If the Moment You Fell in Love Were an Exaggerated Work of Science Fiction
You're in the food court, nursing a king-sized Baja Blast from Taco Bell and keeping guard in front of the gender neutral bathroom that your friend is occupying. After a month of shared glances in the breakroom at work, the two of you are finally meeting non-platonically at the mall. It's not a date, they specified to you. They're not single, so you've both restrained from touching each other, from getting too close.
You smile tightly at the people passing, tap your foot while waiting for the flush of the toilet inside. When it finally sounds, a little pounding thumps in your ribs. There's only so much holiday shopping for the both of you to do, and you've already used up your trip to the food court. What's next? Back to their apartment, or parting ways? The sink faucet begins to run and you hear a loud rip from the little paper towel dispenser. What surprises you, though, is the heavy thud and low-pitched yelp from inside. You press your ear to the door, hearing only the hum of the air vent and a subtle sloshing, as though the toilet is being plunged. Underneath, a soft purple light flickers.
You knock—three times—and with some trepidation, ask, "Everything alright?" On the third knock, the door swings itself open. You look around the food court, hoping that some stranger is witness to the surreality of the situation. You find that time has slowed. The shoppers around you move as though they're in space, eternally doomed to exaggerated movements and impossibly slow reflexes. It might take minutes for a passerby to turn their head in your direction; a conversation would no doubt be impossible.
"You still there?" you ask, wishing that your friend will walk out smiling, their golden brown cheeks risen like corn muffins.
You step further inside and the flickering purple light bursts into a bright rectangular beam expelling from the space where there was once a mirror over the sink.
"Destinée? Are you okay?"
You survey the empty bathroom and see a small pond of water forming around the toilet, which is softly gurgling like a fountain. The purple light grows brighter and you hear a humming, not melodic, but deep and guttural. "Destinée?" You ask one more time, trembling in your sneakers.
The bathroom door sweeps back and forth on its hinges, then slams itself shut. The purple light takes on a powerful reddish hue, and in the span of seconds morphs orange, yellow, then a blinding white. It's too bright; you close your eyes and fall from consciousness.
"I'm glad we did this today." Your body is cold with goosebumps when you wake. A warm breeze slides across your skin and you imagine that the voice and breeze are one. You open your eyes, find that you're surrounded by many hues of purple, though your vision is too fuzzy to identify what. There's a noticeable presence missing from behind your ears; your glasses. You sweep your hands across a ground that is both rocky and smooth and quickly feel the frames under your fingers. When you slip them up your nose, the world is clarified. The blurry purple hues, you realize, is a cavern made up entirely of shimmering amethyst crystals.
"Hello?" you ask feebly. There is no response, but a warmth begins to inch its way from your toes to the tips of your fingers to the base of your neck to your wide forehead. There's a quick shift in the cave's appearance; it bounces and slants like in a funhouse mirror, stretches then snaps back to normal. This illusion of motion is startling. You sit up and squat, then find three amethyst crystals at your feet. They hum in a sweet trifecta. You are infatuated. The warmth intensifies, so that beads of sweat gather under your breasts and arms. "Destinée." Their name comes tumbling from your lips like an accidental prayer. You notice a shimmer of light from the crystals. "Destinée," you say again. For each syllable that is stressed, one of the three jagged amethyst crystals reflects a bright white light. Encouraged by this phenomenon, you grab onto two of the crystals, and once again chant, "Destinée!"
The heat encompasses you at first. Air is sucked right from your passageways until it feels you have nothing left to give. As your eyesight begins to fade to black, life is thrust into you once more. You breathe in everything at once; the smell of flowers, storm clouds gathering above, cocoa butter and olive oil melting from your hair and skin. Your heart is sealed with warmth, pumping not blood, but something that feels like pure light and love.
You are in a field of lavender. The sky is dark with night, but the earth is illuminated by constellations, moonlight, and fireflies. A breeze ruffles the plants surrounding you and they tickle your skin like soft cotton. The smell is overpowering, sweet enough to choke on. The plants laugh with the wind. Little leaves and cotton-like bundles of lavender flowers tickle the hairs on your arms.
You stand on tips of your toes and try to see beyond the flowers. What you find, however, is that the field has no visible end or beginning. You spin around a few times, searching for some sign; panicked, but not too concerned about finding your way home just yet. You're too intrigued. From the bubbling toilet to the cave of amethyst, and now, this darkened field of lavender. Who, or what, was sending you from one place to another? Why? You begin to hum a tune to yourself, the way you would as a child afraid of the dark.
Your voice carries through the field; after a few seconds, the notes return back to you. An echo. It's frightening, hearing the song resounding in the dark, so you stop humming. "Why is it doing that?" you whisper to yourself. Soon enough, you hear your own faint whispers brought back to you. The sharp sss sounds snake around your ears. You think the lavender field must be indoors, perhaps somewhere with a low ceiling. But how can there be a nighttime sky and sustained life?
You resign to walk to the edge of the field, wherever that is. There can't be more than a mile of lavender, and you're likely to hit a wall eventually. You move forward, expecting the gentle plants to move like water around your thighs. Instead, every step you take is straining. The lavender is thick. The scent grows heavy and nauseating. It feels as though you're hardly moving, as if the plants have hands that hold onto your legs like stubborn children. You grab with both hands and curl the flowers into your fists, but when you try to pull the plants from the ground, your ankles tangle in low, unseen thicket and you tumble awkwardly onto your forearms. The breeze picks up, and the field sways rhythmically around your body.
Thunder shakes the heavens. It's the crackling, booming kind that travels from nearby lightning. You imagine yourself frying to death, trapped by flowers and with your back exposed. "I'm glad we did this today," you hear once more. You're sure now that it's the voice of Destinée.
"Where are you?" You ask, jerking your legs to free yourself from the ground. Just as there's another crackle from the sky, you feel blistering heat on your skin.
"Hey, ready to get out of here?" It's Destinée; smiling with their hand on your back. They look to the ground and giggle. "What happened to your Baja Blast?" Your cup is empty on the floor, the blue drink pooled around your sneakers. Shoppers look at you uncomfortably, and when you try to recall what happened, you remember a sort of hot flash, groaning in pain and feeling nauseous. But the hand on your back is warm, and rubs circles as if to smooth away the faint memory.
"I dunno, guess I zoned out. Let's go." You're surprised that they're willingly touching you. It's the first time that you can remember their hand on you. For a fleeting moment, it feels as though a swarm of locusts is tearing through your stomach. Then the sensation morphs into something new. Not quite butterflies, but like moths flying towards a light. It feels like everything good–and mysterious, too. Someone moves past the two of you to enter the bathroom, and when the door opens, you catch a whiff of lavender.
"That's a nice perfume," you mention, subtly taking a deep breath.
"You think so? It's the new Marc Jacobs. I bought it for my–my partner, but it's a little intense for me." Destinée stops smiling. "Maybe I should return it,” they say. “If I can't stand smelling it on a stranger, how can I stand smelling it on someone I live with?"
They move their hand away from your back, quickly, like they're ashamed. You immediately feel dizzy. Your head throbs and then everything speeds up and slows down at the same time. The skin on your arms is chilled, maybe from the icy drink that's now at your feet. It's a bizarre onslaught of emotions: wishing the person you're falling for to want you, too, while wishing for the strength to resist. It's not healthy to feel this much contradiction, and yet.. you hope this isn't the last time Destinée touches you.
You've been part of the work so far, and you can be part of so much more in the coming year. So, let's build.