The first time you met, it was on the dusty, great subcontinent [I do not believe they call it that anymore], near a watering hole, beneath the shade of a willow tree. At that time, I do not believe that people had proper names—it’s hard to remember when exactly this tradition began—but it was you, sure enough, that crawled towards each other as if drawn by some mysterious and unknowable force on that hot, fateful day.
You were little more than animals then. Creatures of base instinct that still had the impressions of tree branches pressed into your soft, recently-furless skin. But love, love is as base as it gets. And there was no mistaking it as these two primitive creatures, alert and fearful, sat in the fly-buzzing damp heat near that stagnant pool of water, and watched each other, their language-unburdened minds reeling at the sensation of something greater than themselves, drawing them uncontrollably towards one another.
How do I know this? Simple. I was there. That “mysterious and unknowable force?” Yo. You’re looking at it. True, I wasn’t exactly at the top of my game then either, having just been born and everything, but I was there just the same. I’ve been here since the beginning.
The next time around was a little more dignified. By then there were mud huts involved and the grunting had begun to organize itself into a sort of crude language. Things really got busy after that—language, I mean—they snowballed really, and to be quite honest, it became a bit challenging for me to keep track of time in a strictly linear fashion as I know is the preference with most human beings. It all just became sort of a big blur. A massive jumble of time, of moments and lifetimes lived over and over again as the cycle repeated itself across centuries.
There was the time in Paris, during the revolutions. Oh, that one was easy. You take two people during wartime, add in a little starcrossed this or that, and whammo! Love is basically impossible to avoid. That’s not to mention the bodices. Bodices really did half my work for me. I have to wonder how those ever went out of style.
Or the time that you were both working on that steamship? That one was seriously too much fun. A countess and a deckhand? I mean, come on! How great was that? All I had to do was push the wheel of fate a little, just a tiny nudge here or there, and in no time flat you were standing on the deck beneath a blanket of stars watching the aurora borealis, the reflection of heaven itself glinting in her eyes…his strong hands drawing you close…the lingering smell of sea air and sweat in his hair…I get goosebumps just thinking about it!
They haven’t all been that easy of course. You remember Poland, 1965? Ugh. Or the time when you decided it was a great idea to live on separate sides of the planet? A factory worker in Indonesia and a school teacher in Canada? That was a real doozy. If it hadn’t had been for my brilliant idea of the humanitarian relief mission, I don’t think you ever would’ve gotten together at all! But we, and by which I mean I, found a way. I always do. Which brings us to today.
Let me just start by saying, what the hell is your problem?
Sorry, sorry. I’m calm. I’m calm.
But seriously, I don’t understand. This one should have been a cakewalk and yet here we are. It’s getting ridiculous.
This one was as easy as they come. Same hometown, same age, same basic economic background. If anything, the only problem here was that you were too similar. Too boring. I started a little heavy-handed maybe, but I wanted to get the jump on things. Figured I could set this one on autopilot and just kinda coast by for a while, maybe catch up on my reading. But no. No, you had to go and mess everything up. This never would’ve happened if people still wore bodices.
When you were only four years old, you met at the local mall. There used to be this playcenter there in the middle of it all, near the foodcourt. It wasn’t much. Just rows of brown leather benches for exhausted parents to sit on while their snotty, screaming children ran and played in the open carpeted area between them.
You were playing with some Star Wars toys and you came over to check them out. I think one of them was a plastic, non-fuzzy version of one of those fuzzy teddy bear things and the other was a sort of robot. You played together for a little bit and then were called away by your respective parents who needed to return to their shopping. It wasn’t exactly Romeo and Juliet but it got the job done.
Now, before you say anything, I know that four year olds don’t fall in love. But I’ve been at this a very long time and this is one of my best techniques. I call it imprinting. What you want to do is put two people together who are at a formative age to make memories, it should be a happy experience, something that they could really latch onto, and then introduce them. It’s amazing the things that they will retain from such a quick meeting. Most importantly is smell. The smell of their parent’s house typically, which when it comes up later, tricks the brain into going back to that formative, happy memory…imprinting.
