Alternate realities

There are some learned souls out there who maintain that whenever an event occurs, the universe splits in two. That leaves infinite possibilities for all of us, doesn’t it? How many times have we stood at a proverbial crossroads in our lives, forced to make a decision which would shape our destiny? I often think about what is going on in some of these parallel realities right now (if ‘right now’ is the correct term for such a metaphysical concept). In almost every instance of these woolgathering exercises, I try to imagine how my life would have turned out if I had been braver or wiser. If those eggheads are right, then somewhere in the space-time continuum, there’s a version of me that is a lot more fulfilled, a man who has ample reason to be content.

The point of divergence occurred between three and five years ago. I once worked for an evil corporation in a town that is best known for its fortifications and army barracks. The job was a very stressful one; indeed, that company seemed to bring out the worst in nearly everyone who worked there. The lunch breaks passed by like milliseconds and the weekends offered scant relief after five days’ drudgery. Nonetheless, for three long years I managed to drag myself out of bed at ridiculous o’clock every weekday morning and travel, bleary-eyed, to that cruel place. But there was some relief. The train journey, though expensive and often crowded, brought a small glimmer of joy to me in the form of a young woman who travelled the same route. How to describe her? She was quite tall, with dancer’s legs and excellent posture. Her hair was like spun gold, her lips soft and kissable. She had large eyes of deep blue and prominent cheekbones. She dressed modestly but elegantly, with only a few items of jewellery to adorn her exquisite form. It was her usual habit to sit near the back of the carriage, reading a book and not drawing attention to herself. However, a woman of such transcendent beauty was going to arouse my interest as surely as the sun rises in the east. Comparisons with the late Ingrid Bergman would not be an idle boast, for she was arrestingly attractive. Sometimes, she was accompanied by a work colleague (I wonder how he felt about her). He would make her smile with some humorous banter, and though a part of me burned with envy, another part of me rejoiced that she was happy. What a smile that was! A dimple on each cheek, enough to fill my heart with longing. Seeing this flower of womanhood early in the morning was a ray of sunshine in those dark days and gave me strength to face whatever torments awaited me in the office. If only I could have been paid to spend all day gazing at her adoringly and showering her with compliments! I think I would have been made employee of the month.

I wanted to know more about this woman – her background, her hopes and dreams, the things that made her happy – but my courage failed me, as it has so many times before and since. At times, she was close enough that I could catch her scent, but still I could not bring myself to strike up a conversation, though I wanted to talk to her more than anything else in the world. The opportunities have all passed now. She may still work there, travelling the same route, or she may even be living in a different country. It would not surprise me in the least if she were married now, with a child or two. She might have found true happiness; if so, then that’s all well and good. However, I can’t help thinking about what might have been, what is happening right now in that parallel universe. There’s a better version of me out there, with the woman of his dreams. He listens to her with undivided attention. He sings to her. He makes her laugh with his dry humour. He kisses and caresses her. He tells her that no other woman could ever be good enough for him, now that he has found his Venus. It would not be unfair to argue that this is a mere flight of fancy, but deep down I know she harboured thoughts of me. We would have made a fine pair, she and I.

Now that the mystery woman who haunts my thoughts resides in the ‘where are they now?’ file, I am left wondering where to go from here. Is there someone in this world who can arouse my passions to the same extent? Could she love me in return? I’ve met more than a few women over the years with whom I’ve made a connection, who understood my humour and who warmed to my personality. They had one thing in common: they were all married. No word of a lie. Every girl I’ve dated since has been found wanting. The last one was Dutch and the one before that, Chinese. Neither of them got my jokes, and my clever wordplay was lost on them. I feel like I’m wasting my life away, when I could be sharing golden moments with that special someone. Well, the Spideron has a few more webs to spin, ladies and gents, so there’s still hope….isn’t there?

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