For those whose
dreams turn into dust,
remember that your shooting star
is yet to come.
Her name is the first word that the wind whispers to me when I step out of the airplane. The night air of Paris chills me like it always has, sending the nostalgic feeling right into the remainder of my sanity. As I walk towards the passenger’s seat of my brother’s car, somehow my mind works in a direction opposite to what I expect; instead of giving me ideas about what to eat at home, it keeps distracting me with the image of a meadow in the summer.
A green meadow under the bright blue sky, five years ago: we were lying on the green grass, picking wild flowers, reading Sylvia Plath out loud, drinking glasses of wine, and passionately talking about the existence of God, like we knew everything.
We were 21. Laughing happily like we owned the world. She and I,
“Hey, here’s your beer.”
And my twin brother too.
“Thanks,” I take the can from my older-by-two-minutes-brother’s hand and sip on it, “urgh, I really miss this 1664 taste.”
“They don’t have this in the U.S?” he asks as he starts the car engine.
I take a long sip before replying to his question. “Nope. I’m staying alive on Budweisers.”
“Well, that’s another reason for you to come home more often. Not just on grand occasions like this.”
“Hey, being a consultant is tougher than managing a vineyard. You get a lot of holidays because your job needs you to travel while I need to stand by whenever clients need me,” I retort, “it’s you who should visit me more often and bring me packs of beers.”
“Like hell I will. Now that I am getting married, your beers are not my concern at all,” his snorts mix with laughter, “so, is there anything new about you? It’s been months since the last time we met in New York.”
I open the window and take out a cigarette pack from my coat. “No, everything’s the same. Same job, same apartment, same routine, same—”
“Girlfriend?” he guesses.
I pause for a moment and light my cigarette. From the corner of my left eye, I can see him stealing glances at me while driving steadily beside the La Seine.
“No. Not that,” I reply.
Somewhat nonchalantly, he replies with just a short hum. He continues to stare straight at the road, drinking his beer now and then. I light a cigarette for him and put it between his lips. He mumbles ‘merci’ in return.
Unlike the other nights when we never stop talking in the car after he picks me up at the airport, now we’re just driving in silence. Only the voice of Carla Bruni echoing from the radio and the sound of the tires screeching against the road fill the emptiness that engulfs us.
“Have you heard from her?” I finally ask the one thing that has been nagging at me for the past few hours.
He glimpses at me with meaningful eyes, as if he already knew it would always come down to this.
The silence becomes our friend until we arrive home later, at midnight.
Everything about our lives began in our freshman year in La Sorbonne.
Her arrival marked changes in the nights and days that we used to spend together, just the two of us. After she came, somehow the twins changed to triplets; she was always—by always, I mean always—around us. We would walk side by side in the morning to the university with baguettes in our hands and we waited for each other at the park to come home together in the afternoon. At night, after dinner, we would have lots of conversations; from people to politics, cynical jokes to rhetorical questions, psychology to philosophy, or anything that came up, as if from the air. Sometimes over the weekend, we would take trips to our family’s vineyard in Bordeaux, spending several days with bottles of wine and lots of walks in the garden.
I couldn’t really recall our first encounter or even how we became closer than just friends. But the most important thing was that she was the only girl who slept on the same bed with us day in and day out without anything ever happening. Even though her flat was just next to ours, she actually spent more nights on our bed than she did on her own. Somehow we did it casually, like sleeping together was as natural as breathing oxygen.
It was one amongst few other things that my brother and I could agree on: she belonged to the both of us.
Not his, not mine, but ours.
Little did we know that later in life, we were going to betray each other through our own words.
“You know what? I have this dream.”
It was just another Friday night at our flat during the last semester of our second year. I was lying on the couch, having a mind to mind conversation with Jean Paul-Sartre in his book “Nausea” when suddenly she began to talk. She was lying on the carpet under the couch, beside my brother who was asleep. I stole glances at her. She was staring blankly at the ceiling while her fingers touched his hair.
“What dream?” I asked. My eyes returned to the passage I’d been on.
