Thursday, 14 November 2013

The Other Half by Lizzy Harries

Read by Warner Sallman

Before Oliver and I met I never really believed in fate, in ‘one true love,’ although the concept had always interested me. People are happy with people though, aren’t they? And after all, how do you really ever ‘know?’

You know?

Oliver made me feel like I had been floating weightlessly in space, and then I was home. Oliver was my gravity.

The first time I met him I felt attracted to him. It was a surprise because I had never wavered in my heterosexuality. Then again I had only ever been with Ann-Marie. We had one of those naively charming relationships. We had grown up together; the best of friends. It was perfectly predictable but I adored her and she loved me.

‘Cassandra and her other half are coming over tomorrow evening,’ she reminded me one Thursday. I had seen them before, Cassandra and Oliver, but we’d never spoken. I really wanted to see Oliver again. I wondered if he’d remember me. We made eye contact a few times and on those occasions I felt like I was falling in love with him. It was so unusual. I just wanted to see if I’d feel that way again if I actually met him. He was gorgeous.

Did I love him?

Surely not.

But I did.

My pinot drenched summer in a Charente-Maritime vineyard, drinking on the harbourside where he spent 6 months painting boats. I must have seen him then, but then again I would have known, because had I have seen him then I’d never have stopped looking for him.

We got to talking about University.

‘Bristol.’ He repeated after me. He shook his head as if reacting politely to a not-very-funny joke. Then he told me about how he had been all set to go to Bristol. He had even met the landlord of his student digs, left a box of books in his bedroom-to-be, but then his mum had been taken ill and Oliver wanted to stay close to her. So he relinquished his place at Bristol after sweet-talking Sussex admissions.

He picked his books up a few weeks later but found that one was missing: Plato’s Symposium.

I took a deep breath and walked over to the shelf. Running my hands across their spines I settled on a book and released it from the shelf. I passed it to Oliver and he wordlessly ran his hand over the cover and opened it, beginning to read. I had underlined part of Aristophanes’ speech that had really struck a chord with me that day in Bristol when I had gone into my neighbouring room - the room that was just like mine but belonged to no-one - and picked up a book from the box on the floor.

“Love is born into every human being: it calls back the halves of our original nature together; it tries to make one out of two and heal the wound of human nature.”

About a week later I went in to replace the book, thinking that its owner may be back to retrieve it. But the box was gone, and although the room was empty, it felt more like my room than my own, so I moved my things in. I had always wondered why I had felt so drawn to that room, the same room. My room in mirror image.

Cassandra and Oliver had a similar story to Ann-Marie and I. School friends that let their friendship roll into bed and on into a relationship.

He was gorgeous and I couldn’t stop thinking about him. In that one evening I had committed every contour of his face to memory. Every pore, every slight expression, the tone of his voice. I could hear him if I really stopped and listened. I dwelled on our pasts and presents and convinced myself that we were meant to have met earlier.

I’d never experienced anything like it, the total one-track-mindedness of it all. Oliver was the last thing I would think of at night and my first thought in the morning. He filled my dreams so completely that I worried he would spill out into the realm of the wakeful , that I’d utter his name or somnambulate my way to him. What would Ann-Marie think? It would devastate her. But I was so acutely overwhelmed by my need to see Oliver. We met in a quiet bar one evening. I saw the relief in his face when he saw me tucked into the corner table. We confessed our contemplations. I understood the depth of feeling in his eyes. When his hand brushed mine I felt years of passion thrill through me as he brought me to life. We held hands under the table, looking into each other’s eyes lovingly and guiltily.

It was love. Pure and particular. And it was ours. We decided not to tell anybody, after all, what could we say? All we knew was that we had found each other - completed one another. With him everything was as it should be.

We were married the following summer, Oliver and I. I tortured myself through a honeymoon full of lament and regret as I pondered what could, what should have been. I knew I had made the wrong decision. I had found my other half, a half that had belonged to me. Where was it now? I knew that Oliver felt exactly the same. I knew what he wanted too. We never stopped thinking about it, talking about it. Our consequences that had thrown us together over and over like a rough sea on smooth rocks. The summer in France; the room in Bristol; the book. Missed opportunities to bring us together.

The weddings were another coincidence, this time driving us apart. 20th August. The day Oliver and I were married. Him to Cassandra and me to Ann-Marie.

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