“Clocks slay time… time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life.”-William Faulkner
I purposely lag a few feet behind the group. I want to see if she’ll notice that I’m gone and turn around to look for me. If she does, it will give me another chance to look into her eyes, to confirm everything.
Eye contact is so important. It tells the whole story. I wholeheartedly agree with William Shakespeare, eyes are the windows to our soul.
Come on, turn around.
Flinders Street Station floods the street with people who are all headed to the same game, as the black and yellow flags from Richmond fans mix with the blue and white stripes of Geelong like a Turkish bazaar. A group of beer guzzling fans cut in front of me and I fall a little further behind than I wanted to, but my plan remains the same. If she takes the bait and turns around, my heart just might explode.
Come on, turn around.
I can see the back of her head, her long dark hair tied up into a beautifully messy bun and it’s bobbing against the Melbourne night. It’s Friday evening and we’re on our way to the Melbourne Cricket Ground. We’re a few minutes late, but I couldn’t care less. The only thing that matters is Hayma. I’d give anything for a look, even just a glance.
Come on, turn around.
This morning as I was eating breakfast in the communal dining hall of the budget hotel I’m working at this week, she sat down at the opposite end of the table. She had this long black tank top on that had the New Zealand silver fern on it so I mistakenly assumed she was a Kiwi. Only later would I find out that she’s actually Moroccan.
Her dark hair, dark eyes and dark features blended with her tank top, but yet she still glowed.
As she spread cream cheese across her rye toast, I couldn’t help but watch her every move out of the side of my eye. I was immediately drawn in and I wanted to know more. There was something so mysterious about her that it was intoxicating, but at the same time there was also something familiar about her. It was almost as though I recognized her, but I just couldn’t place where we had crossed paths.
As I sat there eating my egg sandwich, I was dying to start up a conversation with her, but here’s the thing, I’m shy. Really, really shy, especially when it comes to approaching women.
I’m an only child and also a Leo, which may or may not be the root of my shyness. Leo’s are typically known for being outgoing and confident, but often times we are doing that to mask our insecurities because deep down we are extremely sensitive.
Having grown up without siblings probably has something to do with my apprehension as well. I was always hiding behind my parents legs whenever they would introduce me to someone new. It wasn’t until I was about 7 that I mustered up the confidence to go up to Santa and actually sit on his lap. To this day my grandmother still calls me, shy little Eric from Coopersburg.
So needless to say, I’m thankful for Harold, the good-natured Englishman with the motor mouth that sat down in between us. Having met Hayma the day before, I overheard him ask if her and her friend Jolene wanted to go to the AFL game later that night (Australian Football League or just “footy” as its commonly known as here). As they were discussing details of the game, the tickets, and how they would get there, I saw an opening so I went for it.
“Actually, if you guys want we could all go together. I have some friends from a hostel across town that are going to the game. They showed me this really cheap way to get tickets. If you go online to the Richmond Tigers or Geelong Cats website you can buy children’s tickets and then use those to get in; they are only like $9. I think the cheapest adult ticket is $25.”
Hayma says, “But we’re not children, won’t we get caught?”
Hayma’s mesmerizing and I know that if I even look in her direction I’ll blush. She’ll turn me into a deer in headlights in an instant and so I turn to Harold to explain, “Well I don’t think so, my friend said they do it every week and that when they scan your ticket at the gate they don’t check to see what kind of ticket it actually is. And then once you’re inside you can just sit in any open seat, the stadium seats like over 100,000 people.”
Everyone at the table is traveling on a tight budget so they all like the sound of this and we quickly exchange our contact information. Later that morning, Harold sets up a group chat that for some reason includes a picture of him on a sailboat. Then throughout the afternoon we all text back and forth and agree to meet in the bar that’s in the lobby of the hotel at 7pm.
