Lucas Munn lived by one philosophy: no good thing was worth waiting for. He lived for the instant gratification of the here and now. Fast cars, takeout, sex – he never bothered waiting for anything.
“Why bother?” he’d once asked. “Why bother waiting for the perfect moment when you could die the next?”
So he lived with his toes on the edge at all times, laughing at us as we held out for the next moment – and the next, and the next – when Fate would share her plans for us with us. We looked forward to graduation, to our first graduation trip, to birthdays and homecooked meals and first kisses.
We looked forward to the exact moment we would meet our soulmates.
It was inked on our wrists at birth. The local oracle calculated our destinies and carved the digits into our soft flesh, when we were too young to recall the pain. They were our coded prophecies to bear, and every minute we inched closer to the fateful moment when all the love songs would make sense, when we found the person who would complete us.
But Lucas didn’t believe in his digits. He thought the tattoo looked tacky, but I knew it was because he didn’t want to wear the same type of tattoo as everyone else. He got himself a couple others – a Nietzsche quote on his shoulder and a heart (the actual biological organ) overgrown with weeds on his chest.
Because, you see, Lucas had been in love before. Or at least, he thought it was love. He had been trying to prove the oracle wrong by showing that he would meet his soulmate at any other time outside of the one tattooed on his wrist.
But of course, it was not meant to be. Belinda didn’t believe in ever after with him, and told Lucas he was better off waiting for the girl of his dreams to show up at the time Fate had planned for him. A word of advice: do not underestimate the dramatic emotional angst of jilted teenage boys. For months, Lucas poured his soul into writing pages after pages of rap and screamo songs for his now-defunct garage band before plunging headfirst into an abyss of nihilism. (That was when he got his Nietzsche tattoo and, subsequently, his heart one.)
Since then, it had been a string of friends with benefits for him. Girls who stumbled into the apartment in the small hours of the night and crept out just as quickly the next morning before I could even find out their names. Lucas never bothered, and the girls didn’t seem to mind either. When we all knew our time would come, everything we did until then didn’t quite matter.
But it mattered to me. It mattered that I would be meeting my soulmate on some random Saturday afternoon a week before I turned twenty-three (awfully young, it seemed); it mattered that I hadn’t had much experience in the relationship department so far, unless you count that fling with Benedict in summer camp (which I don’t, because he ghosted on me as soon as we parted ways after camp) and the short-lived stormy romance with Chris in my freshman year of university.
It mattered that my time was only two months away, and the only person apart from Chris whom I had ever kissed was Lucas. And I had only done that out of curiosity. He saw it as practice.
“Why do you even believe in that stupid thing, Bel?” he said now, catching my hand as I rubbed my thumb absently over the digits. 12:21|02.26.2017. “Our lives are not for some old crone to decide. We can make our own choices, create our own paths.”
“Yeah?” I pulled out of his grasp, and eyed his heart tattoo. “And how’s that worked out for you?”
It had been more than two months past his time, 00:10|01.01.2017 – right about the time some drunk stranger kissed me at the New Year’s Eve party at our friend’s apartment downstairs – and nothing momentous had happened to him. No fireworks, no earth-shaking moment when he did a double-take, no kiss to seal the moment. It was just another minute that ticked unceremoniously by for him. Later, he told me the stranger who had kissed me had a wedgie as he tottered out of the apartment singing I Kissed a Girl.
Lucas now trailed my gaze to his chest, where the weeds were peeking over the neckline of his T-shirt. “Never you mind, roomie. You should live a little, get your heart broken once, just so you won’t be a fool when your big moment comes.”
I raised my brows. “Thought you didn’t believe in The Time.”
“I don’t.” He flashed me a disarming grin. “I’m just sitting here with my popcorn.”
For the next two months, Lucas watched me go on date after date, perched on my bed night after night as I dressed up in the hopes of finally meeting The One, listened to me recount date after disappointing date, occasionally chipping in with a remark or two (“I always thought he looks shady as hell.” “He’s a downright bore; you deserve more.”).
Meanwhile, I watched him grow increasingly disinterested in bringing girls home, preferring instead to hang around my room and watch me paint well into the night, not saying a word. When I asked what was wrong with him, he only shrugged, abandoned by words for once.
On 26 February, I tried to quell my nerves. I had nothing planned for the day except run a few errands, but I couldn’t stop imagining a million possible scenarios where I would meet my soulmate.
That morning, Lucas reclined in my sofa-bed as I pulled my hair into the perkiest ponytail I could manage. He had no plans either, and clearly figured witnessing my anxiety would be enough entertainment for the day.
