Nearly every summer in college, I worked on a crew of conference assistants. Our job was to prepare the dorms for the presence of different summer camps, ranging from prepubescent cheerleaders to over-singing barber shop quartets. It involved a lot of cleaning, moving of supplies, and sweat in between. Mostly, it was a way to pass the summer, and not think too hard about the fact I was lonely and desperately wanted to fall in love.
One afternoon, I was part of a crew transporting some materials to West Hall, which was located at the crossroad of a three-way stop T-intersection. My coworkers Dan and Michael were driving a van, while I stood on the curb guiding them as they backed it up to the dorm’s entrance.
Suddenly, my concentration was broken by the epic sound of harkening trumpets. While trying to pinpoint their source, I came to realize they were coming from my heart.
To my left, a vision arose on the horizon. It shimmered like a mirage only to become material as it approached me. Soon, a black Jeep appeared, emblazoned with orange stripes that stood out like wings. Instead of rolling towards the intersection, it glided above the road on a cotton-like cloud that glistened with silvery brilliance.
As the vehicle came to a halt before me, the heavens parted and a shaft of the purest light shone from the sky. It beamed down like a spotlight on the Jeep, making all things around it inferior in comparison. Angels high up could be seen crying, and as their falling tears hit the ground, fresh flowers would sprout in their place.
It was then that I first saw the unearthly creature in the driver’s seat. She rode high, wearing a cute halter-top that revealed lean, sun-browned shoulders dancing underneath an ocean of strawberry-blonde hair. Sugar-sweet winds, like those that blow forth from Pan’s flute, whipped through that fiery mane, making it dance back and forth around her face. And that face — it was almost impossible to look at, it was so perfect. It was at this point that time stopped and all other people in the world disappeared, leaving just the two of us.
She turned to look at me, and the gleaming emeralds which were her eyes caught my gaze and wouldn’t let go. And with the voice of a thousand songbirds, as if she had known me her entire life and had been looking for me forever, she said, “Hi!”
I was so stunned, the most I could do was stare and murmur, “Uhhhh…”
Her stop now complete, she drove forward, away and out of my life. The heavens sealed back up, and the world resumed its normal schedule.
Dan and Michael poured out of the van, ran up to me, and couldn’t hold back their excitement. “Dude, who was she?!”
I was still reeling. “Uhh…I don’t know.”
“Dude, what did she say?!”
“Uhh…I don’t know.”
Dan couldn’t believe me. “Damnit, Matt”, he said, “that was your soulmate. And if you had said the right words, she would have stayed with you forever!”
And for the next several years, at every opportunity, Dan and Michael would not let me forget it.
It was the first day of Spring. The cloudless sky sparked with sunny warmth, and I celebrated by sitting in a horrible traffic jam during my daily commute to the office.
My drives to work occurred during the dark days before Tolltags, when there wasn’t an elite group of RFID-armed individuals that could easily zip past the huddled masses of the tagless waiting in queue to pass through tollbooths. No, at this time we were all equals. As in equally screwed, stuck in a slow, ponderous line to pay the piper.
While sitting in the traffic jam, I passed the time using my mirrors to check out my surroundings. My rearview mirror showed an endless stream of cars following me. Just behind my vehicle was a Jeep, itself tailed by a Toyota, followed by a Ford, and so forth. We were all lined up like lemmings with no other way to go but forward. My attention went back to the Jeep. Its top was down, providing a view of the beautiful woman behind the wheel.
A woman with strawberry-blonde hair.
Suddenly, a flair of recognition! The mirror became a portal back in time, and my mind drifted away from reality into memory. I saw it all as if it was yesterday, that provident event from seven years ago where I encountered my soulmate for the first and last time.
I snapped back to my senses and once again looked into the mirror. Her hair glowed in the sun. She was also passing the time, directing her gaze to the left and getting lost watching the sea of opposite traffic. But then she looked forward! I quickly took my eyes off the rearview mirror, but slyly used the side mirrors to continue my research.
Like the woman I remembered, the driver was slender and quite attractive. Her Jeep was black, adorned with the same orange stripes that were burned into my brain. Could this be my soulmate? Like Charlie Brown, was I in the presence of my little red-headed girl?
Oh fickle fates, I thought! If it was truly her, I must make up for the mistake of letter her disappear seven years ago. I resolved that no matter where she was headed, I knew I must follow, even if she were to drive a hundred miles in the opposite direction of my office.
But before I could chart such a course, I had to be sure it was truly her. I had to gaze into her eyes and feel the same connection that linked us before. I looked once again in my rearview mirror.
I saw that she was picking her nose.
I then realized then that she wasn’t my soulmate after all.
I laughed and looked forward again. And this time around, angels did me a better favor this time around as the traffic before me cleared up. I threw my truck into first gear, drove away from that wrong soulmate, and went about finding my real one.