This is a short story I had been struggling to write the past four years. Too much pain and anger had to be released, step by step. And I made it. Few months ago I pressed “enter” and I let go. And got published on the Short Story Project
I named this photograph “soulmate” as it is a reproduction of his portrait. And it was the first photograph I sold via Saatchi Art
I always had this inner agony to let go, to push me more and more to forget. But one cannot forget, for feelings have been experienced, recorded… they have watered our skin and routed our soul. Letting go is a different thing. It takes time, and it works in waves… one moment you thing you’re there, in someone else’s arms and smell their neck and behind their ears and the next moment you’re in limbo again. A song, a scent, a thought, a night ride in a cab, anything that can scratch the old wound can take you back.
I knew I had to finish this story, I wrote so many versions of it, so many efforts to transform it, and realised memories is stories but not reality. We tell stories, we change reality, we choose what to remember. Sometimes we even hide from ourselves.
The end I was looking for was in fact the acceptance of that version of reality that says: There was no end. There is no end.
There are some stories that were written for us, before us. Before we were even born to live in them. This is the story about a man and a woman who were meant to meet and bind with each other in chaos till eternity. This story is evidence that their souls have met. And will meet again.
I knew she was my soulmate the moment I saw her lying on the wet grass, after the short rain that made us rush into Tate Modern that Sunday morning. People were impatiently looking under their umbrellas in search of the sun rays which seemed to have opened millions of small holes on London’s grey sky. She was wearing a red coat and her face looked older than my memories. I had not seen her for years, but I felt as if we had never said good bye. As a matter of fact, we never said good bye to each other. I never found the strength to justify my decision to leave her, I could never admit to myself that leaving her would mean my own death but living with her would mean that my past had to die. I did not know which of the two was more fatal than the other. And the consequences, the reality behind the dream, everything that I had to battle with, in order to be her man, everything seemed so painfully unbearable. I wanted to show her the world, to travel with her to all those places inside of me that I had missed throughout the years of living in frustration and limbo. Instead, I could only disappear. And yet, there I was, standing in front of her, waiting for her to open her eyes. The sun was out again and my shadow covered her body, the way I was covering her skin when making love to her was my only way to exist. Few seconds passed before she reluctantly opened one eye, keeping the other firmly closed. “Is that really you?” she said and smiled. I could have never forgotten her voice. I sat beside her, still looking at her like the first moment we met eight years ago, in Paris.
“Lay down with me, I need time”, she said. Silence had never been awkward when I was with her. I could stay there saying nothing but just feeling her aura, hearing her breathing in an effort to hide her surprise. She tilted her head towards me and looked at me. She remained silent for a while, not in the essence of not knowing what to say, on the contrary, we both knew exactly what to say. I could see her chest moving while breathing, my breath instinctively synchronized with hers, like a soft, mellow Shostakovich waltz. “I missed you”, I could not stop the words coming out of my mouth. I had resigned to faith to do my part and bring her eyes in front of mine, and reveal to her all the things I could not dare to tell her that afternoon when I let her walk away from me at Chancery Lane park. She had asked me to spend the weekend together and discuss about my decision to return to my wife. I could not find the strength to explain. I could not find the courage to give voice to my duty to be a husband and a father, despite my unhappiness. And as always, she saw through me and released my deep need for forgiveness. She smiled and gently put her warm hand on my cheek and whispered, ” I know. Now, I know”. I held her hand, as salty tears flood my eyes, but I could still see the outline of her face, the shape of her lips smiling to me. She hugged me and silently cried with me, like that Saturday morning after my father’s death, when she was sleeping next to me and felt me crying in my dream. We turned our bodies facing each other and without opening our eyes, we hugged so tight and felt each other’s tears’ moist on our faces. That Saturday morning, I knew deeply in my heart, that this girl from Athens was the woman I had been dreaming of when I was still that teenager who was secretly listening to Leonard Cohen singing about his Suzanne, in my parents’ bathroom.
“And just when you mean to tell her that you have no love to give her
Then he gets you on her wavelength. And she lets the river answer that you’ve always been her lover”
Eight years earlier.
I knew he was my soulmate the moment I saw him in his khaki jacket waiting for me at the arrivals of Charles de Gaulle Airport. I flew from Athens, though it felt I had been flying all my life to land on this moment. His whole body was anticipating our meeting; I could see his arms restlessly longing to hug me for the first time. His smile welcomed me from a place of warmth and intimacy that only our very own home awakens within. Instantly my eyes traveled along his skin lines, his shape, his eyes. I listened to his voice, to his breathing. I wanted to feel his presence in the space surrounding me, and make it mine. It was only a month ago when I woke up to the sound of his message, inviting me to have “a proper first date in Paris”. The truth is that our bodies had never physically met before. We came into each other’s life earlier that summer, under a photograph of Big Ben’s reflection on water on Westminster Bridge. We spent weeks emailing each other, craving to learn more about one another’s life. In August we had our first call, I was standing by the old harbour of a village in central Greece, he was driving off Victoria to South London. He parked his car at the corner end of his street and stayed there for hours until we would finally hang up. A routine that became ours for the following years. On 19th of September, we met in Paris.
