Somehow, I always knew that Kai was incapable of love.
And that sucked because I was in love with her.
One night she told me that she often thought about death, and that broke my heart, but also surprised me, because how could someone so confident and charismatic not want to exist anymore?
She was like a magnet, my Kai.
Every time we were in a café, a bookstore, or her favorite place, the public library, I could see people's eyes drawn in her direction.
This library was huge, and I mean huge. It was easy to get lost in it. Her favorite section was ancient philosophy. That's when I saw her for the second time. My first impression was that she was a bit stuck up and had to compensate for a lack of personality, a dull image to have of your heroine.
You ask why I call Kai my heroine.
Well, she saved my life.
It was 1 p.m., and I was on my way home from a birthday party. The walk to my house was short, and I thought walking would be a good idea. After all, we live in the 21st century, so I was not worried about anyone bothering me or anything. But that's when they appeared out of nowhere. Two guys you would not look twice at as they walked past you on the street. They invaded my personal space very quickly and I was confused. I asked what they wanted, but they kept pulling at my clothes. I let out a kind of whimper and felt embarrassed for a moment to scream for help. What an idiot. But that's when I heard her voice.
“Good evening,” she said.
What a funny way to greet some attackers. But maybe she was greeting me, too.
She was dressed from head to toe in black and wore a long trench coat, which I later discovered in daylight was navy blue. Her short black hair was parted to one side, and her red lips smiled that soft and seductive smile she always has. She looked so out of place, this elegant and graceful figure in the night. Like a stray cat.
My attackers murmured something surprised, but they kept their hands off me.
"Will you please not do that?" she asked, "Otherwise, I am going to have to hurt you really bad."
They chuckled like two chainsaws and one of them said, "And how are you going to do that?"
Kai pulled a gun out of her coat while wearing leather gloves. They squeaked with a satisfying sound, as leather does, while she clenched her fist around the pistol.
The two guys shuffled frantically, and one of them bumped into me as they tried to run away. God, that was so badass. Kai and I watched them go as they disappeared into the night. Then our eyes fell on each other. She smiled and turned around. Her loafers creaked on the asphalt and I ran after her.
"Wait!" my voice trembled.
I stood next to her as she pulled a pack of red Marlboros from her coat. She raised the gun, and I almost jumped back.
She pulled the trigger.
It was a lighter.
She lit her cigarette and blew the smoke into a grey cloud. Her eyes fell on me and she handed me the pack with a smile.
At that moment I fell in love with her.
She didn't say a word to me, just became one with the night.
I thought about leaving that moment alone, like a miracle that happened, a story so outside of reality and so special that I'll keep it safe and warm inside me.
But then I saw her again in the public library.
She was holding a Seneca book, and her eyebrows were drawn together in a look of concentration.
My breath caught, and I heard myself gulp in that silence. My hands were shaking. I didn't want to disturb her, but my body was acting without my consent. I stopped right next to her and said:
"I want to thank you for saving my life."
She lifted her eyes; they were blue-green, almost teal in that afternoon light as the sun filtered through the windows. She smiled that gentle grin again. The second time I'd seen it.
"It's very kind of you to thank me."
"Do you drink coffee? I mean," I licked my lips quickly, "normally?"
"Normally?" she asked, putting the book back on the shelf while still looking at me.
What kind of question is that, I thought. She laughed and continued, "Only at one particular coffee shop. It's just around the corner if you want to join me."
I learned that Kai did that—she never followed anything or anyone, she always had to be the one to take the lead on every little thing. Stupid in theory, I know. But that's just the way she was.
At the coffee shop, I asked her just that.
We were sitting at a table by the window, the room was decorated in black and white, and they were playing Led Zeppelin's "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You."
She looked at me and chortled.
"I have been a follower all my life," Kai said. Her voice was melodious. I love that word because it describes her. Melodious. "I was in a relationship where I gave up all my autonomy because I thought someone else knew better what was best for me. I was a people pleaser and I got sick just thinking about conflict," she said, looking out the window. "But I think we always swing to the other end of the pendulum before we find balance."
"And that's what you're doing right now?" I asked.
Her eyes fell on me again. She just nodded.
"May I guess your name?" she said out of nowhere. That took me by surprise.
"Sure," I laughed.
She leaned over the table and I felt butterflies in my stomach.
"Your name is Carmen, isn't it?" she said.
"Yes! How did you know?"
She leaned back in her chair and laughed like a bell. She pulled my ID out of her coat and slid it across the table.
