The Space Between Two People
By Vatsal Surti
Fiction // June, 2013
Two people are walking home in the middle of this world. It’s a beautiful evening in June, and the sky is surrounded with clouds. It gives a feeling of intimacy, like a dirty white t-shirt.
As they walk, they try not to look beside themselves because it makes them feel alone. But they can still feel each other’s presence, this presence they make between themselves that makes them. They think about their place in each other’s lives and wonder: Do we really need each other, or are we just covering up each other’s loneliness?
She feels cold, but he is not able to touch her. She looks up for a brief moment, and then starts walking again, her eyes to the ground.
They are quite different from each other. It is easy for us to see, but they are not old enough to see themselves so concretely. In fact, they are oblivious of these differences. They seem to carry within their hearts a secret knowledge of each other’s existence. They have been carrying it for two years now, since the day they met for the first time.
The first time he saw her she reminded him of a distant memory of falling from a height. It was autumn and all the flowers had this peculiar smell. Blushing. Darwin called it the most human of all expressions. A few times he went outside to smoke. And at one time when he turned around, he saw her standing next to him. He held her hand, and they went outside into the night. The whole time, it felt like the season was changing around them, the leaves and the mad winds.
His love happened all at once. Hers took some time. She had never loved anyone before; she didn’t know how. She could only look at other people and wonder how different they were. She could never understand why she said she loved him when she did, for she was not sure herself. But, when he said he loved her, she said she loved him too — as fast as the movement of wind through the snow.
By the café where she has to turn right, she stops and goes inside. They find an empty table and sit down. So many people are talking inside, but they are silent. They have this peculiar longing in their eyes like all young people. From the glass wall beside her, she looks at the increasing rush of people in the evening. All the lights. They seem so far. In the ocean of this world, we are so alone, she thinks. She feels sure that by the time this day ends, she will have become as numb as she was in her teenage years.
Silence. It remains between them, like the only comforting memory.
No one else had understood her the way he had. She never realized how alone she really was before she met him. And when he looked into her eyes for the first time, all she could think of was the loneliness she’d feel the next moment when he’d cease to look.
Living their own lives, taking steps in a new direction each day, and still, without each other, what was there?
We suffer, and we make each other suffer, he thinks.
I want to tell you everything, but words feel so exhausting, she thinks.
She leaves the café and they reach home. She takes the keys out of her purse and looks up. She can’t see anything. She leans against the door and closes her eyes.
What is this relationship that exists outside of time? she wonders. What is this belonging that trusts us and asks us to trust life? The faintest memory of knowing emerges from the night around them. Its aloneness dissolves their forms. Pushing back her hair, she looks by her side. He looks by his side. It’s dark, but so clear is this understanding. This love that surrounds them like eternity surrounds time.
They let out a sigh almost at the same time. One thousand miles away from each other, they open the doors of their apartments and enter inside. ∎