‘How did you become you?’ he caught himself asking, rather loudly.
‘What do you mean by me? What do you know about me so far, so I know where to start?’
He took his time.
She was the slightly unusual type—his type. She could probably open her heart as wide as it’d go and close it just the same in a matter of minutes. He could feel the intensity from across the table. He could’ve felt it from across the room, too. All it took was one look at her to see it. He knew most people didn’t see it. Most people don’t really look. But it didn’t take him long from seeing her to wanting to see everything about her.
‘Not much. You tell me.’
She curved her lips into a dazzling smile, and he added that to the list. She didn’t believe him, he thought. And then, good.
When he ordered another round of drinks, she thought—not long, but—hard whether or not to go deep. He leaned back in his chair and watched her eyes move until she caught him and blushed and thought, Fuck it.
‘It always starts the same. An itch. Discomfort. The feeling that there is something more inside you, rattling your cage. ‘Let me out’, it goes, ‘I want to be you. I want so badly to be you.’ You’re walking, taking a shower, chopping some onions, and suddenly you’re doing none of that; just wondering what to do with all there is inside you. It’s so heavy and so loud, and yet so ambiguous. Like a weight you can’t lift, because you can’t see where it is. You just know that it’s everywhere. And this is something we all go through, without anyone else around us knowing. It makes it this terribly lonely, yet absolutely universal experience. ‘How to get to the fearless, wild, beautiful creature that maybe is me,’ you wonder as you nod along to whatever is being said to you in the background.’
‘What do you do with that?’
‘I’m getting there. I just wanted to say that I felt like this for a long time, too.’
‘Yes, of course. Like you said, we all do. But now you don’t. Not right now, anyway.’
‘How do you know?’
‘Because I see you.’
She smiled. He wasn’t entirely right, but he wasn’t entirely wrong either.
‘If you want to meet and greet the beast, you have to let go of your everyday problems for a while, just enough to make room for it to come out and play. You have to forget. You know what I’m talking about. Yes, that. No, get closer to it. There. That’s the one.
Even that one little thing you want to keep, you don’t. You have to forget everything, even if it was great, even if it hurts like hell, even if you think it was nothing. It was everything. That’s why you kept it for so long. Even that one little thing you want to keep, you don’t. You have to forget everything, even if it was great, even if it hurts, even if you think it was nothing. It was everything. That’s why you kept it for so long.
But don’t worry, because the trick is you won’t really forget anything. You’ll just stop remembering it all the time. The heart never forgets the essential, so you don’t need to keep it once you’ve had it. Experiences stay in you, you go out of them. That’s how you create space; space for you to be more you and less them. Whatever they gave you will still show up, only this time as yourself.’
‘Do you believe that?’
‘I do now.’
‘Oh, that was a different time.’
‘I’d like to hear about that, too.’
‘That’s a story for another time, too. Anyway, I prefer this one.’
‘We’ll have to go backwards when you’re done.’
‘Maybe next time,’ she said shyly.
‘I won’t forget that. Please, go on now.’
‘You don’t hold on to things. You don’t talk them through to stay. You let the world move at its own pace, and you move at your own. Eventually, there will be some collisions, some of them you’ll love. But you’ll never love anything more than letting yourself shine through the bullshit. It’s not even yours. Not anymore, anyway. After a while, it’s just another obstacle.
And how do you know when? Usually, when it’s nowhere but in your head. That’s when it’s time for it to go away. You can’t hear yourself if you’re constantly talking over yourself. So you need to stop telling yourself the same stories for a while. Just be quiet, get still, and listen. At first it’ll be soft, but over time it’ll get louder and louder still. And you’ll understand every word, because it’ll be all you. The magnificent creature that lay dormant inside you is you. Deep down, you know it. On the surface, there’s only one way to find out.’
‘What about other people?’
‘What about them?’
‘What do you say when they start asking questions?’
‘They don’t,’ she laughed. ‘Most people don’t notice changes, and by the time they do, they’re too embarrassed to ask. They don’t really look in the first place. And you shouldn’t be so curious about what they think. Do they see you? Do they still like you? Did they ever like you? Ah, don’t you worry about them. Not everything is about other people. Some things have to be all about you and no one else. Hopefully they’ll clap, but don’t do it for the noise. Do it for the quiet it brings you. Do it for the peace, the serenity, and the unlocked potential. Do it for your own ‘I did it’. Your own ‘I made it’. Your own ‘I became me’.’
She took a sip of her drink and waited for him to speak next.
‘You are good with people,’ he smiled. ‘I can tell.’
‘Could be. Why do you say that?’
‘Because you are good with yourself.’
He didn’t take his eyes off her as he leaned in to touch her hand.
‘Not many people I know are good with themselves.’
As the softness seeped in, the rigid boundaries loosened. She stretched out in the newly created space and mingled with it just enough. It would be impossible to get all of herself back now, and she knew it.
What a fool I am, she thought. But then, What a feeling this is.
Not a fool, his eyes seemed to say.
Only time would tell who was right and who was wrong. But she was willing to be wrong. She longed to be wrong.
And despite everything she said, she knew she would have to fight the urge to hold on to that feeling. To hold on to this gentleness, this softness, this force that drew her in that she could never fight, because she would never want to fight it in the first place. To hold the door open. To hold the evening in her heart, where all the other memories lived quietly, in a box that broke and filled her heart at the same time every time she opened it. The box that one day would also contain this moment. But that would be later, much later, she thought and then got closer still.