Once upon a time she was 24 and too prideful for blind dates; he was 26, a struggling actor, and still single.
She believed in horoscopes but not in fate. She found him because they had the same birthday on the literary forum. March 22nd. Aries. The horoscopes said she should avoid the color black, alcohol, and falling in love with her sign opposite. She was lonely and all the boys she knew were insipid and uncultured.
She ingratiated herself with him by deliberately replying in all the discussions he was in. She knew he loved Macbeth, collected vintage postcards, and listened to bossa nova. She herself preferred King Lear, had a huge library of old romance pulps, and listened to jazz. She was convinced it was a match made in heaven.
She lamented on his Shakespearean discussion thread that 'few people these days appreciate Shakespeare anymore', to which he replied, 'maybe they just can't handle tragedy'. She found him neither boring nor stupid, and she esteemed knowledge over looks or money. She only had to know if he was as interesting in real life.
He told her he had neither looks nor fortune, and she said she didn't either, so she didn't mind. When they met they passed by each other until one of them finally plucked up the courage to call. She found herself surprised at how normal he looked, and worried if she was overdressed in comparison.
She pretended to be surprised when he told her his birthday, and tried not to sound rehearsed when she told him that from then on, they didn't need to celebrate their birthdays alone from then on. He must have made some witty comeback at that, but she didn't remember anymore. The sky was black that night and it rained so hard her skin felt sore. They got caught in the downpour and decided to stay it out at a bar. His drunken reply to her drunken question was 'not really, but I've always wondered why suicidal people are well… suicidal'. 'Then ask me,' she said, 'I'll answer any queries you have.'
The morning after she was back at her rented apartment and it felt emptier than the day before. She couldn't believe she had poured out her personal history to a near stranger and now her chest felt lighter. For the first time in years she felt as if she was able to feel happiness.
They watched the sunrise from his house and went stargazing on her rooftop. She showed him her astronomy kit with all its planispheres and the telescopes. After she pointed out the Big Dipper, the Milky Way, the Orion and the Lepus, she realized he had fallen asleep on his sleeping bag. Instead of watching the stars, she found herself distracted by the way his eyelashes flutter in his sleep.
When they quarreled, she worried that she would lose him and everything would be in vain, but somewhere deep inside she reveled in the thrill of the cycles. She believed that, like the orbital paths of Neptune and Pluto, they would cross each other's paths eventually, certainly.
It was 3 years of crystalline sunshine and passing storms before they married. He was almost 30 and there was no one else that captivated him as much as she did. Everything else paled in comparison. When she walked down the aisle he thought there would never be any girl more beautiful than her in his life again, and he was right.
At times he felt so drained out by all her emotional upheavals, her inconsistencies and various insecurities. But whenever she laughed or smiled at him it warmed up his entire body. She was ephemeral and glass-fragile like the ballerina in his mother's music box and he simply couldn't take his eyes off her, even as he knew his world is slowly dissolving to nothing but her.
He couldn't do anything but listen whenever she cried herself to sleep or prayed to an absent god in the balcony of their home. He used to think he could; she told him he could. He understood her reasons at a superficial level, but part of him was frustrated at her for her inability to ever feel happy. He would do anything in order to soothe her, but he was unable to.
She told him she was tired, and he thought she was referring to him. When he replied that he was tired too, she said nothing and cried. He finally went up to look for her, and the telescope was there but she wasn't anymore. He remembered the date and thought of the time he had broken the glass ballerina and it had felt as if the world was going to end. But he realized that this time, there was nothing left to fix. He didn't even know how to begin.
She didn't even know how to end. There was nothing left to fix, and by the time she realized that, she was already broken, like one of those music box ballerina he told her he had accidentally dropped. Finally, she went away to the stars; she didn't want to look through the telescope anymore. She had cried when he told her he was tired too, because she thought he was referring to her. But mostly because he had forgotten.
