It was a quarter past eleven at night. Elegra stared at the clock. She stared at it for a very long time, watching each remaining second tick off the year.
She needed something splashy to toast the New Year, so she took out a bottle of her red wine and poured herself a glass. She whipped some cream and topped it off with shavings of nutmeg and took her little celebration to the porch, sitting down to stare into the dark night.
She sat there, very still, feeling the chilly draft weaving into her woolen jumper. At this point, Elegra was something of what one would call a human popsicle.
She didn’t care. She wanted the years that went by to make sense. She wanted it all to make sense this very night lest she carry the muddle of it all into another night, another year, and she wasn’t afraid if she had to freeze to near death until it did.
The cold numbed her feelings and helped her focus on her thoughts.
She put down the glass in her hand, shut her eyes and took a deep breath. This was her attempt of drowning out all the other voices in her head. The explanations they all procured, the questions they seemed to ceaselessly add, the judgments they passed, the predictions and ever multiplying prophesies, she needed their words out of her mind so she could find space for her own.
She felt strong, she felt like she could destroy every bit of his memory in this one frustrated moment and never look back. She would resolve to in this new year.
Elegra met Liam at a rather large party they had back when they were in university. Amongst the hundreds of people, the two bumped into each other when they were waiting for their drink at the bar. They both wanted an airmail and mixed the same way, and when they heard each other’s order they looked at each other and smiled, a kind of smile you only share with a stranger who happens to be more than a stranger.
They clinked glasses when their drinks arrived and went their separate ways.
At the end of the night, Liam found Elegra sitting on the pavement outside the party, awaiting her cab. She looked raging, a bit drunk and as he would tell her later, like a very intense sight that you could hardly take your eyeballs off of.
She was barefoot and held one sky blue beaded scarpin in her hand.
Elegra could see his eyes on her even though he was seemingly deep in conversation with a few other people. As soon as she saw him walk over to her, she threw him an electric stare and said “Someone stole my other shoe. Why would anyone want just one shoe?”
He held her gaze and spoke softly as he said, “To show the world what a drunk Cinderella would look like, perhaps?”
“Oh believe me Cinderella was plenty drunk at the end of that night! There was no other way,” saying which she averted her gaze to the ground. “I really liked this pair, you know.”
“They are lovely,” he said smiling sympathetically, “So what brings you to this fine pavement? Party shenanigans getting too much for Cinderella?”
“More like waiting for my chariot to come and get me home before it turns into a pumpkin.”
He laughed, freely, happily, and she liked the sound. It sobered her up and got her high all at once.
“I’m Liam,” he said.
“Elegra. You know the alias.” She winked as she stepped into her cab that had just arrived, and drove off into the sparkling night, rife with promise.
Elegra could feel the hard white of her porch tiles and she hated the feel of it. So white, so bold, so sturdy and so shiny. Who could be like that? Not her anyway, and the incongruences of her being to the porch made her a little upset. Too much wine, she thought, it had to be the wine.
She looked at her phone, half an hour to midnight.
She sighed, a deep, painful sigh.
Every relation has its greys. It was what happened in between the blacks and the whites that became of a person, that became of a space, a feeling, a relation. That was simple enough.
Whatever does one do though, about the relations that have no black and white? That are made up of only tones of grey? Within what scope do you define such a relation? How do you even try to understand it?
You couldn’t. All you could do was to grasp at ripped off seams and try to picture what the garment could have made, were it ever complete.
No one could accuse Elegra of not trying.
Several months seasoned by since the night of the party, Liam and Elegra bumped paths often at university.
They smiled, sometimes even chatted for a few minutes.
Liam faithfully ended each conversation with “So when do I get to take Cinderella out for an airmail?”
To which Elegra would reply with genuine warmth “As soon as she gets her shoe back.”
He never stopped trying, she wasn’t sure how to feel about that.
Each time he saw her, she’d see his eyes widen. He stretched out the last syllable in her name and yelled it softly, something only he could ever do, as he marched over to her from across the corridor.
