“How did you become you?” he found himself asking, rather out loud.
“What do you mean, 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 goes, and close it just the same in a matter of minutes. He could feel the intensity from across the table. He could have felt it from the other end of the room. It only took one good 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 in her.
“Not much. You tell me.”
She curved her lips into a gorgeous 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 about whether or not to go deep. He sat back in his chair and watched her eyes move until she caught him and blushed and thought, Fuck it.
“Are you waiting for your answer now?”
“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. A weight you can’t lift, because you can’t see where it is. You just know 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 you, 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 that way for a long time, too.”
“Of course. As you said, we all do. But now, you don’t. Not right now, anyway.”
“How do you know that?”
“Because I see you.”
She smiled. He wasn’t completely right, but he wasn’t completely wrong, either.
“If you want to meet and greet the beast, you have to let go of your day to day problems for a while, just enough to make space for it to come out to play. You have to forget. You know what I’m talking about. Yes, that. No, go closer. There. Even that one little thing that you want to keep – you don’t. You have to forget everything, even if it was amazing, even if it hurt like all hell, even if you think it was nothing. It was everything. That’s why you’ve kept it for so long. But don’t worry, for the trick is that 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 move out of them. That’s how you make space; space for you to be more you and less them. Whatever they gave you will still show up, only this time it will be as you, not as dust and rust and sad sighs.”
“Do you believe that?”
“I do now.”
“Ah, that was a different era.”
“I want to hear about it, too.”
“That’s a story for another time. I prefer the one about becoming, anyway.”
“We’ll have to go backwards when you finish.”
“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 yours. Eventually, there will be some collisions, and some of them you’ll love. But you will never, ever love anything more than letting yourself shine through the bullshit. It’s not even yours. Not anymore, anyway. It’s just obstacles in your mind after a while. And how do you know when? Usually, when it’s nowhere else, but in your mind. That’s when it’s time for it to go. You can’t hear yourself if you keep talking over yourself. So you need to stop telling yourself the same stories for a while. Just shut up, get quiet and listen. At first it’ll be soft, in time it’ll get louder and louder still. And you’ll understand every word, because it’s all you. The magnificent creature that lay dormant inside you is you. Deep down, you know it. On a surface level, 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 like you still? Did they like you ever? Ah, but don’t you worry about them. Not everything is about other people. Some things just have to be about you and no one else. Hope they 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 you for your own I did this. 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’re good with people,” he smiled. “I can tell.”
“Could be. Why do you say that?”
“Because you’re good with yourself.” He didn’t take his eyes off of her as he leaned over to touch her hand.
“Not many people I know are good with themselves.”
As the softness seeped in, the rigid boundaries relaxed. She stretched out into the new space created and mixed with him just enough. Collecting all of herself back would be impossible.
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. She was willing to be wrong, though. She was craving to be wrong.
And, despite all she said, she knew she would have to fight the urge to hold this feeling. To hold this gentleness. To hold the door open. To hold this evening close to her heart, where all the other memories lived quietly; in a box that, every time she opened, it would simultaneously break and fill her heart. The box that would one day contain this moment, too. But that was later, she smiled to herself, and got closer still.
Softness is the strongest of forces, for you never want to fight it, and you want it always.