A. and I had the perfect relationship. People traveled from afar to look at such a beautiful, loving couple. When we first met, he traveled two hours there and two hours back just to see me in any weather. We spent all of our free time together. We read aloud to each other, talked for hours, for entire days, loved the same music, dreamt of the same things. He sang to me, I taught him to dance. We made each other laugh, cry, and laugh again.
We swore eternal love to each other. We shared every secret, every hope, every painful past experience.
We were supposed to be very happy. Everybody kept saying how happy we were, so I knew we had to be.
So if there was this feeling of emptiness, this invincible cold, this gaping hole inside me, this tedium that crept up on me, this need to stay awake alone all night long listening to sad music, that must have been some defect I had. Some inner issue that prevented me from feeling all this happiness people said I had to feel.
Once, we had to travel to Kiev for our visa-related medical exam. On the train, we shared a compartment with another young couple. As A. and I discussed our favorite writers and engaged in the light-hearted banter we so loved, this other couple kept touching each other, giggling, hugging, kissing. It was as if they’d been physically glued to each other. They couldn’t stop staring into each other’s eyes. Their hands traveled towards each other’s bodies almost against their will.
I tried not to look but there was nothing I could do to avoid being consumed by the feeling of complete terror. There was something right there, in front of my very eyes, that felt like a very distant memory, something I used to know centuries ago, something eternal, invincible, awe-inspiring. Something I didn’t have.
I tried to dismiss these people. “They are a low-class couple,” I told myself. “They probably don’t even know how to read. Of course, there is nothing else for them to do but suck face all the time.”
Yet, deep down under all this condescending intellectualizing, I knew I was the one who was truly defective. Here I was, with the man who had sworn eternal love to me, the man who was going to share my life forever. Yet, we said good-night to each other politely and made ourselves comfortable on our separate bunks. The other couple, in the meanwhile, shared the same extremely narrow bunk, holding tight to each other to avoid falling to the floor whenever the train halted abruptly.
I felt that there had to exist some mysterious reason that forced them to put up with the discomfort of sharing a small space when there was a comfortable separate bunk for each one of them. But for all my intelligence I was so proud of I couldn’t figure out what made it so urgent for them to hold on to each other all night long.
When I left A. a year later, everybody who knew us was in shock.
“You two had such a perfect relationship,” people kept saying. “What on Earth could have happened to tear you apart?”
The anonymous couple who traveled from Kharkov to Kiev in 1997 will never know how much I owe them.