Editors note: all edits done on my phone while on vacation... And... Well... A bit drunk....🤷🏽
I always find things when I’m cleaning the garage. The garage is the harbour for things to be thrown away, to be kept and never used, or to be found and remembered. There is a large bookcase with a cabinet underneath. Inside is a red bag. I know what is inside before I pull it out and sit in a chair to go through it. For three months I was a part of a study abroad tour with the local junior college. A black and white photograph in particular always makes me think about what never was. I find it this afternoon. The photograph is of me smiling next to a beautiful girl from Spain. On the back of the photo are the words: what does anything mean?
We were in London at a club called You Wish. It was a fifteen minute walk from the house I lived in with a family of three. My roommate Vanda and I walked and met with our friend Dan for our weekly episode of debauchery and mayhem.
We descended the stairs into the catacomb. The bar with neon green lights, strobes, strobing like a pulse. A dingy DJ spun house music and the pulse beat on.
At the bar we order Carlsberg and drink them fast. It's a race toward drunkenness before lastcall. The dance floor is unusually busy tonight and the buzz in the air is full of possibility. What stories will materialize?
When I first see her she is standing across from me on the other side of the room. Her eyes are dark brown and she has dark hair. Her small lips push lightly together in a purse of interest. She’s slender, sexy, exotic. My heart skips around on itself as if it were tripping in my chest. The hairs on my arms stand up and I can feel the static of the bass like fuzzy tendrils. The pulse. The beat. Those eyes draw me in and she is momentarily obscured by gyrating bodies and reappears like a phantom emerging from my dreams. I want to feel her. I want to hold her. I want to taste her.
More Carlsberg at the bar fills my bravery meter. My interest doesn’t go unnoticed from my companions who begin to urge me on in their humorous idiocy. I brush them away and finally make my move and when I'm in front of her she smiles and I open my mouth to say something but the music is so loud I just smile. She appears to read something in my face taking my hand and leads me onto the dance floor. My heart is flourishing, its gushing, the feeling inside my body is of possibility and thoughts of the future. Thoughts of kissing her, thoughts of taking her back to the States and loving her. I can see our future stamped into reality. The manifesting moment will come true.
After dancing she pulls me up the stairs and we go outside with my friends climbing through the darkness behind us. In the entry hallway of the club the fresh air cools my skin. She speaks to me for the first time and she has a Spanish accent. She says,
“You’re a good dancer,” she smiles.
“Thank you, so are you.”
The world was spinning on an axis. I was convinced it wasn't the booze. The Carlsberg had nothing to do with this. This was something that seemed to emanate from my biology. I had to have her. She was meant to be mine.
Moments are often lost in the ether. I don’t remember what the fuck happened next. But it was something to the effect of
“Lets taking the fucking bus. We have to get over to the girls place before it gets too late.”
“Well, how long do you have?”
“I think its fine. Patricia is already home. She messaged me. So is Courtney. They know I’m safe.”
“Vanda, did you remember the key? I don’t have mine.”
“Yeah, I got it. No problem.”
“So you really liked her?”
“Who the fuck else was talking to a girl?”
“Hey, Aren’t I a girl?”
“Ha, yeah, but you sort of don’t count.”
“I don't count? Ouch, that really hurts ….”
“Look, you know that’s not what I meant. I just mean you’re like just hanging out with us and all. We ain’t… you know.”
“No… I mean, yea, no, but yes… you know?
“Hey, here comes the stop. Its at the stop sign, yeah?”
“Yeah, it's right here. And you guys don't need to walk me the rest of the way it's just around the corner.”
“Are you sure? I mean, there are three of us so we could probably hold our own…”
“Funny. No, its totally fine. See that over there? That chimney covered in shadows? That is the place I'm staying in. I’ll survive.”
“Let her go, we need to catch the bus. Its coming soon. If we miss It we'll will be walking that whole trek back.”
The three boys approach a fork in the road.
