It starts with a simple look. Usually that’s all it takes. And really, if you’re to be excruciatingly precise, what is a look but retinas meeting retinas? What is it other than reaching from the depths of a small dark hole to an infinitely smaller dark hole some vague distance away? Because when you get down to the chemistry of it, looking into someone’s eyes is simply looking from the depth of your optic nerve into theirs. And often that’s all it takes.
You find yourself years later, contemplating how your life has managed to have gone so very much awry that you’re trying to dilute, diminish, dwarf that first instant to a set of inconsequential retinas and pupils and optic nerves that happened to align.
Because you tell yourself, with no small amount of resentment, that of course on THAT day, they aligned. On that day, you could have x-ray visioned the hell out of his eyes through both your sunglasses, the pull was so strong.
So: you have a whirlwind romance. Of course you do. You promise each other more than you are capable of, promises full of meaning but empty in quantifiable value, promises that will dissipate like perfume but linger as you refuse to wash them off.
You leave. He stays. You have the world to explore, of course, and while your eyes aligned on that first day and every single day after that, you’ve ultimately decided to look away from him. And there’s that man back home, you see. There’s the matter of the unfinished business with him, yes? And you know with every shred of conviction, with all the wisdom you don’t have but unequivocally believe you own (you entitled fucking idiot) that this can’t be the end of your particular story. So you waste him like a big meal you ordered but only half-finished and go on to take the world.
It takes years, maybe, before you see him again. A chance encounter? No. The world is small, but fate does not serve you so willingly. You make it a point to find him; or was it him who found you? You’ll ignore this detail, but it will define the edges of your happiness; it will haunt you in your sleep, as he snores his troubles away. You’re not children anymore, you think. You’ve grown and wear your hair differently and he looks the same but more… more… Rough. Sharper. He used to be a bit selfish, back then. You thought it would fade with age and maturity. It hasn’t. But when you look into the abyss of his retinas, nothing but holes, you tell yourself, two holes on a face, your heart clenches into a tiny fist of surprise. That fucking pull is still there.
And he tells you about her. You knew about her, of course, but you were hoping it was choice, not circumstance that made him leave. He tells you otherwise. You pretend like you’re not surprised, because really you’re not, this is your retribution. You lie quietly in bed, face to face, as he tells you softly, without the slightest trace of contempt, a simple matter of fact: funny isn’t it, how the tables have turned. In this moment you know he knows that you’re him then and he’s now you, with everything that it implies. He closes his eyes and drifts away to sleep, peaceful, unencumbered by the distress clenching your throat. You cry yourself to sleep very quietly because his arm is splayed across your chest and you want it there, pitiful little creature that you are. You want to ask him, you will loathe yourself for weeks to come for asking him, but it leaks out like bile, pathetic and dripping, when you ask it anyway: do you think we will ever really fit in the end?
And suddenly he opens his eyes and those two holes of nothingness meet yours. He smiles sadly because the certainty of it is impossible, but the desperation in the question pulls at him; he has felt it before, looking at you. He nods yes. It’s the worst kind of look; the kind that gives hope, the kind that makes you cling to your own orchestrated madness, it’s the look that will pepper dreams of your future.
He leaves, of course. It’s his turn to look away as you stay behind. It is he with the unfinished business. But the finality you wish would materialize never does. Maybe this is not the end, you tell yourself, but the beginning of a love story that will span decades and continents. The alternative, two pieces of one puzzle wasted, forever floating uselessly around the world, fighting the temperament of time and the whims of a fate they force themselves to believe is unstoppable, this alternative is not an option.
But you know yourself better; you know your cowardice and your limitations. So instead you choose to remember your quiet longing for the simple comfort of loneliness, you choose to believe that it was nothing but two sets of pupils, just some inconsequential dark holes that happened to align once, or maybe even twice, with neither rhyme nor cadence to prove their worth.