This story begins with a tweet.
Sitting on the terrace of some cafe on Oxford Street, cigarette in one hand, book in the other. Life’s good.
That’s how it goes.
Ten minutes and no engagements. My phone doesn’t buzz. Fifteen minutes and I get a notification. Betty, she told me her name later, has sent me a direct message.
You’re in Osu? I’m at the Rice Xpress grabbing a bite. I have a book I’m almost done with, I’d love to trade. Or just talk if you’re looking for company.
I love the directness of the message.
I look across the street through the dense of hookah smoke. I see the Rice Xpress signboard flash neon bright. I see a woman sat facing the street, a plate of food before her, book held up in the air trying to get a good angle from the low light of the restaurant.
Sure, I’m always down for a trade and some company.
I reply her message. From across the street I see her phone screen flash. The light from the screen catches on her teeth as she reads the message. She’s smiling. She sets the book down and taps at the phone screen.
Okay great, where are you?
I read her message.
Across the street from you.
She looks up and she sees me waving. I put out my cigarette in the ashtray on the table, and make my way over to her.
“That’s actually a great story,” my girlfriend says, handing back a sheet of paper to me. She’d just read out a story I had printed for her. She’s sitting in an armchair, legs crossed and arms folded. The perfect depiction of poise and calm. I’m lying on the couch, the wine we’ve been drinking has made me feel a bit woozy. And tired.
“I’m glad you like it baby. Maybe it can go up on my blog or something,” I say slowly, a forced grin on my face.
“Sure. I’ve got to ask though, is this story real? Like did it really happen?” She asks gently.
“Real? I wish. I just made it up in my head a few moments ago.” I reply.
“Good. This is silly to say, but I feel like if this really happened three years ago and you’re writing about it now, then you’re probably still in love with the person. I don’t know why I get that vibe,” she looks at me as she says this, as if fishing for something.
“The only person I’m in love with, and I’m interested in being in love with, is you,” I reassure her. I get out of the couch, fighting the lightheadedness from being wine drunk. I lean over and give her a forehead kiss. She smiles, and it reaches her eyes. I’m safe.
“Second bottle?” I ask.
“If you insist,” she giggles. I trudge to the kitchen to grab another bottle of wine. It’s a cheap bottle of cabernet sauvignon. Heading back to her, I pause by the book shelf. It looks empty.
“We need new books,” I call out to her.
“That’s because you give away too many,” she says back.
My mind goes briefly to the girl I wrote about, and I wonder if she’d read a message from me, three years on, asking her to return the book she borrowed.
And, maybe, my heart along with it.