The night was young. It was a Thursday night. A good friend told me this, almost a lifetime ago, “Thursday is the new Friday.”
I let the curiosity of the aphorism lingered a little while in my mind. And then it overtook me. As always, I picked one night in every 1-2 weeks to get out of my apartment and escape to a café along Chapel Street just around the corner. My fortnightly fix was due and I was in need of some fresh thoughts. The memory of what my friend told me so long ago helped to provoke me. So off I went out.
And there I was, sitting at my favourite spot in any cafés. Always at a corner, with my back against the wall, or the bar, or the counter with the window or the glass wall always on either of my side. I ordered my coffee. I took out my laptop. I turned it on and started to type out some ideas. My coffee arrived and I sipped it. I looked at the list of sentences I have just written. And I thought and pondered and reflected, with coffee in between.
And then she came in.
Unknowingly and surely, she stepped in and paused, just momentarily. As with all new visitors that enters a small enclosed area, heads turned and I was among them. Aged and confidence was my first impression. It was a rather empty place that night so there was no need for her to be waited. She easily made her choice and picked the table next to me. I turned back to my work with the warm assurance of a good caffeine fix in my left hand, while she settled in and made herself comfortable.
After about 10 minutes, we caught each other’s glances and exchanged a brief smile before she started a conversation with me. In that brief introductory chat, she found out that I was writing. I learned that she has a sister who often comes out to places like this and write, like me too. I shared with her that I was new here and gave her a low-down on what has happened to me in the last year, including my past relationship. Now when I think back, I supposed I gave her the wrong first impression of my feelings for this place and my life.
Because the following is the part of the conversation where I would like to remember for a long time to come, simply because this is where she told me, “Beautiful, you make it sound like this is such a hopeless place.”
She leaned in a little bit and smiled. With both her hands held tightly onto her lap she said, “You’ve got eighteen year olds getting married,” then she paused just for a brief second as if she were assessing which age category I fell into and continued, “before truly understanding the value of marriage.”
I must have raised my eyebrows a little and nodded some. My feigned wise comprehension could only manage to produce a “True true” respond to indicate for her to continue.
She sensed my innocent indifference and explained herself gently, “You’ve got idiotic, self-absorbed celebrities getting divorced and ruining the sanctity of marriage. And then you have those pure-hearted, devoted, loving, charismatic, trustworthy, and ambitious people who are searching for love and yearning for a lifetime companion to share their hopes and dreams with.”
It suddenly hit me at that point that right in front of me was a person who could very well give me some much needed dressed-down answers to my thoughts on relationships. Sensing that I’ve gotten myself really interested in what she had to say, I quickly replied, “That’s true. Sometimes people are just ungrateful and take things for granted.”
“And sometimes, it’s just not fair.” She subtly tapped the edge of the table with her index finger while attempting to correct me.
“Well, life is never fair,” I muttered.
I can recall why some of the things people have advised me in the past months all seemed to not make any sense before now. It was because of the capacity in which was required of me to forgive that delayed my grasp on life. Then I added, almost with an afterthought, “Even for those who has found their soul mates.”
“Finding your soul mate can indeed be a long, arduous process,” she exclaimed.
“You don’t say.”
She laughed out loud suddenly but her gentle mannerism kicked in and she quickly composed herself, as if she was on camera and the world was watching. And then with her serious voice and satirical undertone she said, “As cliché and weird as this might sound, you may or may not kiss a few frogs before finding your princess.” She pursed her lips, narrowed her eyes at me and paused for a reaction.
And this time, it was me who laughed out the loudest by far, shifting my chair even by a few centimetres. “I must have missed the memo from the Grimm Brothers,” I added sarcastically.
Without responding to my remarks, she went on as though she was reciting from a well-rehearsed advice script she has used countless times, “Some of us have a fairytale love story, some of us have stories that are still being written, and some of us haven’t even begun to write the chapter of love.” She eyed my laptop for a split second and then looked back at me, and smiled intently and knowingly.
“Well, I certainly do try from time to time,” I said and this time, I was subtly tapping my laptop with my index finger.
I tried to smile as broadly as I could and remembered looking at the empty page that was on the screen and imagined the face of a laughing frog instead. Somehow I felt like I was already warmed up to her and I do tend to open up to people easily.
So I decided to share what was on my mind and revealed, “Now, you’re starting to make me imagine laughing frogs with lipsticks in my Word document”.
She quickly sunk her head and hunched her back a little while clasping both her hands close to her lips. Wide-eyed, she mouthed the words “I’m sorry” and saluted once, barring her toothy smile.
“If you’re one of the people still anxiously waiting for Miss Right, it’s okay, don’t beat yourself up,” she leaned across and tapped my left shoulder twice. “I could probably write a paragraph or two about hypothetically finding the one or the one finding you, however you choose to look at it, but it’s only until you go through an experience that you believe in the theory, right?”
I smiled and nodded. In my mind I was thinking that of all the things I have reflected upon previously, of all the things I have written about in this experience, I have never once mentioned or thought about the idea of finding someone. Instead, it was all about forgetting someone.
I let out an obvious sigh and said to her, “Yes, agree that it’s all about the experience that you actually learn from it. I mean, really, without experience we are just a shell without connections to our conscience, right?” I was starting to seek her approval for my own affirmation.
She gave me the look that she knew that I knew it was a rhetorical question. Having gotten what I wanted, I smiled to myself and asked her, “And so this theory of yours is?”
“My theory?” she snapped.
And I remembered this part very clearly because she took her time, picked up her cup of coffee, sipped it a couple of times and put it back onto the table before answering me.
Then she said, “You have to endure the process to reap the benefits.”
“Just like planting flowers,” I said after a moment of pondering.
“Just like that.”
“I reckon I can do that.”
“Hang in there, beautiful. You are someone’s dream beloved.”
I swore I got a few goose bumps when I heard that. I tried to be cheekily snide and said, “It’s all about finding that someone, ain’t that right?”
“Uh huh. They want you and you want them. You need them and they need you. One day, it will come together like peanut butter and jelly,” she detailed with hand gestures and all on making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and then miming an imaginary bite.
She continued on, “They will sweep you off your feet, probably metaphorically, Mr. Writer, and whisk you away onto cloud nine.”
“Cloud nine? Oh shoot yourself, please!” I exclaimed.
“There! You will spend your happy ever after.” And she spent a good five seconds laughing at herself after that.
“Which fairytale are we talking about again?”
She smiled and shook her head several times before calming down once again and told me something very meaningful and fundamentally strong. She said, “Be patient, for God’s timing is flawless. Most importantly, be open-minded.”
Those words about God and his timing struck me like a Colt Winchester finding its aim on a buffalo from the Wild West in the 1800s. Because that was exactly how I felt. Like I was this mindless buffalo running for ages aimlessly, not stopping long enough to enjoy the beautiful sierras nor realising that I was being hunted down. Only that when I did, shooting me down was the only way for me to realise.
She must have gathered that she struck a deep chord in my soul somewhere then, because just when I thought I was humbled, she said the most beautiful and profound thing I have heard in a long time that relates back to what we briefly talked about in the very beginning.
She said, “Some of us find love in magical places. Others find love in hopeless places."
Thank you, Rhona.