SOULMATES: A Story
You walk to your front door and open it to reveal me, standing on your welcome mat wearing a crushed velvet duster, a miniature top hat, holding a Family Feud board game. I look like this:
Clearly you are about to be murdered, so you quickly try to close the door, but I put my foot in the way and stop you.
“Hello, I don’t mean you any harm,” I said politely, “Do you have a moment to talk about Love?”
“Uh, actually I’m about to make dinner,” you reply.
I smile at you. It’s 3pm. You are not geriatric so unfortunately it’s pretty clear you are lying. You sigh, and figure, why not? It’s been a long time since you’ve had a visitor and you’re touch-starved. Even if I do turn out to be a serial killer, and even though you really would rather not be murdered by someone wearing crushed velvet, at least you would have some human contact in the end. So you let me in.
“Would you like something to drink?” you offer, unsure of the niceties in a situation like this.
“Got any bourbon?” I ask as I settle myself down on your couch and begin pulling out the pieces of the Family Feud board game.
“Okay, I’m fine then,” I say cheerfully. “Please have a seat.”
You huff a little at being asked to sit in your own home but do so, slightly intrigued. I pull out a little orange card from the box and hold it protectively in my hands. I have it covered so that you can’t see anything on it.
“Alright, here’s the question,” I announce. You notice my voice is suddenly baritone as I do my best impression of a male TV host. “It’s time to play Family Feud! We’ve got four answers on the board. The question is: What do people call the person who they want to spend the rest of their life with?”
You’re beyond questioning how weird this is so you think for second and then say, “Love of their life?”
“Ding ding ding!” I shout, making you jump a little. “That’s number three! Keep going.”
“The One?” you say, a bit more confident now.
“Damn right, two more.”
You pause, wracking your brain, knowing you’re forgetting an obvious one. I’m smiling at you serenely, gently tapping my foot, watching you think. Finally you remember. You can’t believe you forgot, it’s such a common one.
“Soulmate,” you answer.
“Oh yes,” I respond. “That’s the big one.”
You watch as I toss the card back into the box. Confused, you ask, “Wait I thought you said there were four?”
“There are,” I say offhandedly. “But the last one was ‘My Number One Gun’ because America is obsessed with assault weapons and the results are gathered by polling. So we’re not gonna count that one because it’s insane.”
“Now,” I say, clapping my hands once. “What do you think a soulmate is?”
“I mean, that’s a heavy question,” you reply, giving me an odd look. “I guess it’s the person who makes you a better human. The one who fits with you perfectly.”
You notice I look a little disappointed. I slump down on the couch and watch you. Then I say, “Have you met your soulmate?”
“Yes,” you say sadly. “I think I did. But now they’re gone. My heart is broken.”
I seem to perk up at this information. Leaning forward again, I say, “Let me tell you what a soulmate actually is, my friend. People will tell you a soulmate can be platonic or romantic. That is true. In that sense, there are different kinds of soulmates. A platonic soulmate is the one you would willingly take a bullet for, the one that just clicks with your own soul, the one that is utterly compatible with you. Now, this isn’t to say you are compatible because you are similar. In fact, a platonic soulmate will usually be quite different from you. But they balance you. They make you stronger.
But a romantic soulmate…that’s a different story. I’m gonna let you in on a little secret: very, very few people end up with their romantic soulmate. And that’s because a romantic soulmate is extremely different from ‘The One’ or ‘The Love of Your Life’.”
“But…I thought they were all the same thing,” you remark. “They were all on the same card.”
“Oh, this game is nuts, we don’t go by these rules,” I say dismissively. “The fact is, a romantic soulmate is there to fuck you up.”
You stare at me.
“It’s true,” I insist. “This particular kind of soulmate is very special, but also very painful. They are there in your life to show you who you really are. Unlike a platonic soulmate, a romantic one will usually be just like you. It’s your souls bumping into each other and then sticking, because they realize they have come from the same atom and they recognize each other. This type of soulmate will break your heart, usually over and over again. They will show you exactly what you don’t need, what you don’t want. But the reason you love them so much is because this person, out of all the people, is the one person who you are truly, utterly, completely yourself with. A real romantic soulmate is the person who you are totally authentic with.”
