An Unexpected Day

The journey began, knowing I needed to occupy my mind, which was often predisposed to overthinking, I began a new book - The Currents of Space. A book whose protagonist suffered from amnesia, an entirely suitable coincidence for this day, since no better word could be chosen to reflect my feelings on love. It had been years since I last put myself out there, a choice necessarily deliberate, nonetheless a choice shrouded with conflict.

My train finally arrived, now only minutes away from meeting you. At this point nerves finally began to seek their way in. Suddenly, you appeared on the other side of the traffic lights, I pretend to still be ignorant, glued to my phone, wishing to avoid the awkward interaction of staring at each other from the other side of the road. You greet me with a one-arm hug, by no means a symbol of disinterest in itself, but this time I sense a certain platonicness already seeking its way in; unlike my last goodbye with you, which felt genuine. The possible scenarios I played on repeat in my mind instantly shattered.

There is a unique attraction about you, something I cannot fully pin down. The first time I saw you I instantly felt it, a brief interaction with my flatmate over a year ago, a time I doubt you fully remember. Yet it was distinctly memorable to me, I remember thinking you were stunning; I searched you up tempted to message, but I'm not the type to message out of the blue.

The next time I saw you, the time we really met, I instantly felt that undoubting attraction again. Weaving myself into situations where I would get a chance to talk to you; outside downloading "Psych!" on the world's slowest internet, or going to the bar to get, yet another, disaronno and coke. Afterwards, I left preparing to go out for my final night at university, and that would've been the end of it. Until you decided to make the first move, using my flatmate to message me your opinions of me, leaving absolutely no ambiguity in them.

There is something else unique about that day, almost poetic, a situation which I will forever be unable to replicate. It was the day of my graduation, the last day of a 3-year era. For years you were always so close, yet so far, always a stranger. So many occasions to meet, none ever coming to fruition. Each of our flatmates paired off in best friends, and yet never us. Any omniscient observer screaming in their mind, forever waiting for us to meet, yet only happening on the day I depart.

We were now presented with our first real chance to talk, a date if you like to infringe labels on carefree moments. My first perception of people is often skewed, one of the many questionable characteristics of my mind. This time was different, incomparably so. The most wrong I have been in my life; you looked better than I could have ever expected.

Stunning, falling short of a better word to describe it. The type of girl who receives second glances without hesitation, as if a golden aura follows you everywhere you go. Your summery dress dancing carefree, captivating everything necessary to bring confidence and elegance to your outfit; complemented by your ethereal hair, along with your face glowing with charisma. Even my usual dislike of piercings now felt irrelevant.

Realising we had over half an hour till the table reservation, we decided to pass the time in Jephson gardens, your favourite spot, and likely also mine. We picked an unoccupied bench in the shade, sheltered from the sun's relentless rays; with an amber weather warning issued the gentle breeze brushing by was a treasure in this moment. The time here flew by, before I knew it one o'clock was almost upon us, and it was finally time to go for lunch.

We proceed to Las Iguanas where we redeemed our reservation for two, which proved entirely unnecessary - the place was deserted. From the instant of sitting down, I knew this place felt unnatural for any date, the surrounding atmosphere unromantic, the circular table between us unnecessarily cumbersome. Only highlighting the realism that I felt, that chance had not been on my side, waiting for the last possible moment for us to meet, and now this; feeling like this date was lost before it begun.

We order cocktails - raspberry collins. I accidentally order four online, oblivious to the fact they come in pairs, thankfully the waiter comes to investigate, sparing me the embarrassment. The conversation flows freely, effortlessly bouncing from topic to topic; laughing with each other, you seem interested. We share passions but are also fundamentally different, the perfect pairing. A exchange I thoroughly enjoy, unlike one I've had in years, yet you restrain yourself, attempt to be subtle about it but I notice. Your body language seemed confused, playing with your hair, but also unopen, almost undoubtedly a subconscious trait, unnoticeable unless paying closer attention. Nor did this deter me, the conversation was enthralling, finding it easier to talk to you than most. Everything is there but a spark - the one thing that cannot be missing.

Your appearance was delicately crafted, a style that must've taken time to construct, but nevertheless worth it. Several silver rings cling to your hands, lines of earrings disguised behind your hair. Careful consideration in your outfit, something I doubt that was just for me, designed to enhance your own confidence, a worthy cause.

I know below that layer of beauty lies intrigue, a concealed intelligence, and possible insecurity. Insecurity I am not certain even exists, perhaps I am only manifesting my own judgement upon others. But I assume it does, real imagination rarely comes cheap. Either way, I recline to investigate, wishing to know you for yourself, before, if ever, I step into that territory. Not diminishing any issues you have, instead refusing to let your problems dictate the image I build of you.

