Their conversations often bordered on the realm of surreal dreams, tentatively dipping into the exhilaration of uncertainty with bated breath. The short sentences were thrown back and forth with agility – stinging, soothing, keeping one alive. She often felt like this was where it was all supposed to begin and end and begin again, like the point where the curves of infinity met in this two-dimensional world of words. And in the real world, that point became an endless pole, the axis of her existence.
“I do not really want you to be happy, you know”, she murmured.
“Why do you say that?”
“I guess I am selfish that way. You aren’t entitled to happiness if the source is not me”
He laughed. She noticed how his eyes were a mix of brown and blue, like the end of the horizon where the earth met the skies. She could easily walk to the end of the world, if they were the destination.
“A bit of a burden, isn’t it? To be solely in charge of a person’s happiness?”, he asked playfully.
“I suppose so..”, she paused, “Especially when I have been so bad at it”
“It hardly seems fair then, when you acknowledge you are incapable”
“Nothing is fair. So why should this be? And anyway, it is all your fault.”
“Of course it is”, he laughed again.
She tried to remember what his laughter sounded like. She wasn’t quite sure anymore. Did it ring shrill against the wind, or bounce off the walls, or send waves of deep baritones that vibrated against her being? She couldn’t really say.
Of late she had started thinking of him constantly as the one that got away, and of their paths as being ridden with a series of unfortunate events of their own making. Who knew choices of youth would haunt you as an adult?
“Isn’t it funny how we all seem to be living different versions of the same life?”
“What do you mean by that?”, he asked, “Is this another of your discourses on non-duality?”
“No.. but I suppose you could think of it like that”
“What did you mean, then?”
“You know how we talked about how we go through the same motions again and again, over the years? The same lingering sorrows, the same insecurities, playing out in a loop?”
“Well, it occurred to me how we are all doing simply that, as a society. Every person’s story has the same arc, lined with the same mistakes, the same regrets, the same desires to go back and change everything. We wish to re-write our stories, to tread a different path, and are so self-occupied to realize that our lives are recurrently playing out in front of us. Evolution has brought us technology and high-rises, and yet we are exposed as ever to heart-break.”
He looked amused. “An evolutionary cure for heart break. That will surely lead to a brave new world.”
She ignored the pun. “They ought to teach this in schools. How not to mess up your life. How not to jeopardize something rare and precious. How not to get tangled in a web of wrong decisions, and spend a lifetime trying to set them right.”
“So basically, self-help books in the school curriculum.”
“No! Not… It’s… You always ruin everything.”
If life could be thought of as a giant decision tree, she knew the nodes where things went wrong. The wayward phrases, the rash comments. The impulsive resolutions taken for self-preservation that ironically heralded what it hoped to avert. She took their story apart and looked for ways to put it back together, leading to the right ending this time. Maybe if this message never got sent? Maybe if she called to say she was coming? Maybe if she were better at letting out her feelings, or hiding them? Maybe if she trusted him a bit more? Maybe if she trusted herself a bit more? But no matter how hard she tried, they refused to line up, refused to give her the reality she wanted. In every path she took, he continued to remain a relic, a requiem. She fought against the tide of moments rushing past her, searching for alternative trails.
“Will you travel in time with me? Perhaps we can go forward and change the endings. And thereby the beginnings.”
“Would it help?”
“I am not sure anymore”, she sighed.
“You are never sure about anything, are you?” He sounded bitter.
She felt a small storm of indignation rise in her heart. “Well, it is all your fault after all“
“Why do you keep saying that??”
“Because it was you all along, wasn’t it.”
“What was me?!”
“Who never wanted to stay in the first place.”
She took in a sharp breath as it hit her; why the pieces couldn’t line up, why he always remained a relic.
He wasn’t the one that got away. He was the one that chose to leave.