“You’ll know it when you see it – or, more specifically feel it,” a hopeless romantic once told him (but since divorced).
With further elaboration, the “it” being the elusive unicorn Mark was seeking…and was lead to believe was out there.
Just where this magical, mythical being was hiding, was anybody’s guess. Living with the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny, perhaps? He truly wanted to believe it existed. Once upon a time, he had no doubt. But it’s always only a matter of time before reality overshadows fantasy.
He certainly had ample reason to have his doubts – especially lately. But he was willing to suspend disbelief and give it a shot, joining the ranks of those who not only believed that unicorns existed, but believed that it was just a matter of waiting for the universe to help you find your very own.
Of course, it’s much easier to believe in such a thing when you are young and naïve – akin to a child’s belief in Santa. But as time goes by, it eventually fades into the rabbit hole oblivion of myth.
When we’re young still young, we are often struck by Cupid and can’t help but believe in it. But overtime, most come to see it as fool’s gold. And though Mark’s belief in true love was almost fully extinguished, there were still embers burning beneath the ash.
Even the most hopeless of romantics feel the foundation begin to crack by the time they reach 40 if they are still single. If married, their views of love have probably been significantly altered. As well.
Mark was certainly no hopeless romantic. And certainly way less now than before his marriage deteriorated beyond the point of repair. Not even marriage counseling could crack that nut. Or, more accurately, the nut was already cracked beyond repair.
Yet, despite fading faith, there was still a part of him that believed that his magical unicorn was lingering out there.
And quite likely sharing the same thoughts and doubts as he was.
Holding on to hope wasn’t such a bad thing.
At 37, Mark was still young enough to be considered young. In the eyes of his students, however, he was ancient. And he couldn’t help but feel that way.
The downside to still believing that your special someone is out there at Mark’s age meant dealing with an avalanche of anxiety attached to the realization that even though you believed your soul mate existed out there somewhere, the universe was determined and conspiring to keep you apart at all costs.
And that time was running out.
He couldn’t help but wonder if this was worse than the contrary belief that one’s soul mate never existed to begin with.
When you truly believe that their special one is out there, life becomes an endless scavenger hunt. A game driven by the realization that every outing is rife with the possibility that your unicorn might be waiting around every corner, at every bar, at every café, or in every bookstore, which means leaving no stone unturned, for fear of missing out on the one thing you are searching for more than anything.
Because you are in search of that one person who not only truly gets you…but that you will truly get yourself. The one person who is like mirror reflecting your best self, deflecting all the things you fucking hate. Yet, despite the fact that you have everything in common, there are still several mysteries waiting to be unraveled. And it all seems too good to be true. And you can’t eat. Because your stomach is filled with the constant flutter of butterflies.
A unicorn is also someone that makes you feel compelled to write out long messages on a note pad before you type it out to make sure you get it just right. It’s regretting that you didn’t phrase a message just so. Or, that you left out a line. It’s hearing a song in your car and you’re convinced she’s hearing the same song, even when you know it’s not even possible.
And the world is never more full of color. Even during a dreary Michigan winter.
And then reality sets in. Before you fall out of love. Before the sex drive is gone. Before some one cheats. Before the dream is given up on. Before you feel like strangers, despite all the familiarities and similarities you once shared. When the allure of romance and endless potential becomes mundane, annoying, boring. And all you see are not only the worse parts of that person you were once so obsessed over, but the worst parts of yourself, which are now somehow, deeply and horrifyingly magnified. Once you get to this point, there is no turning back. You either go through the heartbreak of break up, or you both live with the heartbreak of wondering if the unicorn was fool’s gold.
A false flag.
And before you know it, you suddenly find yourself searching for your missing unicorn once again. And it’s doubly sad, because the person you thought was your unicorn is probably thinking the same thing about you. Or, possibly fucking someone behind your back. Or, perhaps, you are on your own private, lonely island, which means they are either oblivious, or they have become too complacent to give a fuck.