Lore and I show up first; she’s a pretty Belgian girl that Harold also invited (I’m starting to like this guy more and more). We get to know one another over a frosty pint of Carlton Draught. She tells me about how she’s been couch surfing in Melbourne for the past few weeks. In theory, couch surfing is a great idea and it’s a way to stay with locals for free. It was actually my backup plan if hotels didn’t agree to my standard offer; thankfully I haven’t had to use it.
The gist of it is that someone will list their home or apartment online and offer up their couch to someone that’s traveling on an extremely tight budget. Lore said that she always has to leave each place in a hurry because the guy’s couch she’s staying on ends up wanting more by the second or third night she’s there. She said that most of the men in Melbourne she’s stayed with are treating the site like a dating website instead of what it’s really meant for.
While we wait for the rest of the group, Harold sends a message saying that since he’s been sailing all day he won’t have time to come back to the hostel before the game and that he’ll just meet us right at the stadium. Hayma quickly replies saying that her and Jolene are running late as well, and that Lore and I can go to the game without them.
Lore looks over at me, “Well let’s go then.”
My intuition perks up and something tells me not to leave so I say, “Let’s give them a few extra minutes to get back before we go.”
Intuition is a funny thing. When I think of it my mind always pictures a honing rod, which is the long steel rod chefs use to sharpen their knifes against. Back in my old corporate life my intuition was like a dull blade, often indecisive and barely strong enough to cut through warm butter. I blame this on the monotonous routine I was in just wading through each day that never offered up any surprises or chances to test and strengthen my intuition. The beautiful thing that I’ve learned about intuition is that it’s actually a skill that can be learned and sharpened, which is why I picture a knife against a honing rod. The more I’ve listened to my intuition over the years, the sharper it’s become. So when it perks up like this for seemingly no reason, I always give it the benefit of the doubt even though I don’t know exactly what it wants.
So I convince Lore to stay for another round of beers by paying for them and then just as she’s about to lose her patience and leave, Hayma runs into the bar.
“I’m so sorry we’re late. We just got back. We were out in St. Kilda all day. I have to run up to my room and get changed so I’m going to need another fifteen minutes.”
“Okay, no problem”, I say.
Hayma says, “But you can go if you want to, you don’t have to wait for us.”
Lore looks over at me, she was ready to leave twenty minutes ago, “I feel bad for Harold. He is going to be waiting for us and be at the game all alone. I’m going to go now, Eric are you coming with me?”
I look over at Hayma; I notice that she has a tiny scar just below her eye on her left cheek; it immediately becomes the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen. After a second or two I gather up the courage to look into her wide almond shaped eyes for the first time; they’re beautiful and bottomless and they immediately take me down a rabbit hole. There’s so much swirling behind them, so many layers, so many lifetimes and it’s somewhere in that free fall that it hits me; I know where I’ve met her before.
I’m sure of it!
As Lore takes her last sip of beer and slides her purse over her shoulder she asks me a second time if I’m ready to go.
The question becomes so utterly absurd it’s unbearable; Go? No I won’t go, are you crazy? I’ll wait for Hayma in this bar forever if I have to!
“Eric, earth to Eric, are you coming with me?”
I reluctantly snap out of it, but since I can’t say what I’m actually thinking because I know how crazy it will sound, I try to play it cool and I simply say, “I don’t mind waiting, I’ll just have another beer.”
Come on, turn around.
By the time Hayma and Jolene get to the corner that St. Paul’s Cathedral sits on I start to lose hope that she’ll turn around. This is kind of a crazy idea anyway; it’s so childish of me. It makes me feel like I’m back in elementary school, like when a boy likes a girl on the playground he runs up and pushes her because he doesn’t know how to deal with his feelings. That’s pretty much what I’m doing right now; it’s such an utterly ridiculous way to see if she likes me.
I mean just because she is not turning around, doesn’t mean that she’s not into me.
I certainly don’t, so I panic.
Which is strange because since the second I had that encounter in the elevator back in Perth I never questioned when or where I’d actually meet this soul. I didn’t look for her on the Indian Pacific, or in Adelaide or once I got to Melbourne earlier this week. I’ve never wondered what it would be like when we did meet. I never dreamt up her face or features. I just rested in this knowing that we’d meet one day.
