Where I come from, people have two heartbeats. One that belongs to the organ that pumps blood through our veins and another that belongs to someone else. It’s always with us, thrumming in our heads, lulling us to sleep at night, always reminding us that there is one other soul somewhere out there that is our equal in every way. A soulmate. And that one other person hears our heartbeat the same way in their own ears.
My morning began like most others. I awoke with my alarm, showered, dressed and took great pleasure in reveling the gentle thump-thump of my unknown girl who sounded like she was still folded up in sleep.
I was off that morning to meet Dale and Sam, my childhood friends before our classes began. Dale had called the night before to inform me that he had met new tenant in his building. Apparently she and I shared the many of the same hobbies and interests. Dale had described her as beautiful and sweet, someone he wouldn’t mind joining our group for the long haul. I knew Dale thought she might be the one. Mine. The owner of the heartbeat that was ever present in my ears.
I rushed down the street, simmering with promise and possibility. I’d spoken with people who had found theirs, including my parents. Everyone described the experience differently. Some said it was like finally drawing in a breath when you hadn’t realized you’d been holding it in your entire life. Some said it was like a shock of lightning to each cell in the body. Others said it was like you seem to click into place, like two gears meant to turn beside each other, to touch and rely on each other for their lifespan. I was eager to meet this sweet girl with interests so similar to my own. I wanted that feeling. I wanted love to start in that very moment. No more searching for her. No more desperate hoping that every stranger I met would be her, only to be left alone and disappointed. I was ready.
I made it to the cafe and found Sam already seated at a table with a drink in her hand and a scowl on her face. She was always scowling. Ever since we’d met as children she’d worn that slight frown. She was always vaguely pissed off at the world for one reason or another. There was no horse to high for Sam to mount and preach from, but I liked her anyway. She had a devilish sense of humor and was quite generous when she thought no one was looking. She was fiercely protective of the people she cared for and I was lucky enough to count myself among the few. When she actually chose to smile, it was one of the most brilliant things I’d ever seen.
I gave her a quick peck on the cheek and across from her. Her cheeks were flushed a soft red. That only happened when she was flattered or furious and I was reluctant to find out which.
“Good morning, Eric. I’m surprised you dragged yourself out of bed so early before class.”
It was true I had trouble with oversleeping. Usually I was jogging into class and sliding into my seat only seconds before the lecture began. Sam and Dale normally began their mornings in the cafe without me. Today was different. Today was the day.
I could feel adrenaline coursing through me, sparking under my skin, making my heart take off like a bullet. She would surely feel all of it. It made me smile to know this unknown girl held that piece of me with her.
“Why are you so happy?” Sam asked lazily.
Dale must not have told her about his neighbor and our meeting this morning. Smart man. Sam would have made a big scene if she’d known, given us a lengthy speech full of words like archaic and free will. She’d attempt to convince us to use our own minds instead of bowing down to a tired tradition.
The largest bone Sam had to pick with the universe was the heartbeats. She loathed anyone or anything that told her what to do. She believed staunchly in our right to choose the person we’d spend our lives with rather than having one genetically assigned to us. She rolled her eyes dramatically whenever Dale or I spoke about ours. She claimed she could tune the one in her own head out, but I suspected that wasn’t always true. Sometimes I would catch her humming very loudly and off key as if to drown out some noise she was tired of hearing. One thing was for sure, Sam wouldn’t be checking any pulses to find her partner.
“Just had a good dream, that’s all.”
Dale came in soon after and sat down beside Sam. He gave her a bump of the shoulder and she grunted in response.
“Morning, Dale. How’re you?” I asked.
“Pretty good, man.”
“And yours?” It was the customary greeting we all asked each other upon meeting. Well, everyone except for Sam.
“He’s alright. Still asleep by the sound of it.”
“And how’s yours, Sam,” I asked, knowing the response it would evoke.
“How the hell should I know? He’s a complete stranger. Unlike you two, I don’t obsess over a person I’ve never met before. I prefer to make an enormous choice about my future myself.”
She always took the bait, any excuse to teach us a lesson. Provoking her really shouldn’t have been so much fun. Dale rolled his eyes.
“Give it a rest, Sam. Oh, Eric. She’s here.”
He gestured to the woman coming through the door.
“Who’s here?” Sam asked.
The woman spotted Dale and came toward us. She was very pretty with dark blonde hair swinging around her shoulders. Her sweet, round eyes found mine almost instantly and I heard the thumping in in my ears accelerate. She smiled and I held my breath. This was it, the moment I saw my soulmate for the first time.
“Hi Anna!” Dale said, but we couldn’t take our eyes away from each other.
I had been introduced to strangers before and felt their pulses, but this time was different. The beat in my head raced, thrumming wildly.
“Anna, this is Eric, the guy I was telling you about,”
She offered me her hand.
“What the hell.” I barely heard Sam quietly seething.
I wrapped my hand around hers and we both used our left hands to find the pulse point on each other’s wrists. I was ready to feel the soft beating under my thumb fall into pace with the one in my head. And it did for a brief moment…
next: Beat – Part Two
all chapters: Beat
more by NOELLE CURRIE
photograph by Adam Przewaski