“That I am a shooting star,” she said.
My brow creased; I was intrigued by her absurd statement. I closed the book and lay on my side, pressing my cheek against my own arm on the edge of the couch. I stretched out my left hand, touching her arm as I looked down into her eyes. “What do you mean?”
She looked up at me. “Say, have you ever seen a shooting star?”
I nodded. “Once, in Nice.”
“It falls really fast doesn’t it? Yet you never forget how beautiful it is, even after you’ve seen another sky full of stars.”
I traced her right arm until I caught her fingers. Loosely, I held them in my hand. “Because it’s different. Sometimes it can be once-in-a-lifetime chance for you to see a shooting star with naked eyes.”
“True,” she caught my hand and took it with her, pressing it against her cheek, “that’s why I want to be a shooting star.”
“I like the idea of passing by someone’s life in a millisecond, but leaving behind a deep memory that he’s going to remember even after he has reincarnated n times on Earth,” she said. Her eyes glinted, reflecting the flame in the fireplace.
Somehow her words left me with a sense of ambiguity. I frowned, feeling a little irritated as I asked, “Are you saying that you’re going to leave us?”
She threw me a warm, meaningful smile. It was short, but I could always recall it every time I remembered this conversation. It was a bitter smile; darker than joy, but happier than sorrow.
“I never said that, did I?” she replied as she placed our entwined hands loosely beside her head and closed her eyelids. “But who knows, maybe I am your shooting star or you’re all mine.”
I stared at her until I fell asleep that night.
Even though we also dated different people from time to time, somehow we always ran to each other every time life didn’t work for us. Or should I say, my brother and I always ran to her.
The compatibility between us three was no joke; perhaps at that time, she was really a match from heaven for us. Back then, I was really into the theatre while my brother hated sitting for hours just to watch people act and sing. One day she invited me along to a musical and showed the same amount of interest as me, so I always asked her to go together to plays then on. The same thing happened with my brother. He loved indie bands that I hated due to their grungey yet melancholic melodies that didn’t feel right in my ears. Almost eerily, she had the same preferences as him so in the end he always invited her to gigs and the like.
It was as if our lives revolved around her back then. Just like two insatiable moons that revolved around the Earth.
Despite the fact that we were twins and from the same womb, the difference between me and my brother was always more than a hair’s breadth. He was a typical womanizer; someone who could manipulate womens’ feelings from zero to one hundred, but his cold and detached personality always left them feeling nothing but despair. While I was more like a wallflower, spending weekend parties with the three to five girls I had dated during college, he was the crowd-seeker who was always up for any kind of one-night-stand.
I always thought that my brother was born to be the center of the universe.
She also dated numbers of guys during our college years. Once in a while she would introduce them to us, taking the guy to dinner at our flat or lunch at the same table in the cafeteria. But then they would break up not long after that. I asked her why the cycle kept repeating in the same pattern and she said to me, “I am not going to date anyone who can’t accept the fact that I am sharing my life with you guys.”
We were alone in her flat that afternoon, lying on her couch and watching some French movies on TV5Monde. It was a gloomy Sunday; the weather was windy and the sky was dark outside with a hint of rain every now and then. We initially planned to cook an early dinner with my brother, but he took the late tram and would probably arrive after 7. He said that he was just going to a diner with his friends, so we ended up ordering Chinese food from a restaurant below our flat.
“What if you can’t find that guy? One that can accept us?” I wondered.
“Then I believe my fate must be between you both,” she answered as she ran her fingers over my hair, brushing my bangs to the side.
I put my left hand on her waist, lightly holding on to her as I stared at her intently. There were two things I couldn’t help but wonder at that time. First, the way she’d answered my question in her usual calm yet oblivious manner—the perfect combination of her allure and her flaws—that always left me wonderstruck. And second, the way her short yet impactful answer provoked my curiosity and led me to ask another forbidden question inside my head.
Forbidden. It was forbidden because I knew that any answer she gave me had the potential to change everything in the blink of an eye.
