Another day rolls in, another morning in my expensive sea of white sheets, like a single boat floating in the ocean.
The sun peaks her head in through the curtains, another beautiful day. Her warmth fills the room, but she doesn’t make me as happy as she used to.
I shower and get dressed, a smart suit, expensive cufflinks. Another day at the office - a lot of lonely singles to match up today. I take one last look in the mirror, my hair quaffed to perfection, although something is missing, I don’t look just as charming. My eyes are a little dimmer, my smile a little too forced. Maybe I’m just having an off day (I’ve been having those a lot lately).
As I reach the office, Todd doddles over in his usual, clumsy, care-free manner and hands me my morning coffee with a beaming, goofy smile on his face - a very unforced, natural beaming smile.
‘Todd, how are you this morning? You look very pleased about something.’
‘I got engaged last night!’ His whole face luminous with joy. Todd’s a good guy, so I’m happy for him, but I can’t help feeling a little sad.
I’m on my third cup of coffee now - the caffeine is buzzing in my body, without it, I’m not sure if I could function. I’m on my third meeting. An older man, dressed in a waistcoat and a dickie bow sits in front of me; his hair combed to perfection and a smile that lights up the room with warmth and nostalgia.
‘I think your tape is going to be a real success with some of the ladies here at Cupid’s Wings.’
‘That’s very kind of you to say, but I don’t fancy my chances. This sort of thing is a last resort for me.’ He pauses and looks at me with his kind eyes before adding, ‘No offence.’
‘Oh, none taken.’ I smile in retort. ‘Well, sir, I will do my best to make sure that you never have to come into my office, or any other like it, again. We’ve got some really great material here.’ And I’m not lying either, he really does have some great material. I almost wish I had another grandmother to set him up with.
My next client is not as perplexing. A younger woman: wearing a fluffy pink jumper that appears to have some of her breakfast spilt on it, a hairdo that looks like something out of a cartoon, and a cigarette stuck to her lip like a lolly pop stick to a child’s finger. Have I transported back to the 1950s? My jaw drops open slightly.
‘You can’t smoke that in here, m'am.’ I don’t think I’ve ever had to tell someone to put a cigarette out in my office before. It feels very retro.
She rolls her eyes and puts the cigarette out in my fourth cup of coffee. Charming, but probably for the best, I’m starting to get jittery.
After lunch, I notice that I have a clear schedule for a couple of hours. Pleasantly surprised by my free afternoon, I decide to rummage through the tapes of my new clients; hoping to find something that reminds me why I’ve dedicated my life to finding love for others.
My fingers stumble across a tape labelled, ‘Roxanne - Jazz Singer’. Something about her name makes me feel light. I close the door, load up my laptop and insert the disk.
Her beauty makes me sit forward in my seat, like a child watching the television. Her voice is husky but sweet, I can see why she’s a singer, if her singing voice is anything like the ravishing way she speaks the English language, I imagine it is completely breath-taking. Her hair sits in brown and blonde ringlets and her dark freckles decorate her face as the stars decorate the sky. I listen to her telling me her story, and I feel as though she is right in front of me.
I spend the rest of the afternoon creating my own tape. I take off my blazer, sit down in my chair, clasp my hands together to stop the caffeine jitters, and try as best as I can to bare my soul, (only because I know it will only be accessible to one person). I don’t watch it back; I can tell I look uncomfortable being on the opposing side of the camera. I slip my tape into Roxanne’s ‘match’ section and arrange a first date.
The night is a sleepless one, my body is alive with anxiety, swarming about like a nest of wasps on an August evening. Roxanne must view the tape and agree to the date. I emailed it to her earlier that evening under the Cupid’s Wings email address, somehow thinking the rejection would sting less that way.
When I get to work the next morning, Todd greets me – still utterly luminous. The hope that Roxanne has given me makes his expression less nauseating. I quickly scurry to my office, avoiding my usual pleasantries and close the door behind me. I log into the office emails and there staring wonderfully back at me, is the word, ‘accepted.’
My heart skips a beat. A rush of nerves and joy washes over me. One overwhelming thought kicks in, what now?
