I’m getting so tired of this. Positively weary. I wait, I search, and when She does finally deign to grace me with her presence, She only stays a few moments, talks in riddles, and then everything disappears. I’d be able to accept even that, maybe, but when She then, on top of that, plays a bit of wiff waff with my heart, when all I have ever shown her is love and devotion?
It sickens me how She plays me time and again.
I will find her, and She will answer.
When I awoke after our last encounter, the house and the forest had gone, and I was lying in a field. I stood up and collected my senses. I looked around, and the distant skyscrapers made it clear where I was. I had been here once, in a long ago life, in a distant universe. Why wouldn’t it be here too, I guess. Of the several iconic buildings I remember this city for, I was mildly surprised to find them all intact. I shouldn’t have been though.
And so, I began to search. I rode taxis, busses, subways and ferries from one borough to another. No matter where I went, nothing. No sign of her. But I wasn’t going to give up, not that easily. She wouldn’t slip away like this.
I thought maybe what I’d do is just wait and watch. Perhaps She’s living here, blending in, I thought. Trying to hide. Not on your life, sister.
I spent my days walking the streets, looking at faces. I spent my evenings poring over newspapers in cafes. Proper cafes. Another perk of being in this time period as opposed to the one I remember best: no chain coffee places. I’d look and I’d pore and I’d listen. I’d listen for any sort of clue. I didn’t know exactly what such a clue would be, but I did know that I’d know it when I heard it.
Then, one evening, while looking through my fourth newspaper, I heard a couple at the next table speaking. He had just returned from a business trip. Had taken the train. She was asking how it was. Small talk. But then:
“I saw the strangest busker at the station this afternoon, though, I’ll tell you what.”
“Strange? Busker? How is this news?”
“She sang the strangest things. It was all nonsense, to be sure, but it was compelling nonsense. It drew me in.”
“Like what? What’s something she said?”
“Well… the one thing that really caught me, made me stop, was… how did she say it now…”
“Come on, I wanna know!”
“’Perceive the light cone’ and ‘Believe the photon’, I think that’s what she said.”
“What is she, a physics major trying to make a few bucks?”
The conversation continued but I stopped listening.
It could be no one else.
I folded my paper and stood. I had her now.
It was late, and the station was mostly deserted. Patience. It’s what She taught me, and I would now use it against her. I asked about, and a few staff remembered her, said She’d been there every day all week, usually showed up around 6am, always got the same spot. I thanked them, and then set about finding a place where I would be able to see her, but She probably wouldn’t see me.
And then I waited.
Hours later, as the early morning sunlight started to brighten the sky and stream between the skyscrapers, She came. She pulled out a guitar, and she began to sing. She sang familiar songs, but they were different. The messages, altered. Lacking in the depth, the substance of when She sang them to just me. I was intrigued.
She sang all morning, taking short breaks, sometimes getting a few bucks tossed at her by a businessman in a hurry. That’s his good deed done for the day, he’d surely think. Around noon, the crowds started picking up, but she gave no sign of moving. I popped outside, grabbed a bottle of water and a hot dog, and walked back in. She was still there, oblivious. I walked right up to her as she paused between songs.
“You’ve been performing all morning. You must be hungry, thirsty. Won’t you take these?” I asked, holding the items out.
She mumbled a thank you and took them, without looking up. The hot dog did not at all match the little black dress She was wearing. She still didn’t notice it was me.
“You know,” I said, “I’ve perceived the light cones.” She paused mid-bite. “I’ve sensed the resonance. And I believed in our photon. Why didn’t you?”
She looked up and finally made the connection. In that split second, I saw relief, love, desire, fear, and hate mingled in her eyes. Then in a flash, She’d grabbed her guitar and was running through the crowd, knocking down anyone who got in her way. “Unlikely,” I muttered as I chased her.
Out onto the streets I followed her. At one point I got close (She couldn’t run very well in her dress and heels), but She turned and threw the guitar at me. I caught it and dropped it, but in that moment I had lost her. Shit.
I scanned the crowd, but I couldn’t see her. People were all looking me, as though I were the crazy one. Well, I suppose if they’d seen what I’ve seen, they may be crazy. I am not.
There, at the edge of the crowd, someone in a cowboy hat, long hair. Walking away from the crowd while everyone else is walking to it. But She was wearing different clothes, her hair wasn’t that long. But She is She.
I push my way through and start to chase the cowboy-hatted woman. She glances back and sees me, and I know that I am right, that it is She. She dodges down an alley and I give chase. Alley connects to alley, down this back street, into another alley. She jumps and starts to climb the fire escape. I’m not far behind. We climb, higher, higher. I see her go over the top, to the roof. I hurry so as not to lose her again.
Gaining the roof, I look around. No one. Don’t play with me, I know you’re here
Stepping out from behind a cooling unit, there She is, now in a red ball gown and a fur stole.
“Why are you running? What did I do? I deserve an explanation if nothing else.”
She smiles demurely, turns, and walks from me.
“Answer me! What did I do? I’ve followed you across space and time!”
As she reaches the edge of the roof, She steps up on the edge. She turns, and smiles. “Tonight. On the island.” Then, as I watch, She falls backwards over the edge.
Screaming, I run to where She fell, horrified at the thought of what I might find. But, as I ought to have suspected, there is nothing. There is no way She could have escaped, but neither are there her twisted, broken remains. I sigh.
In this city, saying, “on the island,” isn’t necessarily a very good clue, but I feel we both understand how the other thinks well enough that there can be no mistake. And so I waited at the base of that godawful statue with the towers-that-mustn’t-be marring the skyline. And after a time, She arrived. She wore the little black dress She had had at the train station.
“You need to explain things to me,” I said.
She smiled, as She does, and shook her head. And then She began.
Lovers look happy, don’t they? She sings, walking hand in hand. They look like they can do anything, but I can only think that — I’d never say it. Only they know if they can or not.
When one receives their first phone call from a new lover, She sings, of course, one’s hand trembles. It creeps into the voice. There’s no disguising the nervousness one feels. The second phone call, She sings, it’s fine to send it to the answering machine. The seventh, She continues, is mundane, and unspecial, and normal.
The tenth call, She sings, suggests we go on a trip far away, just the two of us. Let’s walk hand in hand, She sings, and let the days pass happily. After however long, on the way home, we share a kiss in the car. I feel a chill and look up to see that is snowing, here in the middle of summer. I look back to She.
I love the shiny white snow, She sings. Last year, I was alone in winter. This year, She continues, will we be together, come wintertime? Will we spend winter together? Can you say?
YES, I scream in my head, I can say but you won’t listen, you won’t let me speak, you accuse me of all these things when it’s you and only You that keeps us apart.
I suppose if you can’t say, I’ll just tell you Merry Christmas now, She sings. This ring on my finger, it sparkles… how many rings from how many men have I had? Why don’t you give me a ring? No one knows anything, I guess.
I reach for her hand, but she turns to walk away.
“Wait!” I call after her. She turns. Just then, men in black jump out of the shadows, throw a bag over her head and haul her away. I try to give chase, but I find a bag over my head, and struggle though I might, I cannot stop them from picking me up and taking me away too.