By that time, I’d realized that there could not be two moons in the same sky.
“If it’s true,” I cleared my throat, “who will you choose?”
She stopped touching my hair and put her hand loosely on my back. With a slight smile on her face, she tilted her head and said,
“I like him best, but I like you most.”
And the world started to change… at least for me.
The routine in our senior year was still the same; eating breakfast and dinner at the same table, lying on the same couch, smoking the same brand of cigarettes, and drinking the same 1664 beer every night before bed. Some things changed here and there, but the atmosphere remained undistracted. She got into a modelling job around town, my brother was busy going back and forth to our vineyard for his thesis, and I signed as an intern at a small business consulting company in Paris.
What else was new?
Well, besides my new black-leather jacket and the secondhand Canali suits that I bought from a flea market in rue sainte Croix de la Bretonnerie, the other new thing was definitely my feelings for that girl.
I kept having to face the conflict between my heart and my brain every time I was around her. When she casually hugged me because she thought I was irritated, when she asked me to carry her on my back, or when she fed me in the morning because I was running late… The friendliness line between us was getting blurred in my mind. I found myself thinking about planting a kiss or two on her lips in between our moments, but luckily my sanity still pulled me back at times. It kept reminding me that however close we were to each other, a kiss on the lips was forbidden for us to steal.
Better not mess with the rules.
In practical terms, nothing changed in our relationship at all. She and I still went to the theatre together, my brother and I still went to basketball games over the weekends, she and him still watched indie gigs once in a while, and the three of us still shared our morning, noon, and nights, as we always had. However, I couldn’t lie to myself that sometimes the intimacy between her and my brother bothered me inside. The way he hugged her in between our jokes, the way he carried her on his back, and the way he fed her in the night when she was busy with her tasks. I even caught myself looking away from them when I heard them talking quietly to each other.
Real eyes realize real lies, they said. And somehow, this line perfectly fit my brother at the time.
He called it this ‘twinnie thingy’, but I could sense he was watching me with a strange look on his face every time I unknowingly smiled at her. Having no intention to make it more suspicious, I always avoided looking at him by turning my back to him. Still, being the deadly-curious and superior brother that he was, he kept questioning me with his keen eyes.
Once when she was out to buy some baguettes and croissants from the nearby bakery, he shot the question at me.
“Is there something going on between you and her?”
His words came through his mouth in his usual indifferent tone of voice. Even though he was not looking at me, I could feel his sharp eyes piercing my back. His hand was busy flipping our dinner, three raw salmons grilled with lime butter sauce.
“What kind of question is that?” I asked back.
“A real one,” he said, still not looking at me.
I stopped chopping the onions and mushrooms on the cutting board. Maintaining my expression, I turned to face him and leaned my lower body over the kitchen countertops.
“Something that has been going on for years, that’s for sure,” I replied. I paused for a moment to examine his unreadable expression. “The same goes with both of you too, right.”
I intended my last word as a statement, but somehow it ended up coming out like a question. He didn’t say anything in return.
It was the summer after our graduation from university.
One night in Bordeaux, I saw her and my brother sitting on the staircase of our house. She was combing her hair. Her lips humming an old French song called “La Vie en Rose” by Edith Piaf from the 1940s. One stair above her, my brother was inhaling his cigarette. I came to join them from upstairs and sat down on the part of stairs lower from her.
“Hey, look at what I made,” I groped inside my coat and showed them my handmade flower crown. I had made it out of boredom in the meadow that afternoon when my brother was comfortably taking a nap under the shade of his Nietzsche book and she was busy writing something in her journal.
She widened her eyes and grabbed the thing from my hand. “This. Is. Beautiful!”
Like always, daisy thingy was her favorite.
“I didn’t see that coming from you. So artsy,” he teased me as he took a last puff on his cigarette.
“Surprise, surprise,” I replied. I took the crown from her hand and raised it above her head, “here, I think this will suit you.”
