Sevilin laughed, when he told her the story. She'd laugh in burst, wiping the shampoo from her eyes or mouth while he washed her hair which she later dyed red. Her hair, being black, the red turned out to be more of a burgundy, but he loved it, because he loved her. Had it been anyone else that had dyed their hair that colour, he probably would not have cared. But he loved her. And she would not be his for long. Maybe that made it all that much more special. She loved to hear his stories. Others may have found them silly, but they were his stories. And she loved him. And he would not be hers for long. Maybe that made it all that much more special.
After dinner, she snuggled up with him on the couch. Aptal and Sevilin, like two kittens, rubbing their heads with each other, almost purring. They didn't want to go anywhere. They just wanted each other.
"I miss you," she said.
"I am happy I have found you."
"I'm happy I found you too. And I think this was the right time for me to find you."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that who I am today is not who I was a few years ago. Or even last year. I've grown and changed. Maybe last year I would not have appreciated you because I still had so much more to work on myself. And you make me feel appreciated. That I matter. That I am not a fool in what I think or do. That there is value in me. It was very difficult to find myself first, in order for me to be able to find you and appreciate you once I did."
"I really like what I see. People always say something to lower your value. Especially yours. Because you say it as it is and people don't like that. They are intimidated by you. People don't want truth. They don't want someone different. Being in the norm, means not having to think and when they don't think, truth can't hurt them."
"And you know, you make me feel special because you appreciate me regardless of how I am. Flaws and everything. Good and bad. Most people in my life run away at the bad, they stay only for the good. And it made me looking for you and finally finding you all that more rewarding"
"I've been with so many different people, cheesy as it sounds, none have been like you. I don't want to leave you. I don't like that I have to go."
There was silence for a very long time. Reality is hard to come to terms with and only time can help with the digestion it requires.
She was lying on top of him, her breasts pressed against him, kissing him, repeatedly, without pause or hesitation. He just took it because he wanted to have as many as possible before there would be no more.
When she stopped, he found him staring deeply into her dark eyes. She smiled and he loved to see her smiles because her eyes looked like two tiny half moons. When she smiled, her tired, hard-worked eyes, eyes that showed sadness and that so much had happened before, would disappear and be replaced by two gems of pure joy. He loved her deep, dark eyes.
"I think I always knew from the start, before I understood, that I was looking for something."
She positioned herself on his chest as if eager to hear his story.
"I always feel like I am looking for something. But I don't know what it is. I just know that, one day, this something will present itself in front of me and I will know, just by looking at it, that this is the something I've been looking for."
"What would you do if you found it?"
"I don't know. Probably nothing, because I think just desiring to find it was what powered me to realize I was to look for you. Besides, whatever that is that I'm looking for, it for sure don't kiss or don't have pretty half moons for eyes."
Sevilin's face illuminated with a giant smile. There was not much more talking done after that.
Sevilin woke up alone, in bed. It felt early. She didn't open her eyes but stretched a searching hand that reached no body. Just then she heard some noises of plates. She recognized the sound, it was of plates being taken out of the cupboard and placed on the counter. She could picture this with her eyes closed, envisioning Aptal taking them out one by one, trying to make as little noise as possible. The smell of food, most notably toast and other appetite inducing odours had reached her, if faintly, and her mind, slowly booting up from the torpor she had just mentally risen from, was slowly putting all the pieces together.
She would've preferred had he stayed in bed with her, snuggling up some more, maybe making love again. And again. Smelling his presence, feeling his body close to hers, the warmth, being enveloped in his arms and think of nothing else but that moment. He was not too far away and yet she missed him already.
But she also appreciated the loving gesture of making breakfast. Making food for a loved one, preparing it with care, getting up from beneath the foetal-like warmth of the blankets and place oneself in front of a stove, was a gesture of love. She could already see him, arrive with a tray, with a big smile and eyes that said more he could ever try to say with words, of what he felt for her, eyes which even betrayed a little sadness for the looming events of their future.
