The first time I saw him, I was 21 and attending a reading by poet P.K. Page at the University of Victoria. I tried to keep my mind on the reading but I kept feeling a strange pull from a few rows behind me. Finally I turned and looked. Sitting there was a young man with longish black hair and soulful blue eyes, wearing a scruffy poetic hat and a Calvin Klein sweater with holes in it.
I was alone at the reading and self-conscious amongst the literary elite, some of whom I had read and admired. I wanted to be unobtrusive but I couldn’t help turning to steal glances at him. He looked like a poet, with shadows under his eyes and a kind of serene melancholy wrapped around him.
After the reading, I waited for my bus in the rain. I couldn’t stop thinking about him. I felt pretty sure he hadn’t noticed me.
• • •
A year went by. I never saw the boy with the black hair during that time and even though I did not think about him again, I know now that I never forgot him. He was there, in the shadows of my mind, a possibility waiting to happen.
Then one day I walked into the Creative Writing office with a girlfriend of mine. I caught a flash of dark hair and looked down into blue eyes. He looked up at me for a moment then turned back to his reading. Could it be possible? Was he also a writing student? Again, I don’t think he really noticed me.
As we left the office, my girlfriend turned to me and said, “I just had the strangest sensation that that boy back there is the one you are going to marry.”
I laughed off her suggestion, but even though the boy seemed as distant from me as the mainland from the island we lived on, I felt something of a sense of destiny at work too.
Two days later, on the first day of the semester, I walked nervously into poetry class and took a seat. I didn’t know anyone in the class. What did I think I was doing by trying to become a writer? Maybe it was all a mistake? I was shy. Terrified really.
• • •
Perhaps I should not have been surprised when he walked into the class and took the seat behind me. For a month he sat behind me and we never spoke. He seemed connected to everyone yet aloof, self-contained, and certainly unaware of my existence.
I used to sit at my desk and flip my long blonde hair back over my shoulder, hoping to catch his attention. Occasionally I would turn and pretend to be looking at someone the professor called on at the back of the class but my entire awareness was directed at the boy with the black hair. I walked ahead of him out of class but he never stopped me to talk. I walked behind him but he never waited. He seemed almost unreal. How could I have such strong feelings toward someone to whom I was invisible?
I began to date but no one really held my attention for too long. I heard a rumour the object of my fascination had a girlfriend. The autumn turned cold and leaves began to fall on the campus. In poetry class, we studied Eliot and Yeats. Like a good poetry student, I memorized The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. Let us go then, you and I/When the evening is stretched out against the sky…I read and reread the poem and thought of the boy with the black hair.
One night in October when the sky struggled to hold back snow, I said yes to a date with a guy I knew from school. We went to a local bar with bad music and cheap beer. I was depressed. Most of my student loan was already spent and more money wouldn’t come until after Christmas. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life except write, but who was going to hire a poet?
Then I sensed something and turned toward the door. The boy with the black hair stood near the bar wearing a long black vintage navy coat and a longshoreman’s cap. I tried to catch his eye but then he turned and began walking back toward the exit.
At that moment I felt something change inside me. I focused all of my energy on his departing form and whispered, “I wish you would come back. I’ll let you be in my life if I can be in yours.”
And he turned. And he came back. And he sat down at my table and said he was glad to see me there. And he never really left. That was 25 years ago.
You can ask what happened to my date that night, but the truth is I think he also felt destiny was at work. It was our first and last date, just a bridge, really, between possibility and destiny. When the boy with the black hair invited me home, I said yes. When he kissed my hand, I said yes. When he asked me to marry him, I said yes.
It occurs to me that meeting your destiny is a matter of patience, recognizing it when it finds you, and having the courage to say yes.
So to the boy with the black hair and the girl with the long hair, I wish them love. And to the man and woman who have been together 25 years, I wish us more love. Much more.
“Love Project window curtain” and “Love Project 5” Nezemnaya @ flickr. Creative Commons. some rights reserved.
“Big Hear of Art” Thumbnail qthomasbower @ Flickr Creative Commons. some rights reserved.