I placed the flower crown carefully on her head and brushed a few strands of her hair. She closed her eyes when I tucked her hair behind her ear, sending a fluttering feeling down to my spine.
“How do I look?” she asked me right after I pulled my hand back.
I was looking at her and she was so beautiful.
“Pretty, as always,” I said as I patted her head.
My brother moved his head closer to see her face. His lips curled up into a thin smile, showing a hint of satisfaction. He touched the yellow flowers and adjusted the position of the crown to fit her head properly.
“Like a goddess,” he said.
“Can I take a picture? Anybody?” she asked.
“I’ll bring mine. I just left it upstairs,” he got up and ascended. From the sound of his footsteps, he probably stopped in front of his room. Suddenly he spoke to us in a higher tone, “guys, I need to search through my room first. I thought it was on the table, but it’s not. Hold on!”
“God damn it, just use my phone, I left it on my bed!” I retorted, feeling annoyed with his careless attitude.
She chortled wholeheartedly at my response. “Both of you are indeed twins. Your way of cursing is just the same as his.”
“But one thing is for sure; I love you more than he does,” I said in a matter-of-fact tone.
Her grin slowly disappeared, turning into a bitter smile. She turned her face away, staring at her own lap even though she was aware that I was staring at her. I could feel the intensity of emotion increase around us, as if every atom in between me and her was electrifying our skins with its dance.
Her pupils dilated when she looked into my eyes.
“But, love is an illusion,” her voice almost sounded like a whisper.
“Not when you take the right drugs,” I replied.
After giving her a peck on the temple, I left her alone to hear the song of the nightingale; leaving behind her cold stares and my brother’s steps that descended the stairs.
“Can I sleep with you?”
I rubbed my right eye as I took a glimpse at the clock on the wall. It was 3 in the morning and she stood in front of my door in her usual silk pajamas. I scratched my head and stared at her in confusion through hardly-opened eyes.
“Is there something wrong?” I asked.
She shrugged. “Just don’t feel like sleeping alone.”
Unlike our flat in Paris where we shared the bed, in Bordeaux we always slept separately because we had our own rooms. At first I didn’t care whether she slept with me or my brother or completely alone, but on the first night of her stay, my brother asked her to sleep “normally” in the guestroom without giving her any other choice. I guessed it was with regard to the unspoken rule between us both that she was ours.
Usually she would be okay with it, but maybe tonight was just an exception.
“Well, come in,” I said, opening my door a little wider for her to enter.
I watched her until she got under the blanket. I turned off the lamp and lay back in my original place, on the left side of the bed. We were having this short conversation about our plan to ride the train the next day when suddenly she moved her head from her pillow to my shoulder. She pulled her body closer to me too, pressing her arm against my chest. I put my arm around her shoulder in a brotherly manner, just to make it comfortable for her to sleep.
My eyelids had just begun to get heavier when I felt a light kiss being planted on my left jaw.
“Hey,” I whispered, “are you asleep?”
She didn’t answer me. Instead, she kissed me again. Twice. The first one was on my left cheek and the second was on my eyelid.
In that dream-like yet confusing moment, she left me open-mouthed when I felt her breathing right above my earlobe. She whispered, “Do you mean the words that you said to me earlier?”
I turned my head in her direction, to find a pair of hazel eyes staring at me from the dark.
It happened in a daze; her lips suddenly brushed against mine. I was completely taken aback and my mind suddenly turned white. It was as if I’d been sucked into a blank state where there was nothing but nothingness itself. The moment when I realized that she was indeed kissing me, she pulled her lips back from mine.
The kiss was longer than just a casual peck, but it was shorter than mere lust. It was almost enough.
But then, almost is never enough.
Slowly, I pulled her head closer to mine and locked my lips on hers. A soft, short, tender kiss.
She kissed me right back.
When I opened my eyes, she was nowhere to be found.
I wondered if the lingering memory had just been a dream, but then I saw some strands of her hair on the pillow beside mine. The clock on the wall was striking 11, yet the sky outside was dark like it was just the early hours after dawn. I wanted to bury myself back under the blanket, but my stomach began to growl in hunger.