With her eyes closed, her arm still stretched, her body still in the same position as to when she had woken up, she smiled. She felt happy, a happiness she hadn't felt in so long, maybe as far as when she was a little kid, when things in the world appeared so much different, simpler and there was no concept of gratuitous cruelty from the world around her.
Aptal arrived with a tray just as Sevilin had pictured it. She smelled the food before she saw him and she greeted him with a big smile, a smile he was already sporting on his proud face. She positioned herself and he placed the tray on her lap and sat next to her. On the tray was even a tiny little vase with a tiny little plastic flower. In any other situation this would've been cheesy and corny, but it surprised herself how much she liked that little extra touch.
"Good morning, cutie."
"Good morning, Aptal. This looks great."
They both ate, quietly, staring at each other with smiles and eyes that spoke words either one already knew and felt. The hand of one was holding the hand of another and while a little difficult perhaps to eat with one hand only, the sacrifice was well worth the sense of physical connection that was needed.
"The other day, at work," started Aptal while polishing the last bit of scrambled eggs and spinach from his plate, "I was checking our inventory when a sales rep showed up. She asked if one manager in particular was present for a product promotion she was eager to start and he wasn't there. I took care of taking all her details and information so I could just pass them on when he returned. She thanked me. Then just as she was about to leave, she looks at me with this funny look and says, 'aren't you Aptal?' and I say, 'yes, I am.' I'm thinking, someone must've referred her to me when she asked around and couldn't find who she was looking for. Somehow I always find a way to justify things in my mind."
He finished his coffee, then continued, aware of Sevilin staring at him without even looking.
"'Oh,' she said as if no-big-of-a-deal, 'you went to Vinewood Collegiate. You had Dr. Clovis as your professor in biochemistry.' This was a little weird so I said, 'okay, you got me, how do you know?' and she tells me that she's Emily something-I can't remember now-and that we went to school together, she was in all of my classes and really enjoyed having me in class."
"Did you remember her?"
"That's the thing, I did not. She seemed a little upset at this judging from her disappointed look and after wishing me well, left. I never saw her since. When I did go home that night, I ran to my bookshelves, grabbed my yearbooks and looked her up. And there she was, in all of my yearbooks. Year after year. There is even a photo of us working on something in class and she's standing next to me. I remember that day, we were learning to dissect rats but I never even noticed her."
"So now you remember her?" asked Sevilin, as if trying to figure something out.
"No, I never even noticed her. And this got me thinking. How many people have I had an impact in their lives and wasn't even aware of their existence on this planet? And now I wonder, how many people have had a positive-or negative-impact in my life and they don't even know I shared a room with them."
Sevilin's mental rolodex, if Aptal could've seen it, had been spinning about halfway through his story, looking for something it felt it knew, until, eventually, it found it.
"A little while ago," then she paused as if the details of what she was about to say where still being told to her.
"Actually, a long while ago, I was at home. I was upset, something had happened. I couldn't sleep. I went to grab a cigarette, but I had run out. I fought for a bit the desire to get dressed and take the five minute walk to the twenty-four hours store and buy another pack. I just wanted to just sit there, miserable, at my desk. But my cravings got the best of me and I justified them with the excuse that a walk would've probably done me good. Somehow I always find a way to justify things in my mind."
Aptal watched her as she clenched her hands together, almost as if remembering the tale was painful. He put his hands on top of hers and she hung on to him, without shifting her stare, which was focused on some non-existent object behind Aptal.
"I got to the store, looked around for something even if I wanted nothing but a smoke and eventually worked my way to the front and bought my pack. There was another person in the store, but I didn't really pay attention to them other than the fact that it was another person. As I was about to step out, the man-it was a man-says to me, 'hey, Sevilin, how have you been? Long time no see.' I was totally surprised by this. My first reaction was to say, 'hey, how are you, what are you doing here?'"
