Time has blurred the surroundings. Looking back I know that it was in a busy café where we met, but when I close my eyes and picture it, which I often do, all I remember is her. The simplest thing can take me back to that day, a smell, a sound, silence. My mind is primed and ready to take me back to the day I first met Suzanne.
It was just a coffee shop. It was just a day. But that day and that coffee shop changed my life. I worked hard, and played rarely as my friends would often remind me, in a job with potential. A job that required me to wear a suit and take a lot of work home with me. I won’t bore you with the specifics.
I was taking my usual fifteen minute lunch break and I would like to say that fate pointed me in the direction of a coffee shop I had never been before, but in reality I went because they had a muffin sale – not quite the ultimate romantic ideal I know. But also it was.
I walked in, occupying my own mind, and felt a burning sensation. Looking down I saw my crisp white shirt rapidly turning brown. Pulling my damp coffee sodden shirt from my body I felt the rage I would feel about twenty times a day, and I was preparing to force a smile and burry my anger deep down and wait for the ulcer to kill me, then something odd happened. I looked up and saw her. Her eyes weakened me. A serenity quashed any rage I felt, not just then but ever. I would like to say at that point I told her eyes washed away my pain like a fountain on a hot summer’s morning, but I didn’t. I didn’t speak. I smiled at her and pushed by to get a coffee that wasn’t threatening to take me to the burns unit.
Suzanne joined me at my table, forcing the entire English language to leave my brain. Taking pity on me she broke the silence my newfound inability had created “Whenever I get bored I play a game, want to play?” I managed a nod “You pick a stranger and imagine what their lives are like” Thinking of this now I can’t help but smile, but at the time I thought she was crazy. She pointed at a man stood waiting to cross the street outside the cafe “He married his childhood sweetheart, they have one son and a beautiful daughter with the cutest lisp” I looked at this man and felt jealous of his fictitious white picket fenced life. “And he’s fucking his secretary.”
Thomas Smith has written sketches/gags for Newsrevue and this is his first publication of prose. He is currently finishing his debut novel and play; Circling The Drain and On The Fringe of Failure respectively. Smith may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My face must have shown my shock at her latest edition so she answered my expression “What? That’s life, kid” I mumbled something shyly about the fact that it wasn’t life and she had just made it up “I didn’t. I’m his secretary” I let this linger for a while before my curiosity got the better of me “are you?” She smirked before responding with a shrug.
I left shortly after, thanking her for the free coffee, the one in my bladder and the one on my shirt. I could not tell you what I did for the rest of the day. I know I went back to work but what I did there is a complete mystery. My head remained with Suzanne, she enthralled me to distraction. I wish I had given her my telephone number, which would have been a stretch as it took all my confidence to give her my name, which I did James Bond style. Blakeman. Joey Blakeman. What an idiot!
I went to bed that night and could not get her out of my head. It was driving me insane. So I decided to exercise her from my mind with some mindless exercise and a tissue.
I never dream, I’m one of those people that you never believe but it’s true I have never dreamt or I have never remembered a dream if you prefer, but that night I had a dream I would never forget. Waking with a start at three AM I relived what had just happened. It started as a montage of events I didn’t understand. I was alone smiling, always smiling, then she appeared. Suzanne. She was talking to me but it was inaudible. She could have been saying anything. Taking my hand she led me to different worlds. Worlds I didn’t know existed. All the while her words fell short. The feeling was not lost on me, however. Happiness. Plain and simple happiness. The joy I felt standing next to her in my dreams was incomparable to anything I had ever experienced. Then suddenly the mood changed, along with the location. I knelt holding Suzanne’s’ deflated head, her perfect dirty blond hair matted with blood. Tears stung my eyes and I woke up. I didn’t even attempt to laugh it off, it was so real. As real as I am now. I didn’t sleep for the rest of the night. I waited for the clock to hit eight so work could distract me.
I was sitting at my desk tapping away at my keyboard and it happened “Phone for you” I took it with my mind still on the open document on my screen and I heard her “You’re easy to find” I jumped to my feet, for a reason I could not tell you. “I’ll be in the coffee house today. At the same time” With that she was gone.
“Easy. I saw your work tag so I knew your company name and you told me your name” Her explanation was simpler and less exciting than what my mind had been conjuring up since the phone call. I was barely able to keep up my side of the conversation, only managing one syllable responses. I could not get the dream out of my head. Was it a dream? Was it something else? I had to get an answer to the question I dared not ask. That night we met up for our first proper date. I was so nervous, not because it was a first date but because I decided I was going to tell her about the dream. Jokingly at first than gage her reaction and go from there.
“I want to ask you something.” It was an hour into the date, we were about to have desert. Time was running out to talk about this.
“I know what you’re going to ask.”
“And no I’m not that mans secretary.” I smiled and thought of leaving it there, but couldn’t. “No, I was going to ask if you believe in dreams.”
“Dreams? Yes of course I’ve had them. Didn’t think their existence was up for debate.”
“I mean do you think dreams come true?”
“Martin Luther’s did.”
I took a deep breath. I was about to spoil the jovial mood she had worked so hard to create. I told her. I told her about the dream. I told her how real it had felt. How I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Then she surprised me.
“You choose” she leaned in close, so close I could feel her hot breath on my cheeks. “Does the good outweigh the bad?” I didn’t know how to take this. Did she believe in visions? Did she know something I didn’t? Did she have the same vision? Maybe this was our destiny. Maybe she knew everything.
At the end of the date she handed me her telephone number scrawled on a napkin and gave me a gentle kiss on my chin. So gentle I could feel her lips pulsate and she told me it was my choice. But it wasn’t. I had no choice.
We never discussed the visions. For the first few months I wanted to, but whenever I tried to bring it up she would simply sing “Let it Be” and kiss me like only she could. Eventually we decided to go traveling together – to see the places that everyone wants to see and the places no one has ever seen. I handed in my notice and discovered a perk to being a hard worker I was told I would always have a job at the firm. The day after we left, without packing a single thing. I wanted to take everything our arms could carry but Suzanne convinced me it would be a greater adventure if we left with only the clothes on our backs. And she was right – as usual.
I won’t tell you everything we did whilst we traveled because I feel that those experiences and that memory is mine and I hold it so tight it would feel wrong to share it. But we lived.
We were in Australia when it happened. When the vision played its last reel. I won‘t lie to you I hadn’t forgotten about it. How could I? But like a terminal illness I ignored it. I’m sat in the cafe where it all started writing this and I’m smiling because no matter how much it hurts to be without her now I was with her completely during that time and that’s what I remember.