“Great stories happen to those who can tell them.” -Ira Glas
She sits quietly on the side. Her green headphones engulf all of her face, but for her eyes. They dart from place to place stealthy but observant. People mull around her, and she knows that she doesn’t belong. But it does not bother her, because she came for a different purpose. So she waits patiently.
She sees happy faces and hears laughter echoing. Yet, she wanders until a face decides to start a conversation. As is a common trend, it is a boy with a drink in his hand. She knows his type. An alpha male who is actually an uninteresting, attention-seeking marshmallow on the inside. Boring, but she decides to give it a try. She might as well get something from the party. He hovers over her and casually tries to start a conversation. Then she looks up and their eyes meet.
She has cast her spell.
The bad-boy act drops and he is lost in her eyes. His nonchalant attitude is replaced by nervous anxiety and unparalleled attraction. He is deeply interested in her but also fiercely intimidated. He is intoxicated and her eyes are the toxin. She smiles.
She sees a warmth spreading throughout his eyes yet she can sense pain. She talks. He confesses. She didn’t expect much from him, but he surprises her. He isn’t like them, he isn’t entitled.
With a sort of nervous desperation, he confesses his story. He describes the story of his family and how at the tender age of fifteen, unfortunate circumstances lead him to break off ties with the ones that gave him birth. He had decided to live with his alcoholic uncle who didn’t give two fucks about him or what he did. Without the guiding force of his parents he fell into a downward spiral. His grades were as bad as his company. His body was on the edge of permanent exhaustion. More than substances, he abused himself.
He would have hit rock bottom on his little rabbit-hole journey had he not woken up in the beginning of his senior year realising he didn’t have a family, nor a future. The weight suddenly overcame him and he had to wake up, but not because he wanted to. He had to live his life well and not merely survive it. From then on, he has been working his way back from the centre of the earth and one day he hopes to reach the sky.
Yet, he expressed no need to have a happy family ending. His family is still of peripheral importance. That’s the difference between real stories and made up ones. Real stories have many rights, and many wrongs.
He shifts in his seat, but not uncomfortably as he did when he first sat down next to her. She has become a calming presence. Her eyes now shine with understanding and an affection he didn’t know he needed. But he needs it now.
She listens patiently as he talks about the career he has chosen. Travel photography. He says that it’s because he realised that there is more than one way to escape the world. Or just certain places of the world.
She feels a growing sensation telling her it’s time to leave. Her job is done and his story has been collected. She has done this countless times before. But she is intrigued by this boy. He seems to have grown into a man through the course of their conversation. Then she sees it in his eyes – longing.
She is used to her muses becoming attached to her, but her job as a story collector is to get close, but not personal. But this type of a longing is different from her pervious muses. It’s a longing that has been awakened in a boy who forgot what longing for comfort felt like.
Her eyes betray both her restlessness and her magnetism for him. He stops mid-conversation and gives her a questioning look. Then fear creeps up his body. He doesn’t want her to leave not now, not ever. Two hours ago he didn’t know her, now he cannot live without her. Once you have found your missing puzzle piece, you cannot afford to lose it again.
With great effort, she gets up. She can feel the tension in the air, but she has to go. She smiles at him one last time once with her mouth and then with her eyes. She gives him a peck on the cheek and turns around. She can sense him standing there, feeling lost and confused, but she moves on.
That’s bane she carries. She chose this life. She collects stories from people she meets, and shares their beauty with the world. It’s a lonely job, but stories can never become too personal because she is merely a story teller; the medium of propagation. Attachment to the story means attachment to the person behind it.
Attachment is never an option.
Especially not love.