There was a time when they walked through shopping malls and admired all the plastic-wrapped wonders, every dollar store and Zellers as exotic as a spice route bazaar.
They filled shopping baskets with out-of-season gifts?Teletubbies and digital watches?for the kids of family members they (suddenly and mysteriously) no longer begrudged.
In the Super Valu, they exchanged jokes in the produce aisle, bantered with butchers in bloodstained jackets. He showed her how to juggle grapefruit; she introduced him to the art of sniffing cantaloupes.
She emerged from the changing room in her new jeans, an updated Venus rising from a new-millennium clamshell. Sometimes the security guards and checkout ladies (they don’t know what love is) didn’t get their subtle sense of humour.
At concerts and movies, they whispered through the first bits, always surprised at being shushed. Driving home in the new minivan, each silently marvelled, as they sang along to Celine Dion, at the ways in which poetry and song can lay bare the longings of the human soul. Late into the night, they made jasmine-scented love, they ate Indian takeout by candlelight.
Slowly, they too began to forget what love is. They glared dark thoughts at each other across sensible Ikea tables. They hid private resentments behind the thin steam rising off cups of peppermint tea. They arrived home late from the office, ate their leftovers with plastic forks by fridge light.
They turned the television up and fell asleep, without saying goodnight, to the sound of bombs falling in the Middle East, the sound research findings related to the dramatic increase in sudden and unexplained weight loss. They developed, and carefully nurtured, deep-seated grudges toward each other, and each other’s friends and relatives, and each other’s relatives? pets.
They each of them downloaded music they had listened to as teenagers, and felt that the haunting words spoke eloquently to their own senses of betrayal at the hands of fate. Bismillah! We will not let him go!
Every now and then, though, the strangest things will randomly happen. The sunlight will catch her hair in a certain way, or she will smack her lips when She’s waking up. He will have a nightmare about being abducted by aliens, and cradle his head between her breasts. Without notice, they will briefly defy gravity, rising up off the backyard lawn chairs, or walk backwards up rickety ladders, juggling grapefruit.
They will go shopping at the mall, or turn a corner together downtown, and this whole lost world will be there, waiting for them, uninvisible.