“Hey, let’s have brunch,” I stepped out of my room and called to my brother whose room was just across from mine.
There was no answer. I opened his door to find that there was no one inside. I assumed that he must be out checking the vineyard or taking a walk, a routine he had developed in Bordeaux.
I passed by her room as I walked towards the stairs. The door was slightly open and when I intended to knock, I caught a glimpse of the brother that I had been looking for.
He was there. His hands cupped her face and they were kissing.
It was not only my heart that froze at that moment, but somehow my body as well. As much as I wanted to leave the scene, I couldn’t even feel my feet. It was better for me to leave and walk away instead of torturing myself with what I saw, but it seemed like my mind refused to synchronize with my legs. The only thing that kept me sober at the time was the ability to curse silently inside my head.
It was not jealousy that hit me inside. I was feeling betrayed.
But then, I needed to remind myself that, she was not even mine.
From the little space between the door and its frame, I could see him pulling himself away from her lips.
“Now you choose,” he said, still with his hands on her face, “it’s either me or you choose neither of us.”
“But you don’t love me,” she replied, smiling bitterly.
“And you don’t love him either,” his voice and his eyes were all frigid, “but my brother loves you and that’s the problem.”
I held my breath, feeling stunned, as I realized that he was referring to me.
“Why do you care so much about love?” she asked back.
“I don’t. And neither do you,” he answered, “that’s why I ask you to choose.”
“Which one to choose? You don’t give me any choice!” she asserted.
“Because you don’t have any,” he replied, sternly.
She looked away from him, biting her lips. Without showing any hint of further debate, she got up from the bed and walked towards the window. She lit a cigarette with the windproof lighter that I had given to her on her birthday last year.
He walked towards her. His fingers touched her chin, raising her hung head to face his. With his other hand he brushed a few strands of her hair across her forehead, slowly, and somehow, sweetly.
“Look. We are Siamese twins,” he said, “two ego-centric, manipulative, selfish bastards who act like the world revolves around us. Can’t you see? We are incapable of loving anyone.”
As he moved to cup her cheeks, she slowly raised her left hand and held his wrist. She continued smoking with her right hand, but her fingers were trembling. Confusion dominated her body at the time, while he, in front of her, was as calm as a murderer in disguise.
“What is love to us? We only know how to create chaos, not order. We bring destruction to the universe. Not only to things, but also to them; people who love us,” he took the cigarette from her lips, sucked on it, and threw the remaining half out of the window.
“That’s why you can’t be with him. I don’t want him to end up with someone like me,” He moved his hands to hold her shoulder and pulled his face closer to hers, “and this is probably the best thing that I’ve ever done for him.”
He stepped back, releasing her from his grasp. Still in his deadly demeanor, he took a bottle of half-emptied wine from the foot of the bed and took a big gulp. He wiped his lips with the back of his hand and handed the bottle to her; she did not budge at all.
He raised the bottle slightly once again, demanding that she take it. She hesitated before finally taking it from his hand and holding it loosely between her fingers, swinging it beside her body. Her eyebrows creased, creating thin lines on her forehead as she stared into someplace beyond the woods out there.
I would trade all the daisies in the world if that would enable me to read her mind.
“What are you afraid of?” she asked him, still gazing out of the window, “that he’s going to end up like us?”
He shook his head. “That he’s going to love you forever.”
She stared at him, her eyes were soulless. Her face lost its glow, as if her emotion was all dried up by the invisible catastrophe in the air. She closed her eyelids and sighed heavily, emptying her heart of the burden that pierced her soul little by little.
“Nothing is forever,” she whispered.
“Yeah. That’s what you are afraid of, right?” he smirked.
Slowly, he mouthed an inaudible “for-e-ver” with his lips. And she trembled.
A diamond suddenly fell from her left eye, rolled down her cheek, chin, and fell right on the carpet.