Nothing. He could do nothing to soothe her. She still prayed to an absent god sometimes, just to take the nightmares away, and whenever she knew he was listening, she simply cried herself to sleep. She used to think she could feel happy; he told her she could. She understood his reasoning and accusations at a superficial level, but part of her was frustrated at him for his inability to understand. She would do anything, anything, in order to change herself, but she was unable to.
She felt so dammed up by all his logical rebuts, his conformity and weak assurances. But whenever he got angry or wept for her it chilled her entire body. He was so persisting and forceful it knocked her off her feet and spun her around like an approaching hurricane, it was all she could do to stay in the eye, even as she knew her world was rapidly shredding apart to nothing but him.
It was 3 years of perspicuous storms and passing sunshine before they married. She was almost 27 but she had never met someone else who captivated her as much as he did. The world paled in comparison. When she walked down the aisle she thought she would never feel more beautiful in her life again, and she was right.
Whenever they quarreled, he worried that he would lose her and everything would be in vain, but somewhere deep inside he knew it would be for the better. He believed that, like the orbital paths of Neptune and Pluto, they would cross each other's paths but never quite meet each other. What she wanted was a life-altering, starburst collision he could never find it in himself to give.
They had watched the stars from her rooftop and the sunrise from his balcony. He never cared much for celestial bodies before but whenever he woke up she was already gazing at the skies. He wondered if she ever really slept, because the smudges beneath her eyes deepened day by day. She told him she sometimes forgot that the Sun is a star too, but instead of listening, he found himself distracted by the distance in her eyes and wondering how he could ever cross it.
The morning after they first met he had deleted her number from his cellphone. He couldn't believe anything she said, or at least he didn't want to. But all the same the words had seeped into his mind and it felt heavier than ever before. For the first time in years he felt as if he understood what it meant to feel soul-crushing hopelessness, and he wished he remained ignorant.
Their last birthday together he pretended to be surprised when she announced the date of her death. He tried not to sound rehearsed when he told her she would never succeed. She asked him why and he told her he would do everything to stop her. He would lock her inside their room and distract her with violent foreplay (or whatever else she wanted) until it was that day no more. She must have made some witty retort at that, because they ended up laughing and tumbling out of the couch, but he didn't remember anymore. The sky was black that day and it rained so hard his eardrums hurt. They canceled their reservation at a restaurant and stayed in the whole day, drinking cheap champagne in their bedroom. Neither of them drank enough to get drunk this time.
That one time she had told him she possessed neither looks nor fortune, and he knew it was a lie but he didn't mind. When they first met she passed him by many times, until he finally plucked up the courage to call her. He was surprised at how beautiful she looked in reality, and found himself self-conscious because he knew he was ugly in comparison.
In the end he just couldn't handle tragedy. He thought his bit roles as a tragedian would confer him some sort of immunity in reality, but it wasn't true. He found her neither boring nor stupid, more than he could ask for when in conjunction with both looks and money. He only wanted a bit of fortune to himself, because life had dealt him a bad hand and he knew the only way to win was to cheat. He promised himself they would get what they both want in the end.
So he ingratiated himself with her deliberately, anticipating her movements and mimicking her preferences. He was really born October 22nd, but there was no one anymore who knew his birthday; he didn't really collect postcards, but he thought it would make a good impression; he didn't understand jazz and thought bossa nova was part of it; and the only Shakespearean work he read was Macbeth. It was no match made in heaven, he knew. But he didn't believe in soulmates anyway and was convinced he could make it work.
He didn't put faith in stupid things like fate or horoscopes. His friend told him about a certain rich heiress in his university who was so crazy over horoscopes she was deciding her life partners through birth dates. He had laughed at that time but asked for her email address all the same. She was lonely and pretty and represented all the things he couldn't have. She was so much more than what he had wished for. Even though he knew she broke herself in the end he couldn't help feeling guilty all the same.
She was only 29 when she died; he is now 45 and staying single forever.
Because there is no happily ever after in anything but fairytales.