I hear prompts, "Neurodivergent, OCD," I am tempted more than ever to respond with a satisfactory answer, my own problems - my own trauma. I hesitate. Resisting this urge with every fibre of my being. I know people least expect it about me, the way I wish it to remain, an attempt to keep it only a memory of the past. No matter how it tempts itself back. I promise myself I'll never build a love based on trauma, on pain, again. No matter how appealing, how tempting, that simple path to connection would be.

I tell myself there must be another side to love, without trauma at the centre of it, not because I have experienced it, but because it must. This genuine connection, surpassing the superficial whilst remaining grounded in happiness, and sanity, is what I crave above all else. Convincing myself it really exists is a struggle, something I have often given up on in the past years. I know now I must try.

We order two sour cocktails, initially, I am unsure, but I grow to like them - they are your favourite. We decide to leave, to return to the scenery of Jephson. In that instant, walking together feels so right, the absence of a spark feels like it was never missing. I wish to be hand in hand and banish the uncertainty that this stage brings, but I know that is implausible. I do not know who I have to convince; you, or myself.

My expectations are likely higher than I deserve, yet I refuse to lower them. The euphoric moments I've felt in the past only remind me of what love can be, the incomparable ecstasy it can bring. These moments now left only as a memory to me, distorted by time, almost beyond recognition.

We reach Jephson gardens, changing benches until we find one sufficiently sheltered from the sun. The conversation flows until it breaks, pausing for what seems like extended periods. I am unable to decide if this feels like serenity or an unwelcome awkward silence; still too much of a stranger to decipher which, the way it will now likely remain forever.

The beauty I see in you is largely incomparable, only surpassed before in my life when love could act as an amplifier. I wonder why. Objectively speaking I haven't known you that long nor talked to you that much. The instant attraction about you which persuades strangers to take a second glance is not purely metaphorical either, I witnessed it literally whilst I was with you; nor can I blame them in truth for being inquisitive about such a rare perfection.

We talk about books, and your stories, I feel enthralled, yet it lacks romance. I can only wonder why; in my eyes you're the most beautiful girl I have ever seen, the conversation is beyond enjoyable. Everything essential to the foundations of romance is there, apart from the very core of it.

We decide to move on, visiting The Aviary for refreshments. A cafe which feels like the personification of dark academia, an aesthetic whose playlists have more often than not played a visit to my writing hours. I am tempted by chamomile tea, my favourite, yet I know it would have the opposite effect to what I need. I resort to a hot chocolate instead, with an amber heat warning issued it proves to be a poor choice.

I know I have made mistakes, your reserved, yet never disinterested messaging style confuses me; someone who is more accustomed to continuous dialogue. At times I have been too intense, an infatuation which is instantly followed by subsequent regret, fearful too much will push you away. Your messaging style makes it hard for me to communicate the way I normally would, I normally chase commitment too fast, fantasising about everything before it has happened. How do I deal with reservedness?

We move down to sit by the river, cushioned by lush grass hiding in the shade. Finally, you do not sit an eternity away, a pose which was short-lived. The conversation flows naturally, as if we are old friends. At this point I have already given up any facade of romance. We wind through the intricates of friendship, you talk of your terrible experiences, self-deprecation both of us are amused at; I share horror stories which we both laugh at in amusement. Listing all the men you've friendzoned, we both know this date is nothing more than an afternoon shared between friends. Even if I change my mind about you, against those who know you deeply and have still failed, what chance do I stand?

I had thoroughly enjoyed this date but I knew it was coming to its conclusion. As you depart I receive a brief one-armed hug, neither uncertain of the platonicness felt at this moment. I leave with a sourness in my mouth, not only from the earlier sour bomb, but also from my afterthoughts. In truth I have never had a failed date, nor do I wish to consider this one, for it was one of my favourite days out. I wonder if we were simply incompatibility, or maybe, the timing was just wrong?

Maybe nothing has to be wrong, just the exact essence of right missing. That is partially the misery, and beauty of love; forever appearing in unexpected forms, unable to ever be pinned down. I was tempted to send the first message, declaring my intent to be friends, but I am often abrupt. Sour, in the one way you don't like. I decide to let you decide, to see if my prediction of mutual friendship was correct.

Afterwards, I try to piece together the pieces, try to determine if there was no spark because we were incompatible, or because you gave up before it began. A question I'll likely never know the answer to, although I suspect the latter. You plague my mind now, not before, I wonder why. Why now does my mind wander to territory thats further away than before, why now that both our minds are set on being friends?

Usually, when people say they see you as a friend, they mean a stranger; prefer you as an inconvenience of the past. I knew this time was different, the conversation felt too natural and I got on with you too well. I was determined to remain friends no matter what, a first for me.

This is the most natural I have felt writing, not consumed by sadness, nor by euphoria; instead, at peace. I have no regrets about what I have done, since it was a lovely day out, whatever the outcome. It enlightened me to what I need, a relationship without sadness; a love without the connotation of misery. Even if today was not the day, it was progress. A step towards convincing me the love I need, and deserve, exists. A perfect day, in all its misalignments.