They had met in the reading room of the British Library. One blue set of eyes met with another set of gray and the rest, as they say, is history.
She was probably a little older than him, and she was half way through her doctorate in Greek Civilization (and its impact on social structures). He was a mathematician who was studying for his masters, but who had always wanted to write books for children.
They had spent months not talking, and there were months of stolen looks and of conscious ignoring. An outsider might have thought that their behavior was more that of a teenage couple.
What had finally broken the ice was when he knocked a book on to the hallowed floor of the reading room, causing a resounding ripple wave of noise to circulate. This made her jump and she let out a little scream. Only a little one mind, but enough to cause murmurs of disapproval growing as a wave in the opposite direction.
He had mouthed the word, ‘sorry’ to her and she’d constructed a little smile on her face, as if to say, it was fine.
Later that day, they literally bumped into each other when she was returning from the café and he was off for a breath of fresh air.
“Sorry about that…you know….earlier….the noise,” he said, but was thinking how much easier things were in your head. How much simpler it was to imagine situations without the actual physicality of the other person standing right in front of you.
She thought he seemed kind, and cute and was hoping he would ask her for a coffee, or something, anything – even although she had just drunk a large latte.
And he did ask her, and that was also, as they say, history.
They spent several months of courting, always in between their hectic studying. It wasn’t until all of that was complete that they decide to get married.
There wasn’t much money between them and so they managed to rent a small studio apartment on the Holloway Road. He took several jobs, one of which was cleaning at the British Library during the night. He would come home, sleep for three hours and then rush off to work in a small company in the east of London.
They tried for children but it seemed that they wouldn’t be blessed, and in a way, it would have been hard for all three of them to live in such a small space.
“Perhaps next year,” he would tell her, then kiss her.
The third anniversary of their meeting in the British Library (to be more accurate, the first time they actually spoke – as neither of them could agree when they had first noticed each other) was going to be in ten days and he had something very special up his sleeve.
It had taken a lot of planning but it helped where he worked. The bosses at the Library weren’t too happy about cleaners messing about with stuff, but still he managed it.
Either life is random or it is not. Perhaps when your time is up, it is up, or maybe it is just a freak incident after all. Either way, the morning of the day of the end was just like any other.
He got up and walked down Holloway Road towards the Tube station. Perhaps if he had known this was his last day, he would have looked more closely at the little things: the faces of people, the flowers in a window, or the child who smiled at him. We are never so lucky to have that luxury, so when he crossed the road, there was a million things on his mind other than the London bus which killed him.
She remembered the young police woman who came to the door. She had a sergeant with her. The woman had asked her to sit and she sat down and watched their lips move. The person who stood up a few hours later as the room was growing dark was never going to be the same person again.
She was too torn to even cry. Her heart had been broken into a million pieces.
A week later, a week of tablets, relations, more tablets, not sleeping, tears, and drink, a letter arrived.
It was from him. An anniversary card to say how much he loved her and how much he looked forward to growing old with her. For a moment she had almost forgotten he was gone. It was like that every morning, a few seconds of happiness before the reality kicked her in the face.
At the end of the card (and after all his kisses) was a book reference, one from the British Library.
That morning she went to the library and requested the book, there was nothing special about it, except she suddenly remembered it was the book he had knocked from the table all that time ago. In the back of the book was a card, in his writing which said, ‘I love you’.
On the other side of the card was another reference for another book, the one she had been reading the day he had said ‘sorry’ for the first time.
And on this card, he told a small story of his life before and after meeting her. There was another book reference at the end this card. In all he had left messages in twenty books and together they made up a story of his life with her.
She sat there, in the reading room, too scared to cry and trying hard to breathe. It was – she thought – better to have loved and lost, than to have never known him.
She walked up Euston Road, and the sunshine bleached her heart a little. If life was random, she decided, then anything was possible. And she smiled at that.
bobby stevenson 2017