by Anne CARBIENER
We met on a Saturday. The first of February. There is something I like about meeting people : you never know if they will become important or if they are just ephemeral. But that time was different. I immediately knew he was invaluable.
He was sitting at a table, with a cup of tea. I think I noticed him because he was smiling while there was no one with him. I entered the cafe, looked around, but there were no seats left. People were everywhere, talking, laughing, sipping, nibbling and enjoying pieces of cake. The noise was deafening; or maybe that was the rain which was beating on the windows. I sighed. I was so tired, but the scream of my legs was lower than that of my ears. I sighed deeper, I was about to leave. Then our eyes met. Suddenly that felt like an ordinary romantic scene. I tried to push the quick beats of my heart away. He made me a sign with his hand. I turned round, but there was nobody. He seemed to insist, and his look felt sweeter than every look I could have encountered. I hesitated. Just a few seconds, just enough to decide if, yes or no, I was taking this turn in my life. That was definitively the one. So, forgetting about time and place, I sat in front of him, shyly. He smiled. Or maybe he never stopped smiling.
“Hi.” My lips twisted slowly.
“No problem. How do you feel?”
Maybe that’s because he asked it this way and not the usual way, “How are you?”. Maybe that’s because we kept talking, not about our jobs, families, friends, names or ages, but about dreams, stars, tea, books and flowers. Maybe that’s because I couldn’t take off my eyes from his. Maybe that’s because he didn’t stop grinning. Maybe that’s because I discovered that he listened to R.E.M.; Nickelback or Queen. But when I left the cafe, all my troubles seemed far away and I felt new. I knew we would meet again.
And we did.
There were no ways to reach him, but he was always at the same place at the same time. Always a cigarette between his fingers, a cinnamon scent and a shining smile. Always a grey deep gaze. He often had some verses to recite, some story to tell. When I realized I was starting to like him, like more as a friend, when I realized that my guts got twisted easily as I listened to his voice, I knew I was in trouble. I hated myself for being so genuine in front of him, I hated myself for acting the way I did, and mostly, I hated myself for falling in love with him. I know that sounds so ridiculous, pitiful, like a high school love story. I couldn’t control anything. At all. I could trace his smell everywhere, I had the feeling that he was near me. I wanted him, I wanted his arms. But I was scared.
So I ran away. I didn’t try to reach him again. I struggled inside to bury his face deep down in my memory, where I knew he would never come back. I tried to forget all about him.
And I swear I tried, with all my strength. Yet I failed. As a nestling which learns how to fly for the first time, as a test for which you hadn’t revised, as a castle collapsing. Or maybe that was my faith in myself, but I was sure that something inside was broken. I remember I asked myself, why do the intense emotions become material ? Why this feeling through my entire body?
I hung on to my fear for three months. And, on a Saturday, I went back to the place we used to meet. I saw him, and I felt like someone was punching me in the stomach. He lifted his eyes ; we stared at each other. Again. I had difficulties to breathe. And that was awful, because I knew I had no rights to love him or even like him. I was about to turn around, but he stood up so I wasn’t able to do anything.
Pathetic, I stayed stiff as a picket.
“I missed you.” He sounded earnest, and I immediately felt alleviated.
“I’m sorry.” I just hoped it sounded self-confident.
“I know. Me too. What’s wrong?” I didn’t reply. Because I knew I couldn’t lie.
“You were a magic encounter. One of these I’m not about to forget.”
“What do you mean ?”
“So many things.”
“You sound weird. Talk to me.”
“That’s”¦ That’s something neither of us could fix.”
“Fix ? There’s nothing we need to fix.”
“You sure ?”
I stared at him. Or maybe that was contemplation.
He smiled. A smile I had never seen on his face. Heart breaking. I knew he understood. And the fact that he didn’t say anything was unbearable.
I did what I should have done from the beginning. I raised my hand to say goodbye, and I turned around. Finally.
I didn’t look back, but that was maybe the hardest part. There was so much pain. Perhaps that was because I knew that was the end. A hand was gripping my heart, crushing it in a million pieces. I stopped in a narrow shopping street, I had difficulties to breathe. One of the shops had a mirror on the door. I approached it, looked at my face, my tormented look. I hated him for making me like this. I hated myself for acting, no, being this way. I hated myself for being a boy, and I hated myself for falling for him.