This is the first of the pieces written for my Fractured Earth universe. I hadn’t intended to start putting things up quite so soon, but there’s nothing like other people reading your material to motivate you… Please note that this is pretty close to a first draft. It’s actually a third, but I threw out the second and rewrote it from scratch in the first instead of third person. I’m also a little worried because it’s the first time I’ve written in the first person with a female narrator and I really don’t want to have done a bad job of it. And, as you’ll discover, the subject matter is not a trivial one for the gender debate… (though it’s certainly a long way from the harshest and I don’t believe any trigger warnings are called for). Enough waffling, here, in its unadulterated terribleness, is Sylvie starting the Longest Eulogy:
I first met him poolside at a resort I’ve long since forgotten the name of. It was on a South Pacific island. Fiji, I think. Though maybe Vanuatu. It was a long time ago and there have been so many trips. I walked from the bar towards the pool and there he was, on the other side of the pool. Standing upright like a statue, his impeccable black suit in stark contrast to the sandstone wall behind him and crystal pool in front. I Saw him. With a capital S. Of course, I didn’t know what that meant then. I stopped in my tracks. I don’t know how long I just stared at him, it could’ve been minutes. It felt like hours and no time at all. He was gorgeous and alluring. Intoxicating. I shook my head to clear it and went to sunbake on one of the lounge chairs as I’d planned. I couldn’t stop looking over at him and, naturally, I started to actually think. Why was he wearing a suit at a resort? Maybe he was a spy. No, too obvious, real life isn’t James Bond. A bodyguard perhaps. Protecting some trust fund kid or trophy wife on holiday. Whatever the reason, he was intriguing. And rather good looking. I fell asleep in the warm sun, hoping he’d come to talk to me and trying to shout down the parts of me that suggested I couldn’t go and talk to him first.
I awoke later. Some hours had passed judging by the position of the sun. I looked over, expecting my man to have left. But he still stood there. Like a statue, unmoved and unmoving. I smile and enjoy the view for a few moments whilst considering ways to strike up a conversation. None come to mind. Perhaps the direct approach then. “Hi, I like you”. Maybe not. There’s the typical Hollywood approach, walk past, be stunning, play hard-to-get, get the guy. Sadly, only turns to work on unsavoury brutes in real life. Deciding that the only way to work out what to say is to put a bit of pressure on myself, I stand, quickly check that my swimsuit and wrap are optimally positioned and walk towards him.
And straight past him.
Nerves are a wonderful thing. Very useful, I imagine, at avoiding the sort of calamities that befall you if you’re living the life of a hunter with nothing we would consider medicine today. Not so useful when you just want to talk to the attractive guy standing by the wall. Oh look, the bar. Perhaps some Dutch courage will save the die. He didn’t even turn his head as I walked past. Not exactly the outcome I was hoping for.
I sat at the bar for two vodka and raspberry’s and a mojito. Sidelong glances at the man the entire time. I never saw him look in my direction. Hell, I never saw in look in any direction other than straight ahead. But, I kept telling myself that who could tell where he’s looking under those sunglasses?
The mojito finished, I considered ordering another, but resolve won out. Or possibly alcohol or attraction did. Regardless, I walked right up to him and stood there. Apparently, I’d not planned what to say. So I didn’t say anything for several awkward and long seconds. He didn’t react.
Then, ever so slowly, he tilted his head to the side and slightly cocked his eyebrows. I said hi. A few moments passed. He didn’t reply.
Then a simple hello. But there was nothing simple about it. His head turned to face mine squarely and for the second time in my life I Saw. I was more aware of it this time, though I still didn’t understand it or realise the significance. I largely mistook it for the effects of the alcohol, being in an exotic place, and standing in front of an attractive man. What I Saw was amazing. The thing about Seeing is that it’s not just sight. At least, it’s not for me. I won’t speak for others. In that moment that he said hello, the world was more alive to me than it ever had been before. I took it all in, his muscular form, the perfect tailoring of his suit, the smell of the ocean and the sand and the pool, the feel of the light sea breeze on my cheeks and the gentle play of my wrap against my ankles. His face, an implacable mask, the laughter of the young couples horse-playing in the pool. The tinkling of glass at the bar. But, mostly, his voice. Perfect. Calm and strong like a rock standing fast against the howling ocean. It was the kind of voice that had seen everything and not just survived. It was a father’s voice to a young child, wrapping them in safety. It was a teenage mate’s voice, whispering furtively in anticipation of whatever ill-advised activities were about to take place. It was the voice of a young lover, calling your name, lost in the throes of ecstasy. The voice of a new husband, pledging his eternal love. The voice of an old man, comforting his wife in her final moments.
The moment passed. My breath returned. I don’t know if he knew that I had Seen, I don’t think he did. But he was patient and didn’t seem perturbed by the fact that I’d just said hi and then stood there like a mute for a dozen or more seconds.
I asked him if he wanted a drink. He declined, saying that he was working and couldn’t. I fumbled at the idea of more topics and turned to go when he asked me what I thought of the weather. I don’t know why he asked about the weather. I assume now that he was fumbling around for something to say much as I was. At the time, I was just ecstatic for the conversation to continue.
And continue it did. We spoke until the sun was setting over the beach. We spoke of everything and nothing. I honestly cannot recall a single thing we talked about from that conversation bar the beginning and the end. I know we traded no personal details, no life stories, not even names. I didn’t know if he had family or what he did for work or where he grew up. But I felt I knew him, the way only a new crush can. Alas, the setting of the sun brought an end to the conversation. We had just started talking about the spiritual nature and awe of looking at the true masterpieces of art can bring about. He was so passionate describing the beauty of Monet’s works. And then, mid-sentence, he suddenly looked off in to the distance as if hearing a bell ring. He turned and he thanked me for what he described as the greatest day in decades, apologised that he had to leave, and strode off before I could respond.
I spent the rest of the week I was there searching for him, asking everyone. But it was to no avail. I didn’t see him again whilst I was on the island. I was heartbroken.
It wasn’t until I was on the plane on my way home that I realised that this was so unusual for me. I had never been one to fall head over heels at first sight. But I fancied myself in love with him, the way a school girl fancies herself in love with her first crush even though she’s never spoken to him. I felt I knew him to his very core and that I loved him. I know now that it was because I Saw him, but at the time it was a little weird. I had an unshakeable faith that I couldn’t explain. And I didn’t care.