My emotion at that time was too mixed up for me to identify, but what could possibly burn me up from the inside other than anger? Suddenly, scenes repeated in my head like a slideshow of a childhood album that everybody wants to forget; the way he kissed her and she kissed him back, the way he touched her like she belonged to him, the way he manipulated her like he always did, the way they looked at each other so intimately, the way he talked to her and made her cry…
As much as I felt my anger burning inside me, somehow I could feel her pain like it was me who was experiencing it. My eyes were getting blurry and my knees weakened. I thought I was going to start crying, but alas, it was clairvoyance.
If he was her Siamese twin in mind, then I was her Siamese twin in heart.
And it was always a battle between the heart and the mind.
She cried. She cried.
Then I knocked the door.
I glanced up from my seat, near the first stair step to the upper floor, and saw my brother standing casually in his usual demeanor; flat smile, disheveled hair, hands tucked into his jeans. He walked towards the staircase and sat beside me, leaving enough room for both of us in the narrow space.
“You just got back from town? It’s almost noon,” he said.
“Yeah, I just did some things,” I lied. All I did was go to the market and cycle around the suburb with my mind in wander mode. “Oh, I brought back some croissants for you and her. Also packs of cigarettes. We ran out of cigs.”
He rested his head on his knees, his arms hugging his own calves. From how he stared into the nothingness beyond his sight, I guessed there was something going inside his little mind. I offered him the pack of cigarettes that I had kept inside my coat, but he refused.
I frowned at his weird behavior. As I put the pack back in its place, my mind kept reminding me that he had never once refused a cigarette I offered to him before.
He took a deep breath and sighed heavily, as if he was releasing all of the burden inside his body.
“She left,” he finally said.
“What?” I asked, my first and pure reaction.
“She left,” He repeated, emphasizing the last word, “without saying anything. I checked her room and it was empty. Her suitcase and things are gone. Like everything just vanished with her into thin air.”
“Have you tried calling her? Maybe she just went back to Paris earlier,” I said, clearly ignoring the idea of her leaving us forever. For-e-ver.
He shook his head. “Nothing worked. I couldn’t even connect to her phone line and I doubt she read my messages. I wish I knew where she was going, but, no… she left no trace for us but this.”
From his jeans’ back pocket, he took out a necklace with a metal pendant in the shape of half a heart. He handed it over without looking at me. I took it and realized that it was a locket. When I opened it, I saw my photo on the right side and a photo of her face in half on the left side.
It was originally a photo of the three of us, taken in Sorbonne on our graduation day with a Lomo camera. I had never seen the result until now, until she cropped our faces and fit them into four small frames with her face cut in halves.
“Where is the other one? She must have left it for you too,” I asked him, wanting to see the other half of her face that she’d left with him.
He murmured, “I’ve thrown it out of my window.”
Quite uncanny, his answer annoyed me more than when he’d told me about her sudden departure. The combination of his blunt answer, nonchalant expression, and careless gesture somehow almost drove me mad.
“I am sorry.”
He frowned. “What?”
I made my hand into a fist and punched his jaw until his head banged against the staircase’s railing. I tried to hit him as hard as I could, but it turned out that my love as his twin still won over my rage. It was not that hard, but it was surely still painful. I could feel it from the sound of his bone cracking and saw it from a dark bruise right on the lowest side of his cheek.
But he didn’t say or do anything to me. Instead, he just pressed his lips and made them into a thin yet peculiar smile.
“You can hit me as many times as you want, but,” he arched his body backwards, lying on the floor with his feet still on the stairs, “I am not sorry at all. Not even a little bit.”
I buried my face in between my thighs. The memory of this morning suddenly came back to me like a subway train; I couldn’t see how it passed me by, but I could feel how the wind thrust its thorns into my body.
“Why did you do that?” I asked. My voice cracked at the end.
“Hurt her, hurt me,” I contemplated for a while, “and perhaps hurt yourself.”
“I was just trying to put the things back in order,” he shrugged, “we must play by the rules, remember? Yet both of you kept crossing the line and hey, I am not fond of that.”