"Did you know him?"
"No-well, yes, but the reality was that I was sure I had no idea who this guy was. I could swear I had never ever seen him before. I sat there listening to him say how surprised he was to see me, hoping to catch a hint of a clue that would help me figure out where I met him. I don't know why I didn't say that I didn't remember him. Or maybe a part of me didn't want to make him feel he was that unimportant in my life that I never registered him. I thought, how would I feel in his shoes? Probably pretty bad. I don't know."
"What did you do?"
"Well, he asked how my life was and what I had been up to and I shared a bit of the madness I was in at the time. How I'm basically a slave to my job to make ends meet, the extra work I am doing on the side, the plans for school, and then I ask him. He's not doing much different from me and despite him going into detail about his life, I could still not place this guy. It was really unnerving. Until, eventually, he asks me how my boyfriend is doing. He specifically asked for a guy I had not been dating for a while, we're talking at least two or three years at this point. So this sort of placed him in a time and space that I could sort of work with. But still nothing. Then suddenly, as he's talking, I hear my mind saying, 'hey, this guy is Masumluk.' And I suddenly placed him. My boyfriend had a cousin, her name was Zalimane and Zalimane was dating Masumluk. Whenever we went out as a group, Zalimane was always there. Always. And he tagged along, too."
"So then he would have known that you and your boyfriend were no longer a thing, why ask? Just to be polite?"
"Well, not exactly. It turns out that as my boyfriend and I broke up, Zalimane broke up with Masumluk as well. Apparently there was some cheating involved he was the victim of, but he didn't really go into too much detail."
"Was Zalimane not a nice person, then?"
"That's the funny part, she was a total sweetheart. So who knows what the story is, I never heard from her ever since my break-up. Actually, that kind of made me sad how an entire group of people just vanished from my life. I understand keeping sides, but I had not been a bad person. And her version is probably different. Or maybe it just goes to show you that appearances are truly deceiving-you never really know a person. Anyway, I told him what happened and he was surprised, he was sure we'd be married by now-that he was the one I had been looking for. But I knew at that point that he wasn't 'him.' I wasn't sure who 'him' was, but I knew that my boyfriend was not 'him.'"
"You and Masumluk still talk?"
"It gets funnier. We exchange phone numbers and I placed his number in my wallet, so not to lose it. He says he'll call me, we should get together, have a bitching session and a few good laughs in front of a beer. I'm like, yeah, for sure. Then I totally forgot about him again. It wasn't until you told me your story that I remembered him and realized neither one of us ever called the other. He probably has completely forgotten me too at this point. But what I found really scary that night was the realization that I must've met so many people in my life and I only remember a few. How many experiences are completely erased from my mind because they hardly had an impact on me. Masumluk was always around, I spoke to him many a times, we had some pretty interesting conversations and then, boom, he's gone completely from my mind to the point I wouldn't even had recognized him down the street. I wonder how many people forgot me."
There was some silence. Aptal waited until Sevilin came out of her dreamy state and finally returned his stare. She saw him looking at her and then smiled again.
"I hate to be a party pooper," Aptal said almost embarrassed, "but we need to get you ready for the flight you have to catch."
Sevilin looked a little disappointed. She passed him the tray, which he put on the chair next to the bed and just then she grabbed him. He was almost surprised then immediately grateful. The luggage could wait.
Sevilin interrupted the silence of the taxi ride to the airport.
"I'm glad your car is broken."
Aptal had been holding her as close to her as possible and just feeling her close to him, without saying much a word. He was lost in an intricate labyrinth of what-ifs. It probably would have been difficult to say anything at this moment, so all he could say was, "uhm?"
"Your car. I'm glad it's broken. Had it worked, you would've driven me there. I would be sitting there," she pointed at the front passenger seat, "and you'd be sitting there," she pointed at the cab driver who glanced back in a perplexed way, "and I wouldn't be a little ball in your arms. I like being a little ball in your arms. The car knew it had to break because it's giving us a bit more time with each other without having to worry about the rest of the world."
