NEVE JACQUELINE THOMSON
“You know, the ancient Greeks believed that men and women were connected as one being but then were split into two by Zeus. So now we have to roam the world looking for our other half.”
Eddie, a small boy who was currently sprawled across his bed playing with a Rubik’s cube, looked away from his hands to the boy who sat below him. The boy who had spoken, known simply as Ted, was currently leaning against his bed and had not turned to face him from where he sat. Ted had instead chosen to speak as though he was addressing the rest of Eddie’s bedroom, letting his smooth voice flow out into the empty space.
Eddie’s eyes traced the array of buttons pinned across the other boy’s deep navy jacket collar, showcasing various seventies punk bands and eighties new wave artists. His gaze dragged across the boy’s broad shoulders up to his bleach-blonde hair that was held in spikes upon his head as a result of copious amounts of gel (and probably a little bit of glue).
“That’s horrifically violent,” Eddie replied, his gaze finally resting upon Ted’s face.
Ted hummed in agreement, continuing to flip through the magazine he held loosely within his hands.
“And quite homophobic,” Eddie continued.
Ted prepared himself to argue with his friend against homophobia within Ancient Greek society before stopping himself, shutting his mouth with a slight click of his teeth and resuming his half-hearted skimming of the magazine pages. There would always be other times to discuss such things with his friend, but right now he simply wanted to enjoy his company. It was rare now, in their young adulthood, for them to have time just to sit and be in each other's presence.
“Do you believe in soulmates?” Ted decided to posit instead. He considered such a question to be far more light-hearted and less taxing on the mind of the boy who sat above him than any commentary on Ancient Greek society.
“I-” Eddie began, squinting his eyes. The eye squinting had been a habit of Eddie’s since he was about eleven years old and it bothered his mother immensely. The woman was sure that it was causing some kind of harm to the poor boy’s eyes. Ted was quite fond of his friend’s behavioural exhibitions. It made understanding the boy that much easier. “Well, I’m not sure if I do,” Eddie finally replied, his eyes growing once again to their wider state. “I know I definitely don’t believe I once had a woman fused into me.”
Ted snickered at this and nodded his head, his eyes never leaving the magazine that now rested upon his lap. “I can’t say I could ever imagine you fused to a woman, Ed.”
“What about you, T? Do you believe in soulmates?” Eddie asked, ignoring his comment and instead staring at the boy who refused to meet his gaze.
Did he believe in soulmates? He supposed he was just as sure as his friend on that matter, as he was not very sure at all. He definitely thought about the concept of soulmates a whole lot. How they could come to be, in both a logical and a completely illogical (but much more romantic) way.
Logically, one falls in love as a result of evolution and the need for survival. The innate drive to continue the organism's genetic code was one of the strongest urges there was. He knew this. He understood this. This made sense to him.
Yet, his life had been full of coincidences, moments of pure luck and chance that led him down roads he knew he needed to be walking upon. This was something he could not explain logically to himself and allowed his illogical-but-romantic view of soulmates to continue sitting pretty within his brain.
Ted always had a strange relationship with coincidence. He described it as walking on newly paved roads and feeling as though he had walked on them before, despite the wet concrete beneath his shoes.
As feelings of Déjà vu engulfed him in these situations, he pondered just how many times he had faced this particular moment. He often wondered how different his life would be had he chosen different roads. Would he still be the same person he was today had he never failed that maths exam in 8th grade? Would he still be pondering such a thing if he had never dropped out of college? Were there other universes where he had made completely different choices? And was he better or worse off in those universes?
More importantly, would he be having these thoughts had he never met Eddie?
He was sure that all of these thoughts on coincidence had their initial conception within their first meeting.
The word had meant nothing to him at his time of meeting Eddie, as he had only been fifteen years old.
It had been Ted’s first day at his first job. He was sitting at the service counter of the CD store just down the road from his high school, flicking through a music magazine when a boy walked into the store in the late afternoon. He was frail and timid looking as he skulked around the store, stopping every now and again to rummage through a stack of CDs. He noticed the slight hunch in the boy's back, a product of poor habits, or perhaps anxiety. His posture made him not only look but feel smaller.
Ted noted where the boy stopped to browse, observing the signs of the genres that loomed above the stacks of CDs. He appeared to be partial to new wave and punk. Ted had almost begun to laugh to himself at the image of this small boy being a secret punk rocker when the boy himself appeared before
him, placing a few CDs on the counter and looking at Ted expectantly.
Ted reviewed the boy’s choices, nodding approvingly as he placed the CDs within a plastic bag. “New Order? Good choice man, it’s a sick album. I actually saw them live a few weeks ago in the city-”
“Me too!” the boy replied, a smile beginning to grace his face.
“No way!” Ted rarely smiled; however, a smirk did begin to pull across his face. “The show on Saturday?”
“Yeah, actually,” the boy replied again, his voice now less timid and far more curious.
Ted laughed lightly at this. “Six degrees of separation or whatever, right?” he said.
Ted handed the boy the freshly printed receipt. For a moment, they both held the receipt, an informal binding of their lives occurring before their eyes, unnoticed by the two of them.
“See you around,” Ted said, as the boy gave him a curt smile and left the store. Why had he said, ‘see you around’? He had never seen this boy before and there was no promise he would ever see him again. Yet, he could feel that the boy would be back, if not for him, at least for the CDs.
