“A world could be made in five pages, and one that was more pleasing than a model farm. The childhood of a spoiled prince could be framed within half a page, a moonlit dash through sleepy villages was one rhythmically emphatic sentence, falling in love could be achieved in a single word — a glance. The pages of a recently finished story seemed to vibrate in her hand with all the life they contained.” –Ian McEwan, Atonement
I closed my copy of Ian McEwan’s Atonement to take a sip of chai tea latte. And there it was – a glance. Leaning back against his chair, he lifted his eyes from the tablet he was holding. The man sitting across me looked at my direction and smiled. I was shocked. I stared at him for what seemed like several minutes before I thought of smiling back. Of course I returned the gesture, but it came too late. It was just a glance. He looked back down at his tablet, his baseball cap concealing half of his face. I took a sip from my drink, and continued reading my book.
But unlike Briony Tallis, I was not writing a story; I was living my life. I have seen greens and blues and the silver disc that is the moon. I have been excited and elated, and have felt the rain touch my skin as I danced in the puddles outside our house. I have experienced anger and pain and heartbreak, and have caught my ex-lover sleeping with another woman in our apartment. I was in the real world, and falling in love could not be achieved by a gesture as simple as a glance.
I stared at my book and pretended to read, while I allow my deepest thoughts – those thoughts I force myself to overlook – rush into my mind. The breakup. Tipsy nights. Drunken fights and drunken mistakes. Friends fighting. Awkward kisses. Impulsive confessions. Bridges burning. There were even problems about college and family. After just a few seconds, it was already too much. All those thinking had made me feel queasy. I took another sip and thought of my friend who was seated across my seat. It would take more than a glance to fall in love, more than a few dates and gifts, and more than a few silly fights. It would take more and more. Him, finding himself. Him, proving himself. Him, getting over history.
It was a lie that changed Cecilia Tallis and Robbie Turner’s lives forever. A lie which separated the two until their deaths. I put back my cup on the table and took a glance at him. I felt nothing. No butterflies that flutter by and perch on daffodils in the meadows. No birds chirping in a singsong melody. No fireworks in a dark, evening sky. Nothing. And there I said it – the lie that changed our lives forever.