The One That Got Away

23 Jun

The One That Got Away.  Short non-screenplay prose.  The first I’ve written in this format in a long time.  It’s probably a bit rough, but it’s digital, so it can always be changed.  This may become part of something larger, as I believe the narrator is a main character in a much longer work.

The One That Got Away

She was on the wrong bus. Or I was. Either way the almighty job schedule had spoken and we were not to be together any longer. I knew from this point on, as we received our orders of separation, that I had just crested over the high point of my day. I watched sadly as she got off at the station, heading for a new bus and a new life.

I liked watching her.

I had from the moment she got on the bus with me earlier that day. I had my suspicions then too, mind you: I’d been doing this job all week and had yet to be on a bus with another fellow census-taker, but I didn’t want to say anything to suggest she leave. Such was her power that the moment she got on my day brightened, and if I could steal some time with her it was worth any cost. What luck that the one time I had a co-worker she was beautiful, my age, and friendly! Whatever Watchers there are were surely smiling on me that day.

I have often tried in vain to write accurately of her beauty, to capture it in words, but all of the clichés for beauty audition for the role and one by one they skulk away, humbled by their feeble failures at capturing even half of her essence. What a creature she was.

I don’t remember her name.

In between handing out survey cards and counting passengers getting on and off we talked to each other. She learned of my life in computer tech support college. I learned of her studies as a journalism undergrad. We both knew, without having to say anything, about our difficulties in finding paying employment. Surely there’d be no other reason for such intellectuals as ourselves to engage in this trivial temp work. Then again how smart would we have been to never meet each other? She told me (perhaps hopeful of our future together) about her joys and desires around being an actress, and I was forced to regretfully inform her that although I am a writer I’m not the kind that writes star-making scripts. I write prose. She, the ever-hopeful-beauty, declared that one of my novels (a best seller, naturally) would be optioned and made into a movie, perhaps starring her. It’s a lovely scenario that I wished I’d come up with myself. The journalism, she explained, was just a safety net, a financial fallback if she couldn’t do what she really loved. A prudent plan, I thought, but I couldn’t imagine her being unable to do whatever she wanted.

Sitting there talking to her I began to believe in things I’d previously thought absurd. Maybe out of 6 billion-plus people in the world there really is only one soulmate for me. Perhaps, if things do work that way, I’d found in her the lover I continue to be reincarnated to find time and again. Perhaps today is the day I meet, for the first time, the girl who has known me her whole life. Perhaps she is Helen of Troy reincarnated. Perhaps she is the Goddess of Beauty manifest into a female body here on earth to find me. Perhaps she’s come to provide me the one missing piece of inspiration, the tiny key to the vast and precise machine that is my life of greatness. The gears are starting to turn.

I told her that my writing will soon be famous, and I a powerful writer looked to for world-changing wisdom. I told her how my words would be profound, and not just trivial boy-meets-girl type stuff. No, I would have my writing address the deepest levels of humanity, striking powerful and deep connections with the readers about the contradiction of being a humane creature in an inhumane world.

That’s all a total lie, by the way. I told her no such thing. I don’t think I’ve ever written anything so false. I told her nothing of the sort. In fact I don’t think I told her anything.

She rose to hand out surveys to willing passengers and I stepped back to observe. Not a literal step back, but a mental one. It’s something I often do when alone; go wider with my perspective and watch myself, look at how I’m acting and what I’m saying. Analyze myself and those around me like an animal scientist studying behavior. Here I became rather surprised, for though this girl claimed to be the performer it was my act that impressed. I normally appear to be the shy, quiet, lover that I am, but here I am confident, outgoing, almost cocky. As if such a thing were possible.
I mean, I am a confident guy of course. I know my writing is good, and when I write my fictionalized biography the apparent and undisputed genius of it will haunt readers on a soul-level. But when it comes to girls? Or other strange people in general (and is there any other kind)? I’m just not certain how to behave. Humans are such odd creatures and I’d have liked to study them before becoming one myself, if that is indeed what I have done. It’s always easier to do something if you know how before trying it.

The almighty job schedule had spoken and she was on the wrong bus. Or I was. Either way I watched sadly as she got off at the station, heading for a new bus. Extremely uncharacteristically, I managed to write my phone number down and give it to her, but of course she was gone already. When I chanced to see her leaving at the end of the day I chased her down, witnesses would say like a cheetah after a gazelle, but her powers had pressed upon me the importance of giving her my number, of doing something to make sure that we could be together again.

I never heard from or saw her again after that. One torpedo destroyed a thousand ships. I don’t remember her name, and it’s almost as if giving her my number was a complete waste. But it wasn’t.

Because now I’m the one that got away.


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