He kissed her on the head.
"Will you write to me, Aptal? I like what you have to say. I like hearing your stories."
"Of course. You're important to me. If I can't have you next to me, at least I can have my words next to you. Will you write me your stories, too?"
Sevilin hesitated and looked uncomfortable.
"I will try. I am not going to promise yet. This is something I need to work on."
"What do you need to work on?"
"Writing stories. When I was a little girl, I used to write stories all the time. I liked writing stories. But then I had one language teacher who hated everything I wrote. I don't know why the words of one person could affect me so much and crush my ego. It took me a while to realize that some people can only see their view of the world and no one else's. But still, I never wrote again. Everything I had written I destroyed."
"You can't let one person have so much power over you," said Aptal, then regretting saying it.
"I know, I know! It's just that, I haven't had it easy growing up and sometimes even the little things have an impact that leaves you scarred forever. But I will try to write to you. I said I will try, because this is something I need to work on. The hard part isn't even acknowledging you have to work on something-that you almost realize without effort. What's hard is figuring out how you're supposed to go about learning to unlearn what you've made a habit or an excuse in your life."
Aptal said nothing more, and just held her tight. That's all she needed right there and then.
An agent of the Surete? watched the couple holding each other-the couple was Aptal and Sevilin, but they were unaware they, in the midst of the noises and confusion of the world, had been noticed by someone, if for a moment. It was clear one was about to leave while one was to stay. The agent, his name was Michel, smiled, and his mind raced to his own happy and sad moment with his own love memories, already forgetting about the couple he had noticed. It's hard enough, he thought to himself, to be far apart for a few hours, I can only imagine how it must feel for them to be far away for more than that. His mind drifted further in that magical Sunday morning in Rue S. Augustine. But this is another story, perhaps for another tale.
They were both standing. Glued to one another. Behind her the entrance that only people with an airplane ticket are allowed to get past. Her face was buried in his chest, his nose into her head. The end was near and neither one wanted it to arrive so fast. Both knew of their responsibilities in their respective parts of the world and things that needed to be done and that could not just be left to themselves. The lives they had built to support them while looking for each other had become their very own trap.
"Before I was born," started Aptal, "I forgot to tell you how we were supposed to meet, once we're here, alive, on Earth. Unfortunately I didn't know my phone number ahead of time, but perhaps I should've said, let's buy flares. Let's fire them up in the air, at midnight. Let's say, green flares. What city, I'm sure you would have asked, and I would have said, why not Paris? It's the city of love, after all, and why not finally find you, in the city of love? If we can see the flares, we can find each other. But it didn't occur to me to tell you that either. So, after I was born, I kept looking for you. And each time I think I found you, it turns out to be someone else. But not you."
Sevilin shifted to look at him in the eyes.
"And now that I finally found you, after so much searching, I have to let you go. It almost seems ironic, yet fitting."
"Do you wish you had never found me?" she asked him.
Oh, none of that, went Aptal, because he knew, he told her, that no matter how sad this moment was, he was at least lucky to have found her. After so much travelling, and asking, and looking around, he knew she existed and she was there and she recognized him too and that made it all worthwhile. How many people, he asked, how many people spend their lives alone or with someone else because they never found each other? I'll die alone, but I have at least found you, and I'll die without regret, he told her.
He felt Sevilin just holding him tighter.
"I don't want to go," she said with a voice that was so tiny, that it normally would have been impossible to perceive it with all the background noises that exist in an airport.
The airport, however, had actually ceased to exist and no longer was there. At the very least, for two people, right there and then. The last time the world had been this quiet was before dinosaurs roamed the wastelands. The universe put itself on hold, as if God had stopped juggling the cosmos to give them a moment to themselves. Aptal did hear her and nothing else, because he was finely attuned at hearing only her. Besides, there was no other sound.
Not that they noticed.