We were sitting on my red couch talking about nothing in particular when she started crying. It completely took me by surprise.
I’m sorry, she said, I can’t help it. I made a move to hug her but she held up her hand. I’ll be fine she said, just let me do this for a while. So I went to the kitchen and busied myself with making coffee. When I came back to the living room, she was composed. Only her red nose and slightly wet eyes gave her away.
Do you believe in soulmates? she asked.
(And I thought to myself, if I had a cent everytime…)
I don’t know, I told her truthfully. I like the potentiality of soulmates. But I don’t believe that there is one that readily exists. I think what you usually find is a few someone for whom you’d stretch and unfold and expand and shrivel for in many different ways and directions until the two of you sort of mesh and fit like two pieces of a puzzle that originally do not belong together. Or, to put it simply, you compromise and change to accommodate one another. And when it is gladly done, without coercion, without feeling burdened; when it is freely given without wanting anything back in return that’s when you become a soulmate yourself.
So you don’t think there is someone who feels just right from the moment you laid eyes on him? she asked.
I mulled about it for a second.
I knew what she was getting at. She was in reminiscent of a boy that she left behind many years ago. Every once in a crescent moon, this happens. Not just to her, to everyone. Me.
He promised, she cried, but he broke them. I don’t understand how someone could make such promises and then discard them. I could never do that. My promises are real.
This is no consolation, I told her, but people change. Feelings change. Hearts change. Do you really want to be with someone who doesn’t love, who can’t love, the way you deserve to be loved? All for the sake of promises that he no longer wants to keep?
(All this while thinking to myself, the heart must be good for other things. It can’t exist only for us to grieve.)
While it is sad to let love go, I think it is even sadder to be in love with someone who doesn’t love you in return.
Her eyes watered again but she gathered herself just in time.
We talked all night long. There wasn’t much that I could say. I nodded at the right moments, provided the appropriate noises (sighs, gasp, laughter), worn the occasional wistful smile. I have heard this story before, and I know I will hear it again in the future. From her. From others. I know this is a story that has many variations. It didn’t upset me, didn’t make me anxious. Everyone needs a sad love story to pull out of their bag once in a while. A story that romanticizes the past. At the heart of it all, what we really want to do is to find some comfort, the reassurance that the choices we made were right, even the painful ones. That we are better off today thanks to those choices.
I only know the mistakes that I’ve made and the past that I had romanticized. Like many others, I often mistake familiarity for love. I forget that being familiar does not mean he is the one, or that you are the one. That all the time spent together doesn’t mean you owe or you are owed. For someone who doesn’t think soulmates exist, I too often mistook chemistry for companionability, compatibility. Shortcuts. I too glided over the stretching, the unfolding, the expanding, the shriveling.
So I let her cry, let her tell me the story all over again.
Kisses aren’t contracts. I read that somewhere.
I thought about her a lot lately. We’re separated by distance and time these days but I wonder if she still believes in soulmates. If she still cries over it.
I hope she still does. Love is hard enough; why not take something sweet and dreamy to go with it? We need the Carrie Bradshaws of this world. The kind that takes her coffee with a little milk to soften the bitter edge.
This too is a true story.
Photo (c) Red vintage leather sofa by Pausimausi