“Elegraaaa….” he said one such day, “Why won’t you go out with me?”
“I don’t know,” she replied. And that was, in fact, the truth.
“My friends and I are going for karaoke tonight. COME.”
“I don’t sing.”
“Neither do I. And that’s why it’s fun.”
“Ahh,” she said, as though she understood. She wasn’t really listening though. She couldn’t focus on anything when he was around and she didn’t like that. “I’ll think about it.”
She didn’t go, though.
Some people come into your life like a string of thread makes its way into a needle. It always seems just about ready to make it’s way through, but there is one moment when it does, swiftly, dextrously, without much ado. And then they move you to spin them into every memory. You don’t even realize how many breaths they were woven into until you have to take them apart, and undo them from each seam, and watch as a little bit of the person you now are comes apart in your hands.
It was weird things that pulled her to him, a lost shoe, a corridor that was too small, and a minor accident.
“You should ask me how I’m doing. If I had a good day or got run down by a bike,” she texted him.
“Did you have a good day or get run down by a bike?”
“I got run down by a bike.”
“Are you serious? Are you okay?”
“Okay enough to be texting you.”
“You need an airmail.”
“And let me guess, you are going to buy me one.”
“I am going to make you one. Come over tomorrow.”
“Okay,” she said.
And that was the beginning of the end of the beginning.
Elegra shut her eyes tight and tried to retrace herself back to the first time she saw Liam. And the second. And the third. She couldn’t quite remember the third as clearly but she knew that it was right about then that everything started going completely out of focus.
She was never in love with him. What was love?
Was it a desire to possess someone? Was it a want to kiss them, to have them touch you? Was it a dream to spend the rest of your lives together? Was it a sense of awe that sparked in your mind when someone understands a bit of what you speak?
If it was any of those things, Elegra was not in love with Liam.
But if it was your heart simply beating very rapidly when you spoke to them, then she never had a shot of making it alive out of this one.
They drank airmails that he mixed rather poorly. She forgave him.
They sat on the floor and stared up at his television that was playing K-pop. Her head was spinning too fast to care what was playing.
“Do you want to lie down?” he asked.
They laid down on his bed. She turned down to face her pillow and rested her head in her hands.
They spoke a lot that night. About things that scared them, and things that moved them. She held his hand and listened to him ramble on about so many things that were so important to him. An old girlfriend, a brother at sea, a godfather whose ghost he swore was watching over him. Somewhere between the night she took a ring off his finger and wore it. It fit right.
She never saw him again.
Sometimes she tried to speak to him, and it seemed like he was a stranger all over again. Sometimes he tried to speak, and she would be overjoyed but counted the days until he would once again become a stranger. She realized that they were too different, too incongruent.
She liked songs by Jenna Kramer about never giving up on people you loved and he liked songs about broke guys who fixed cars. She liked to write endless words about the magic in little things and he liked to write a few short words that sold all sorts of little things. Over time he became her enigma.
He was that guy who everyone knew and whose name inevitably came up in conversations. They didn’t really know him like she did. But she didn’t want to tell them that. So she smiled and nodded along.
“Yeah I know him.”
“Who doesn’t, right?”
She faked a laugh.
It had been nearly half a decade. She began to see that with him, it would always be the beginning of the end, but never quite the end.
“Happy New Year, Elegra,” she said to herself as she took a large sip from her glass, now refilled, and scooped a swirl of whipped cream with her finger.
It was too cold outside, and she finally began to feel it. She slowly walked back in.
— To our friendship, may it go on in our silent words and distant memories. —
This piece was originally part of a book of semi-fictional short stories I once intended to publish. While writing it, I had a technology related tragedy strike and lost half the original piece. I was never able to re-write this or find a proper ending. So I ditched the entire book. If you enjoyed reading this, comment and let me know. I may consider writing another book. Thank you for reading Story 4, it took me two years and a lot of whipped cream to complete.