The perfect romantic story- by Juan M.S

I’m a writer and I believe in fiction only because it’s the best way of conveying our deepest feelings. There’s elasticity of expression in fiction that allows for thorougher explorations of our emotions, something that can’t be done in nonfiction genres. Because at this precise moment the reader doesn’t know if it’s the writer who’s speaking or one of his characters, but the tricky part is that the writer does never know for sure either. Because life is about taking stands and defending them, even if we change sides later on. There’s nothing wrong in inconsistency, but there is in spiritlessness and indifference. Because there’s nothing indifferent about life, we’re always forced to go on. As in a chess game, we must always move and hope we won’t make an unrepairable mistake. That’s why I personally don’t have anything against people who defend ideas against mine, but I strongly dislike skeptics who think they can just avoid certain issues by being neutral about them. Unfortunately for them, there’s nothing more absolute than truth, so the fact they choose a middle point just makes them wrong, and there’s nothing wrong in being wrong, if you’re honestly convinced that you’re right, but not caring about the truth is simply despicable.

And I could mention many of these skeptic attitudes by which people default on life, but I’d just mention one to exemplify. Although we know we’re unique, we have our own fingerprints which we share with no one else in the world, and although we generally behave as if we were the center of the world and everything that happens to us is by default the most important thing in the universe, there’s some people that still like fumbling with the idea of other universes or multiple realities. Some people, who the same day were crying over their domestic tragedies and were so absorbed by their own problems and needs that they forgot to feed their dogs or throw out the garbage, now are saying that there might be a chance that they exist in another time and place. So why all the fuss earlier in the day then? If they exist somewhere else, why should they suffer in this shitty reality? The only answer I can find to this conundrum is that it’s because it’s the only reality we have, as shitty as the thought may be for many people. The same goes for our universe, and if there are multiverses, as some scientists may argue after one their sessions of mental masturbation, it’s totally irrelevant to us, who, by definition, aren’t affected by other universes. But I’m digressing, since my aim is to write the perfect romantic story. So let me start.

Life is a chess game, or rather chess is like life, but for chess players who already have a good handle on chess, but are still far from understanding how life works, a chess game is rather a good metaphor. However, there’s a very important factor in which chess and life differ completely: chance. While in chess it’s all about planning and projecting moves, in life there’s so much randomness that sometimes it makes all our plans futile. The chess metaphor would be more accurate if, instead of considering ourselves the chess-masters who move the pieces, we thought of ourselves as simple pawns who, although they believe they’re making a deliberate decision that only concerns them, they’re actually part of a bigger plan. But then, who the chess-master is for non religious people like me? The answer is: all of us together are the chess-master. We’re like random thoughts in a chess-master’s head, but it depends only on us to get synchronized with other thoughts to form meaningful movements. And at this moment I’ll ask you to allow me to indulge in the metaphor of the chess game for the sake of the story.

So in my illusion of being in control of the game, I went always forward, not without thinking to a greater or less degree of carefulness every one of my actions and generally analyzing the results. Thus I developed the fantasy of learning how to live and make the right decisions. My instinct of justice defended staunchly the conviction that we receive our deserts and, therefore, justice is eventually done if we behave honestly. Nowadays I still believe in honesty, but I’m not that sure about this individual justice we believe in. I think it’s rather a communal justice that doesn’t correlate directly to our individual actions. So what I’m saying is that I believe that the goodness or badness of our actions have no effect on our destiny or, following the chess metaphor, on our game because for the sake of the game some pieces must be sacrificed and what seems to be a bad move may be actually become decisive in the final result. So the chance element consists in the fact that we don’t know how the other pieces will move, so what may be considered a bad action from our narrow point of view could actually be beneficial to the game. To sum up, life is extremely unfair.

That was my case. I’ve had my share of bad experiences. I was barely eighteen when I met my ex-fiancee. We were classmates at university and throughout the semester we became friends. I found her attractive the first time I saw her, but it took more time for her to get used to my odd handsomeness. I’m a tall ungainly guy with an unremarkable physiognomy. My facial features exist for mere physiological purposes and they play no aesthetic function at all. I have nondescript brown eyes and hair and a boringly pale complexion. I don’t have any outstanding defects, which makes me simply plain and very hard to remember by sight. Now, my ex-fiancee is not a beauty, but she captivated me with her outgoing character and sensuality. She was my first girlfriend and I put all my romantic emotions on her, eagerly, blindly, desperately, senselessly. It’s hard to believe, for someone as romantic as me, that a small detail can topple seven years of relationship, but it happened. She’s a fervent catholic and I’m not a religious person; we’d managed to reach a compromise in every single practical aspect of our lives but one. She wanted me to get baptized and confirmed so I could marry her by church. It broke my heart to refuse her a proper wedding, but I couldn’t brace myself to go and do something half-heartedly, even when my future happiness was at stake. Because although I don’t believe in any religion, I have a deep respect for religious leaders and churches and I couldn’t cheat them. They always demand a proof of faith, be it explicit or implicit. They ask you to say or do something which implies that you believe in their god and I simply couldn’t perform such an act without really believing; that would be the worst possible profanation I could imagine and out of mere respect to them as human beings, I couldn’t possibly do that. But my ex-fiancee couldn’t cope with the idea of a churchless wedding, so she broke up our engagement and left me.

