“I fucking missed?!” I shouted. The yelling all but slapped the birds perched next to me off the side of the building, their wings hastily flapping to regain themselves as they ran beak-first into one another. I rubbed my eyes with the back of my pudgy hands, squinting down at the park path below. My trademarked heart arrow was spiritually pierced through the back of a jogger’s head. The jogger who, somewhere in his morning jaunt, decided to say, “Screw you asthma, I’m running today!”
What an inconsiderate prick.
I had seen a lot of the impossibles on Earth happen in a perfectly possible way. I’d seen Christopher run out of magic and clog the Williams’ chimney halfway down. I was there to comfort the tooth fairy when her own teeth started falling out. Roadblocks were lurking in the shadows, awaiting and amassing for their moment of glory. The Grim Reaper even had an off day the first time he tried to kill Betty White.
Let’s be straightforward though. Santa Claus was overweight; anyone could have seen that one coming, with all the milk and cookies the children of the world left out for him to gorge on. The tooth fairy couldn’t resist getting a grande Caramel Macchiato with an added double-shot of espresso from Starbucks. It was no surprise her teeth finally started to rot. As for Grim, well, let’s just say God summoned him and forced him to watch the first season of Off Their Rockers.
“I’m motherfucking Cupid!” I declared, standing to my full three-foot-five stature. Glaring down at my crossbow, I intimately examined it from stock to stirrup. Nothing was bent. I replaced the string last week, and the crannequin was properly oiled. When I was just a wee tot, it had been blessed by Venus herself, engulfed in the unwavering love that produced soul mates.
So how in the hell did I miss?
I dropped my bow behind me, glaring at the people below. Jane and Roger were my targets, particularly Jane. Roger was head over heels for the twenty-something ballerina from the South, and the bitch just needed a little “stabbing” push in his direction. He was a divorce lawyer for Pete’s sake! It was a match made in heaven: he was the brains, she was the beauty. Equal parts money and art. That body of hers would encourage him to get more fit while his bank account and 401k could teach her a thing or two about budgeting. They looked like the perfect couple just sitting there with their books and smoothies, and frankly Roger didn’t have the cajones to put some moves on her.
The skin beneath my eye twitched repeatedly, and I ground my jaw tight.
“Let’s just see who mister marathon runner is…”
I dug in my diaper for my love struck telescope, extending the chunk of glass and metal to zoom in on the bastard. This was the electronic upgrade from my people-tracking journal, and boy did it work wonders. All the stats I needed: profession, life goals, sexual experience, emotional stability, psychological overview. It even came with a romance gauge and a live feed of their attraction levels.
Kurtis was officially on my shit list.
“Hmph, what a loser!” I tell the pigeons that landed back around me. “He’s a pizza delivery guy, wants to become a nomadic musician… His sex life is pretty much non-existent, and he’s so laid back it’s a wonder he even laces up those running shoes. Extremely patient yet passionate, outgoing, empathetic… So totally the wrong guy for Ms. Jane! Who in their right mind spells Curtis with a ‘K’ anyway?”
Peering back down at their world, Roger wasn’t man enough to step up to the plate. Jane was completely oblivious to his secret glances down her shirt, his heart pumping a thousand beats a minute. He-Who-Does-Not-Spell-His-Name-With-A-C was on his second lap at full speed around the park, and he was coming up on my intended couple once again. He shifted to the left to make way for a family on their bicycles, one who he apparently was familiar with. The idiot slowed and started jogging backwards, waving his salutations to the father.
And ran butt-first into a garbage bin.
Kurtis nearly knocked himself unconscious. I cringed at the sound of his skull slamming on the uneven gravel that was half-cement and half-decayed dirt. The commotion drew Jane and Roger’s attention, and of course she leaped up to see if he’s alright.
I fall off the side of the building, crossbow in hand, my little wings fluttering like a hummingbird on crystal meth.
Let’s give him a laugh and shoot an anti-love arrow at him point blank, I tell myself, hovering over the scene.
“Oh my gosh, are you alright?” Jane sounded sincerely alarmed. No doubt she took some drama classes to improve her choreography’s performances.
“Ugh…what the hell..?” Kurtis slowly sat up with the help of Jane, who cradled her hand at the back of his neck and the other placed sickeningly-sweet to his chest. The fool blinked several times before fully regaining his bearings.
“You landed so hard, should I call an ambulance? What if you have internal bleeding?” she stumbled, a worried shade cast over her otherwise pretty features.
“You, uh…I…” The typical glossy look came over his green eyes, the one that I’ve induced on so many of the planet’s inhabitants. Reaching his hand up to where he hit his head, he flinched to alertness as he made contact with Jane’s hand. He just stared at her, mouth agape, and I chuckled to myself as I readied him for the pity arrow.
“Sorry dude, this love at first sight is pathetic,” I said into the other plane, my words falling on the deaf ears of the mortals.
“I could swear you were an angel for a sec,” Kurtis said clearly, unafraid of the new feelings mustering up inside of him. “But…you, I mean, I’m fine. Thank you.”
