This was another internet blind date; in the picturesque market square of an Eastern European provincial town boasting a city hall with an original Renaissance facade; artists trading sketches in the archways of crooked, colourful toy houses.
I didn’t know anything about her apart from the fact that she knew exotic spices and was a biologist by profession. She certainly soon lived up to that expectation, commenting on the reproductive habits of every bird species that happened to pass through the backyard of the cafe in which we sat down to have a drink (beer and tea, respectively).
She looked great and somehow mesmerising in her quaint, 19th century-like white frilly blouse and long dark skirt (someone copying Marie Curie?), and could quote Shakespeare in English and Goethe in German. Her dad, who had worked as a Soviet fighter pilot in Iran (I had never heard of such a mission) and had implanted in her a love for Persian classical music – she was the only person I have ever met, apart from me, who loves that music and isn’t Iranian – apparently also had telekinetic powers and could attract iron cast pots and pans to his body. She could scan people with her hands and know their diseases, at least she told a story of that kind with an artful, theatrical accent and elaborate, vivid vocabulary.
In fact, this was all a bit crazy.
She did seem to be a character from a play.
* * *
On another date she brought me a sketch of a bird (I forgot the species) catching a lizard, rolled up and decorated with a red ribbon. I was so dumbfounded by her eloquence and talent that I actually forgot the present in the restaurant (one decorated with bird paintings on all walls) when I left.
* * *
Coming back to herbs and plants, she claimed to know the specifics (taxonomy, features, culinary and medicinal uses) of at least 1,500 plant species by heart, and I’d believe her. Actually by that time I was already feeling like a total idiot, as this whole story had rendered me rather speechless; frankly it also occurred to me that perhaps I had found a fellow aspie, who also happens to be some kind of crazy genius and eccentric witch. Certainly not lacking erotic charisma, either – mixed with a strange innocence that made me wonder whether she was even aware of that as she kept analysing the sex life of sparrows and lime trees.
* * *
Coming back to our first date, though. As she was sipping her cold beer (I later learnt she had a gourmet taste for those and could describe their aromatic specifics poetically), and me my herbal tea, fidgeting nervously, listening to her current observations of the sparrows reproducing in the ivy covering the tall walls surrounding the yard, in or despite my nervousness I noticed something odd.
No, all that certainly wasn’t odd enough for me.
But her heart had a black rim.
Or rather, I could see a dull, smokey yet dense cloud of blackness extending around the centre of her chest (deep within, or even slightly behind her); something that looked like the dark cloud of ink an octopus hurls at an attacker to bewilder them.
It was dense, fussy, heavy, inky, black.
It puzzled me.
It wasn’t a hallucination, in that I knew it’s not a physical object. But it wasn’t something I was just visualising, either – it had a definite location in space, and seemed to come through my eyes, or an inner eye that is almost-physical, somehow.
It puzzled me, definitely.
I didn’t mention it, but thought about it for a moment. Depression? I mean what do you make of a black ring of smoke around the heart?
At some point we got up and moved.
* * *
We met on and off afterwards. I didn’t see the “thing” again, but it stayed on my mind.
I was contemplating asking her (by e-mail) whether she’s depressed; it kept itching my brain. I felt it’s somehow significant.
She actually was (“endogenously”, she said), but somehow that still didn’t satisfy me – I’d seen enough depressed people, but not this.
* * *
The mystery lifted about three months later (in October; after the birds had definitely reproduced and the leaves fallen).
We were in her room, which – how could it be otherwise – was essentially a storage chamber for every type of scientific antique, from bones, feathers, through polypores peeled off the tops of trees, pine cones brought back from Siberia, mineral slices, old-fashioned lab equipment, test tubes in every conceivable twisted shape, and a stuffed platypus to hug when sleeping. Not to mention her own abstract sculptures and drawings, and heaps of books (I mostly remember familiar philosophy and neuroscience titles).
I had mentioned at a point that I also feel various things about people, with my hands and otherwise. She had requested me to “scan” her. I said, why not – I was actually pretty curious, as she was quite the specimen, obviously. So to say.
As soon as I started, I felt that huge swirling blackness filling and expanding out from the heart again, front and back. This time I told her, as it seemed appropriate.
She didn’t give me all the details, but something in her shifted as she revealed a secret apparently.
I had heard her previously occasionally joke about death, making comments of the type “well, miraculously I’m still alive”. Towards the very end of our first date (a few hours after my vision) she had also mentioned that she had a serious disease, but refused to specify. I didn’t guess it … oddly, I didn’t put 1 + 1 together, as I realise now … that woman must have befuddled my brain.
It was a heart disease that had almost killed her; she had received drugs for it which had left her hallucinating for several days. She didn’t say anything else, or the name of it, still reluctant.
* * *
I asked her about context, as I what I had seen and now sensed didn’t feel like only a physical disease, either. She mentioned the disease had become apparent a few years prior in a painful, dramatic love story. I saw more and confirmed it in part, but that would probably be too much to write about (I assume nobody who knows the person will ever read this, still that’s maybe enough said).
* * *
Another crazy series of events led to this being one of our last meetings. Still, this stayed on my mind. Challenged my perceptions somewhat; also led me to accept my (extra-)sensory perceptions more; to trust that the world has a lot of unknowns.
Which uplifts me, as the known is sometimes difficult to deal with.
I bless her heart, thinking back of all this now.
* * *
For another love story, check here.