“Oh, Gabriel! Is that really you?” A dark-haired, suntanned girl flung herself into my arms. The scent of her perfume made me feel dizzy, and my hands trembled when I embraced her. The moment she moved back, I recognized her – it was Claire, an old friend of mine who moved to another school at least a year ago. “It’s been so long… what are you doing here?” she asked in excitement, tilting her head slightly and showing a line of white teeth.
For a short moment, I didn’t know what to say – outlines of words were being drawn inside my head but I couldn’t cast them into anything real. The warm darkness was hazing over the city like a thick mist as we stood in the street, having been attracted to each other by a mysterious twist of fate, which brought us to a halt within the flowing crowd of people.
“I’m so glad to see you. I miss you a bit.” I smiled coyly. “I thought you’ve forgotten me…”
“Not at all! How could I forget you!” she said indignantly, waving her hands in the air without much control so that she accidentally hit a pedestrian. “You need to cut that crap. Let’s better go somewhere… no, wait! You haven’t answered my question, yet. What exactly are you doing here?”
“I’m here for the same reason you are.” I winked my eye at her.
She stared at me with an analytical eye for a moment, and then her face flashed with a glare of comprehension.
“Let’s go, then!” She pulled my arm, and while we were forcing our way through the crowd, a variety of images concerning the nearest future crossed my mind, and I was certain that I would be lost that night.
We took the stairs down to the basement, presented our tickets to the bouncer, and entered the club. Colorful walls were pulsating to the rhythm of the music, and the moving reflectors were heating up faces of the people in the club, to whom Claire waved in friendly gestures, and whom I was also supposed to know. We headed for the room with the dance floor, where the music was rumbling and the dancing lights kept jumping between the walls. However, I told Claire that I didn’t feel like dancing, and that I would rather have a chat with her. She looked at me with understanding, and we walked into the quiet, almost empty room, where we sat down on the couch. As classmates, we would frequently begin discussing our experiences, other people, and love in the most inappropriate circumstances. Both of us have always been the romantic kinds, who kept looking for any signs that would prove the things we believed in existed in reality.
“Would you like to tell me a story?” Her voice was powerful and confident but, at the same time, it sounded very close to me, like the voice of a friend who can always be trusted.
“A story of the once upon a time kind? About the things that aren’t true anymore?”
“Everything’s true, no matter what people say and do,” answered Claire.
A tense and trembling surface of silence was molded between us; we kept staring into each other’s eyes passionately for a moment. Claire was waiting for me to speak. I took a breath and glanced quickly at the dancing crowd, only to return to my old friend and open my heart to her, transforming the tacit air between us into a beautiful sound like a trumpet.
“I was madly in love and it appeared to me that Celine felt the same thing for me. You know her, don’t you? I’m sure you remember her. So, everyone talked about us, people said we were meant for each other. Yet, when I asked her out, she stood me up. Can you believe that? She didn’t come! She talked about love the previous day, and she just didn’t come, without any notice. When I asked her a week later if she wanted to meet with me, she answered: ‘I don’t know.’ I have the impression that I ruined something, and that’s why I’m a loser now. What do you think about it, Claire?” While saying all that to her, I realized how badly depressed I was and that the only thing I held on to was the foolish hope that everything would be fine again.
Claire closed her eyes for a longer while, as if she was going deep into herself, looking for an answer there. When she opened them, they resembled the eyes of a cat – two lumps of amber deep in the darkness.
“How can you be certain that you haven’t just invented all of that? How do you know what’s real and what you can be certain of?”
I remained silent. I was pierced by the painful truth that even someone special can ruin everything. Even the greatest chance can be lost. Some buses don’t wait – you have to be on time. People have their moods, it’s natural. Natural? What does it even mean?
I didn’t listen to Claire, I didn’t pay attention to her words. I was drowning in the hopelessness of life, savoring my sorrows like the Young Werther.
“We could ruin even the greatest feeling of love. Do you know why, Claire? Because we’re complete imbeciles.” I threw out the words which had been cutting my heart open for the last few days. I was breathing heavily.
Not more than several minutes passed. The crowd was reveling in the ocean of lights, smoke, and music while we existed in another place, in the world full of soap bubbles that we both admired and were afraid to touch.
Claire started to speak.
“I’ve been played as well. One day, Henry told me I was the most important person in his life, but he didn’t even bother to say hello when he saw me. ‘I don’t know’, he answered when
I asked him who I was to him. Cruel words… everyone heard them at some point. It’s so sad, Gabriel, so sad… Do you know what to do? Is there any solution?” She raised her eyebrows.
I could notice she was trying to hold back her tears.
No, I didn’t know the solution. We played the game despite being unaware of its rules. We didn’t even know what could be lost and what could be achieved – it was the kind of game which kept changing all the time, and nobody could be sure of anything about it. Thus, we drifted around and could only imagine the labyrinth, whether it existed or didn’t exist – both images were just an illusion.
I wanted to lift Claire’s spirits somehow but she suddenly jumped to her feet. With a new portion of energy and a flicker in her eye, like she had just been born again.
“That’s enough of our discussion, don’t you think? That’s enough of the past. Would you like to dance with me?” She held out her arm for me. I noticed a ring with the image of a cicada on her finger.
At that moment, I felt pain, a deep pain coming from inside. The ephemerality of the moment suddenly dawned on me, and I realized how little I meant to the world. For a while, I succumbed to the feeling of the life’s mediocrity, I felt the desire to lie and willingly become the victim of the plague of indifference, which kept spreading unnoticed – I was drowning, drowning, drowning…
“I don’t know, I really don’t know,” I answered, but a second later Claire pulled me into the whirl of the dance floor. Her face, charming like a dream, kept emerging and disappearing in the dancing crowd, and I frolicked, living the moment, living for that single moment, and thanking God for the beauty of our lives.
To be continued
If you’d like to purchase the whole novel, it is available here: http://www.amazon.com/A-Twist-Fate-Mikolaj-Wyrzykowski-ebook/dp/B00W63AV26?ie=UTF8&*Version*=1&*entries*=0