My soul mate is English. I'm a North American. And we crossed paths a number of times, in strange twists of circumstance, as strangers before we ever met.
The first time was three years ago. I was visiting London with the man I was dating at the time. We'd been in town for a week of concert-hopping.
Screw Buckingham Palace. Forget about Big Ben. Instead, we’d spent the week shuffling around in the blue soul mate of basement nightclubs, forgoing sleep, nuking our inner eardrums with volume... At any rate, it was our last night in town and even though I had tickets to go see one band, my boyfriend at the time insisted we go to a different venue to see another. There didn't seem to be much logic to the change of plans. We hadn't heard either of them--not the band that I had tickets to see nor the one that my boyfriend wanted to hear (one of my soul mate’s musical endeavors). But in an uncharacteristic fashion, I shrugged and casually rolled with it. I tossed our tickets in the rubbish and we hopped in a taxi to the other venue...
Ironically, I wasn't especially ignited by my soul mate's music that first time I saw him perform. And--even though I've come to know my soul mate as not the "most"
attractive man in the world, but the "only" attractive man in the world--I wasn't really physically attracted to him either; he wasn't my type; I was accustomed to dating men like my boyfriend at the time, all of them tall, high cheek-boned and dark-featured. In retrospect, what stands out is the fact that my soul mate made me jealous! At one point that night, a couple of girls were fussing over him. My chest constricted with malice for them.
A year passed. My soul mate finally put out a record. My boyfriend (who at this time had become my live-in boyfriend) bought a copy but rarely listened to it. Although I admired my soul mate's work, I still can't say I listened to his CD that often, but in the moments I did, I was somehow always alone and working on my own creative pursuits. What struck me whenever I listened were the word choices in a couple of songs. I'm a writer, and my soul mate said things with the exact same phrases that I would have used; it felt as though I might’ve written them myself. And while I'm a music geek and an avid reader--my apartment sags under the weight of its records and novels, I'd never had this type of déjà vu-ish familiarity with lyrics or literature.
Six months passed, I went to visit my best female friend who was temporarily living in England. I wanted to bring her to a concert while I was there, but the only one happening was coincidentally another one of my soul mate’s projects; I bought us tickets. On the night of the show, my girlfriend and I turned up late and, being incredibly petite, the only place from which we could even remotely see the stage (it was a large venue) was directly on the front periphery, within ear-bleeding range of the speakers... Loud is an understatement. Even with earplugs, my girlfriend agonized and did not enjoy the show. Very near to the end though, the oddest moment: my soul mate, wandering the perimeter around the stage stopped suddenly, as though stun-gunned, and turned as though I'd said something to him. I hadn't. I then wondered if he was going to say something to me. He didn't. The moment was intense, illogical, almost uncomfortable. The expression in my soul mate’s eyes was nearly a look of alarm. The instant he flummoxed turned and left, my girlfriend asked, "What the hell was that about?"
Another six months passed, I had no reason to think of the man who I would later come to know as my soul mate. And then, one day out of clear blue space, he found me on the Internet and sent me an email. There, in words, I just recognized something in him that I'd never found before and knew I'd never find again... That's the thing about soul mates, I think. There's love, yes. But even more than that, there's other-worldly recognition.
My soul mate and I began to communicate through letters and whenever he wrote to me, it was as if I was reading something I had written myself; like finding an old journal entry in a forgotten notebook. We’d never met, but I felt like I knew him as intimately as I knew myself. One day, while I was reading one of his letters to my mother, I joked that I was going to marry him. Instead of laughing, my mother (who has always been gifted with an eerie sixth sense) grew quiet; I could tell she believed it. And the instant I said it, I knew some stunned part of me believed it too.
When we finally met in person a few months later, the feeling was euphoric.
But also intense. Everything we did felt monumental. And, god, how it all made me nervous. Every time I was near him, I felt like a flower turning into the sun. Everywhere we went, people thought we were a couple of many years (we had not so much as kissed). When we finally did, touch, I felt every millimeter of my skin glow; in a dark room you could read by the light of me. On the day he left to go back to England, we were walking down a busy street; he was juggling heavy suitcases, guitar cases, looking, by all appearances, as befuddled as an old man with an unlit cigarette dripping from his mouth; and I just knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life walking beside him, helping him carry this heavy load (and others), soul mate soothing his temples with reassuring finger tips, lighting his ill-advised habit.
After my soul mate left, I couldn't look twice at another man; I tried dating, but every new prospect just made my heart ache for the man on the other side of the Atlantic. Please bear in mind, I am a straight woman, but suddenly the men I was dating felt like women to me! These guys were aesthetically perfect, perfectly charming, and yet I couldn’t envision kissing them any more than I could imagine kissing my own sister. To me, my soul mate felt like a third gender, my new sexuality, only there was just one of him.
Still, life presents complications. And although we still exchanged letters, we remained two people on separate continents. For months, I was lovesick, ill on a cellular level, and I had to find out if the feelings were mutual. So I wrote him email, confessing I hadn't been able to look at another man since he'd left me in September. Four worrying days passed. He read it but had to leave for work in Barcelona before he could respond. I was sick, waiting for some kind of sign from him.
But before he could give one, came another coincidence: My ex-boyfriend, who had been away in Europe traveling, came home and said he'd seen my soul mate in a club in Barcelona. The two men had stood side-by-side. If it was a sign, I didn't know how to read it. Mostly, it just seemed like a cruel soul mate laugh at my expense: my past, in a dark bar, rubbing elbows with my only future.
In time, my soul mate returned to New York. We made a series of trips back and forth across the Atlantic: me to him, him to me, and why should we be thwarted by a big blue ocean? I had never felt that way about anyone. And he confessed the same. He said from the first instant I had opened the door on our first meeting, he knew I was the woman he had been waiting his entire life to meet.
Our time together hasn’t been perfect. As satisfying as it is to find a soul mate, it’s also intense, profound, weighty, at times nearly terrifying. To recognize our one true mate is also to glimpse how horrible it will be when life, death, circumstances separate us from them. And as much as a soul mate completes us, they also challenge us, they keep us on course, they thrust us, headfirst, into achieving what we were put here to do. For a time, I hid from my soul mate with shyness, the intensity of my feelings made me feel so self-protective, so timid. And he hid from me with a certain level of secrecy, guardedness and self-demolition. But still, there's no denying that we’ve kept each other on course. I got him through an album; he helped me figure out a book. Sometimes I think, if given a choice, I would have picked someone easier for my one man. But that's the point isn’t it? You don't pick a soul mate. Like Cortazar says, "You don't pick the rain that soaks you to the skin when you come out of a concert." Why do I love him?
Because there isn't an alternative!