It’s Saturday night: the carefully chosen restaurant is romantic with a moody glow, the music is soft yet impressionable, and the table placement is exquisite. I sit in front of a winter smelling candle that burns softly and fills the area with a delicious scent - carefully positioned close to the corner yet not so close that we are excluded from the buzz and the atmosphere. The clock strikes 20:00 and she glides into the restaurant, punctual and beautiful. I wave her down, feeling like a teenager in the school canteen at lunch time.
My heart is beating rapidly, I begin to worry if remembered to put deodorant on, I pretend to scratch my head and take a quick sniff – I’m okay.
‘Harvey.’ She smiles in that husky sweet tone.
‘You found me.’ Of course she found you, you idiot, you stood up and ushered her over from across the room.
She smiles again, ‘This restaurant is absolutely lovely. I’ve never been here before.’
‘I thought you’d like it because of the music, unless you’re sick of jazz music, in which case, we could go somewhere else? You’re probably sick of it – I’m so sorry, I should have thought.’ I begin to sweat more; the deodorant may not hold me.
‘It’s perfect, Harvey, relax.’ She laughs lightly, but not in a way that makes you feel like she’s laughing at you, in a way that implies she’s laughing with you.
The sweating dies down a little and my heart rate falls to a safer pace.
‘So, tell me about yourself?’ She asks as she tears up a bit of bread and pops it into her mouth.
I tell her about my family, my fear of heights and my childhood dream to become a bin man.
‘That’s an interesting profession to choose. Were you a fan of the high vis vests?’ She smirks and fills up on another piece of bread. I want to warn her that she may spoil her dinner, but she looks like she’s enjoying it so much, I couldn’t possibly intervene.
‘Well, what can I say, they were always whistling, and I can’t whistle, so they seemed powerful to me.’ I say shrugging my shoulders.
She giggles, ‘They do always seem like a happy bunch. Come to think of it, I do see them smiling quite often, and sometimes I wonder do people still smile anymore, has it become frowned upon in 2021?’
‘Maybe if we all had your smile we’d smile a lot more, and a lot bigger.’ I look into her eyes. ‘You know, there was an experiment I read once, conducted by Arthur Aron, that depicts if you get people to ask each other 36 questions and then stare into one another’s eyes for 4 minutes without saying a word, they can fall in love.’
She pushes the basket of bread aside and tips the remaining contents of her merlot into her mouth and wipes her lips with the back of her hand. ‘Ask me anything.’ She leans back in her chair and runs her finger along the rim of the empty glass.
A number of eye-opening questions, glasses of merlot, wonderful food and laughs later, it’s time for the deep connection staring that would make her fall in love with me. I set a timer on my phone. ‘You ready?’
She leans forward and presses the ‘start’ button.
Two minutes and twenty-seven seconds later, an argument arises at the table next to us. A young couple begin raising their voices and heckling each other about social media. A glistening dark red glass of merlot goes swirling across their table and hits the young man in the face.
Roxanne and I, both astounded and struggling to contain our laughter, stay locked in a gaze until the four minutes are up and the young couple have vacated their table.
The timer goes off. ‘Well, he was not expecting that.’ I smirk.
‘How could you tell?’ Roxanne asks.
‘Oh, I have great peripheral vision.’ Another thing you’ll love about me, I’m great to have around when you need someone to spy on the neighbouring party.
‘She reaches across the table and grabs my hand. I think there’s a lot I would love about you.’
My heart is back up to a dangerous pace, but in the best possible way. Before I can respond, she clears her throat, ‘There’s something you should probably know before we take this any further.’ She swallows and combs her hair behind her ears. ‘I have a rare heart condition.’
My heart plummets to my stomach like a plane crashing.
‘I’m not sure when the condition will eventually run it’s course,’ she pauses, the look in her eyes tell me what her words are struggling to. ‘I’m not sure how many years I have.’
I reach out and take both of her hands, looking deep into her eyes, how can I feel so much admiration and pain for a woman I’ve just met?
I’ve felt more alive since the moment I watched your tape than I have in years. If it’s tomorrow, or it’s twenty years, we would live enough to be worth a lifetime. Let me try to give that to you.’
Tears roll down her cheek and mine. ‘Maybe this experiment had more merit than we initially thought?’ I smile.
Roxanne calls to the waiter, ‘Another bottle of your finest merlot please. We’re celebrating.’ She lunges forward across the table and kisses me.