“This way,” says Vanda.
“No, its this way…” I say a little unsure.
“Nah, dog. ….. I'm telling you it's this way. See that house over there? I remember that fence.”
“How about this. I fucking race you two fucks to the bus stop?”
I was sure I was right. Not right about what was the correct direction… I knew I was probably wrong there. But I was almost certain I could still beat them to the bus stop going the longer way. It was a gamble. A gamble my drunk mind was willing to make. But I misjudged my fitness. By the time I saw the bus stop the bus was driving away. I could see my two idiot friends staring back at me with that grin that said, “HAHAHAHAHA, YOU FUCKING LOSE!”
I had lost and now the only option was to walk. Poor timing, poor judgement, and now I slowly made my way home in the darkness, passing under street lights with a girl on my mind. Would I ever see her again? I failed there too, I didn’t get her number, how could I be so stupid? While I wondered to myself about that girl from Spain, a figure ahead of me began to emerge. A woman, no, a girl, but not just any girl, It was the girl from Spain!
I have often wondered about fate, about destiny. Was there a grand plan of some kind that lures one into situations that become the rest of our lives? I missed the bus because I thought I could beat my friends to the bus stop. I failed. But If I had made the bus on time I would never come face to face with the possibility of love…
“Hi,” I said when our smiles met.
“Hi, how are you? What are you doing this way?”
“We walked some friends home. Then I missed the bus. So here I am!”
I walked her home back in the direction I had just come. I couldn’t get over the idea that fate had brought me here to this moment, to meet this girl again. It had to mean something, it was proof she was meant for me. We talked as we walked toward where she lived and when we arrived I got her number and gave her a long hug. I told her I would call her and she disappeared behind the front door.
It was evening when I met her the very next night. We were at a pub down the street from where I had met her at Club You Wish. I ordered us two pints and I sat there with slight revulsion as she smoked one cigarette after the other with no more time than it took to pull a new one out in between. Had she been smoking last night? Had I not noticed? Was I so enamored by her that it had slipped right past me? Could I date a chain smoker? Could I love one?
Three of her friends came by to say hi and I sat awkwardly breathing in the smoke that trailed out from the lit end of an English cigarette. We ordered some food and more drinks and nearly the whole time I watched her smoke one cigarette after another. She must be nervous, I thought. No one could smoke this much as a normal way of life. Right? Her friend had a camera and asked if she could take our photo. I got up and we stood against the glass of the pub and the flash went off. The camera made a mechanical noise and spit out the polaroid.
It was clear after the second drink and her friends left that we didn’t have much left to talk about. I wanted to ask about her smoking habit but instead I asked about her family. She told me about how she came to end up in London from Barcelona and about her brother and sister, her mother, growing up in Barcelona. She was beautiful but her attractiveness was now diminished by the truth of her habit. I didn’t want it to be so, after all, this was supposed to be the love of my life. This was fate. We were brought together by cosmic coincidence. We were meant to be together.
“It was nice to see you,” I said as I gave her a hug. It would be the last hug I ever gave her. It would be the last time I ever saw her again too. Walking home I felt confused. Laying in bed I wondered what it had all been for. Did the universe align to teach me something? What did I learn? Perhaps the idea of fate is only an illusion, that what happens has no meaning other than the one we find.
In the garage I have fallen into the past. Everything that has happened since that day is not what I thought it would be. The picture of me and the girl from Spain is a single second frozen in time. It's an artifact. Two smiles stare back at me and I look so much younger. I wonder where she is now, still in London? Or did she return home to Barcelona? Maybe she made her way to America... ? If I ran into her again on a crowded street what would it mean? I stare into her eyes in the photograph, peering into a reality that is nowhere to be found. The red bag is full of a timeframe lost to the world never to be seen again. It sits in the red bag on the coffee table in my garage. I stare at the girl from Spain one last time before I put the picture back where it belongs, to be rediscovered another time.