Of course, none of it really comes as much of a surprise. We are used to thinking the person who just might be “the one” actually isn’t – no matter how much and intensely you shared the same wavelength. In fact, it is often the ones that come on the most sudden that are often to be most disappointing. Sometimes, life simply gets in the way and despite doing everything in your power to make it work, you end up going separate ways. But we cherish even the failed or false unicorns because if even for a moment – a drunken night, an all nigh chat session, or whatever the case may be, it was fucking beautiful. Like a comet that goes as quickly as it came. Sometimes, a temporary unicorn comes into our life when we most need it.
And sometimes, this means realizing when it’s time to move on.
Coming to the realization that that our true unicorn is probably still out there somewhere.
But then we remember that it is called a unicorn for good reason: it’s not only elusive. It probably doesn’t even exist. Yet, we keep searching anyway. And falling into the same pattern that ultimately leads to disappointment, rejection, resentment, loneliness, desperation…which is more than often the case.
Which is exactly how Mark ended up drunk most nights at his neighborhood dive, notebook in hand, with the aim of putting a dent in the novel that he had been toiling over for 15 years. Spinning in its tracks.
Fifteen fucking years. Longer than his marriage by half. And perhaps even more frustrating and abusive. But yet, it was his first love. And he figured since he had already put so much blood, sweat, and tears into something that never reciprocated (much like his marriage – though he was equally at fault), he would stick with it, till death do him part (unlike the marriage she finally put out of its misery. Because, as she said “You’re too much of a fucking coward to end it.”)
Although his optimism regarding finding his unicorn was quickly fading, he still had full faith in his novel – his elusive Moby Dick. Though he was certain he would never give up on his dream, his biggest fear was that fucking novel would never see the light of day. It was this very fear that motivated him to keep poking away at it. In fact, the more time passed, the harder he worked at it. If only he put this much effort into his marriage. Then again, it was his “stupid” writing dream that played a huge role in dissolution of his marriage. Of course,
She would never understand how much it hurt him that in 10 year of marriage, she never read a goddamn word of what you wrote, nor did she ever ask what he was working on. Nor, get excited when he shared a new idea. She simply didn’t give a shit. And it hurt like hell. Eventually, he got to the point where he stopped sharing things with her. It was also around this time that he reached the beginning of the end.
And it wasn’t like he didn’t take interest in her pursuits. He understood it took two to tango. She just never wanted to dance.
For years, they were two people living under the same roof, but living two separate lives. Of course, not having kids only expedited this existence. Perhaps, if they had kids, they would have fought harder. Or, stayed married for the kids. Then how miserable would they have been? Maybe kids only would have made it worse.
As far as his book was concerned, he knew he ultimately had no control over whether would someone actually publish his book. But he would never stop knocking at doors.
Since the divorce, Mark devoted most of his evenings to his writing. Bourbon was his muse. When he wrote at home, he usually ended up passed out at his computer earlier than he would have preferred. So he started frequenting bars more often – not to pick up women, but so he could stay awake and write. He always wrote best when surrounded by stimulation. He fed off it. Every now and then, an attractive stranger would catch his eye and become his unknowing muse.
Lately, however, his he started to feel like perhaps the time had come to give dating a try, for the first time since he was last single – 15 years ago to be exact. He doubted he would be any better at the game now, than he was then. In fact, he was likely to be worst with rust.
It didn’t help that when it came to the opposite sex, he felt anxiety anytime he had to talk to a cute female – a waitress, cashier, whatever the case may be. So how the fuck was he going to ever start dating? Perhaps he would give a dating app a try. Or, two. After all, his elusive unicorn could very well be a right swipe away. Narrowing things down could only help!
It was time to get serious about finding a muse, rather than his usual barista or bartender crush he was prone to falling for without their knowledge of his existence. Sometimes, he would fall for a fellow customer, going so far as to project an entire life’s history on to her. Yet, he would never give himself the opportunity to discover if his projection came anywhere close to the truth because he didn’t have the goddam balls to do anything about it. At least it wasn’t all for naught – often, these “one night muses” ended up populating his stories.