"You dropped this in the library. I saw you were a Pisces. You're probably a Pisces rising as well, with your long, wavy hair and sad eyes."
"And what star sign are you?"
"I'm a Scorpio."
"Oh, trouble," I joked, sipping the coffee for the first time. It was a damn good cup of coffee. The aroma mingled with my taste buds.
"Is that a Scorpio trait?"
"Perhaps, what do I know," she smirked.
"A lot, it seems."
"Nah, I just pretend to know things so it looks like I have a personality."
I laughed, and I mean really laughed. I almost spilled the coffee on my lap.
"And what's your name, Miss No Personality?" I asked.
"Just call me Kai."
"Is not that your real name?"
"Yes, it is my real name, just not the one my parents gave me."
"And what does Kai mean?"
"Well, a whole lot of things. Among them, 'earth' and 'keeper of the keys'.”
"Keeper of the keys, huh? Maybe one day you'll discover the secret of the universe."
She chuckled and sipped her coffee. "Singular? Just a secret?"
"Well, we always tend to complicate things, so maybe the answer is simple."
"I can’t wait to hear this," Kai said as 'Stairway to Heaven' began to play.
And at that moment, as the guitar played the beginning of the song and I saw this stranger in front of me who had fallen out of heaven into my life, I could not help but think, "Nature never complicates things. Flowers bloom in the heat and wither in the cold, the sea follows the whisper of the moon, and animals mate to reproduce; over and over again, nature reinvents itself. We seem to be just a more complicated part of her. Or maybe not, maybe we are meant to be just like her. Our very existence is supposed to be enough; we are supposed to be what makes the world go round."
Kai listened to my every word before she suddenly blinked and stood up.
"Listen, I hate to say it, but I have to go."
"Go where?" I said, caught off guard.
I felt a little uncomfortable with the barista staring at us.
She looked down on me almost ruefully. She didn't say anything. She just walked away.
I felt so hurt and somehow ashamed. Like I wasn't enough for her. Like she suddenly decided I wasn't worthy of her attention. That insecurity ate at me for 24 hours, because I saw her again the next day. Well, she was the one who saw me first.
At the time, I was working at a nightclub called the Red Viper. There were exotic dancers there too, but I was a bartender and a waitress. I had to wear short skirts and glittery tops, but I was paid well. And I needed that because I paid for college. Looking back, I don't regret it. The owner liked me. He was a big drug lord at the time, but he was a decent man. I know those things don't usually go together. But I liked working for him.
Flirting with the customers was a must there, and I didn't mind that either. I was young and didn't have any major responsibilities other than surviving. I was bending over the table to clean the empty vodka bottles and laughing with the tipsy businessman when something prompted me to glance into the dim lights of the club. As Indigo shimmered from the spotlights and music blasted from the speakers, she stood there fixing me with her eyes. A shiver ran down my spine and I felt the excitement in my stomach.
I stopped looking for a moment to collect myself and put the bottles on the tray, but when I looked up again, she was gone.
God, had I lost my mind?
I looked around, but she was nowhere to be seen.
I guess the lights could be playing tricks on my eyesight.
I went to the bar to put the tray down when I saw my boss, Harry, talking to someone.
It was her.
They shook hands before Harry turned to me and waved me in. I was shaking badly.
"Carmen, please make sure Kai gets everything she wants. Everything is on me," he said before patting me on the shoulder.
To say I was confused would be an understatement.
"Who are you?" I asked her over the music.
She leaned over my shoulder to my ear, "Do you have another place we can talk?"
Yes, I had one of the private booths. The couches were black velvet, lined against the wall. We sat down on them.
"So, how do you know Harry?" I asked.
She propped her leg on her knee and lit a cigarette.
"We are business partners, you might say," she replied.
I raised an eyebrow as she stared me straight in the eye.
"Remember that relationship I told you about? My ex was dealing meth. I took over."
"You took that over? How?"
"I killed him."
Dead silence. The music was still playing, but I couldn't hear it. The only thing I could think of was, "So you wouldn't have needed a fake gun. You could've really hurt those guys."
"I didn't have one on me. But now I have one."
With a cigarette to her lip, she pulled out a long, shiny gun. It was beautiful.
"May I touch it?" I asked.
She handed it to me. It was heavy and warm from laying against her body. I noticed that she was taking in my every move without blinking. At that moment, I did something that only Kai could make me do. I pulled myself closer to her and leaned over her mouth.
"Do you mind if I kiss you?" I asked.