“I’m authentic with all kinds of people,” you protest.
“Are you?” I question. “This person who is gone…did you trust them entirely? Did you never fear they would judge you, or dismiss you? Were you comfortable enough with them that you weren’t filtering out your thoughts or actions?”
“Well, yeah, actually,” you admit.
“And how was that?” I ask. “Was that…healthy for you?”
You think for several long minutes, remembering, looking back, sifting through the memories. Finally you say, very softly, “No. It wasn’t. We were so close, so similar, so in-tune with each other that it brought out the toxicity in each of us. We had no limits to what we would say, or do, or talk about. So all the awful things about each of us were exacerbated and exaggerated.”
I nod, seemingly pleased with your answer. “You fanned each other’s flames,” I say pointedly. “And that is the sign of a soulmate. Because the soulmate accepts you no matter what, because they don’t try to change you, or make you be someone who you aren’t, there is no growth. It’s just the two of you, your demons by your sides, being real genuine people stripped of their facades and social masks.”
“So why wouldn’t I want that?” you ask. “If I’m finally able to be me, me as I really am?”
“Because, silly,” I say, “You are a human. You should always be changing. You aren’t a cardboard cutout, or a children’s show character that wears the same clothes everyday and has the same four personality traits. People need to grow. And that’s why romantic soulmates are so important: They show you who you really are. They strip you down, take off all the gild and makeup, and illustrate you–all your flaws, all your bad parts, all your issues. And then, once you have realized them, only then can you go about fixing them. Or not fixing them. It’s up to you. The point isn’t to become Gandhi or Obama. It’s to recognize that you are uniquely human.”
“And that’s why many people don’t end up with their romantic soulmates,” you say slowly. “Because they’re there to break you, to reveal you. So you can build yourself back up. And because they bring out your true self, which can be a scary thing to confront.”
“Exactly,” I answer, satisfied. “And also because, let’s be real, a lot of people are dicks. And you don’t want that in your life anyway. You’d be surprised how many romantic soulmates are just total buttheads. And you know what’s worse than one person being a butthead? Two people being buttheads.”
“So where do I go from here?” you want to know.
“That’s up to you,” I say. “You could always keep your soulmate in your life, just outside your peripheral, occasionally seeing them and hanging out. You could cut them out completely. You could ease the pain of your loss by immediately running out and dating the first person who crosses your path because they are convenient, and easy, and safe. Or you could do something else entirely. The possibilities are endless.”
“But I love them…” you whisper morosely.
“I know,” I say sympathetically. “You always will, I won’t lie to you. No matter where you go or what do you, no matter who you end up with, that one person, that first love, that romantic soulmate will always stick to you. The atoms, remember? Blame it on the atoms. And one day when you’re both dust, maybe your dust will mix together and your atoms can thank each other.”
“That’s pretty fucking bleak,” you grumble.
“Yep!” I chirp. “That’s humanity for ya. The good news is that not everything is terrible all the time. And now that you know yourself, you can find the little things that make life okay.”
“I suppose,” you concede.
I take off my tiny top hat and hand it to you. “Don’t worry, I don’t have lice,” I reassure you. “Find the good things. Find the things that your soulmate revealed to you. Dress up like a lunatic and visit random people’s houses and tell them that even though they have been destroyed, it’s going to be okay. Meet other people. Find different partners. Don’t forget that soulmate, because despite all the bullshit, they really were important. But become the best, healthiest version of you, not the raw and tangled version your soulmate illuminated.”
You take the little top hat hesitantly and for the first time in the conversation, smile a little. It’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever seen. But you know you’re going to wear it.
I get up, collecting the Family Feud game and heading to the door. “Well, have a good one, I enjoyed this chat!”
“Wait!” you cry out. “How do you know so much about soulmates? Who are you?”
“Me?” I reply, grinning. “I don’t shit about anything, my friend. I could be completely wrong. Everyone I’ve spoken to has a different definition of soulmates. It’s really up to you what you think they are.”
You look at me, a bit flabbergasted.
“But,” I say, pausing, halfway through the door, giving you a fond look. “I like to think I’m right.”