Now That’s a Meet Cute

Featured Image: A still from the movie ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ (2013)

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Henry cracked his knuckles and took a huge swig out of the ornate goblet on his desk. His laptop screen cast a blue tint over his languid pallor as he rubbed his eyes, and the red tinge they began to take on contrasted well with the dark half-moons under them. His fingers itched to run through his hair, but the thought of being bald for the next whoever-knows-how-many millennia led him to fidget with the hem of his shirt instead.

After all, a vampire’s hair once lost is lost forever. Much like Mr. Darcy’s good opinion. Henry sighed and reclined on his squeaky office chair as his thoughts abruptly drifted to poor dear Jane, who would probably faint in terror if she ever saw that one particular scene in a Pride and Prejudice adaptation involving a lake and a white shirt that could only be described as “billowy”.

Sometimes, he wondered if his keen sense of smell was the reason the deep pangs in his heart occurred this frequently. He would often catch a whiff of lavender, or coffee, or even unwashed laundry, and be instantly transported into other times, times where he could catch live performances of The Beetles, or even Shakespearean plays directed by the maestro himself if he felt like it. Or maybe it was his impossible-to-turn-off brain, forever identifying almost nonsensical patterns connecting events and memories that transcended time and space.

If he was feeling particularly poetic, he might even venture to say that his entire life felt like the universe – always expanding, beginning and end unknown, forever spinning out of his control. To make matters worse, in all of his almost infinite years of lonely, forsaken existence, he had never met someone like him, someone who also had to skulk under the blanket of night, avoiding shiny surfaces and the stench of garlic (yes, the rumors were, unfortunately, true – he’d never be able to step inside a Pizza Hut).

Maybe that was why he started to do what he now obsessively did, meticulously editing Wikipedia, answering questions on Reddit and Quora, hoping someone reading would understand he was telling the truth by the simple virtue of them actually being present when the things he talked about happened. He needed to know that he wasn’t the only person who had lived through what is now mere history, that someone else also existed who would understand that to him these weren’t just stories but memories, full of vivid colors and scents and tastes and feelings.

If he was being honest with himself, he really was tired of existing, but he had no idea when he would ever “move on”. Physically, his limbs were pale marble, and if he refrained from drinking blood for a while his muscles rusted, but he never got an inch closer to the veil beyond which everything disappears. In a way, giving up blood for a while was almost like a juice cleanse, and his body and mind emerged from it clearer and more in tune with life, or whatever this pathetic excuse for it was.

He did drink animal blood exclusively now, but this diet only began when he caught a glimpse of Edward Cullen lunging after a deer in between the news channel and an inane reality show about people conquering their fears by jumping into a tank of snakes. All those years of existence, and the thought that perhaps he could survive on less demented forms of nutrition hadn’t even occurred to him, something he would have felt immensely guilty about had he not come to the conclusion that guilt was a waste of his energy anyway.

As all these thoughts of Austenian novels and the pathos of his unique existence washed over him, Henry felt the itch to sit at his piano and play, if only to let the music occupy his thoughts for a brief moment, giving his overactive brain a much-needed respite. The choice of a piano was pretty arbitrary; in total, he could play 325 instruments, some of which he had invented himself, and some others that had simply fallen out of use.

Sometimes, when the longing for recognition was unsurmountable, he’d think of making an album, weaving eclectic music out of all the instruments people wouldn’t recognize anymore, hoping their hearts would appreciate it even if their brains didn’t understand. But he knew how crazy music fans could get, stalking and scheming until they finally tracked him down, driven by the burning curiosity that led them to music as a means of understanding the secrets of the universe in the first place. It simply wasn’t worth the risk.

For Henry, listening to music was like drowning in an ocean, but past the screaming and clutching-on-to-water-slipping-through-your-hands bit. It was the moment when you finally gave up and allowed the waves to consume you, when your emotions became what the music told it to become, and you were at peace at last with the world you momentarily leave behind. It was beautiful, and if he had to spend millennia in this cruel world, at least it was a world filled with music.

Wow. No wonder the humans considered him no fun. He really was a grouchy grandpa.

All of a sudden, the laptop pinged out of hibernation, interrupting his ocean of piano notes and once more casting the room in unnatural blue light. Henry thought it was probably some guy on Reddit, about to argue with him again that the Grand Duchess Anastasia still lived, as if life were some Disney movie when it was obvious that she was killed by the Bolsheviks that fateful July night. He should know. He was there to watch it happen, too late to save her and her family.

But it wasn’t. Instead, a message from NoItsBeetrootJuice on Tumblr (because there didn’t exist a social platform he hadn’t used, very ungrandpa-like of him) popped up, disagreeing with his recent post about who Mr. Darcy’s character was based on. Clearly, it was John Parker, 1st Earl of Morley (also “Earl of scandals”), in looks if not in character. He and his wife were known to be friends with the Austens, so it was plausible enough for the humans to accept. Also, he had once met Henry Austen in Oxford, way before Pride and Prejudice had been published, and the other Henry divulged details that left no doubt in his mind that only the notorious John could have inspired such a socially awkward and yet handsome and noble gentleman.

As soon as he read the pretentious message, he furiously typed back, annoyed at not being taken seriously, especially considering he was someone who had the ability to reveal insane things no one knew about the past. Within a few seconds, NoItsBeetrootJuice replied: “What makes you the expert?”

God, kids these days and their bothersome need to question everything! He hit back: “I was there when it was written.” Obviously, this other person was not going to take him seriously, but he felt this burgeoning need to declare who he was out loud, if only to a bored teenager picking fights on Tumblr.

For a long time, there was no response. The three dots at the bottom of the page flickered on and off, like streetlights in the rain. Good, he thought. I’ve officially creeped them out. He was about to turn his laptop off and go back to the warm embrace of his instruments, but just then, he got another notification.

Right there at the bottom of the screen, NoItsBeetrootJuice had replied: “Oh yeah? Well, I wrote it.”

Tejashree Murugan

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