I pause as I anchor my arrow with the string. Something’s off. That was not a typical response from someone who just got shot by my bow, by my arrow. They usually come up with something charming to say, something to immediately expedite the motions towards a first date. Kurtis must have missed that memo.
They both rose to their feet, Kurtis precariously so but without Jane’s help. She was acting rather odd too, straightening her skirt and her hand hovering near him.
“Was it because I spelled my arrow for Roger that the result is this funky?” I asked aloud, lowering my crossbow. “They shouldn’t be acting awkward…”
Jane finally noticed her hand being weird and gracefully transitioned it into an open handshake.
“I’m Jane,” she said. “Are you sure you’re okay…?”
“Kurtis,” he filled in, shaking her hand and flashing a warm smile. It faltered as he caught a glimpse of Roger in the background. “I’ll be alright, thank you for your concern. Gotta get back to my jog, I’m training for a marathon. It was nice meeting you!”
He left her there without another word. No wink, no googly-eyes to mentally undress her. He just nodded politely and started pumping his legs again. Jane stood there, her smoothie and article discussion with Roger all but a haze in her peripheral. I swooped down in front of her, inspecting her face.
“No way,” I whispered, slapping my palms over my mouth.
She was twitter-patted. Love struck, full of wonder and curiosity. I could see the blood pulsing through her neck. The look of love at first sight was misty in her frantic eyes that continued to stare after Kurtis.
“How is this possible!? I’m the only one who gets to do that!” I declared, twisting my head around. Who else had the ability to induce affections such as mine? Unless Satan was messing with me I didn’t have anyone to compete with.
Hurriedly I switched out my arrows, putting Jane back in my cross hairs. At this short range it had to work, it just had to.
Just like her pesky crush, Jane took a step back towards the bench and evaded my arrow. I bit my tongue to hold back my rage, instead taking a moment to look at Roger. He hadn’t even bothered to lend Kurtis a hand in Jane’s place, unable to tear himself away from the stock updates and business headlines. Which means he didn’t know that he just lost the girl he never had a chance with to begin with.
“Can I ask you something Rog?”
I could sense the irritability that exited his heart when she used that wretched nickname, but he only had to turn his attention to her for it to go away. Maybe Jane needed to go to an optometrist – it was clear as day how much he openly checked her out.
“Of course,” he said. He turned the page of his newspaper and used his finger as a bookmark before folding it in his lap.
“Have you ever felt such a strong connection to someone, someone you’ve never met before, and regretted not getting to know them better?”
That was a serious question Roger was not anticipating. His brow lifted and he set his paper in her old spot, all but shoving his straw in his mouth to filter out what was probably going to be a rude comment. He gulped for a long time, slurping as its contents emptied into his mouth, and paused for a moment before replying.
“Is this about us?” he began. He started shaking his hand on the slacks of his thigh, clearly jumping to self-centered conclusions. A light sweat purged from his pores, making his forehead look as big as it really was. “I know I work a lot Jane, but I’m really trying here. Don’t we have fun together? Dinner, a movie, bowling every other week? Is there something I’m neglecting?”
“What?” Jane said. A dash of anger slipped into her tone. My gut dropped, and I took out my telescope to see how she was really feeling (women were such a hard read).
Frustration. Annoyance. Disbelief. Repulsion. All of these swirled into a mass of emotion that was perfectly described in her next sentences.
“Why do you think that everything I say or do has anything to do with you?” she spat, arms shooting up uncontrollably as she started to pace. “You do work all the time, so it’s no surprise you don’t even know me and my mannerisms, my interests, what turns me on. So what if we go have drinks; friends do that. Films are another thing pals do, and bowling is the ultimate show of friendship. If you’re suggesting our relation is anything beyond that, then I’m not sorry to tell you to grow a pair and start putting in serious effort for the next girl you fall for if you ever plan on getting married.”
The air about them stung with acid, and I could smell the gloomy odor of heartbreak crackling from Roger. Jane didn’t leave him a moment to rebuttal, and took off in her high heels in the opposite direction Kurtis ran off to.
“Days of Our Lives doesn’t compare to this drama,” I said. I looked at Roger’s sagging face and glass eyes, wondering how I missed the signals of their incompatibility. Shrugging, I fluffed my wings free again, soaring after Jane.
She was clearly in pursuit of Kurtis, and she looked ridiculous in doing so. The short heels she had on were wobbly and new, her feet not used to their form. I could easily move faster than her but instead chose to maintain a similar speed. Jane’s nonathletic attire on a warm summer day like today was a poor choice had she known she would be chasing after her prince charming. The park itself was huge, the loops of trails coiling into shorter and longer paths at every fork. It was going to be a gamble as to whether or not she would encounter Kurtis again.
I felt like the wind was tickling me from the inside, a feather rubbing against my kidneys. It had riddles of nostalgia spooled around them, and it took me back to my first shot of love, which to this day I assumed had already been established. My interference only quickened the ties.
“I want to help her find him,” I admitted to myself, finding my telescope once more. “Her heart made up its mind before I could influence it. Shooting a heart like that now wouldn’t do much good with such strong feelings already fabricated on their own.”
