Love affairs have unseen power imbalances and it is not until the honeymoon period ends that one, or both of the people involved, begins to realise the inadequacies of the person they idolised in those early months. Often it becomes the spur for the breakdown of a potent relationship and when it happens a period of introspection ensues. In this example, the woman of this brief liaison surmised her lack of ambition was the cause of his demeaning attitude towards her and she had been nothing more than a stepping stone towards his goal. When he had disappeared from her life she had bludgeoned herself for being a fool, for her blindness to the obvious and she felt she had been strangled, couldn’t breathe and no longer had a voice. And then she began to write.
Two years ago while walking across campus she thought she saw a familiar face. The man was carrying a large portfolio and came to an abrupt halt when she called his name. His reaction was a slight lurch forward with the head as he turned to see who had spoken; a mannerism etched in her memory. His dark hair was flecked with white, his skin summer bronzed and he had a distinctive dimple in his chin.
She was sure it was him and waited, staring at him intently, but smiling.
He seemed at a loss as how to respond and then he answered, ‘Erm, no.’
‘Okay,’ she said quietly and continued towards the bus stop.
Throughout the journey home, she admonished herself for her faux pas but that brief moment of possible mistaken identity would not leave her. If the man she had just encountered was not who she thought he was, why had he stopped with some distance between them when she had spoken in a soft quizzical tone and why had his body language mirrored a man she thought she had known so well, two years prior.
As weeks merged into months and fallen leaves became blankets for snowdrops waiting to emerge from the darkness and turn their downcast heads towards the sun, she would find herself thinking, ‘If it was you Griff, it’s not hard to understand why you employed evasive tactics, just how embarrassing would it have been to explain why you were on campus.’ It also amused her to think he might have scuttled off and wondered what her purpose for being there had been. During their relationship she had always believed him when he had said he had graduated from a different university, many years before they met each other. He had also suggested she should attempt a degree but she had written off the idea, saying that she knew her place and it most certainly wasn’t in the world of academia.
In the months after that moment outside the university main house life became a blur for the dwarf sized woman with the tenacity of rat: her father died, she moved house, endured spinal surgery and, before the commencement of her final year, the removal of a tumour.
This morning she rose early, opened the curtains and looked out over a landscaped garden. The heat of the sun felt like a blessing on her face. In her mirror, the image reflected back at her resembled a Gaugin portrait of a woman, her skin summer bronzed, her dark hair ribboned with soft streaks the colour of mango blossoms. Contrary to his prediction her svelte body would ‘blow up like a balloon’ the sheer material of her semi-formal shift skimmed across her hips and her dark eyes finally acknowledged she had never been the person she thought she was five years ago.
Across the city the bells from the abbey were ringing out in celebration. Today was her graduation ceremony and then she remembered it was his birthday.
A taxi arrived. ‘Happy birthday Griff, I hope you are happy,’ she said closing the door behind her and then, ‘this is serendipity, I guess.’