I was so certain that it would happen that I was able to wait without anxiety. It’s a hard thing to explain, this total inner peace I’ve fallen into lately. Everything is so clear, so crisp, so perfect and because of it I’m never worried about anything anymore.
That is, until now.
Come on, turn around.
As the crosswalk begins to crawl with people, I get to thinking that maybe this whole thing is actually schizophrenic and that I’m legitimately losing it. What makes me think I actually had this transcendental conversation with another soul anyway? And what makes me think that Hayma would be the one I had it with? What are the odds of that? Probably like one in a quintillion (that’s eighteen zeros)? Its not like I’m a physic or a clairvoyant or anything like that and I certainly don’t have any supernatural powers. I won’t be turning water into wine anytime soon.
Plus, the last thing I need right now is a relationship. I don’t even have a home for god sake! And I’m obviously not very good at them to begin with; I still haven’t found a way to tell Jess that I just want to be friends. I’ve just grown more and more distant with her in hopes that she’ll be the one to pull the plug on things.
Embarking on a new relationship would probably tip the scales of my newfound balance too.
I love women, but they are so complicated. If you don’t believe me just ask any man (single or married) and he’ll co-sign that statement. I’ll bet a relationship with anyone right now would find a way to ruin my journey, distract me from my writing and not to mention cause a major drain on my wallet.
How could I be so STUPI…
Before my thoughts can put the D on the end of stupid, I see Hayma’s bun swivel and my heart skips. She turns in my direction and her eyes scan the crowd in front of me.
A little to the left!
Then as her whole body turns back towards me I can tell that she’s looking for me.
Our eyes meet in the middle of Melbourne.
The streets clear and the buildings get whisked away like it’s a scene change at a Broadway play. Her eyes smile, widen and invite me in. A hush falls over us and I swear that we become the only two people on the planet. And if only for a millisecond, time stops. Not kinda, sorta stops, but it actually stops.
The earth dissolves into tiny colorless particles around her and we shed our skin. We’re no longer people, we’re just souls; two white hot shimmering souls that have known one another for what feels like forever. My soul leaps to hers.
The Ancient Egyptians entombed the bodies of their pharaohs for the next life; death was said to be just a temporary interruption. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle said that even after death the soul exists and is able to think. They believed that as bodies die, the soul is continually reborn. Thomas Aquinas said that the soul does not rely on the body organ, and therefore the soul can exist without a body. Hindus believe in the existence of soul, which is eternal, invisible, imperishable, unchanging and exists beyond the grasp of the mind and the senses. Muslims believe that the soul lives on in another phase of existence after death. And Genesis 2:7 says, “The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.”
The Kahlil Gibran interpretation of the soul, my favorite one, he wrote, “Say not, I have found the path of the soul.’ Say rather, ‘I have met the soul walking upon my path. For the soul walks upon all paths. The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed. The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals.”
I cannot tell you what to believe and I cannot exactly sum up what my beliefs are just yet. I have no desire to convince anyone of anything and I feel no need to prove myself in any way. But what I can say is that my soul is real, it’s tangible. It has bloomed inside me and I have met it walking upon my path. And because of it, I’m developing a faith through first hand experiences that transcends just about anything I’ve ever been taught.
I’ve always questioned what a successful journey around the world would look like. Would it mean that I wrote a certain amount of chapters? Filmed a certain amount of episodes? Had one of my photos published by a major magazine? Reached 100,000 followers, or would it mean that I have to make a certain amount of money?
It’s in this moment that I can tell you that success isn’t any of those things, at least not for me. It is this. A shared moment with Hayma.
As time speeds back up, Cupid peals back his bow and fires from one of the nearby rooftops. As his arrow spirals towards me, I can’t help but to spread my arms out and make myself an even bigger target. On the tram ride over here Hayma told me that her full name is Suhaymah, which in Arabic means arrow. And that couldn’t be more fitting because she has just landed squarely at the center of my heart.