So I found myself 26 years old and with no marrying prospects, which would be normal for many people at that age, but was depressing for me. I didn’t like going out, but I forced myself to go to clubs and events where I could potentially meet the woman of my life, or a second woman in my case. And I met one, Wirginia. Her character was as odd as her name. She was a painter who worked as bartender at a cafe where I usually went for some social events. She found my shyness adorable, she told me, and I guess she found me reliable too, since I didn’t flirt with any girl, much as I wanted to. So we struck it up and in a few months she was living with me. As most artists, she was an interesting mess, and she was moody too, I mean, more than women in general. Now it’s the time to confess; I’ve never been with a girl I was really in love with. I didn’t think my ex-fiancee or Wirginia were the prettiest women I’d seen. Every single day, walking down the street to my office, I could see a dozen of girls as pretty as them and a few ones who were even prettier. I’m not saying we should all be convinced that our girlfriends are the prettiest women on earth and constantly verify it by comparing them to every single girl; quite the opposite, what I mean is, when we’re in love, we stop searching because the woman in front of us is all we need, and I’ve never felt like this about my girlfriends. I’ve had this feeling, however, towards a few girls in my life, but I never had the good luck to have my feelings reciprocated. That’s how, at the age of 27, I found myself in an empty relationship, but I was totally satisfied with it. Don’t misunderstand me, we had plans together and I was faithful and dedicated to her, but the feeling of wonder wasn’t there. That feeling which we have when a beautiful and interesting person chooses to be with us, like winning the lottery, yes, that’s the best example. Not because of the money, that’s actually a terrible example, but because of the gratuitousness of the prize. Thus a mixed feeling of glee and guilt is born in us and it makes us better people. We feel that life has been too generous to us and, when we see the distress around us, we feel we need to give something back and we care more about other people.

But, although idealistically I thought that feeling exists, I’d never felt like that myself, and I was already resigned to a pragmatic life, where you need to “fight for the relationship” and make it work, in spite of the adversities. But then life gave me a new chance. Wirginia told me she wasn’t in love anymore and she left me. I must admit at that moment I didn’t see it as an opportunity but as a curse; I felt I was doomed to loneliness and the mirror told me I was never going to find a beautiful girl who could reciprocate my feelings. I always believed in karma and my experiences had convinced me that I’d never be with a beautiful girl; I thought it was my divine punishment for being superficial.

Then I met Elena. What are the odds of meeting a girl like her; I don’t want to dwell to much on it for fear of believing it’s just an illusion. She’s beautiful and intelligent and the fact of having being rejected by girls ten times less pretty than her gave a surrealistic aura to our first meeting. I had gone out that night because a friend had invited me for drinks. I saw some attractive girls during the night, but I wasn’t in the mood of wasting my time on girls whom I’d never seen again, as it was usual when I met someone in a bar. Now, I don’t know how to dance, but I always thought it is the best way to meet someone. There’s something animalistic about dancing; it’s a primeval state in which everything is legitimate. It’s martial law for social conventions. How else can you easily approach a girl, grab her by the waist and ask her whether she fancies you or not? So for the first time I went to this popular club I knew about. However, I didn’t dance with anyone; I was intimidated by the display of hormones on the dancing floor. After an hour of walking around and a beer that I barely managed to finish, I decided to go home. And there she was, sitting alone in front of the entrance, the most beautiful girl I could imagine, or rather, beauty itself, if it could be captured in one image. Not even for a second did I think that something could happen between us, but, I don’t know why, I went back on my steps and asked her: “Hi, are you OK?” She answered me: “Yes, just breathing some fresh air.” “Have you been to the club?” I asked, more boldly this time. “Yes, that’s why I needed some fresh air,” she said. “I’m a regular here, but today I didn’t feel like dancing.”

Now, dear reader, you make your own conclusions, but I’ll give you mine anyway. We’re married and have two beautiful kids. I always wonder at the fact that the only day I decided to go to dance, she stayed outside. If she’d been inside, I’d probably not have met her, but she was outside that day in which, by a mysterious impulse, I went to that club. Now, coming back to the chess metaphor: Life plays chess with us. It may seem that we’re going to lose the game, but, in a gambit, everything is overturned. What seemed to be a terrible situation now is the condition to our victory. Maybe I had victory at hand other times; maybe I just chose to see the chance this time and I closed the game. That doesn’t take away from the fact that this chance was given to me in spite of my merits, as a pawn in a chess game sometimes has the chance to take the queen.

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