She appeared at the doorway, and said hello.
Like most boys at thirteen, his youth and inexperience in the world rendered him essentially inarticulate, but within him something profound spoke, as it would every time he saw her across the next four decades.
She was summery: pretty swirling dress, tennis shoes, hair in pigtails. She was cute, unaffected, curious. Fresh cheekbones, wide smile, bright eyes. She came from the city she said. Magill. He’d heard of it, but couldn’t place it on a map.
He found her electric, but smartly aware of her surroundings. She had a compelling voice. It was melodic, confident and engaged him as if he were an infant. In his universe it would ultimately occupy an exalted place. Its warmth blanketed him in previously unidentified ways, and made the space around him melt so that all else vanished. It was a voice from which he’d happily never recover.
It was the first quality about her that he loved.
A cloudless November day, the little primary school room was empty. His former art teacher invited him to run a disco at the annual fete, so he’d brought his cassette player and it moved along with songs from Grease, Saturday Night Fever and other tunes of the day.
Involuntarily committing this moment to memory, his higher-self took charge and the infinite, twinkling stars comprehended more than he, as we need stars to do. Over the years he’d return to that enchanted sliver of time and space, and strain to recall the detail.
But he had no cinematic vision, no snippets of dialogue to replay in his mind. Just a knowing sensation below the crust, the lithosphere, the mesosphere, in his now-surrendered inner core.
With the trajectory of a distant comet, prodigious events were at that point set in silent motion. He couldn’t see them, and of course this knowledge would have been both comforting and terrible in its certainty.
Cosmology intervened and before she left, he had subscribed to her orbit. How remarkable that his short life had been a rehearsal for this dream role. He was unaware that he’d already been cast.
She was with him in that wooden room for eleven minutes.
His molecularity, his neurology, and his fledgling heart now had a brief meeting. At its conclusion they all nodded towards each other. Let the record show, they chorused, that this would be the defining moment.
Later reflecting that he could scarcely list the actual beginnings of any key relationships, this one would stand above all others like Kilimanjaro above the savannah.
He was thirteen.
Although it wasn’t an urgent and consuming affection, he knew it was a significant encounter, unlike a meteorite which collapses to earth, and is forgotten, for it was more substantial than that.
They were to be classmates and friends and inescapably connected. High school’s happy days extended out beyond their immaculate horizon. Then would follow university, other loves, travel, kids, sadness and the wider planet.
She skipped back out through that doorway, and he was happy he’d see her again soon.
And so, he fell in love with her.
Their story had begun.