyes the next morning to the sight of her repacking her bag. She was back to her tired, overly-conscious, and nervous self, wearing clothes that didn’t quite go together and seemed to hang limply off her body. That glimmer from the night before had unmistakably left her – she was suddenly in a state of panic again, petrified by the gloom of her own life.
It was as if though she sensed that I’d woken up – she immediately glanced up to watch me watching her as she hastily packed that t-shirt she wore the previous day, a yesterday that now felt eons away. She anxiously zipped her bag shut, and ever-so-slowly dragged it off the table; she didn’t dare to break our gaze. Her eyes beseeched forgiveness – hence, I begrudgingly gave it to her. Without a word, she walked out that door.
I didn’t even try to stop her.
There would be no fifth encounter between us – our fourth rendezvous was the charm, but it was also the final time we’d ever be together.
It was the eve of the rest of our lives.
I gathered the fragments of her soul, all cast behind her and scattered across the silver-glazed sheets on which we’d loved and slumbered… and I fed them to the ravenous wind. I sought to give them the chance to find their way back to her someday, to make her whole again; yet, I knew better than to hope for her happiness.
Chances were that she would wander the Earth forever – barren, dreary, and, in the most vital way of all, alone. Without her soul, she would hardly be more than a sentient corpse.
That may have been her destiny, but it wasn’t about to be mine.
And so, I, too, gathered my belongings and abandoned our hotel room, now an eternal chamber haunted by the restless apparitions of wasted love. I thanked God for bringing Amber into my life, even if only for a few short and heartbreaking encounters, and I expressed my gratitude for His novel gift of hindsight, the version that allowed me to understand how love is meant to be.
I marched outside into the blazing sunrise. My heart bursting with my own autonomy, I seized my rightful place in the world... and I never let go.
Short story and photograph are the exclusive creations and property of Ami J. Sanghvi.