“Wouldn’t it be funny,” he said, “if you went through all this preparation and anticipation and finally nothing calls for a celebration?”
I paused to shoot him a look. He always had the worst rhymes at the worst timing. “I don’t think that’s funny.” I flopped onto the sofa-bed next to him. “You don’t understand, Lucas. Today I’ll be meeting the one I will be spending the rest of my life with.”
“Maybe you need to stop pinning everything on The One. With all the expectations you’re heaping on him, the poor guy’s going to run off screaming.”
“What if I meet him but I don’t realise it’s him? Do you think that’s what happened to you?”
“Pretty sure it’s not.” He took my hand before I realised I had been rubbing a thumb over my tattoo absently as usual. “Bel. Just take it easy. Let Fate surprise you.”
I smirked. “Why, Lucas. You almost sound like a believer.”
Lucas was a believer. I just didn’t know it then. Lucas Munn, cynic, nihilist, truth-spitting friend, broken-hearted poet/rapper. He was the biggest believer of all. And it all happened on New Year’s Eve.
While I was too drunk to notice anything but the stranger trying to stick his tongue in my mouth, Lucas said he had experienced his earth-shaking moment where he did a double-take. There was no kiss to seal the moment, only a dawning realisation that he had met his soul-mate ages ago, but was only starting to see her.
“At the New Year’s Eve party?” I tried to recall who had been present. “That girl from unit 3A with the Audrey Hepburn tattoo? She seems like your type? Or, ooh, is it the one in the tight red dress?”
He rolled his eyes and let out an exasperated sigh as he pulled to a stop in front of the dry cleaner’s. “No, you idiot. Why would I be into those airheads?” He grabbed our two bags of laundry before I could offer to help, then turned on the stereo. “Wait here. I’ll be back in a bit. Tell me what you think about this new rhyme, would you?” He ducked out of the car and disappeared into the laundry shop as his new demo started playing.
I remember back one day when you said you were lonely.
I tried to cheer you up but you said that I just don’t get it.
See, you never thought I could understand what you were thinking
But the truth is you don’t know that I’m a diehard romantic.
Amid Lucas’s words, I caught a glimpse of a familiar face in the distance. From across the road I saw the same frown and crease between his brows as he walked, lost in thought. The same eyes that lit up whenever he caught sight of someone he knew. The same shuffle and slight slouch of the shoulders.
Chris was the first and last official boyfriend I had had up until now. I hadn’t thought about him in a while, mostly because we both grew out of our relationship after a year. We came to an unspoken agreement that we had gone on for long enough and it was time to part.
But now, it couldn’t be … could it? I checked the time. 12:15. It had to be him then. I tried to resuscitate the feelings I had for him back then, but nothing really stirred. It was hard to focus when Lucas was rapping in my ear.
You say you’re difficult to love, and the world owes you nothing.
But look, I’m still here. Doesn’t that count for something?
I guess what I’m trying to say is
You’ve been wishing and dreaming and chasing and wasting
Your time hoping for a sign, going out of your mind
When all you need to do is look behind
And see that I’ve been here all this while
Just when you need a good cry.
Chris spotted me then. Recognition dawned in his eyes. The grin he broke into was genuine, and I remembered why I had been so smitten with him back then. He had the sort of smile that could make you forget your own name. Now, he shuffled over as I wound down the window. “Bel?”
“Chris,” I said, leaning out of the car. “This is a surprise.”
I call you a bleeding heart, but maybe I am one too.
And maybe both of us have more in common than we thought we knew.
We sought ourselves in other people, and we called it true love
But really what we’re doing is just cheating the powers above.
Chris tucked a hand into his jeans pocket. “I can’t believe I’m seeing you again here. You’re looking good, Bel.”
You can call it destiny or fate or simply what is meant to be,
But I don’t care about its name; I just want to set my heart free.
So by the time you hear this rhyme I hope you get what I mean.
It’s twelve-twenty-one now, show-time for you and me.
Lucas emerged from the dry cleaner’s wearing the most ridiculous T-shirt. 12:21, it said. It was only when his gaze settled squarely on me that all his words caught up with me. Chris was saying something, but his voice barely registered in the roar that filled my ears.
Lucas once said that free verse was the only way for him to find his voice. That people usually missed what got lost between the lines. That I was the only one who was ever able to catch it all, catch all his words.
Maybe if I had listened closer, though, I would have realised that all this time Lucas did believe in his digits. He had just been biding his time. Lucas Munn lived by the philosophy that nothing was worth waiting for – at least, not until the right moment.