This is a piece I wrote in the run up to developing the hyphenated style of writing. It was inspired by the movie ‘500 Days Of Summer’ which has become one of my favourite films.
500 Days Of Hope
I could tell by her face that the answer would be no. And yet for two hundred and fifty days I was so sure she would say yes. From here on in it went downhill like a slalom skier travelling in slow motion. Sideways, down, sideways, down. Never up.
It had started so well all those days ago. Hands brushing across the new greetings card verses stacked in the out-tray, me not looking as I fumbled to check if my momentarily inspiration for words had already arrived earlier that morning, she intrigued by how anyone could waste their day creating sugary couplets for couples. Nervous apologies led to coffee for two and, for me, the beginning of the rest of my life.
The fluttering pages of the bookshop on day seventeen and hearts leapt, a rush to find childhood favourites, arguments to convince worthiness of Harry P against Alex Ryder, taunts given and taken as a tennis game, 15-love, 30-love, 40-love, it was all about love then. Strange eyes regarding me and her sniffing the newness of books, higher than cocaine, demented indecisiveness at selecting just one to purchase, giggling snorts at a straitlaced assistant dreaming of a meal for one at home, arms handcuffed on departure as the literary inmates sought to find among the shelves the closeness we displayed.
Day fifty broke in a twisted duvet of passion, ignoring the ringing alarm as we played God with time, interlocking fingers playfully threatening to interlock lives. Breakfast became lunch became dinner became supper. How many ways can cereal sustain the energy of love, how many ways can the crumbs of toasted bread irritate the itch of desire, how many times can coffee-stimulated intimacy satiate the soul without the crash and burn of caffeine overload. By dusk the duvet capitulated and lay defeated and deflated.
The art gallery of day ninety-two found two opinions contesting divergent tastes. I chose a Cézanne, she a Caravaggio. The dissertation of the debate brought whispered hushes from po-faced assistants and eye-widened glances from over-wealthy, under-educated voyeurs. We sat cross-legged in front of a Degas; I wanted it in the front room, she argued for the light-flooded landing. We gestured, we shaped viewers with our hands, we cut and pasted on imaginary screens. The Magritte saved the gallery, uniting lovers with love, and admiration, and silent appreciation.
A warm, sunny summer evening overlooking the building blocks of the high-rise horizon brought to closure the weekend of days one hundred and fifty-one and two. The comfortable quietness of closeness merged two contented smiles into one as the setting sun dipped in recognition of perfect peaceful unison. As I kissed the fourth finger of her left hand the question first escaped across my mind, the timing was all though, this perfect evening was too perfect, everyone would yes on such a time. Wait for the unexpected, imperfect occasion.
Eyes played games on day two hundred and five. Twelve diners consumed and laughed and teased and exclaimed but our eyes spoke more than any multitude could. Glances connecting across wine-filled glasses, we were lost together, the conversations of friends passing high overhead even as our mouths mouthed appropriate sentences and laughed the right laughs at the right times. Never were two people so alone in a crowd. Blissfully alone together.
Day two hundred and fifty-one dawned with trembling fingers mismatching buttons and spilling carton milk. The dry mouth practised the moment ten million times as the world passed its day in ignorance. Ring of sapphire burnt a slow hole in my jacket. Unbeknown to me, a hole to escape through. We sat, knees up, on the worn sofa where dreams and plans had gestated so many times over so many weeks. Her cheeks flushed in candlelight, her eyes half closed by the low beating music. My fingers flicked the box lid open, my mouth flicked its lips open to emit the most important four words of my life. Her first one in answer ended my life.
“No. Never. There’s no such thing as love ever after, just passing relationships, enjoying the moments before floating on to the next. And the next. And the next.”
I only heard the ‘no’ word. My head replayed the rest later as the bottle grazed my lips for the first of many times.
“You’re such a romantic. Love at first sight, and forever, and all that. It doesn’t happen in the real world. Don’t spoil our friendship. It’s all it is, it’s all there ever is, nothing can ever be more.”
Days continued counting as time interminably moved on. Less and less we smiled, more and more we turned away, my eyes unable to accept her words of decline. I played the Earth to her Sun, orbiting but never growing closer, waiting for her heart to turn – as it always did, in my dreams, and in my daydreams. The quietness began to kill, and one day, numbered five hundred, she went.
And days too many to record floated by. Till I sat, demented upon that hill overlooking our once uniting view. By Fate she wandered by, a ring tight on her fourth finger. The final dagger to my dying heart. The oft remembered smile creased her glowing face.
‘You were right after all,’ she whispered. ‘I found my life-long love. It just wasn’t you. Time to move on, for you, to pick yourself up.’
And I did. And I stand here, tremulously waiting for the interview call, a more rewarding career beckoning. Another contender seats herself opposite. My heart awakes from its days of past aches. We talk, my smile returns in mirror to the beautiful one across the table. Called for by a secretary with knowing glances, I stand and hesitate. Time to say goodbye to Hope, the one who I thought was the one, but wasn’t, not for me.
‘Maybe we can meet up after the interviews, in the coffee bar below? I’m Tom.’
‘Sure, I’d love to. I’m Destiny.’
And Day One begins.