We got in a taxi holding hands, we had been waiting for too long to touch each other, so long as a sort of prolonged, endless forever would last, even though it was only a month ago when he articulated his feelings over another long night call. He could not realise he had fallen for a woman who had never stood in front of him in flesh and blood. We arrived to the hotel, in Montmartre. Everything was in superlative degree, my excitement, the romance, the expectancy of what was about to begin, Paris itself. I was feeling a uncannily indulging gravity towards this man. He opened the door and I found myself standing next to him by the window in front of the view of Eiffel Tower. I could not resist to any of this, I could not resist to his body’s scent. Our skin dresses all of our desires, our secret lust and guilt. He hugged me from behind as I was looking outside the window, and my body was seduced by this overwhelming sensation of surrender, new yet familiar at the same time, like old souls meeting again after a very long time. We lay on bed, on our sides, in front of each other and looked inside of each other’s eyes, following an invisible thread leading to the heart. Sweet electricity flowed within our bodies before our fingers attracted each other. His kiss was soft, tasted like milk and honey. He put his hand under my clothes and slowly felt my skin, like a recognition ceremony. I closed my eyes and let the air of my soul come out of mouth with a silent voice, one to be heard with invisible vibrations inside of us. He caressed my breast and I knew I was his already. We spent the night sitting very close to each other, like Parisians do, drinking red wine, eating cheese and grapes, constantly touching each other, losing ourselves in endless kisses and stories. We never stopped telling each other stories till the day we were no longer “we”. Perhaps, he might still be able to feel the stories I would still like to tell him, yet I only whisper to him in my mind. On our last night together in Paris I was suffocating, I could not breathe knowing I wouldn’t be able to feel his being around me again. I was suffocating the following years each time I had to say good bye at the airport, whether it was me leaving him or him leaving us. Alone. He was showing me his black shoes while packing, brand new and shiny and I ran to the bathroom pretending I had to wash my hands, when in fact I had to wash my tears away. I locked myself in the bathroom and mutely cried like a child. I was missing him already. I cried again while he was walking along the gate with me but across the glass separator, yet the distance separating us was longer than a meter away.
A hundred and some years later.
“There is no end and no beginning. The heroes of our story experienced love beyond the humanly conceived, linear type of time. They are connected in eternal time frame, if you wish. For the author, this story resembles the myth and the drama around Eros and Psyche, the soul. A superficial approach would stay at the cliché of a woman falling for a married man, a deeper insight though, will allow you to feel her loneliness in her decision to abandon her ego and live under his terms, for as long as this relationship could breathe. Our author had to confess the greatness of her love tale to her readers in an almost autobiographical way.” The professor kept reading out loud parts of the book, walking among the students.
Her name was Misumi. She was born 18 years ago in Kyoto, and was the daughter of woman who lost her husband in a car accident in Montmartre, a few months after giving birth to her. He was from India, the youngest of four sons of a wealthy family from Mumbai. He could not take his eyes off her calm, almost transparent face, her long black hair. The mole on her left cheek, the way she was pressing her lips against each other, her red lipstick, everything about her was inviting him to dive deeper in his attraction for her. A kind of intuitive calling. An electrifying sense of gravity that he had not felt before. They were only eighteen, studying literature in London. After the class, Misumi went for her usual walk along Thames. She loved lying on the grass in front of Tate Modern and observing how clouds flow above the city in an effortless dance with the wind. This time, he followed her, like a schoolboy who reluctantly leaves his mother’s arms. He walked behind her for a while, hypnotized by the rhythmical waving of her long, green coat revealing her small feet in purple boots.
His eyes grew bigger in his surprise when she turned her head back and looked at him. She smiled and his heart melt like honey. An old song coming out of the windows of a blue car parked across the street, filled the atmosphere.
– “Suzanne”, he said.
– “Suzanne… the song. Leonard Cohen… Have you heard of him?” She nodded and smiled again. They walked next to each other till late that evening, talking about everything and nothing in particular. They sat on a black bench at the front of the dock opposite Saint Paul’s. Stars and thin clouds, branches of trees becoming one, and a sensation of something known, something that existed before they met. A kind of fulfilment. Nowness and foreverness stirred in a moment from another life. She sat close to him, looking at the sky. Her hand searched for his, feeling the texture of the old wood, the tip of his fingers. They had been there before, in this moment. Traces of another life, untold and deeply private.
The smell at the edge of his lips.
The salty taste of his eye lids.
The taste of his breath on her tongue when they kissed.
The loudness of the friction of their fingers crossing with each other.
Their lost memories. The memory.
The forgiveness. And the forgetting.
Everything had happened for them to meet again. For eternity could now become their home.