I closed my eyes as I remembered the unspoken treaty between us back then.
She belongs to both of us. She is ours.
“But, things change. It’s not always about the three of us. Sometimes it’s about you and her,” I turned my head to look at his face, “while sometimes it’s also about me and her.”
“But it’s always about me and you, right?” he asked me back.
I stared at him, trying to read the real meaning behind his expression, but I knew I failed right away. Still in a wandering state of mind, I arched my back and lay down on the floor just like he had. I put my left hand behind my head, while my right hand groped inside my coat for a cigarette.
We shared a moment of silence as we stared at the ceiling, with him doing nothing but daydreaming and me just inhaling the nicotine. Then in a millisecond, something struck my mind – just like a shooting star that suddenly crossed the night sky.
“You love her, don’t you?”
He didn’t budge for a while.
“Does it matter?” he asked me back.
“It matters to me,” I insisted.
I felt his body getting tense. As much as he wanted to hide it from me, from the corner of my right eye I could see him wiping his face with his hand. He raised both of his hands and crossed them above his eyes, shielding the windows of his soul from me, his own brother by blood.
“Even if I do love her, what difference does it make?” he mumbled, his voice trembling slightly, “she will still be the one that got away.”
I stared at him for a while, rather intensely. And that was when I saw it, slipping behind the wool of his sweater.
A metal pendant in the shape of half a heart.
It had been three years since that summer morning and she was still missing.
But sadly, only from our lives.
Her face and her life were out there, displayed in magazines, advertisements, and also on TV, being consumed by the eyes of millions of people around the world. Her name was written in fashion magazines and I sometimes overheard people talking about her when I sat in the coffee shop, when I was waiting for a train, or even when I was working on my reports at the office.
She lived in London; a supermodel that spent her days doing photoshoots and walking the runway for famous designers like Chanel and Louis Vuitton, taking pictures with lots of celebrities at many parties. She was a vegetarian and an activist for PETA, living with two Yorkshire Terriers in her apartment in Soho. She still doubted that God existed, yet she believed that there was a greater power in this universe than humans alone. She loved Nutella, and she hated green tea. And she said that she was more than happy with her current life.
At least, that was all I knew from having read her interview on a website some days ago.
“Sir, your order.”
I thanked the barista and put the change into my pocket, brushing aside the memory of her as I walked out of the coffee shop in a hurry. It was already 8:45 AM, leaving only 15 minutes for me to run and catch my client in time for a meeting. I rushed to get into a taxi that had just dropped its passenger in front of me, telling him to drive fast to Manhattan.
This had been my morning routine for the last three years.
And she never even once left my mind.
After that summer, things rapidly changed for both of us. I signed with a big multinational consultant company and was sent directly to the New York office for reasons I didn’t know. My brother had shown a lot of interest in our vineyard since we were kids, so he stayed in Bordeaux and managed the company. For the first time in forever, the universe forced us to part ways. I remember spending hours with him until dawn in our backyard a night before I moved to New York and he traveled to Greece.
As much as we wanted to deny it, she had left a deep scar inside our hearts. She took our feelings with her as she departed, leaving us aching with nothing but emptiness. I never knew about my brother’s feelings for her, and I don’t even now, but whatever kind of love it was, I knew it was a strong one. We never talked about it openly or even had a heart-to-heart conversation since then. Most probably because we dealt with our feelings differently and we almost always tried to dodge the topic in our conversation.
But now that I was able to see our relationship in a broader and more objective view, there was one thing that I realized.
She was never ours to begin with.
Not mine, not his, not ours. But rather, we were hers.
She was a free spirit that the universe sent to us to make us experience love. Not the kind of love that we see in movies or read about in novels, but the kind of love that makes us question the purpose of our existence. The love that makes us wonder whether we have contributed a great deal to the world or whether we have always taken the stars up there for granted. The love that reflects our flaws, our imperfections, our weaknesses – and teaches us how to change them into strengths.
The one that opens our eyes to the signs from the universe and shapes who we are as we are today.
