I spend the rest of the afternoon strolling through the city. By the time the sun sets, I am crossing a long bridge over a river. The water underneath gently flows and I sigh. How wonderfully soothing is this setting. I take a sip of my Coke and look around. A bit further on the bridge a tall man with a mustache, wearing a fisherman’s hat is busy painting. He looks up now and then, stares into the distance and then turns his attention back to the canvas in front of him. Curious, I walk towards him. I stand behind the man and carefully look over his shoulder. He is almost done. The painting looks beautiful. Just like a photograph, that’s how much it resembles like our actual view.
“I envy your painting talent,” I inform him.
The man turns around and smiles at me. He doesn’t seem surprised to see me.
“Everyone has talents. You can do things I cannot do,” he answers firmly. His voice sounds familiar.
“I’m not so sure about that yet,” I object. “Nothing directly comes to mind.”
I take another sip and try to figure out in which area in I can deliver an above-average performance.
“When we got married, you were pretty good between the sheets.”
I spontaneously choke on my drink and turn around coughing and spluttering. I could just see how the man tried to hide his grin.
“We were married?” I ask, dabbing my face with the sleeve of my sweater.
“Is that so hard to believe?” The man examines my face. He looks about forty years old. His dark blonde hair is partly visible under the eccentric hat. He sounds American.
“Well, no, but… well, its not often that I get to meet a husband from a past life,” I mutter and I can feel my cheeks growing red.
“Sorry, Mackenzie, I didn’t mean to embarrass you,” he laughs.
“You probably don’t remember my name, do you?”
I squint my eyes and observe his face.
“You look like a Michael,” I conclude.
“Almost correct. My name is Joseph,” he replies dryly.
“Nice to meet you, Joseph. Well, it’s a bit weird to say ‘nice to meet you’ when we were married.”
“Fifty years! That’s how long we’ve been together. Before I died of a heart attack,” he tells me.
I blink my eyes in surprise.
“Fifty years, seriously? That is a long time. How was our marriage? Did we have many ups and downs or were we one of those rare lifelong happy couples?”
I am intrigued. It feels good and natural to communicate with this man. If what Joseph claims is true, then we have a very long history.
“We were happy together. The only thing we regularly argued about was my habit of disappearing spontaneously for an entire day.”
“No wonder… what woman would be happy with a man who just disappears for a whole day? What did you do on those days?” To my surprise, my question sounds annoyed and I have my arms folded in front of my chest.
“Please don’t be angry!” Joseph raises his hands apologetically. “In the 18th century they didn’t have cell phones, so I couldn’t make a call to let you know where I was.”
“Sorry, I think I might still be a little mad at you three centuries later!”
“I had a good excuse, though.”
“I was following my heart.”
“You were what?”
“I’ll explain it to you.” Joseph puts his hands on my shoulders and maneuvers me to the railing of the bridge.
“What do you see?”
“Exactly. Beautiful, isn’t it?”
I nod in agreement.
“But when you arrive here ten minutes later, the sun will have set and you will have missed all the pretty colors,” he continues. “That’s why I always listen carefully to my heart, to my intuition. Then I automatically arrive at the places I need to be. I love just going out and about not knowing what is coming my way. During these ‘days off’ I met the most interesting and friendly people. Or I found myself in the right place at exactly the right time to enjoy the most beautiful sunsets. I’ve seen thousands in my life, but they never get boring. I can still enjoy them immensely.”
I listen carefully to his explanation. He seems like a dreamy type. But I understand what he means. In my current life, however, it’s my head that determines what I do.
“When was the last time you listened to your heart?” he asks.
I am quiet for a moment.
“You do ask difficult questions! When was the last time I listened to my heart? I guess that was a long time ago…” I answer thoughtfully. “Sometimes I feel that I want to do something. But then I come up with a thousand and one reasons not to do it. That it is stupid, or childish.”
“You’re talking about your job, aren’t you?”
Damn it. Like Takuya, Joseph probably knows everything about me as well.
“Yes, among other things,” I admit.
“What would be your dream job?”
I can feel my cheeks turning red again.
“Feng Shui consultant,” I whisper.
“What?” Joseph leans closer to hear me better.
“Feng Shui consultant.”
“Ah, you want to advise people ‘not to put a mirror opposite the bed, because then the chi can’t flow optimally’? And ‘don’t put a plant in the south-eastern corner of the living room, because that will bring seven years of financial misfortune’?”
“Don’t be sarcastic!” I punch his arm lightly, but secretly appreciate his teasing.
“Seriously, Mackenzie. If that’s what you want to do then go for it. Life is too short to do things that make you unhappy.”
I nod and turn back towards the river.
“You’re right… maybe it’s time for a change,” I admit. “I haven’t had a proper goal for months and I’m just traveling around, hoping to find what I’m looking for. But I don’t even know what I’m looking for, to be honest! I have to listen more to my heart and less to my head. It worked for you … it will work for me too, right?”
I can feel Joseph gently squeeze my shoulder in confirmation. His touch feels nice and familiar. I realize I don’t want him to leave. But without actually turning around, I know he’s gone.
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