I must confess. When I moved out to this island, one of the more compelling reasons driving my exodus was the hope of renewing ties with a boy I once was irresistibly drawn to. No, I don’t feel shallow about it; if you knew our peculiar history, you would, in some way understand.
There’s very little chance that he would get to read this, but if he did, it would be okay with me. There are people who drift in and out of your life randomly, but leave the most profound mark. He is one of them. In over ten years that our lives have crisscrossed, our fates are always out of sorts. Never matching, never in synch, but for the few days or nights we are together, there is always, always the feeling of completeness, a rightful sense of belonging. It’s as though the intervening years fall away when we come together. Places, memories, things that have happened to us fade into obscurity, and only the shared moment matters.
Perhaps I exaggerate, perhaps like most memories, these too, have been betrayed by time, misted over by my compulsion to remember only the good parts. But looking back, I never did have any bad memories of him. Maybe because our interludes are so brief, there is no time to create bad memories. Only beautiful ones. I remember there was one rainy night, there was fragrant gin in plastic cups, the leather smell of his car, the rain cocooning us, graying out the world. Bodies in an enclosed space, free to be. There were hours of talking and other things until all of a sudden it was dawn, the sky streaked with light, and then the slow, reluctant drive home.
Some years later, it is summer, and he makes a sudden turn towards me, trailing a gentle hand across my cheek, his face unreadable. The next time, he finds me fresh from a youthful heartbreak, trying to heal. We sit side by side on the pavement, the scent of grass dampened with dew rising before us. He tells me men can sometimes be unbelievably stupid, but he says it softly, like a secret apology, when my misfortune is not his fault. There are other, equally keen sensations—the slow smile I can feel creasing against my lips, the scent of his neck, the strong hand warming the small of my back.
There are the chance encounters where it seems a warp has opened in space and time, rendering our missed meetings almost surreal. There I was, trapped in a taxi, drowsy in city traffic. Then in a sudden blur, I see him walking in front, striding purposely among the cars, not glancing at the window where I sat, gaze transfixed. In moments I can only see the back of his head, his shoulders weaving in and out of the crowd. After that, it would be three more years before I open my door and see him standing there.
I have moved houses several times over the years and yet he has always found me. The phone rings, and without a doubt, I know at once who it is at the other end of the line. There is a pull to our cells that neither one of us can seem to escape or deny.
I’ve read in a book somewhere that sometimes, falling in love is just a matter of propinquity. That is, nearness provides the opportunity, and people become lovers owing to the happenstance of a warm body nearby. How then would this explain more than ten years of intermittent meetings, and yet, the inevitable falling every time? If, even after the sloughing away of years I still feel this way, how must he feel? Between us there has never been any sense of possession, no promises, and also no talk of a future. As capricious Fate would have it, the last thing I heard about him is that he is back on that island that I left, busy like everyone else, living day to day. See, our destiny is to be just another pairing attributable to crossed stars, misaligned planets—all that incongruity going on in the universe. I do not hope for us to meet up anymore, too much has gone on in our lives after that last round of goodbyes. I am much changed, and I would guess he is too.
Now, my own life is pretty much moving along on currents that I am sometimes slow to comprehend. I am not unhappy. There is much to look forward to. But there are days when, in the small hours of dawn, wide-awake and clear headed, vividly, I would remember.