It was clear to me now. While my brother and I were still lost in our own ignorance and unconsciously leaned towards her back then, she had already realized that the love she was seeking was not borne by me or him, but rather by the both of us. We were the reflection of her; the dualism that filled each other’s emptiness with the purpose of fulfilling her quest – of finding her true self. And she loved us equally because we were simply her reason for existence before she finally found her true purpose in being with us.
A shooting star.
She was indeed our shooting star.
This is the last picture of her that I have, taken on the last of our outings in the meadow.
Five years have gone by and yet my feeling for her is as fresh as ever. I sometimes still think about our last kiss that night in Bordeaux. When her eyelashes fluttered against my cheek, when we finally said goodbye in silence and fell asleep in each other’s arms. I still remember the next morning when my dreams were shattered and my brother said he was afraid I was going to love her forever.
But then, maybe my brother was right.
An American author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, once said that “there are many kinds of love, but never the same love twice.”
I believe that we are going to meet scores of people who can change the beats of our hearts during our lives here on earth, but at the end of the day, we will realize that they are all different. Just like pieces of a unique puzzle in our souls, they are in different forms and no one can actually replace anyone there. What is left empty will always be empty.
You will realize that there is someone that you will always hold dear inside your heart, even if you have finally found another person into whom you can pour your soul. Doesn’t matter if they left you with flowers and rings or laughter and tears, they will never cease to make your heart skip a beat with the memories they left behind. And it’s simply because your feelings for them can never change.
For me, she already got herself a place. And it is never meant to change.
Now, I want you to remember the face of the woman in the photo above. Examine her eyes, her small yet sharp eyes that sometimes catch you off-guard when you try to stare at her. Her face, with an unforgettable distinct expression that makes you wonder “I’ve seen this woman before, but where?’ And her brown-black hair, the hair that she never changes even when they keep asking her to color her hair blue or pink. Like a mermaid.
I want you to remember her. For some day, when you accidentally pass her at a junction or see her sitting alone in a coffee shop, reading Sylvia Plath, or—even better—when you get a chance to work with her, so that you can please say hello to her. And when she asks you who you are, tell her, that you’re just a shooting star that happens to cross her life as a messenger. Remind her about that summer day in the meadow, when she danced under the sun, laughed at the idea of reincarnating as a man; drunk on glasses of wine and our teenage dreams. Tell her about the story of two twin brothers who love drinking whiskey and gin, but hate even a shot of tequila. One who is now starting a family and one who is still trying his luck at love. Make her remember the morning madness in the kitchen, the afternoon routines at the park, and the late night conversations in bed.
Then when she seems to be reminded of us, say to her that you have to leave and bid her a nice farewell. She is going to run after you for sure and ask how you know everything that you told her. You can answer with this; that you know this from the wind that sings to you or even the moon that whispers to you. But please, don’t ever mention us, the twin brothers who were once by her side.
And when she smiles and says that she understands, leave her be and don’t look back.
Because she’s not going to stay with you as she never does with anyone else but us.
Then tell me. Write to me or find me somewhere in a little coffee shop in Brooklyn, the one that is owned by an old Hispanic woman and is always full of vanilla smells. I will be there on Saturday afternoons, singing along to Eric Clapton, having a cup of long black and a tuna sandwich. No sugar in the former and no pickles in the latter.
Or if you have the chance to visit my brother in Bordeaux, drop by an old vineyard in the farthest side of town. Look for someone in a straw fedora hat and bermuda shorts, who takes long walks in the garden in the mornings or lies with his book above his nose in the meadow in the afternoons. See him and tell him this news.
Because we will be waiting. I will be waiting.
For another shooting star to come.
- Marguerite Afra Sapiie
Marguerite is a writer for life, a novelist in the making, a poet at heart.
A sucker for shooting stars, a believer of reincarnations, a lover of true beauty.
Currently a journalist at The Jakarta Post Digital.
Give her a visit sometime at the Constellation of Fallen Stardust, or send her a letter at firstname.lastname@example.org
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