“When did you see it last?” he asked his girl.
“I don’t know,” she wailed. “It was on me when I walked into the restaurant.”
She looked so sad, and her eyes were so large and ready to cry that his insides dissolved in a burst of affection. This led to kisses being exchanged and tender words spoken. When all was done, they commenced a search of the floor and the handbag. She went into the bathroom to see if she had dropped them there. Unfortunately, the ear rings were nowhere to be seen.
“It doesn’t matter sweetie, I will get you another one. I’ll get you one that’s exactly the same.”
His reasoning seemed to have little effect; she continued behaving in a manner that suggested she had lost something irreplaceable. He puzzled for a second over this and whatever he inferred made him strangely happy.
Their romance stabilized and their entanglement got more intense every month. They were similar in a way no two people ever had been and he truly believed they could realize this miracle. Slowly, he came to think of her as an extension of himself. The smallest differences drove him mad. They vowed to each other, “Your smallest whim will be more important to me than the combined power of the rest of the universe.” She used to write to him, “I could lose anything but you, or math that is; the things in life I’ve chosen are those which give me that extra something. I think I know how special it is. The colors, the hues, the shades, they are different for us. Richer… special… the whole tone…”
But exactly nine months after he had gotten her the ear ring and eight after she had lost it, they broke up. For many months after that, he could not think of the loss without an accompanying pain in his chest. The pain was physical and asphyxiating, like being constricted by a giant python. It intrigued him that his memories could affect him so physically. Sometimes he would think of her just to trigger the reaction. It was like taking part in a controlled experiment where he was master, slave and observer.
What he had less control over were his dreams. They were all variations of a common theme in which she would appear and tell him that everything had been a massive joke. She had never really wanted to break up with him, she said, merely to punish him for hurting her.
“So, none of the things you told me that morning are true?” he asked, full of amazement.
“Of course they are not, dearest.”
“So nothing is true? You did not … nothing happened?”
“You really think I would betray you, baby? It was just a crazy scheme I cooked up because I thought I was getting tired of you. But.”
“But…” he whispered.
“I want you. I cannot live without you. Will you take me back?”
He did not reply. He was crying for the first time in many years, for the full import of her revelation had finally hit him. She hadn’t disobeyed him; she hadn’t decided that the thread with which he controlled and loved her obsessively needed to be snapped. None of the events that had led to the break-up were real; everything had just been a long, arduous test which he had finally passed. Yet, she knew from his expression, and he knew that she knew, that they had forgiven each other, that his tears were out of joy too immense to contain.
This was when the dream usually ended and he woke up violently to see the harsh sunlight flooding his bedroom.