He was young, odd for someone in an oversized coat and fingerless gloves. The gloves looked like they may have once fully covered the fingers but now they were worn through countless wears. He looked like a vagabond, a traveller, an adventurer with stories to tell. It was the only way she could let herself walk past him without being overcome with pity. If she could imagine him with a life of stories, tales of magic and kings, then at least she could be glad he had lived fully. She knew it wasn't true, she was skirting around the truth to make it easier for her but she didn't know what else to do. She couldn't help him, not in any way that mattered and so she pictured him waltzing through castles and riding through deserts. Sometimes it crossed her mind to say something to him, a passing hello as she dropped him some change. She imagined him grabbing her arm, leaning in close and whispering 'shall I tell you a story?' Eagerly she'd nod, forgetting the stares of passers-by and sitting transfixed as her shared his life with her. He would tell her that he met an Aztec king who had showed his home of gold and had given him ten in marriage which he ruefully declined. His eyes would lit up as he shared the sight of mountains so high in the clouds only their base could be seen. He would all his adventures, all his secrets, all his beauties.
This was never going to happen though, she was never going to talk to him and she feared there would be disappointment. She knew to accept that his life was probably one ruined by gambling or addiction, something that would only bring pursed lips and squinted noses. He was young anyway and couldn't even have been old enough to live through many adventures, especially not the four years he had spent learning from hermits in the desert. In her mind she had made a life up for him but she doubted it was anywhere near the truth. He was just a man on the side of the street with old worn clothes.
As she walked past him today she saw he now had a rip in his jacket. She hadn't realised she knew enough of his jacket to notice but she could clearly see a rip on the side that hadn't been there yesterday. She had a needle and thread in her bag, slipped inside her wallet in case something ever broke. She used to carry around a bag that she loved but was always breaking, that's what had gotten her into the habit of always carrying a needle and thread around. Maybe she should offer- maybe…
"Excuse me sir, I saw your jacket is ripped." Why she said sir she didn't know, perhaps it was because she didn't know what else to call him.
He looked up at her from where he sat against a wall.
"It got caught on a handrail, it was old anyway." His eyes seemed disappointed though.
"I have a needle and thread in my bag, perhaps I could stitch it up for you." She wasn't sure what she was doing anymore. Talking to people like this wasn't in her social circle and for a moment she panicked and wished she hadn't said a thing.
"If you've got the time that'd be lovely."
She nodded and sat next to him, brushing the dirt away from the ground as if it would make it any less dirtier.
He took the jacket from his arms and she took it, pulling out the needle.
"It's handy to carry one of these around," she laughed awkwardly. Maybe she should pretend she got a call and had to leave hurriedly, she'd leave him the needle and thread.
She pulled the first stitch. It was too late to leave, she had gotten herself into this and now she could only try and hide herself behind her hair.
"It's nice of you to do this," he said.
She had always imagined his voice in a kind of mystical manner but now that she heard it there was nothing mystical about it. It was a voice like any other voice.
"Well a torn jacket won't do much good."
She stitched quickly, pulling the thread through at a brisk pace.
"I've seen you before you know, you walk past here often."
She paused, she did walk past there often.
"How do you know it's me?"
"You're hair, you've got the same hair as-" He stopped and smiled at her.
He leant in close as if to say it out loud would ruin it.
"My true love."
Her heart fluttered. She patted her curls, wondering what this love looked like.
She leaned in to him.
"What was she like?"
He leaned back against the wall and sigh came from his mouth.
"She was beautiful, her hair was exactly like yours except a light shade of brown. She didn't wear it up once in her life, she thought it would destroy the lucky curls she had been blessed with."
She fingered a curl, feeling guilty for not appreciating it like his love did.
"She was always kind, I thought of her like a soft dove, graceful and always holding a sign of peace."
Her fingers slowed with the stitches, pulling the thread up slowly and stitching it close to make the tear last longer.
"Every time anyone looked at you couldn't help but be happy."
She pricked her finger and looked down, realising she had forgotten what she was doing. She had been concerntrating on his voice and the shy slip of pain that had entered.
"Is she still your love?"
He shook his head. "Wrong question, she'll always be my love, you should be asking if I'm still hers."
"Are you still her love?" She asked softly.
"The dead can't love can they?"
She wanted desperately to say that dying only cements love forever but instead she stared down at the needle halfway through the jacket and thought about the sting where she had pricked her finger.
"They'll wait for you," she whispered and almost immediately regretted it. They would wait, but he shouldn't be waiting.
"Who really knows anyway."
She looked across at the young man with the fingerless gloves and wondered what memories were going through his mind.
"Will you tell me more about her?"
He looked back to her and a soft smile came across his lips.
As the day began to get colder and the sun disappear behind the buildings she learnt he had never been on journeys through deserts, or been greeted by kings. He hadn't discovered magic or been serenaded by a dozen princesses. He hadn't been on adventures like she had imagined but she wasn't disappointed, he had been on the adventure of love.
When finally he leaned back with a shake in his voice she knew he had told his story of.
"There'll never be another one like her."
She could see in her mind this gorgeous girl with curls, so full of kindness and grace.
"She was beautiful," she said.
They paused in silence.
"Ow." Somewhere along the way she had forgotten and the needle and now she saw it protruding from her finger. "Here." She handed him back his jacket, the tear now tactfully repaired.
"Thank you. And thank you for helping me to remember."
She smiled back at him.
"Thank you for taking me on your adventure."
She wanted to tell him all that she imagined about him and how even though none of it was true it was all so much better.
"Maybe I could stop by tomorrow."
He didn't say anything and she wondered if she had been too forward. She bit her lip and wound up the loose thread in her hands.
"I'm going to find her tomorrow."
She nodded, perhaps she was caught up too much in the story to think about his words but she did know.
"She'll be waiting for you."
Not thinking about what she was doing she wrapped her arms around him in a hug and she the sewn-up tear brush against her arm.
She got up, otherwise she might stay there forever.
"It was nice to meet you," she told him.
"Very nice to meet you young lady."
What else was there to say from either of them, they both knew that everything had been said and they were glad at the adventure they had just been on.
She walked away, not looking back once and knowing that she didn't need to. When she walked past tomorrow he wouldn't be there, but he would be the arms of his true love and that's a bigger adventure than any desert.