My Soul Mate
I dated my soul mate for a month before he dumped me and I met my wife. I don’t believe in stuff like soul mates, but that’s what the tarot reader who charted our astrological compatibility called us. Astrology was hokey, but wondering what the stars have to say about your relationship is something you do when you’re in love, drunk, and see a sign for ten dollar readings. The tarot reader said we were destined to be together, swore she’d never seen two people so well matched. No one can make you as happy as him, she promised. (A curse?)
But our love was not the rare, precious thing the tarot reader predicted. I met my wife when I was nursing my broken heart. She loved me like I loved him: wholly. There was a softness, a safety, to my wife’s love — it held me like a nest. We married quickly and became your cliché lesbian couple with a Love is love yard sign. Such dispassionate monotony in those words, in our relationship.
Marriage is marriage. Petty arguments over the correct direction to hang the toilet paper, fights about money, sex. Who took out the dog last, why she paid forty dollars for a throw pillow, why I hate the Hallmark channel. My wife is more sensitive and it irritates us both, how neither of us understands the other’s emotions. She feels her feelings, crying and yelling. I think through mine, analyzing, then dismissing them. She hates that, thinks I’m cold. Maybe I am. I just don’t understand why everything has to be so complicated, why we always have to talk things out.
Sometimes I feel like a bad queer. When we fight, when she’s crying and blaming it on PMS, I imagine being with the man the tarot reader called my soul mate. I like that concept: someone who understands you, who you mesh with completely. I love my wife, but we aren’t that. We just are.
For my fortieth birthday, she enrolled me in a class called Astrology for Personal Development. Corny, but it’s a gift, and going means a night off kitchen duty. The class began with full birth chart readings: mine was eerily accurate. In the second class, we talked about astrological compatibility and were tasked with creating maps for us and our partners. I wasn’t interested in hearing what the stars had to say about my marriage, so I charted my compatibility with my dog. No surprise, we’re a match.
I wondered if I’d be happier with my ex. I imagine a life full of laughter, hiking, concerts, and watching films on the couch. (When’s the last time my wife and I laughed?) I ache for that, to step away from the monotony of the meaningless job I hate, the debt my shopaholic wife racks up, the grind. Wishing I had something to smile about again.
The real problem is I’m lonely. I shouldn’t be. I’ve got a partner who loves me. Someone to share a bed with, to divvy up chores. Except that’s all we talk about: the pragmatic, like we’re business partners. Certainly not lovers. (When was the last time we had sex?) My loneliness mutates — deeper, thicker, more cavernous — it starts to feel like an extension of me. Who and what I am: desperately lonely.
I was reading my favorite Reddit: Am I the Asshole? when I get a random text from my ex. We spent the night texting, my wife snoring at my side. Maybe he really was my soul mate? He said he met someone, used the word ‘smitten.’ Lucky woman, I texted back and turned off my phone.
I climbed out of bed and dusted off my guitar. I hadn’t written a song in years, but talking to him unearthed something. I wrote a terrible song, confessing my feelings, then sent him the MP3 file.
My wife once said all couples need one person to be the asshole, we agree that it’s her. She claims I have no backbone, but sending that MP3 was gutsy. Shameless. No need to ask ‘Am I the Asshole?’ because I clearly am. I’ve lost control of my loneliness. It’s distorting everything, like the idea of meant to be. He doesn’t respond, so I keep texting, emailing, calling until he blocks me.
My heart breaks. I force myself to feel it. I blast depressing music, watch reality shows, eat cartons of rocky road ice cream. I should use this aching sadness to rebound with my wife. We could try couples counseling or a romantic weekend. Instead, I chart our astrological compatibility: we’re lukewarm at best. Turns out the stars are ridiculously wise.
I pull out the birth chart from the class. I study myself the way I once studied the guitar: with enthusiasm and wonder. I focus on me, and come to understand my airy ways. I actually like that I’m fickle and indecisive. I like my impulsivity and tendency to overthink, my sarcasm, my free spirit. I start appreciating my flaws because they’re mine. My bushy eyebrows, my wide hips. Fuck the box society drew for me, the one I tried squeezing myself into and never fit.
I realize that I actually like how I am. No, love. (A crush on myself?) I start sneaking out at night, check out live music and art shows alone. It feels delicious and elicit. I feel lighter. Happy? Too happy for my job — I quit and get hired as a barista. My wife is furious, thinks I’m insane. Maybe I am.
I listen to the song I wrote him. The tenderness hurts. The risk I took, hoping for an escape. While I love my wife it turns out that I love myself more. She cries when I leave, says I’m having a midlife crisis. Maybe I am. A midlife crisis is realizing that life is too short to settle. It’s saying, fuck okay, I want preposterously happy. It’s going after that alternate life full of live music and making a fool of myself at open mics. Long hikes on days so cold that two pairs of socks aren’t enough to keep my toes from getting numb, followed by nights on a couch eating greasy burgers and watching foreign films—
Okay, there’s no couch yet. Right now, all I’ve got in my studio apartment is a twin mattress on the floor, but it turns out that’s all I need. I never wanted the stuff my wife buys — new clothes, throw pillows, signs about living your best life. Turns out my best life is away from all that. I’m not lonely now that I’m alone. I can be my own damn soul mate.
Rachel León is a writer, editor, and social worker based in Rockford, Illinois. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Chicago Review of Books, Fiction Writers Review, Entropy, (mac)ro(mic), The Rupture, Necessary Fiction, and elsewhere. She is currently working on a novel.