He knew she was out there somewhere. The one. Every day as he went about his business, he looked for her. He didn’t know what she looked like or what she sounded like but he knew that he would recognise her when he saw her. He had to; he was counting on it. His friends thought he was being ridiculous. Let us fix you up, they said. Get to know someone and then perhaps love will grow. But he turned down every opportunity to meet their friends from work, their cousins or their own girlfriends’ sisters.
Try dating agencies, they advised. There are plenty of websites out there. Perhaps this mythical girl of your dreams is only the click of a page away. But he dismissed this. You only get desperate types on there, people with horrible things wrong with them or else they would have been snapped up by someone in the real world, wouldn’t they?
His friends left him to it.
He toyed with varying his routine. If he walked down a different street, perhaps he’d see her. Perhaps he’d been missing her every day. But he chickened out. It would be just his luck, the day he deviated from his accustomed route for her to walk down his usual street.
There’s only so much you can leave up to chance. But, he felt, as long as he kept putting himself out there, visiting bars, going to concerts, he would run into her eventually. She would share the same interests as him, of course, and have the same cultural taste.
One night, leaving the theatre, a flash of blonde hair caught his eye. He froze. There across the bustling foyer – there was something about the bob of the head that kindled a spark of recognition in his soul. It was her!
He shoved his way through the crowd but she was too far ahead and moving too fast. By the time he reached the street, he’d lost her. Cursing fate, he went home.
At least I know she’s a blonde, he consoled himself.
Every night for a week, he loitered outside the theatre in the hope of seeing her again and getting a proper look this time. But she was never there. He worried that she was from out of town and had made a special trip just to see the show.
He was determined never to lose hope. He used up all his annual leave just to be out on the streets, searching. When that was gone, he didn’t bother to go back to work and ignored all their calls. Eventually they sacked him but he didn’t care. All he cared about was being out there, around the town, searching, forever searching.
He lost his flat. He had to live on the streets. But that suited him. He had to be out there, forever out there, in case he missed her.
One night a boisterous gang of lads poured out of a pub. They saw him in a shop doorway and jeered. They threw things at him. He tried to ignore them; she could come around the corner at any moment. Angry, the louts approached. Who did he think he was to ignore them? Ignore this, they growled and began to kick him in the chest and in the head.
They ran away at the sound of sirens, leaving him lying on his back, looking up at the night sky.
An angelic face, framed by blonde hair, blotted out his view of the stars. The face was beautiful even with its brow creased with concern.
“Can’t risk moving him,” she said to the ambulance driver. “We’re too late.”
Her voice was the sweetest music he had ever heard. He tried to smile, to speak to her at last. If he’d guessed she was a paramedic, he would have got himself hurt long ago.
“Don’t try to speak,” she told him. “Relax.”
Bugger that, he thought. After all this time. He summoned the remainder of his failing strength and forced out his final breath to utter his last word.
“Hello,” he said.