“Such a one-sided friendship we’ve got,” she smiled, taking another sip of her drink.
“So we’re friends now?”
“We could be.”
She leaned over.
“But first, what do you know about me, really?”
He took his time.
She was loud and snazzy. The wishful, imaginative, slightly unusual type – his type. The kind of girl that leaves her mind and bed unmade and men knowing loss for the rest of their lives. Like a star exploding in the dark theatre, like young love – consumption. He could smell the intensity from across the table. He could have smelled it from the other end of the Earth.
“Not much, Mel. You tell me.”
She curved her lips into a gorgeous smile, and he added that to the list.
“I may well be messy when it comes to anything else, and that I would be fine with. But I’m willing to work like a slave for my stuff to be out in the spotlight, because I know it’s worth it. I’m telling you, I’m worth it. Look at me.”
He’d never looked at anyone quite like her before.
“How did you become you?” he found himself asking, rather out loud.
“That’s complicated,” she said, not surprised.
She’d been asked that before.
“Tell me anyway.”
He ordered another round of drinks.
“What, are you waiting for your answer now?”
“What makes you think I want to put it on the table and hand it to you?” she lowered her voice – and sounded sexy as hell, he thought.
“I was invisible; can you believe that? I always looked up to others, but whenever I tried to get close I found that people are terribly bad actors. They never live up to your expectations. I usually left the shows sick to my core of them and everything they couldn’t do for me. But one thing I always knew is that they weren’t guilty. I knew it every night I walked home alone, swearing through gnashed teeth and teary eyes. It took me some time to face I was the guilty one, but when I did I knew I had to change. I had to learn to have a presence and not be afraid, because people don’t like afraid people. They remind them of their own fears. But I didn’t know how to do it.
I read somewhere that if you truly want to become a writer, then you should give up everything else and work on your dream for a year. If you don’t write anything worth reading, you belong back to where you started. I did that. I started writing, day and night, until my mind and my writing both refined beyond my wildest dreams. If you think that’s impossible, think twice. When you feel there’s something more inside, rattling your cage, there is. How do you get to the fearless, wild, beautiful creature? Ah, I feel like I’m making it too easy for you when no one made if for me. The answer is you let go.
You forget, even if it was amazing, even if it hurts. You don’t hold on to things. You don’t try to keep them, 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 always remember that you will never, ever in your life love anything more than letting yourself shine through the bullshit. And you shouldn’t. Let them choose you and if they don’t, you let go.
Whenever you think of the person you want to become, whenever you can see it clearly with your mind’s eye, know that you’re actually looking right into your soul. You can bring that out to play if you let it have a voice, and you do that by cancelling your day-by-day self for a while. Anaïs Nin cleverly pointed out that, if she hadn’t had feelings, she would have been the most intelligent woman in the world. I get that.
I used to belong to them, but they couldn’t see me when I was there. Now that I’ve moved on, they see me everywhere.”
She leaned over to him.
“And now, nobody edits me anymore.”
He grinned. The ice broke under her words. She deserved all that she asked for and more.
“I see people’s weaknesses,” she says.
She could be honest with him now.
“How do you see them?”
“Clear as day. Weaknesses howl, they reach every cage bar, and even if they’d been silenced for a while they still echo for others to hear them. So I see them in their gestures,” she smiles. “I hear them in their words. I feel them in their thoughts.”
“Yeah. Those little bits of imagination that form out of you soul and crawl into your mind, then show on everything you do and say – and then you pass that vibe to everyone. You know? That’s how you read them.”
He was still smiling, but differently. His new smile was a business card, meant to cover a story of his own.
“Weren’t you hungry?”
She took her first teaspoon of sorbet with melted chocolate and waited for him to speak. She knew she had to be gentle from here onwards.
“Could it be that you smell people’s fears because you’re so aware of your own that you know exactly how they manifest?”
“It could be,” she said, unaffected.
She’d heard that before, too.
He had depth, and she liked proud owners of emotional intelligence. They’re rare and thus very precious.
“You’re good with people, then,” he smiled.
“Perhaps. But that’s not for me to say. Ah, it’s always harder with the ones I start developing feelings for.”
He didn’t take his eyes off of her as he leaned over to caress her hair.
To her, it felt like caressing the soul she’d been keeping hostage in the attic, with a few crumbs of dry bread a day, so it didn’t come out screaming and ruining her show.
But right there, right then, everybody was free.