And then I played the waiting game. About a dozen or so years passed—it’s really all the same to me—and not much happened, so I figured it was time to nudge fate again. Maybe what happened next was where I slipped up. I got lazy. Overconfident.
I put you in high school together.
It was a gamble. I knew that. In fact, I almost second guessed myself and didn’t go through with it, but the whole thing seemed so certain. In every measurable way you were both perfectly compatible. And it worked, for a while.
There was the kiss in the movie theater. Oh, that kiss! It was during one of those horrible Star Wars prequels—now you’re beginning to understand how imprinting works, right?—that you went to as a flimsy pretext to spend time together in a dark room, as I have witnessed teenagers do since the very inception of the movie theater. There was magic in that first awkward kiss. Somewhere behind the overly tonguey, sloppy, wet desperation of that kiss, was a spark of the eternal. A recognition of something which exists outside of time. A reflection of yourself in the soul of another human being, transcending the physical existence to which we are hopelessly bound and allowing us, but momentarily, to gaze into the eyes of the infinite and realize that we are not alone and that life has a purpose. Then the podracing scene started and you both stopped making out to watch it.
I thought that was that. My job was done. But hormones will be hormones and even I can only control so much. For the next decade, I watched helplessly as you barely spoke to each other. As you ignored your instincts and you both found partners, some temporary, some more permanent, upon which you could project an image that always fell short of the thing you were really looking for—each other. It was frustrating to say the least.
Thankfully, there was still plenty of time.
In your early twenties, I began to get nervous. You hadn’t spoken in years, unless you count following each other “online”—which is apparently a thing that’s sticking around—and reading a random post here or there about what you had for breakfast that day, or what charity run you desperately wanted everybody to know that you’re doing out of the goodness of your heart. So, I started to take some chances. I had to. I had no choice.
First it was little things. You’d both end up at the same house party when you came home from college for the holidays—which thanks for that, by the way. Thanks for deciding that you needed to attend different universities, for what was essentially the same degree might I add, despite my best efforts to convince you otherwise. Or I would have you catch a random scent that would trigger a memory of each other while waiting in line at the grocery store, and wonder momentarily how the other was doing. But did you ever reach out? Did either of you ever put in any effort?
When the small stuff failed, I had to think bigger.
Once, I put you on the same cruiseship, a romantic trip through the bahamas, but you both got seasick and spent the entire time in your cabins. Another time, I got you jobs at the same company but before your first day the CEO was indicted on embezzlement charges and the doors were boarded by the time you arrived. I even put you both in the same wedding party once—a bit trite, I know, but still a classic—and you both brought dates! Dates! To a wedding! Quite frankly, I’m sick of it. Enough’s enough.
Decades have gone by. Time that you could have spent together, precious time, has slipped through your fingers. Since you first spied one another from across that now-infamous dusty watering hole millennia ago, countless lives have come and gone, each one connected across the vast chasm of time by a single, common thread; me—well, and love. The love that you are born into which inevitably—again, thanks to me—finds a reflection of itself in another and is thus completed so it may find itself again and again, in another time, in another place. And I won’t have that being fouled up by two lunkheads like you.
So this is it. My hail mary. A last ditch effort to make you see the err of your ways. And believe me when I say that I find this every bit as distasteful as you surely do.
I’ve always favored the scalpel over the sword. Preferred to stay in the background and act as a delicate nudge, a whispered suggestion, a nimble twist of fate that inexplicably draws two people together. What I do is an artform. I tap gently on the stone until the story of your love reveals itself, but you, you have forced me to use a jackhammer. Nothing else seems to be getting through to you and quite frankly, we’re running out of time. So, here it is…
Stop being stupid and go tell them.
You know who I’m talking about. You know the exact person.
Just go and tell them already.
I’m sick of waiting.