Saturday, September 13, 2008


It begins with a man, a young man, a 25 year-old man. He is old enough to have seen mostly everything he is ever going to see in life; he has experienced most of the emotions he is ever going to need to repeat. He has been, in other words, equipped with all the major components of a normal human existence, and all that is left now is to see how many different ways they can be put together. It starts on an ordinary weekday morning, before anything that could be accurately called a “day” has been assembled. The man—the young man/the 25 year-old man—wakes up from a night of normal sleep, in which his thoughts and memories of the day before (and a fair portion of the important parts of the days before that) have been re-configured, subconsciously speaking, into dreams.

In this instance, much of his dream has been—directly or indirectly—concerning a woman (a young woman; a 25 year-old woman) of whom he has recently come into contact. He does not know it on this particular morning, but he and the young woman were born on exactly the same day, at exactly the same hour, and within exactly same minute. The young woman, as he will discover, was in fact born 3 seconds before him in the adjacent ward of a hospital in the town and the city in which their parents resided. As such, the experiences the young man and the young woman have accumulated in their roughly equivalent time on the earth (and, one varying occasions, above it, and sometimes in its various bodies of water) have been—allowing for obvious gender-specific anomalies—almost exactly alike. That is not to say that they could be considered two parallel lines originating from and terminating at a single point—the moment we are concerned with at the present does not, in fact, find them remotely physically near each other—but as far as people can be considered alike, without one person being ever aware of the other’s existence (up until the time, of course, they meet), then the young man and the young woman could be considered to be quite a remarkable case. The fact that all the component parts of their lives had fallen in a significantly similar way meant that at the particular moment in which the young man had met the young woman, he believed himself to have experienced something which various members of the community have often been known to express as a “connection” (although there was, needless to say, much more to it than this).

He met the young woman (as would be befitting the story—although it is not by any means a convenient shuffling of the truth; it is what actually happened) in what would be viewed by any remotely cogent person a chance encounter. Due to an intolerably lengthy and complicated procession of it just so happeneds (which would really take far too much time to express in written form, insomuch as the mere attempt to follow one moment in time back to its source would be, in essence, an endless succession of causes and effects, or, to look at it another way, 25 years’ worth of chaotic collisions of individual molecules which, when you consider how many of these actually occur in one discrete human second, is a number too horrifically large to comprehend), it just so happened that the young man and the young woman were sitting within full view of one another in a rather pedestrian public bar situated on the corner of two streets that neither one of them walked particularly more or less than any other two streets, which meant that neither one of them had any particularly special reason to be sitting where they were sitting at that moment in time. In what some people of a certain generation might refer to as a quirk of fate (a generation that is generally understood to have believed in the non-deterministic notion of fate, but not so much as to deny—as a part of its modus operandi—the possibility of a “random” or unpredictable event occurring), the young man and the young woman at that moment let the thought enter their heads that they (that is, the young man independently thought this, and the young woman independently thought this also) had been sitting far too long without a drink and needed to purchase another. For whatever reason (which of course is a figure of speech; there are of course a myriad of reasons—the complexities of which have been previously explained—for these two protagonists to behave in the way that is about to be elucidated upon), both the young man and the young woman’s favourite drink—that is, the drink which they chose the most often when given a choice—was a gin and tonic. Interestingly enough (although perhaps not if you do not find it interesting), the ordinary bar in which the young man and the young woman found themselves happened to serve a gin and tonic without the traditional wedge of lemon (if indeed a tradition can be considered such just by the weight of simple statistics in similar bars in similar cities across the world: that is, more of the bars that fell within what would be considered in scientific circles to be an “acceptable” range of deviation as to consider them “similar”, served lemon wedges when serving gin and tonics). This lack of lemon would not usually strike someone as being essential information with which to propel a story’s narrative, but in this case it is imperative, for it is this fact (this piece of vital detail, if you prefer) that actually forced (or allowed, depending on which world-view you take) the young man and the young woman to interact (or, to put it in a more popular vernacular, to “cross paths”), for as they both approached the bar, they each had it in their minds to enquire of the bartender as to why this particular bar did not serve a wedge (or a slice, or a segment, for that matter—although two more variables are the last thing that needs to be considered at this already over-confused point) of lemon in their gin and tonics. The young man, as it happened, got to the bar first—mainly because his legs were longer and covered more distance in their stride, even though he and the young woman had left their chairs at more or less a similar moment—and was about to converse with the bartender as to the statistically unusual lemon wedge policy, when he happened to notice the young woman out of the corner of—as they say, ignoring the physical irrationality—his eye. The young man had been attracted to women before; he was indeed of an age where he was quite sure what his “type” was, i.e. the most successful combination of immediate physical characteristics in another person—in his particular case, a member of the opposite sex—that excited his most basic instincts to mate (a very successful mechanism for reproduction whose process, for better or worse, had been softened and poeticised, in the young man’s particular case, by popular song-writing), and it just so happened—although the young man had nor the time nor the sufficient available cognitive capacity (thanks in no small part to the two lemon wedge-less gin and tonics he had consumed) to appreciate it—it just so happened that the young woman fulfilled every single number, size and ratio of characteristics that he found the most attractive. It was a very strange experience for the young man because, although he had often imagined his “perfect woman” (a pastiche-d conglomerate of schoolboy crushes, missed chances and professional models) it was quite another thing to see her (and to process the fact that he was seeing her) right in front of him. It was an experience that, were someone to ask the young man to describe it, he would have a one hundred per cent chance of not accurately conveying it. To put it quite simply, this moment in the young man’s life was indefinable. Just as he was beginning to suspect that he was equipped for all of life’s vagaries (of which quirks, twists, random events, etc, are all branches of the same tree), he was confronted with an experience that defied any definition—either by itself or by application of two or more already understood concepts.