Following that day, the boy, who quietly introduced himself as Eddie, continued to visit the shop every afternoon on a Saturday. On each occasion, he took the time to chat with Ted, sitting behind the counter with him on a milk crate and sharing a cigarette Ted had secretly stolen from his mum that morning. When Eddie had asked if Ted’s mum noticed the missing cigarettes, Ted explained that his mum smoked so much it would be impossible for her to remember how many she had the night before. Eddie was still unsure about his explanation, half expecting Ted’s mum to burst into the CD store any moment and cuss the two of them out. More than that, he was afraid that if Ted’s mum found out about the cigarettes, it meant Eddie’s mum would find out, and he was not sure he could deal with the consequences of that.
As the boys slowly revealed their stories to each other, the string that Ted had felt between himself and Eddie on their first meeting began to reveal itself to him. The string that weaved around the two of them, connecting them from afar and pulling them close when the time felt right. A string, possibly red as Ted quite liked that colour, that had been sewn into the broken skin of themselves, tying them together. Even at the naive and simple age of fifteen, Ted felt a looming sense of the severity of this boy’s presence.
As he watched the boy study the back of a ‘The Cure’ album, he tried to push the thoughts from his mind. Still, he felt a lingering need to posit his theory.
“I was actually born in Scotland,” Ted began suddenly, speaking into the comfortable silence between the two of them. He waited for Eddie’s reply, the one that always came after Ted revealed any fact about his life. Sometimes he would reply with a simple “same”, and the matter would not be pressed further. Other times the boy would expand his reply resulting in Ted noting the similarities of Eddie’s life path to his. It had become a habit between the two of them.
As so as he often did, Eddie replied with a simple. “So was I.”
“Weird, dude. Just... weird,” Ted said, shaking his head.
“What’s weird?” Eddie asked, putting the CD in his hands down upon the counter.
“Were you born in Edinburgh?” Ted continued.
Ted watched the boy tap his foot on the ground beneath him, an anxious gesture he was sure. He was not so sure why the boy was anxious. “Yeah, I was.”
“So was I,” Ted said, his eyebrows furrowed in deep thought. “It’s just strange how similar we are. It’s weird how similar our lives have been so far. Isn’t it weird to you?”
“It’s just a coincidence,” Eddie replied, chuckling lightly at his friend’s rambling.
“Is it? Is it a coincidence that both of our mothers gave us a copy of Papillon for our thirteenth birthdays? Does that sound like an everyday, run-of-the-mill coincidence to you?” Ted spoke calmly, as he often did. Yet, Eddie could tell by the never-ending eye contact that Ted held with him that he was pleading with the boy to acknowledge these odd coincidences.
Eddie had indulged his friend in such thought experiments many times, but they never led to any success in understanding their situation. He knew their friendship was weird. It was one built entirely on chance and luck, and it seemed to be held together by a glue that he could not yet fully comprehend. He was not sure he would ever understand why he was meant to meet Ted. Despite this, he understood that he needed to walk into the CD store that day when Ted was working, the same way he knew that man needed to land on the moon or the Titanic needed to sink. It was always going to happen, whether he liked it or not.
Pushing away the weight of such a thought, Eddie instead chose to sigh and reply, “Well what do you think it is?”
“I don’t know. It just sometimes feels like we’re characters in a story that’s already written,” Ted muttered.
“That’s silly,” Eddie laughed, despite the line of goosebumps rising along his arm. He tried to flatten them down again with his opposite hand, running his fingers up and down his forearm.
“I don't know man, is it?” Ted asked.
“Well, I don't know, but does it matter? Can’t we just say, ‘wow that’s a cool coincidence!’ and just enjoy it as that? Do we need to understand it? Do we need to always talk about it?” Eddie rambled, his voice rising in volume.
“I guess not,” Ted said, his mouth hanging open in shock at the other boy’s aggression, having never witnessed it before.
Ted stopped talking about them, the two of them, after that - but he never stopped thinking about it.
He did not know why he needed to meet Eddie, nor why he needed to know him. Yet, he could feel a string binding their two lives together tightly. The string was not so tight that it would hurt to pull away, but he knew that it was impossible to break.
He was sure that he could someday walk away from his friend, never look back, and still… somehow on his walk away from him, end up staring him in the face once again.
It was as though somehow the boy was, and always had been, a part of him.
Ted felt a small, pale hand shaking his shoulder lightly. It pulled him from his memory-induced daze and back into the bedroom in which he sat. The magazine he was holding lay limp within his hands, long forgotten as he swam within the depths of his memories. He finally turned around and stared up towards his wide-eyed friend. Eddie looked down expectantly at him from where he sat on the bed. Ted noticed the shallow crow’s feet that had begun to spread beneath his friend’s eyes. Despite the early signs of aging (perhaps a result of Eddie’s perpetual worried state), the brightness behind his eyes mirrored what he had seen the day he met the boy, the same day he had just been mulling over in his mind. They were both older now, but he could not say they had changed that much.
“Ted? Did you hear what I asked?” Eddie questioned, “I said do you believe in soulmates?”
“I believe in serendipity,” Ted responded finally, gazing into the brown eyes of the boy who sat above him. “I believe religiously in serendipity.”
When Eddie said nothing in return, simply nodding his head, Ted knew that Eddie could not help but feel the same way.
︎Neve is a 4th year Psychology student who likes writing funny little stories about things that keep her up at night. When she grows up, she wants to write things that people take way too seriously or not seriously at all.︎