“An unexpected relationship will become permanent.”

Tthe message from inside the fortune cookie stared me in the face and I stared back, first at the broken cookie then at the scroll-type message within, and finally at the man seated opposite me on the table. Was it an omen, a premonition, or a warning for what lay ahead?

There were so many thoughts cramped up in my head in that instant of a second, that I was truly able to appreciate Bill Gates’ phrase “at the speed of thought”. It was the first time that we were out together and he looked terribly handsome as he sat there chuckling at what his fortune cookie said, completely oblivious to my state of mind at the time.

I’ve always been a superstitious person. I have a lucky pen, a money plant that I never dare to neglect, and a set routine that I never defer from, but treating a fortune cookie as a message from God was a bit much, even for me. For the moment I relegated the incident to the back of my mind and joined in his laughter.

As we sat in his car in the parking lot, just below my apartment, we chatted easily, neither of us wanting to break the momentum of a lovely evening by saying goodbye. I had the urge to lean over and kiss him on his cheek. I had the urge, but not the nerve. For all technical reasons, it was not a date. We were just two friends, out to dinner and I had no intention of spoiling that.

By the next afternoon, I knew I was falling in love, because I had completely lost my appetite and my interest in anyone or anything else. It had certainly been unexpected. Yet it was neither a relationship, nor did it have any chance of becoming permanent. What struck me with a jolt was that I wanted it to be.

It was probably the best time of my life: as falling in love always is. The smallest smile would give me the biggest thrill; a shy look would accelerate my heartbeat; and happiness was found in the smallest, simplest gestures. I was looking at the world through rose-tinted glasses.

To be honest, I really had no idea what he was thinking but there was an undeniable chemistry, visible even to the most disinterested passerby. We went out several more times after that but always with friends. I had developed a certain level of trust and comfort with him, and before I knew it, I was telling him my most intimate secrets.

He began to reciprocate and that was when the bombshell fell. He was in love with someone else! As he told me all about her, over the telephone, one night, it was time for me to make a quick decision. I knew that I would rather have his friendship than nothing at all, so I put my feelings aside and spoke to him as any friend would, and our friendship continued.

An impromptu trip to Atlantic City changed all that. We were an eclectic group of five. The night was young, the lights breathtaking, and the spirits high. I was the only one winning on the tables and as he lost hundred after hundred, he seemed to become more and more charming.

I stuck to him like glue, content to just watch him enjoying himself, and join in the occasional hug whenever he won. Maybe it was the cool sea breeze on my face, as we walked along the boardwalk after we’d lost all our money, or maybe it was the way he looked at me that night, but I knew then that there was no turning back for me.

It took four glasses of rum and coke, for me to collapse into his arms and declare my undying love for him. In my inebriated state, it was a shock for me to hear his crisp response. “Shut up” was all he said, as he proceeded to help me walk towards the room. He seemed neither angry nor surprised as he tenderly tucked me into bed, while I continued rambling.

The next day it was my turn to listen as he teased me and narrated some of the stuff I had said. Somehow, I wasn’t embarrassed and instead of laughing it off, I chose to admit my feelings. He acknowledged it, but said nothing. Surprisingly, there was no awkwardness between us, and as my feelings grew stronger, I noticed that he also wasn’t exactly lacking in affection. The problem now was that I wanted to know how he felt about me.

No, let me rephrase that. I was dying to know how he felt about me. The tussle between the mind and the heart is one that the former rarely wins. Every time I broached the topic, he would avoid me and I was relentless. In his endeavour to avoid my questions, he soon began to avoid me and before I knew it, everything had gone horribly wrong.

For several months, I continued to try and keep in touch with him, but to no avail. “I’ll call you back” were the last words he said to me. As I put down the receiver, I knew by the number of times I’d heard that phrase before, that it was finally time for me to walk away. The truth is that our loves, our relationships, and our desires are all in our own mind and tend to remain as temporary, or as permanent, as we allow them to be.

For me, his memory, his touch, his smile, is etched forever in my mind. My relationship with him is the most permanent thing in my life and that’s the way I want it to stay. I have no interest in getting over him, or moving on, or trying to find someone else, simply because my relationship with his memory continues. Each night that I go to bed, each morning that I wake up, he is right by my side. I am still very much in love.

Well maybe this wasn’t exactly what the fortune cookie had meant, or planned it to be, but its prediction was certainly right!

THE END

Barbara Mather can be contacted at: barbara_mather@yahoo.com

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