She shook her head. So I kissed her. Well, at first, I just touched her lips. But then I couldn't stop. And she couldn't either.
-Kai reading beside the fountain while the sun warms her dark hair and I eat a croissant.
-Kai staring at her reflection while I come and kiss her shoulders.
-Kai breathing into my cheek while she lays on her side and draws my profile with her finger.
-Kai staring into the sunset long after the sun has disappeared from the sky.
-Kai driving while I turn up the volume on 'Every you and every me' by Placebo while her hand caresses my thigh.
-Kai telling me I'll make a great psychologist one day.
-Kai taking pictures of me and telling me how beautiful I am.
-Kai holding me in her arms and telling me never to let others define me.
-Kai kissing my forehead.
-Kai staring at me blankly when I tell her I love her.
-Kai storming out without a word when I ask her if she loves me too.
And then me, crying on the floor.
We have been together for six months.
Kai told me that in her last relationship, she'd expected someone else to tell her who she was.
But I loved so much who I was around her; the person she defined me as. In her eyes, I was introspective and imaginative. I was hardworking and deserving.
Can you imagine? Me. Deserving!
And God, I adored her.
But maybe that was my mistake, adoring her too much.
She didn't call me for a week after that. I tried to call her. I tried to find her.
And one Saturday night, there was a knock on my door. And it was her.
"Did it pass?" was the first thing she asked me.
"Did what pass?"
"Your love for me."
I chuckled. I'd have loved to hit her and kiss her at the same time.
"No, Kai, it didn't. And it never will."
I looked down the hall; I didn't want my neighbors to hear our conversation. But I knew she wouldn't follow me inside. Because she didn't follow anyone.
"Because," I began in a low voice, "you're the only person who sees me. You define me in a way I didn't know I existed. You make me ... interesting."
She shook her head.
"You don't need me for that. And I don't want you to ever depend on my approval."
"Don't you see?" I began to get frustrated. "Love is a beautiful thing, I mean ... Don't you love me, even a little bit?"
She just stared at me.
"Damn it!" I almost shouted. "Do you at least like me?"
"You're so stupid, Carmen," Kai said. Then she turned and left.
I was stunned. This conversation wasn't even close to being over.
Maybe Kai didn't need me.
She had everything a person could want—money, admiration, success, respect. But God, I needed her to need me so badly.
Really, really badly.
There were times when I was with Kai when she was... well, let's say, taking care of business. And sometimes things turned violent.
I once saw Kai shoot a guy in the face because he was pimping underage girls. Just like that. She even smiled gently before she did it. Maybe she was a bit of a psychopath. Love made me so blind.
But damn, I admired her so much. Because she was always hurting people who did terrible things to others. So, I thought maybe I was the problem. Maybe I was asking Kai to do something impossible.
For a while, I was okay with being the problem. I apologized to her, and for a while, things went back to normal.
We went to the movies, took long car rides, made love, and went to the library.
But then a thought crossed my mind.
Was I so unlovable?
I mean, Kai showed me by her behavior that she loved me and cared about me. She paid for my studies. She bought me an apartment. She dressed me from head to toe in designer clothes. She even took me to Paris, for heaven's sake!
So why? Why wasn't that enough for me?
I needed her to say it.
It was eating me up inside.
One day we were coming back from a Lana Del Rey concert. And just like that, it hit me.
"I love you, Kai," I said. But I sensed I was saying it in a mean way.
She looked at me, as she always does when I say that, and just smiled. The way she always does.
"I.love.you.Kai," I said again, staring at her.
Calmly, she parked the car and turned to me.
"Why can't you just say it?", I asked. "Just say it."
I hated the way she just stood there watching me. Like I was an animal she was observing.
"Why is it so important to you that I say it?" she asked.
"Because it's important to me! It's really, really important!"
She shook her head slowly.
"You don't care?" I said, seized with despair. "Are you mentally incapable of uttering these words?" I knew I was offending her, but I couldn't stop. "It's no wonder you're broken in the head from all the fucked-up things you do! I mean, who do you think you are, James Bond? Robin Hood? Face it Kai, you're mentally challenged and have no idea what love actually is, do you? DO YOU?" I shouted.
Kai said nothing.
She got out of the car, left the keys inside, and left.
I couldn't run after her because I was seething with anger. I hated her so much. But I hated myself even more.
"This is all my fault," I said to myself.
I got out of the car and ran after her.
But I couldn't find her.
I couldn’t find her.
She was gone.