I glance at you as I complete a lane change. “Have you ever heard of the red strings of fate?”
“Maybe, but I don’t know what it is.”
“There’s this Chinese myth, you see, and it says that everyone has a soulmate or one true love or person that is going to impact their life in some way. These two people are ‘connected’ by a red string, tied around the ankle.”
“So it links them together no matter what? Like ‘fate’?”
I shrug. “Yeah, I guess you could say that. Technically it’s not an end-all-be-all, but it could be in some cases.”
It’s silent between us for a moment. You stare out the passenger window at the evergreen tree farm to the side of the road. It’s only a few weeks until Christmas.
I interrupt the stillness. “Though one thing I always wondered about that myth, does everyone have a red string? Or are there floaters who aren’t linked to anyone?”
You pause to ponder the question. “I would imagine everyone has a string. It would be nearly impossible to never have another person impact your life like that. Good or bad.”
“But what about the folks that never get married? Never find ‘the one’ or anything even close to it?”
“Maybe their strings got stretched too far. They had it at one point and,” you pause, clicking your tongue against the inside of your cheek, “it eventually broke because of some outside factor.”
We sit silently again. The snow coming down is melting against my windshield and the side windows are beginning to fog. I turn the defrost up.
I give a sideways glance at you. “Do you think we’re linked?”
“I don’t know. I would like to think so.”
“But there’s so many other people out there. And there’s still so much time left for both of us.”
“That doesn’t mean we didn’t luck out. Who knows,” you say, placing your hand on my free one, “maybe our strings have always been there and we’ve been blind.”
I adjust in my seat and grip the wheel at ten-and-two. “I guess. I just wonder how much a string can take before it snaps.”
“What do you mean?”
“You said earlier that maybe those lonely people who never married lost their strings somehow. Like they had them at one point and then ‘something happened’ and they don’t anymore.” My mouth goes dry at the next thought. “I just wonder that, if we’re connected—which I would also like to think so—can our string be broken?”
“I would say it depends more on the people the string is tied to rather than the string itself. The connection will still exist, it’s just up to us how we want to deal with it.”
My tone changes, slightly defensive. “‘Deal with it’?”
“Yeah, like if we would need to sacrifice it for a better cause. I’m not saying we should or would, but like . . . say one of us got an opportunity to do something amazing, but it meant stretching that string to the fraying point, how would we deal with it? Do we mend the string? Do we let it continue to fray until it snaps? Or do we cut it to save the trouble in the first place?”
“I would mend the string, personally, because you only get one string. If it gets broken,” I mimic the tongue click, “then that’s the end.”
“But what if, like you said, our strings aren’t even attached? What if we try to mend something that doesn’t exist?”
“Then I suppose we would be wasting time. But we would still be able to find whomever we are truly attached to.”
“Yeah, provided that mending a nonexistent string didn’t snap the real one.”
“Are you saying you think we aren’t connected? By the string, I mean.”
“No, like I said I would like to think we are. But I would also like to think that mending a nonexistent string can create one in the process.”
“So we’re making a string is what you’re saying?”
“We could be. There’s no telling what fate can do. But fate brought us here, and I think that’s worth something.”
“It is worth something. But keep in mind, fate is also the one who plucked you from your life here, with me, and planted you hundreds of miles away.”
“Are you saying our string is snapping as we speak? Because of the distance?”
“I’m saying that there are many more strings closer to you than mine. And they may be the right length to tie around your ankle.”
“You think I’ll find my ‘soulmate’ somewhere else,” you ask, more of a statement than a question.
My confession comes out as a whisper. “I don’t doubt it.”
A few moments of silence pass, neither of us sure how to fill them, so we focus on the pavement. The snow is picking up, starting to make little waves across the white highway lines.
“Do you believe that bad things happen to good people, and vice versa?” you ask.
“Firm believer, it comes with the realism.”
“Then why would ‘bad things’ happen to us if we didn’t have something good?”
“You mean you moving nearly three and a half hours away from me? Because the universe likes to toy with us and have us think exactly what you’re thinking, that bad things happen to good people. But I see it as more of—and I’m not saying this is what should happen at all—a sign that we aren’t supposed to be here.”
“‘Be here’ as in, together here?”
I sigh. “I guess. But as I said, I’m not saying that’s what I want to happen at all. I sincerely believe that this is one of those things meant to test us, our resilience, and the strength of our string.”
You look at me and the corners of your mouth upturn slightly. “Then I hope we’re connected, because I would much rather go through everything fate can throw at me with you tied to my ankle.”
“I would love to do the same for you.”
“So do it. Stay with me.” You reach into the drawstring bag at your feet, and as you do, I hit a patch of ice.
We start to skid.