“I’ll meet you later at the Café Reznikoff. Don’t be late again for christ sake!”
“I promise I won’t be late, Coleen. I’ll talk to you later.”
It’s been three years since my late husband passed away. I have never left Ontario since then. In fact, I decided to forfeit my dream of becoming an Architect and I chose to pursue the path that Tyler wanted to walk on. I live for him and since he didn’t have enough time to achieve this bygone dream he wanted so badly, I’m going to continue it for him, I’m going to finish what he started. I worked hard for the past years to be able to study here in University of Toronto. After I took the exam, worn out as I stood up, my seatmate, a lady wearing a simple white shirt that took the edge off a fancy outfit, asked me questions as we walked out the campus, she befriended me in an instant. She is glamorous in her own way, the way she speaks, every word that comes out of her mouth feels like it has a certain sincerity and you’ll feel comfortable as you converse with her. We both took Medicine as our course and we also attended the same class at the same time, we became closer and closer but we never talked about trivial and sensitive information about ourselves, especially our past relationships. Our focus is more about what’s happening now.
When I saw Coleen for the very first time, she was sitting on a bench as she flipped the page on her book that I’m assuming that’s from her sibling that was passed onto her, the book was kinda obsolete, she’s probably scanning it to review last-minute for her exam. The weather that day wasn’t chilly, but not snug at the same time, just your typical feels in the autumnal season. There’s this sudden feeling that conveying with her feels right, the season also agreed with me for it’s telling me the weather's fine and it's perfect to talk with someone new, especially after a long time of isolating yourself. But when I was about to approach her, a sudden fierce and vigorous wind blew up and touched my face and suddenly it’s telling me don't you're not ready yet. So instead of sitting next to her, I passed her by. I didn’t know that she’ll be taking the same exam that I was about to take later that day so I thought that perhaps I'm not ready to indulge myself with anyone's company. I rallied myself for being a coward but she put a stop to it.
Now you know how things started between Coleen and I, we are friends, but there's something you will witness more than that in this part. I thought that my life would never go on when god took Tyler away from me, I could never imagine myself walking down the pavements, smiling at other people and living my life as if nothing happened. Everything changes from this point onwards. Or so I thought.
When I arrived at the café I told Coleen that I was curious to hear more about her and her family, we’re close enough to introduce our former selves together with our ménage who supported us nonstop, she took out a small photo from her wallet and as she unfolded it I saw three men and two women on the photo. The youngest, a boy, must be in his teen years, while the oldest must have been in his late thirties, she’s placed second among her siblings. She said that she's close with her youngest sibling, that they used to go to this particular church and there they will sing and play different instruments, just like my father did on his youthful days. I was astonished about this fact that she just shared to me because for the past few months I’ve known her, I never took her for someone who sings and enjoys such diversion. Then upon leaving at the store she added that her older brother was never fond of her, that they didn’t spend any of their leisure time together and then she asked me, “How about you? Tell me about your family Mr. St. George.”
“There’s nothing much to be shared, honestly. I don’t have any siblings, my mom died years ago then my dad was a drunk ever since, I left him then fortunately my standing father now, Mr. Hunter, found me.”
“You never came back to your dad? So you don’t have any idea how he is and his whereabouts?”
“No. I don’t even know if he’s still alive or not.” I faced her and looked deep within her eyes then I asked, “Considered as the worst child?” then I looked away from her as I continued. “I don’t think so. I wasn’t cruel to him the way he was to me. I was only brave enough to choose me and walk away from someone who only causes my heart to shatter. There’s a limit when it comes to how far I should chase some people.”
She looked at me with doubt on her face. “Yeah, that should be right, right? Anyway, I’ve been meaning to ask you...”
“What is it?” I was a bit nervous because I thought that she’d ask me about my previous relationship. Perhaps I felt that way because I wasn’t ready to talk about it yet.
“Why’d you take Med. as your course? I mean, is that really your dream or someone forced you to it?”
She may not have asked anything straight about Tyler but her question leads to him, and him only. I was hesitant to answer her but there’s no escaping it. “It wasn’t my dream to be exact.”
“So someone forced you to it, who was it?”