Raising the tube to my eye, I scanned the trails ahead. Good thing Kurtis had a noticeable head of dreadlocks tied back, because everyone else and their mother were under umbrellas or wore hats to shade the sun’s rays.
Kurtis was coming around the far right path, panting heavily through his nose. He must have pushed himself to a run and was catching his breath, which I’m sure Jane will be grateful for.
There were some things I could and couldn’t interact with in the real world. Shooting arrows at any worthy, soon-to-be couple for instance, was felt on an emotional level. I couldn’t forcefully shove people together and make them kiss, but I could whisper encouragement for those that needed the extra oomph to go all the way.
I fluttered over to Jane’s side, cupping my hands over my mouth.
“Right, you want to turn right. Kurtis is over there, to the right. Right, right… Mother-effing right Jane!”
By then I was shouting at her, and the last snippet she flinched at, stubbing her toe as she jerked her head to the right. When he came into sight she was a sweaty body of chiffon and wet hair, and stopped at the side of the trail where he wouldn’t be able to miss her. She waved at him, letting out a sigh as she curled over to her knees.
“Kurtis!” she called out. At the sound of his name he perked up in her direction, looking genuinely surprised to see her there panting her lungs out. He slowed down and stopped in front of her, bending down to see if she was okay.
“Not exactly the best footwear for a run,” he pointed out. Kurtis straightened up and looked around before suggesting, “You look winded, why don’t you sit down?”
He guided her over to the nearest bench, sitting next to her at a gentlemanly distance.
“I wasn’t planning on running,” she admitted, removing her feet from the torture of her heels. She combed her fingers through her matted hair, positioning it over to one side. Her pearly whites returned as she looked expectantly at him. “Can I ask you something?”
“Sure,” he said, tilting his head at her for his full attention.
“Have you ever felt such a strong connection to a complete stranger and regretted not getting to know them?”
Instead of a verbal response, Kurtis let out a laugh. Not a fake one, not a “ha-ha, you’re joking, right?” laugh, but a melodic, truly happy laugh that expressed his enjoyment from the question.
“Yes, I have actually,” he said. “Most of the time it was due to other involved circumstances that I ended up not talking to the stranger.”
“Could you be more specific?” she asked, gripping the edge of the wooden bench.
“Like just now when you were with your boyfriend,” he began, thumbing the air behind them. “I wanted to say something but saw you two were together. I was raised to respect other peoples’ chosen relationships.”
“But Roger and I aren’t together!” Jane blurted. “He’s a workaholic who doesn’t live or experience life. All he does is throw his money into a savings account, living frugally and without any artistic appreciation for the world. Every time he’s come to one of my ballet performances, he comes with a bouquet of roses and attempts to compliment me but stumbles all over himself. He doesn’t have a clue what dancing even feels like!”
“He looked ready to do anything you asked,” Kurtis pointed out, “if you would have asked him. Do you expect him to know everything you want him to do?”
This is getting off track. Here I was, expecting a forward proclamation of love from Jane, and instead I get Kurtis playing Doctor Phil to the woman who ran after him, now glistening in a disgusting veil of pheromones, just as scared as poor Roger to be frank with him.
“I only ever saw him as a friend, not someone who was trying to win me over,” she replied. Her fingertips were massaging her temple, bent over her lap in a display of tired weakness. “I don’t want someone who’s timid or clean-cut, too scared of rejection to stop hiding behind a mask.”
The frailty in her voice must have plucked a string, because Kurtis began rubbing her lower back in a steady circle. She looked up from her palms, the adrenaline from her mission still pulsating throughout her body. They both gazed at each other like the oldest of lovers, and it was my turn to melt a little at the unfolding love.
“Maybe I should take a vacation,” I said, lowering myself to the back of the bench. “These two are inspiring: love fighting its way through stupidity and my planned interference, a modern-day Romeo and Juliet that get the happy ending. Yes, I think some time off would do the world some good!”
“I’m glad you put yourself one there,” Kurtis finally said. “Otherwise you would’ve been a hypocrite about rejection.”
It was an odd thing to say, and when he stood up he held her hands for a moment. Jane’s face brightened, do doubt awaiting the loving kiss from her knight in running sneakers. He lowered his head, inching closer to her face…
And pecked her on the cheek.
“Is Roger still over there?”
“What!?” Jane cracked with fury once again.
“The bench where I fell down, is he still over there?” Kurtis repeated.
“The hell if I know, he doesn’t matter!” she insisted, rising to her bare feet and gripping onto his hands tighter. “You don’t need to teach him a lesson, he’ll be fine.”
“Fine and single,” he said, wriggling his limbs free from her touch. He gave her a promising smile before picking up his jog again. Jane stood there, stupefied, frozen in disbelief, utterly confused. I closed my jaw as soon as it dropped open, yanking out my telescope one last time. I checked over his stats again, and noticed one little, teeny-weeny, itty-bitty detail that had changed from the duration my arrow pulsed love into his psyche.
Kurtis was now gay.
“Fuck it all!” I hollered from deep within my diaphragm. “This world would be an endless love triangle if not for me! Blind people are more aware of their surroundings! All of mankind depends on me to know what’s best for them! I’m never even going to think about taking a vacation ever again!”