by Annabeth Leong
It felt like recognizing someone I already knew, not encountering someone for the first time. I'd been brought to the event to entertain an acquaintance's younger sister, but the moment I walked in and saw R, I forgot every other purpose. Laser-focused on his blue eyes, I stepped toward him as if in a daze. "Who are you?"
I had never approached someone so brazenly. But he told me his name, and I was temporarily relieved of my insanity enough to speak to a few other people. I didn't stop watching him, though—not when he slipped out to teach a martial arts class, and not when he returned and scarfed down two slices of pizza, holding one in each hand, the greasy slices curling over his wrists and dangling along his arms as he lifted them to his mouth at an odd angle.
Later that night, the fateful event occurred. "No one knows my birthday," R announced. His friends made a few attempts to name it, but guessed wrong. A sense of knowledge welled up within me. "March," I said firmly, and everyone turned to stare. The moment repeated the first, when I'd walked in the door. All I could see were his eyes.
"No one knows what day."
"Tenth." I knew I was right without being told.
"That's it," he said, and reached for me. I spent the rest of the night in his arms.
The story sounds too simple now, as if we must have said something more to each other, but we really didn't. I think I'd been waiting all day for an excuse, and he didn't need to talk to me to give me one. I'm not sure what was going on from his perspective. He believed in the uncanny, and my correct guess of his birthday might have seemed like the call of fate.
As far as the guess, I don't know how I did it. I just knew. I don't officially believe in psychic powers. Normally, I explain intuition as my brain working faster than I can perceive. In this case, I don't know what my brain had to work with.
I called the moment fateful for a reason, though, because this was no simple hookup. This turned into the bleakest, most terrible relationship of my life, and it went on for years. Many times I've thought back to the day we met and wondered what was going on. That powerful sense of connection to someone so wrong for me seems like a cruel trick. I think about what I might have been spared if only I'd guessed his birthday wrong, or if I'd refused to go hang out with the younger sister in the first place.
The spooky, speculating part of my brain can believe that the knowledge of his birthday was planted in my consciousness as a sign to us both that we had unfinished business with each other, something we owed each other from another life, perhaps. Of course, I don't really think so. My certainty and that correct guess have always seemed so weird, though.
It was Spring Break when we met, and all week long we ran into each other at one party or another. I was already turning into a neurotic mess, unable to think about anything besides him, coming up with any and every reason to put myself in his path, miserable except for every scrap of affection I could wrest from him.
The third or fourth day, he showed up so late I'd given up hope of seeing him. He stumbled in absolutely blitzed, barely able to stand, and wrapped his arms around me, nearly knocking me over in the process. I returned the embrace and strained to hold us both up, and as I did I had a vision.
I saw our lives together as a long, gray road. I knew down in my gut that we could love each other forever if I chose that, but that it would be terrible for me if I did. I was young and stupid at the time, so the idea seemed romantic.
Maybe that was no vision. It could have been a reasonable conclusion based on the information I had available. It felt like a cosmic decision, though. For years, many things held me to him and convinced me I couldn't leave, and one of those was the idea that I'd already made my choice and couldn't go back on it.
I have become cautious of many things since those days. I am far less credulous about fate and the idea of love at first sight. For a very long time, I avoided men I instantly found handsome. I am still wary of anyone I think I might need. Also, I find it convenient not to believe in psychic abilities.
When I met R, the sense of knowledge I had about him meant to me that we were bound together on a deep, otherworldly level. That continued. We sealed promises to each other in blood, and I swore terrible oaths of fealty to him, with parameters that scare me to this day. It is better for me to believe there is no power in any of it. I can frighten myself easily, and I spent too long in that condition. I feel safer and saner saying it wasn't uncanny, it was just terrible luck and youthful foolishness.