“Not really. No one asked me to take this course or whatsoever. I followed in my late husband’s footsteps. He was once a med student until life happened to us.” I smiled wistfully then for the second time I saw her glanced at me like her eyes were full of hopes for something that she knows that will never happen or perhaps it only has a little chance of becoming reality itself, she shrugged her shoulders then I saw her smile at me. Hers was a wide, endearing, and sudden smile that caught me off guard, somehow she was able to ask me questions through her eyes about what I meant when I said that life happened to us. “So who’s this husband of yours?” she asked, suddenly turning away from me. I didn’t know if I wanted for our conversation to still continue but I sensed that she still wants to go deeper along our topic so I answered, “His name was Tyler.”
“How did the two of you meet?”
“Through my dad.”
She seemed to think for a second.
“Do you still love him?”
“Yes, of course.” A quick answer I gave her then I suddenly felt that I should probably give her an explanation, “I mean... part of me moved on yet my mind still wanders through time and space, astral projecting myself to the time when we were so happy and we felt that nothing could ever tear us apart. So how could I ever forget those feelings I’ve felt for him if it never ceased to hunt me? Perhaps I’m yet to be ready to love another, Coleen.”
She then put her gentle patronizing arm around me. For some reasons that I could never explain, I reached for the hand that had just rested on my shoulder and touched it. It happened so flawlessly that I looked at her and we both smiled, which allowed her hand, which would’ve left the spot that instant, to stay just a bit longer. She then turned and looked at me once more, not saying anything, not even making a most faint of a sound, I suddenly had the urge to put my arms around her waist right under her jacket. I know that she felt something along those lines because in the next few seconds that had followed, even with the awkward silence trying to kill our mood, she kept on staring at my eyes as I stare back at her, both were totally undaunted, until the moment of realization started to hit me that perhaps I had read all the signal erroneously and I started to take my gaze away from her. How I loved to still feel her eyes lingering upon me, making me look striking and somewhat desirable in her own spectacular way despite every hesitation I threw at her. Her touch, her hold, I never wanted to escape from them. I liked the promise her soul is trying to send me, something totally affectionate and ingenious.
But then, to probably give justification to the moment we both shared, she said, “I once was in love too. Perhaps I loved that man more than I even loved myself. Laurenz was supposedly my peace to my chaos, be the only water to my deserted life, but he was the total opposite of those things. He merely even sought my needs and I never saw the red flags because I was so into him. But I woke up one day, then suddenly the truth slapped me so hard to the point I could barely stand up after I had fallen down to the floor, crying as I cursed his name. But that belongs to the past now. Let’s just focus on what’s happening now, shall we?”
“So you found the answer to why I am pursuing this path. I believe it’s now my turn to know more about you.”
“You came here to carry out what Tyler failed to do, to achieve. You happened here because of the love you still shoulder up until now. On the other hand, I’m here to seek and to give my father’s desire, of me becoming the child he always wanted to have, an overachiever, which I really am not, but I’m still here. I wanted to pursue arts and design but they never let me. They want something far greater than that. They made me choose between becoming a lawyer or a doctor but it didn’t matter because they’re still the one who chose what my destiny would be. He died almost seven years ago but nothing changed, just like how you live for your late husband, I’m too living for someone else.” She gave me a woebegone smile. “I get to see the same people in this same town, smell the same aroma from this café, same routine every year. I never left Ontario so I always spend Christmas alone, so if you’re going to ask me if I love Decembers, the answer’s no. Do you like that month of the year?”
“Sometimes, but not always.”
“I don’t even like the weather here when that time of the year comes. But I like coming here on evenings like this, especially now.” I could tell she was running out of things to say to keep our conversation running.
"Well, we still have several days before the last-month of the year comes and haunt us. Perhaps that’s why you’re still feeling okay for now."
She smiled then once again there’s silence between the two of us. I could feel the breeze in the air, its coldness yet her warm smile keeps the cold at bay. After several minutes of walking we arrived at the CN tower then suddenly two people approached us, students like us perhaps, asking if we would be so kind as to let them take pictures of us, stating that they are photographers and that they find us great together. Coleen didn’t even take a second to think and try to correct them and she just said yes in an instant. But what's there to correct anyway? She leaned her body against mine then she guided my hand to wrap around her waist then she tilted her head a little bit then she whispered as I looked at her, “Stop staring at me. Look at the camera.”
