I woke up for no particular reason that morning. At dawn to be more precise. My whole apartment was wrapped in silence, and a thick, stale air lingered.
I cracked open the windows to a cool august breeze that infiltrated my humid bedroom, then downed the remains of a now warm glass of whiskey which rested on my bedside table. It was a Saturday. At this point I’d usually light up and smoke. And at this point I’d usually wake her up with a cold glass of water and a kiss on her forehead.
But this time was different. I did no such thing. I’d decided to quit smoking two weeks earlier, and she was no longer here. She’d gone. And was never to return.
I looked eagerly at the side of the bed where she used to lay. It was void and cold. It’s like everything in the Universe knew something belonged there. But she was no longer that thing. It was an unsettling sight to bear.
I was afraid for some weird reason. A very specific and unorthodox dimension of afraid. Perhaps afraid is the wrong word altogether. But it was an exceedingly disconcerting hunch.
Unlike all my other partners, she was special. Special how? Special like an unchanged landscape. Special like some unexplored cavern. Special like a young, beautiful virgin. And that’s what unsettled me.
It’s strange, I know.
It all began last summer. We’d met at a function a mutual friend had organised. Nothing fancy, just a little drink-up.
The friend who’d organised the event introduced us to each other. The two of us got to talking for an hour or two. Slurred speech. Boisterous laughter. Mislaid glaring into one another’s eyes.
She grabbed my hand and told me to come. I smiled my way through clumps of drunken strangers as she excused our way to the door. We found ourselves outside alone. The cool summer night air was still, and loud hip-hop songs boomed in the background. Everything was as distant as the stars above us.
I pulled out two cigarettes. I don’t usually smoke, she said. But we both smoked in a silence that descended daintily.
I remember waking up the next morning with a throbbing headache and thinking about her. Her smile, the warm feel of her long, slender fingers. I couldn’t remember much of our intoxicated verbiage, though, but I did remember exchanging numbers. She was fun and pretty, I told myself. I’d definitely like to see her again.
I imagined love being a deep, expansive ocean, and I was a small boy on the shore gently nearing towards it. Toeing the edge of the waters. Pondering whether or not to take a dive. I wasn’t quite in it, but I knew there was a sense of replenishing, quenching, somewhere in its depths.
And this is how she was special. You see, all my ex-partners are back to the way I found them. Using the phrases they used to, dating the type of guys they used to, going to all the places they used to. When they were with me, I changed them.
Yes, I changed them. Like a bendy ruler; you can bend it, twist it, fold it, but it always forms back to a straight(ish) ruler. And that’s how all my ex-partners are.
But she was different. Special. She didn’t need me to shape her. She was formless. She was like a stream running down a mountain; whatever it picks up along the way, it picks up. Whatever it ditches along the way, it ditches. But it still keeps going.
She was whatever she wanted to be. Sometimes I feel like this aspect of ‘special’ to her should have lessened my desire for her. But it didn’t. It gave me a different sensation I can’t quite put into words.
But when she left, all I became was afraid. Afraid at the fact that she could be doing anything, with anyone – something and somewhere new, with someone new, unlike my other partners. I was afraid at the fact that she’d trickled so far from reach.
Free and ecstatic. Like a stream.