Private Collection: Perfect Strangers

In an attempt to heal old wounds of the past I decided to write a story about my past love. Our love was special, but lingered for many years after our breakup.  He moved on to marry another woman.  It would take six years before we actually spoke again to close the chapter between us.  The story was written in 2011.  It led to a huge release between us.

There once was a man in my life that I was deeply connected to.  For now, I will refer to him as Jay.  Jay was a special man with a generous heart, made an incredible omelet, had a contagious laugh, and was my playmate.  For the first year or two we were together things were moving along as planned.  But something happened along the way.  To this day I'm not exactly sure what it was that changed for both of us.  He became more and more distant and I lost myself into him.  Fearing what I knew to be true deep inside - I was losing my playmate and neither of knew how to let go.  The last three years of our relationship was very intense with emotions I could no longer suppress.  The deep level of hurt and betrayal I experienced with him needed to be dealt with.  By the end of our journey we went our separate ways - Jay married a woman that he was hiding from me, and I went solo to deal with redefining who I am.  It has been nearly four years since Jay and I parted, and more than three years since we last spoke.  However, until the other night I have always felt his presence near me.

How do I move on knowing I will never have a meeting with him in person?  How does the bond between us get broken?  In order to bring my soulmate into my life the ghost of Jay had to be let go of.  The answer to this came in the least of expected ways - my imagination and gift of writing.  The words that follow are the story of a woman finding her truth and healing.....

This is a time about five years from now.  My art is being displayed in an upscale art gallery many miles from where I live.  Movers & shakers galore are at the event.  Some recognizable and others are not.  It has always been a dream come true to see the celebration of my art by many in black tie glamour and style. Champagne flowing, fine wines and hors d'oeuvres bring out the best at this event. Conversations are flowing and colorful. I feel brilliant and glow. Then for a brief moment I am alone admiring a large canvas painting lost in the textures and techniques. A man approaches me.

"Excuse me, Elaine." says the slightly nervous male voice from behind me. I turn around, "Yes?" Not really knowing who was trying to get my attention. As focus on the man in front of me his details start to register.  It is an old flame of my past, Jay.

Years of practice has taught me how to camouflage shock and make myself appear calm and patient in public forums. As he looks at me he appears to have almost lost his nerve to speak with me.

"Yes?" I say again waiting for a response.
"I... I had to see you again." He finally says.
"I'm sorry, but do I know you?" Even though I knew who it was.
"Umm... yes. You knew me once. A long time ago."
"Again, I apologize.  I don't seem to recall who you are. What is your name?" It was said with enough reserve that it sounded believable. At least to those within earshot and hopefully him.
"My name is Jay. We knew each other a long time ago." He said it cautiously. Clearly he was struggling with what to say and do next.

Not wanting to give away the fact that I did know him once before I ask a slightly coy question. "If I knew you once before, then do I know who you are now?" As soon as the question was asked time stopped for a moment. The room is suddenly ours, alone.  Me and him. The real conversation begins; we talk.

"No. No, you don't."
"Then who are you now?"
"I am a man who has lost much. A man who betrayed the trust and loyalty of many. A man who never fully opened his heart until it was shattered by life events. Many things were taken away. Including my pride."
"So you are a man before me that is humbled by life experiences?"
"You are right. I do not know a man named Jay who was humbled by life."
"I don't expect you to know him."
"Then why come here? Why introduce yourself as a humbled man to me?"
"I had to see. See you again."
"Why? What piece of the puzzle do I give you now?"
"I had to see with my own eyes the beauty you have become. The flower that finally blossomed. The woman that saw who I was to the core and did not run. I needed to see what I missed out on." His eyes and body language betraying his composure.

I stood quietly for a moment. Taking in what he said. Choosing my next words carefully. "Thank you for coming here tonight and sharing with me that you are a humbled man and your thoughts with me."

Again, silence. Still unsure of what this was about I break the silence.

"What is it you have come here for?" I ask.
"To set you free."
"How will you do that?"
"By telling you I am on the path of restitution. It is much like looking back on a war torn country. Seeing all the destruction your choices and orders cause all in the name of arrogance. Gaining power. Being right. I see what those choices have done to those that I was scared to love and those that loved me anyway. I took things that did not belong to me. This path has led me here tonight. It is a path that requires me to face the devastation of my choices. Tonight I am here to face you and give back something I took from you a long time ago."
"What is it that you took from me that needs to be returned?"
"A piece of your heart."
This time I could not hold back the emotions in my face. Shock and sadness were present.
"I took it because I was scared. I never wanted to lose you. It fueled me. It nurtured me. I also realize holding onto something that does not rightful belong me has tormented me. Begged me to return it to its rightful owner. For that I have been scared of for years. It is the last piece you have been looking for."

Silence again for a few moments. I am speechless.

"By me holding this piece you were not able to move forward fully. I abused the privilege of having it. I did bad thing with it and to it. For that I am forever sorry and so much more." Tears start to stream down his face.

Suddenly, my confusion and shock disappear. Something clicks for me. Something finally started to make sense to me after all this time.

"The piece of my heart that you speak of is yours to keep. It no longer belongs to me. What I have learned is where things break is a chance to rebuild. Create something new that never existed before. What goes into this new creation only has carefully selected shards of the break woven into it. The piece you hold no longer is part of me or my new creation. It no longer serves my purposes. So, please, keep it."

In deep thought for a few moments he finally speaks. "It truly is not mine to keep."
"If it does not serve you to hold onto it then give it back to God and let it go. It served its purpose for both of us, and it no longer has a purpose between us. God will know what to do with it next."

Tears of relief stream down his face. For he has experienced forgiveness and I have experienced freedom.
"Thank you," he mutters out softly.

In that moment the room came back. All the sounds, sights, colors, and commotion return. The connection was broken. Both of us complete. We were perfect strangers once again and walk away.

© 2011 Nicole Emery
(Note: The actual names of the individuals in the story have been changed for privacy reasons.)

"Perfect Strangers" Illustration by Lavender-Ice

(Special thank you to Lavender-Ice for allowing me to use her images for this story. For more of her work please visit her website by clicking here.)