Right before it shutters I told her, “I’d rather look at you, give you all of my attention than focusing on an inanimate object.” We then gave them a wide and affectionate smile that made the photo look so good and when I gaze upon it, it seemed like we were two people who are so in love with each other. After that they asked for our email so that they could send it to us then as soon as they walked away from us she apologized for how she acted as we continued to stroll around. I looked for something inside my bag, then my hands moved to my pockets, it was my way of deflecting her apology. I caught myself trying to seem surprised but not indignant by what she did. After taking a few more steps, she stopped then faced me. I was saddened that perhaps it’s time to say goodbye and call it a night.
Instead, she suggested we go a little more further because she still doesn’t want to head home. I wasn’t in any place to reject her so I let her grab my hand and lead the way for the two of us. Minutes later we arrived at Amsterdam bridge. I never expected it would be this beautiful. During the day it’s like an ordinary bridge but at night, it transforms, there is a dazzling illumination adding to the charm of the place. Minutes we spent there were totally worth it. Then she took me to a bistro that looked almost like a nightspot, not that big but not also small, just as she said, but it looked very cliquey. Our pure and simple promenade turned out to be a low-key, romantic dinner date. She ordered a single malt scotch, Laphroaig Triple Wood is her favorite, she said. She asked me if I wanted to have anything and I said that I’ll have the same one she ordered even though I didn’t have any idea what it would taste like. I drank different liquors but never in my life I heard about a single malt scotch. I wasn’t familiar with the menu that this bistro’s offering so I asked her, “What do you suggest?”
“I don’t know anything about what you prefer when it comes to food so I don’t have any idea what to suggest.”
Then suddenly I had the urge to somewhat tease her in my sexual way, I looked at her eyes then beneath the table I let my toes slide along her legs. “Be kind enough to decide for me.”
“Nice try provoking me. But you need more than that to tame me, Jack.” She then smiled at me lustfully then she called the waiter and ordered.
This was the first time I blushed. It was a moment of lechery, it’s tense, partly awkward because of the fact that it’s only been hours since we talked about Tyler. We both dived into a mood that we were cautiously sidestepping from the past months we spent together. We were the last to leave the restaurant. We could see clearly in their faces how eager they were to close down the moment I paid the bill, it was past ten so we couldn’t blame them. As we stepped outside she asked, “Do you believe in fate?”
“Perhaps. Not quite sure” was my quick comeback.
“Do you think that fate brought us together? I mean, you could’ve followed your own destiny, you could have taken the course that you really wanted and we could’ve never met, but somehow you’re here with me, we happened for some reason. I know it’s sudden that I’m now asking you this question but do you believe in it?”
“I once believed in it. Fate brought Tyler and I together but it also separated us. Now, I’m not relying on it anymore. Nothing really brought us together, not fate, not coincidence. I don’t know what but I know that tonight, I am here with you for one reason.” Then I stopped walking then I held her hands as I looked her in the eye. “I want to be with you, Coleen.”
“Too, too deep for my comprehension to understand a simple yet fascinating confession of your love. But the feeling’s mutual.”
On the sidewalk right where we are standing as we talk, I instinctively embraced her then I had the desire to let her loose just a little bit from my hold then I ended up kissing her not on the lips or her cheeks, unintentionally, I ended up kissing her on her forehead. After that, she touched her mouth then softly laid her fingers to my lips.
The night is still young and I could’ve taken her easily elsewhere for perhaps another drink. I could’ve asked her to rush in the café near her home, just to be together and prevent telling our goodbyes to each other this night. But instead I walked her straight home. As we stood right outside her doorway she placed her palm on my cheek, a gesture that completely threw me off. She left me surprised as I let butterflies fill in my stomach. “This night’s been fun. I’d like more of this to happen. Promise me that this is not a one-time thing.” I wanted her to kiss me. I am flustered, will you kiss me? Help me understand what I'm feeling now.
“Next time, I’ll be the one who will take your hand and take you somewhere special. I promise.” Then before I even lose myself more within her touch I pivoted and walked away from her.