Lately, he was frequenting bars fare more coffee than his usual coffee shops. Part of it was the fact that caffeine seemed to be keeping him up at night, more so than in the past. But the truth of the matter was that he was depending on alcohol more and more lately, going as far as to convince himself that drinking was making his writing better. Much like his writing, his Mark’s life lately was one very rough, unending draft. And it was time for some major polishing.
Part of time hope that by frequenting bars – and increasing alcohol consumption – he would somehow find the courage to strike up a conversation and maybe – somehow – get back into the game.
Perhaps some girl will be so fascinated by a guy writing in a bar, she would approach him! It was only natural that if she his true unicorn would be turned on by his writing. Of course, in reality, he was aware of what a pretentious douche bag he probably looked like.
Then again, did he really want to drag another woman into the murky swamp of a writer?
He realized his desire for a muse was a bit selfish on his part. But he sure loved the idea of writing stories secretly just for her. Stories that she inspired. And then she would read them. And then they would have dinner. Watch a movie. Make love. And life would be good. Life could be good. If only he could just get out of his own way.
Of course, it was usually while riding the high of a writing session, combined with ample amounts of bourbon, that he was more convinced than ever that his elusive unicorn was out there.
“Are you writing a book?”
Peering over his shoulder was the ginger angel of his dreams.
“Yes. Trying to, at least.”
Where in the hell did she come from? How had he not noticed her until she appeared? She was exactly the type of he would have typically instantly noticed.
“What’s it about?
“A thriller about a guy who realizes that ‘s an alternative version of himself living the life he always wanted.”
“Oh, wow. That sounds fantastic! String theory stuff, right?”
“Are you a writer?” he asked.
“Me?” she said with a laugh.
“No. But I am an avid reader. Mind if I sit here?”
What is happening?
Surely some sort of prank. He kept waiting for a camera crew to jump out of some dark corner.
Was he dreaming?
This type of shit never happened to him.
Three hours later, they were still talking.
And sharing an appetizer.
Their conversation was effortless; their mutual interests endless – especially as it pertains to film, music, and literature. And despite everything in common, he realized how many mysteries remained to be explored.
From a physically standpoint, she was just his type. Red head, with a punk edge exterior, but a sweet interior.
And perhaps most importantly, she was so damn curious about his writing! He wasn’t used to this. Why would she give a shit? She hadn’t even read a single word he had written – but that was soon about to change.
“So what made you want to talk to me?” he awkwardly asked.
“Because you seemed so cute, writing away in your little notebook. And it was refreshing to see a guy in a bar who wasn’t there to pick up chicks.”
This. Cannot. Be. Real.
So what next? His lack of confidence was certainly still intact. Because he just assumed that even after this amazing conversation, they would go their separate ways. Closing time.
He walked her out, an assertive action, aided by the fact that he had no choice since the bar was closing its doors.
Standing out the parking lot, a light snow flurry fell on them, as they awkwardly stood there awaiting an unwritten goodbye. Both seemed unsure as to what to do next, despite both likely wanting the same thing.
“Want to come back to my place?” she asked.
No way this was happening.
“Yes,” he said in response to her question. “That would be great.”
With nothing to lose, he followed her back to her apartment just conveniently down the road, listening to “Across the Universe” as the replayed his unexpected evening in his mind.
Nothing seemed forced.
Just two people at a bar.
Just as he fantasized over and over again. Just like he had seen in the movies, time again. And now, somehow, it was happening.
But was it really?
It was happening.
And of course, how fitting that what happened next was the best sex of his life.
Surely, it was too soon to assume she was his true unicorn. Right?
“You’ll know it when you see it – or, more specifically feel it.”
And the second he entered her bedroom – moments before he entered her, he had as close to an answer as he could ever expect to get.
Hanging above her bed, was a giant, velvet painting.
Of a beautiful, glorious unicorn.