The young woman was, in fact, a physical expression of something the young man had always known he had wanted but had never been able to articulate, and the fact that she was right before him right now (which were exactly the words he was using in his thoughts) meant that he should have been able, at that moment, to have what he wanted most—that is, an image of his “perfect woman”. The problem was, however, that the impossibility of his want was exactly what made it so crucially imperative, so, within a split-second of attaining something so perfect, the reason for it disappeared in a whitewash of logic. It was, in point of fact, an epiphanic (people eminently under-qualified to use the phrase “life-changing” would no doubt substitute it here) moment in the young man’s life. So he looked at the young woman and, as far as he could tell, she looked back at him.

“I was going to ask,” said the young man to the young woman, “why, in this bar, they don’t put lemon wedges in their gin and tonics.”

The young woman raised, almost imperceptibly (and it would have been completely imperceptible had the young man not done precisely likewise), the empty glass she held in her hand. She replied, “So was I.”
They smiled at each other.

“Happy 25th birthday,” they said, together, at exactly the same moment in time.

Needless to say, this is what actually happened to the young man and, albeit understanding and accepting the power of the subconscious to exaggerate, amplify, and focus unconscious desires and thoughts (in short, to give us what we want), needless to say this: every detail, as he directly, consciously experienced it, appeared exactly the same in his dream (where some may express it at this stage as his “dreams”, but in this case, it was one clearly defined dream, up until the point the young man and young woman simultaneously spoke, wherein the young man woke up and found it was exactly one minute before his alarm clock was scheduled to go off).

Of course, experiencing the exact same “slice of life” both—if you will—inwardly and outwardly, troubles the young man when he wakes up: not in any sense he can actively describe, but rather in an anomalous fashion (such as if there is a particularly famous painting you often enjoy viewing but to which, without your knowledge, someone has added some small detail—an errant duck’s feather, or an extra cloud in the sky—and which causes you ineffable discomfort) which makes the young man question whether in fact his encounter with the young woman was indeed a favourable one. This type of thought is, of course, neutralised by that wonderful combination of as yet undiscovered chemicals and brain patterns called—by a vast majority of people—gut instinct. If the young man knows nothing, he tells himself, he knows that he has a “very good feeling” about the young woman. If you had cornered him at this moment and presented him with a rudimentary selection of categories encompassing the obvious scale of human emotions, the young man would no doubt have chosen the option most closely adhering to (if not exactly) love. He feels—as much as such a physical impossibility entails—in love with the young woman.

Of course, the obvious conclusion to arrive at by this point would be the fairly obvious assumption that the young man was, as it were, in love with himself, seeing as a fairly obvious link has been established between the two life experiences of the two protagonists, vis-à-vis their uncanny similarity stemming from, perhaps—it is allowable to assume—their appearance on this earth at almost exactly the same time. While without doubt a neat and compact theory, it however fails to “factor in” (as befitting the pop-psych-speak of the young man’s age) that one, ever-eternal variable: the human brain. If, as the former theory postulates, the young man’s feelings of attraction are simply a laser-focused Narcissus Complex, then it stands to reason that he should have, by now, simply been content to adore his reflection (in both the physical and metaphysical sense): enjoying his own company as company, and fulfilling any sexual desires in a complex trade of imagination and onanism.

For the young man clearly is not in love with an exact manifestation of himself—he longs, as every human does—for that part of us that we deem to be missing, i.e. something or someone that or whom completes us. In the young woman, the man has, in fact found it. She is alike him to the near perfect extent that he can identify enough familiarity in her to feel immediately comfortable and relaxed, but—the young man knows—there is enough difference (his educational and “life” experience has taught him that no distinct human can and will ever be in one whole way singular; such is the omnium gatherum of consciousness) between him and the young woman to make subsequent meetings—and he indeed hopes there will be such events—a pleasurable and worthwhile experience. He trusts, and to a certain extent he knows, that the young woman will fill in his blanks. She will make him whole.

And already, pleasingly, the day does not yet seem normal. It is a Wednesday: as a weekday, a denotation of time usually particularly abhorred by the young man, as much for its clumsy conflict between phonetics and spelling as for the more general apathy sometimes referred to in the community as “mid-week blues” (which, in fact, is regarded by the young man as an indecently oversimplified classification for an immemorial existential struggle, re: the dogmatic imperialism of “accepted” chronological measurement): but today the idea of Wednesday seems—to use the Americanised (nota bene: not so far as to insert a Z—i.e. “zed”, not “zee”—in this particular qualification where an S will do) vernacular—OK. He gets out of bed with (as you may already have guessed) a smile on his face. This is, of course, is a moment of note. For once in the 788,400,000 seconds that have made up the young man’s life, no one has any right to claim they know what will happen next. And now the young man waits, for whatever will come.

No comments: