A Portal to Remember
Staring into the dazzling display which was like Canada Day and Mardi Gras and Carnival all in one, the two strangers stood utterly transfixed!
“What is th-that?” Sarah’s mouth was shaped like the letter O. She stepped backwards away from it.
Shaking his head in wonder, Per gasped. “Looks like some kind of portal!” He shaded his hand over his eyes as he attempted to see it better.
The pair stared wide eyed at the anomaly which had suddenly opened before them, on the side of Vicary Cathedral, a lovely and sprawling old Edwardian style church, marble inlaid and the oldest in the city.
They exchanged looks of amazement like they were seeing a ghost, watching a geyser or volcano erupt. Sarah’s midnight blue eyes deepened.
Willow, the pet cat that Per was walking on a long leash, stared too. Rather than hissing as to be expected, the sleek black cat purred loudly and rubbed Per’s legs.
Per waved his hand in warning. “Don’t get too close!” Then he grabbed Sarah’s wrist and pulled her along as he, too, took several steps backwards. The cat went with them.
Yet the vision felt anything but threatening, in fact it seemed to emit good will vibes of the very highest order. It was like an epicenter of love. Per felt a near high from it the same as when he jogged. Getting an endorphin blast just standing here, he thought.
While Sarah felt that similar dizzying rush when she watched chick flicks or contemplated love. Feels like we’ve tapped directly into Nicholas Spark’s fount of inspiration, she believed.
Beholding it was something else, as the portal seemed equal parts mesmerizing, beauteous. It reminds me of Van Gogh’s Starry, Starry night painting, Sarah thought, with a super-sized, glowing opening, sparkling with light and varied eruptions, incandescent hues that were ever changing in color and scope. Sarah’s face was reverential, aglow. “Reminds me of like…uh when I used to look at kaleidoscopes when a kid,”
Like they were staring at the burning bush or the parting of the seas, the two stood with mouths agape.
Sarah clicked her tongue in amazement. “So cool!”
Per laughed. Now I’ve joined the club of all those who have experienced curiosities like visions, UFO’s, Bigfoot, etc, he thought. Just what’s next?
The cat also watched. She settled at her master’s feet and purred and kneaded the withered grass.
As a man was walking down the sidewalk towards them, Per called to him, gesturing wildly at the portal. “See that! Look at it!”
But the man looked at Per quizzically and breezed past them.
They exchanged looks of astonishment. Sarah shook her head.
Traffic continued unabated. No one ploughed into a tree or pulled over in surprise and face planted into the cement as they dove out to watch the spectacle. Just the steady hum of rush hour down Victoria Avenue could be heard. That’s all.
“Are we the only ones witnessing this?” Per’s blue eyes were wide and glassy.
With a similar deer-in-the-headlights look, Sarah’s gaze met his. “Must be.”
They slid closer together. Hardly able to look away from it, they stood ten feet back. The cat which had begun threading itself through its’ owner’s legs eventually climbed up Per and settled on his shoulder.
“Ow! Easy kitty,” Per rubbed his back where the cat had dug in.
They continued to stare bewitched.
To any casual observers of the scene, a pair of thirty something adults gawking at the sight of an old church and one with a black cat perched atop of him, the scene would have been odd, even laughable. But no one paid them any mind.
The rush hour denizens were eager only to get home. The city was resetting itself for the evening, for a coming second act. A different air was emerging.
Per rubbed his chin. “Whoever would have thought?”
Sarah exhaled deeply, giving voice to her bewilderment.
Tucking a loose strand of fine, mousey hair behind her ear, Sarah continued.” I know. I was just out for a stroll. I would never have guessed I’d stumble across a portal of all things.”
Per whistled lightly. “Me neither.”
Reaching down to pat the velvety cat, Sarah queried. “Just taking kitty out for a walk?”
“Ya, uh Willow’s her name and I’m Per by the way.”
“Sarah.” Whoever would have thought that while bumbling lonely along, I’d enter The Twilight Zone? Sarah thought. It’s a game changer alright!
Even though this is the weirdest thing ever, it’s still better than being around Wendy, Per thought. Can’t take much more of her toxicity. He had just stormed out of their apartment to get away from his girlfriend.
The two, Sarah and Per, had just chanced upon one another. Sarah had stopped to admire the leashed cat who was sniffing a daisy growing on the church grounds. But the prosaic quickly turned to the fanciful when the portal suddenly emerged. Poof! Then they became almost locked into this strangely surreal happening.
Rubbing his eyes, Per paused. Then he stared again.
Sarah’s voice was low, quavering, with a tone of wonder. “Can you believe it?”
Per shook his head.
“It feels so good though. I feel light and happy. I don’t even know how to describe it.” Sarah gushed. She felt like dancing but stymied the impulse. Don’t want to look completely crazy, she thought.
“I know. It’s wild.” In exultation, Per raised his fist high in the air. He pumped it several times. Whooped.
Though visually stunning, there was almost an electricity about the portal. It emitted a fiery, romantic frequency of its own. It was like sunshine and first love and rockets and magic all in one. Sarah imagined it to be how one felt in a deeply requited love.
While Per likened it to his old high school sweetheart and to the time he won an overseas marathon.
As they huddled about it, like ones holding vigil for the opening of a new movie, they chatted freely. They became acquainted. They became fast friends.
They tried to take pictures of it with their respective iPhones, but no image would register. They tried again and again. Finally, they realized it was to no avail and they tucked their gadgets away.
Per turned and addressed her full on. “It’s like it’s only meant for you and I to experience,”
And without meaning to they began to deeply bond, just like ones who found themselves in any profoundly, life altering situation, though this one was sans the usual fear and pain. Rather, they formed a union over good will, happy sentiment. As the high-powered rays hit them, streamed in dream like waves, they smiled. They laughed. They loved.
Per reached over and took Sarah’s hand. It seemed natural in the moment.
She looked at him and smiled coyly. Her heart lunged.
As they tired of standing, they eventually settled on the church lawn. Sitting cross legged, Sarah was nestled into Per’s lap. She could feel his even breath on her neck. He lightly stroked her hair. There was an unspoken sense of connectedness as if they had been together forever and would be so always. The moment was near delirious. It was like the glow from a good bottle of champagne, when wine or weed weaves its chemical magic.
Sarah couldn’t believe that she was in the arms of a Canadian prince. This. Blonde. Boy.
Per felt the glad ease of being in the effortless grace of love.
The cat frolicked nearby in the grass. It batted at the odd bug. Or two.
As the deepest, richest red shot from the portal, a sumptuous contrast to the slow, emerging dusk, the couple hit a new plateau. They felt the first stirrings of love. Turning towards one another they embraced and kissed. They knew. They just did.
Sarah sank easy into his flesh, melted in his arms.
But then Willow shot up the sidewalk with her leash dangling behind her and towards home.
“Kitty!” Per called, as he scrambled to his feet.
“I gotta get her!” He chased down the street after the fleeing feline.
Sarah watched the pair disappear.
She waited in hopes that Per would return. Looking about her, she also saw that night was slowly closing in. The air had begun to chill. Street crawlers abounded.
Collecting Willow at the front door, Wendy plucked the cat up. “Where in the hell have you been anyhow? No one goes walking a cat for hours!” The purplish vein on her forehead had risen, a sure indicator of her rage. The black eyeliner punctuated the narrowed and hateful dark eyes.
Per looked sheepish. He said nothing.
Wendy refused to step aside in the doorway. So, he pushed past her.
“Your supper is burnt to shit on the stove! Help yourself! And go to hell!” Then she disappeared into their bedroom with the door slamming loudly behind her.
Away from the portal and its dizzying elation, Per crashed from that high. He breathed flat air. He felt hunger pangs. Thirst. The need to go the bathroom. For the banal was accosting him all at once, every bodily need crying at him. He attended to them in order of intensity.
Bathroom. A glass of water. Then spaghetti and garlic bread.
Gotta hurry. Gotta get back to her, to Sarah! My real love! The true one!
Bolting down pasta, Per’s mind and heart were racing, like they were on some collision course with destiny.
Meanwhile, Sarah was still stationed near the portal. Has it shrunk a bit? It doesn’t look quite as big as it did earlier. She stared hard at it. She couldn’t quite decide.
But then her heart sunk as a realization hit her. He’s likely back in for the night. That’s it for the two of them. Per and Willow.
Maybe I’ll wait just a little bit longer, who knows? She hated to give up right when love had been so very, very close.
Looking up and down the sidewalk, however, there was no sign of Per.
She huddled in her shirt sleeves. The spring night was crisp. It was getting dark. Strangers slunk in the distance.
But it was when a Jeep full of drunks careened past whooping and cat calling that she felt fear as keen as the edge of a blade. Then she noticed a white van with tinted windows continue to circle around the block and slow down as it passed near her. Prob a serial killer…
Sarah ran as fast as possible to her home a block away.
Minutes later when he returned to the portal, Per stood and panted. He had raced back there as fast as he could. Perspiration lightly dampened his brow.
“Sarah! Sarah, are you here!” Looking all about the envelope of darkness, he couldn’t see her anywhere. Darn! Too late! He felt a sharp stab of regret. He chided himself for taking so long. Why did I sit and eat spaghetti? How stupid!
The portal was no longer a large, gaping, wound shape. It was smaller, probably two thirds of its original size, he judged. It continued to beam a riot of pink and white and vermillion, valentine like colors.
What’s going on? What’s become of Sarah, the portal too? Then it struck him! He felt sick with panic! What if the portal swallowed her? Or what if she became overwhelmed and jumped in? He felt his throat catch.
But as the portal continued radiant, pouring out endless epiphanies of love and romance, miracles and magic, his fear subsided.
He tried to soak himself in its bliss. But it didn’t work quite as well alone.
Soon he walked dejectedly back home.
Tossing and turning in bed, Sarah was too wired to sleep. The day’s events replayed in her mind blitzkrieg-like. Per. The portal. That seeming tunnel of love, their very own Fun House, for their eyes only. It was impossibly delicious, this enchanted evening. Did I dream it? Did I bump my head or something?
Yet she knew that the surreal had been real. It had all happened.
And most important of all Per had happened! With his blonde, boyish looks he was surfer dude and Norse God rolled into one enticing package! It was almost too good to be true, especially in her socially dismal life.
Sarah was single and lived alone. Since she had relocated from down East for work, she had found herself lost, adrift even. She went for long walks just to kill time and to assuage her grief.
Like every other woman of her generation, she had done the online search for true love but after a myriad of bad experiences (dic pics abounding) she had sworn the digital world off. Still, she burned and yearned for love. Yet she had decided it would take a miracle to turn things around for her.
But hadn’t that just happened?
Almost anyhow. That is right up to when that crazy cat decided to bolt, and the moment fizzled out.
Story of my life. Always a bridesmaid never a bride. And yet so aggravatingly close! She blinked back tears. She felt the back of her throat open deep and wide, portal-like.
Then like an ugly montage, the late-night recriminations began to play. She blamed herself. That cursed existence of too short legs, fine, fly away hair, all the genetic indignities that nature had laid upon her, including a shy and awkward manner. Tears pooled in her eyes.
She farted loudly because she knew it didn’t even matter. There was no one else around, the other side of the bed was achingly empty.
But then she thought of the portal itself. Was it shrinking, diminishing? And if so, what did that mean? Was it the end of her chance for Per? Was it the end of the world even? Were we all going to implode? Who knows, surely not I!
She shivered in bed.
Ducking the blows, Per dodged the bamboo pillow expertly.
Wendy swung wildly at his head and finally landed one square on the temple.
“Hey!” he yelped, as he rubbed the sore spot.
“What’s with you and disappearing in and outta here all day long!” She shrieked like a harpy.
She let the pillow drop to the floor. Satisfied that she had landed at least one good blow but not wanting any charges laid, she ceased the attack.
With her model-thin body and black lingerie she stood dominatrix-like, firm, mean. Her beauty was eclipsed by a sour nature. One that Per had long since grown weary of.
By now, Willow had slipped quietly out of an open bedroom window. She ran back to the pretty lights that she had seen earlier that day. She liked it as it warmed her whiskers just like the sun.
The cat sniffed the grass in the church yard where they had all stood earlier. Then it followed the scent, a familiar trail with its pink nose.
Bunking down on the couch for the night, Per tried to sleep. But the curious events came to him again and again like an unrelenting mistress. Sarah. The portal. The high strangeness of it all. He felt like a child in breathless anticipation of Christmas or Hallowe’en. He knew there was no way he could settle down and was just grateful that he didn’t have to work in the morning.
The truth was that he didn’t even wish to sleep, for he didn’t wish to lose the runaway magic of the day. He felt like one awake in the most magnificent and sweeping dream ever. He felt like he was inching along the very edge of experience, about to revel and frolic in dimensions unknown. He felt that he had been kissed, blessed by the cosmos itself. He felt free.
“Your stupid cat got out!” Wendy bellowed from the bedroom.
Per groaned. He rose immediately to go look for Willow.
Hearing a tapping at the window, Sarah’s eyes popped open. She saw the figure of a black cat illuminated by a nearby streetlight.
She sat up in bed. She stared in disbelief.
Could that be-?
She threw on her housecoat and hurried outside to investigate.
As he walked briskly along the sidewalk, Per was glad to be back outside, even though he was worried about the whereabouts of his beloved pet. The night glowed under a starry sky. The moon stared humorously down. There was a whimsy, an airy, fairy lightness about all.
“Here kitty kitty!”
He scanned the streets for her. Yet she was not the only thing on his mind.
He looked even harder for Sarah.
Then he became intrigued by the prospects of the portal. Striding back to the church yard, he stopped to check on the portal and to see if the cat had wandered back there. Nothing. No Sarah. No Willow. Nothing at all.
The portal was still there, though, glowing like fireworks. It had shrunk to half its original size.
Per frowned. For it felt like he was losing a friend.
Chasing the streaking cat up the street, Sarah ran. She was certain that it was Willow, Per’s cat. But how could that be? Was it just wishful thinking? Was she just racing after a random feline after all? Would she arise in the morning empty as ever?
Even if she caught the cat, what would that do? She didn’t know where Per even lived to return it to him.
But she continued chasing after the furry speck in the near distance. The tail that waved sassily in the air. The situation called to her, beckoned somehow. And she was answering the sideways call the best way that she could.
Trying to summon the loving vibe from earlier, Per huddled about the portal as campers would a bonfire. But the sensation was weakened. He knew that the force field seemed strongest when Sarah and Willow were there. But they weren’t.
He was saddened. Was the magic disappearing? He was afraid so…
Then hearing a cat meowing and bounding toward him, Per looked up astonished! The cat leapt into his arms. He cradled it snuggly. Per laughed. “Hey girl.”
But when they made eye contact under the twinkling cascade of celestial lights, the burnishing portal, and the city night that was awash in neon glory, streetlamps like torches, it was like the heavens had opened directly and only for them.
They laughed, fell into each other’s arms. Kissed. It was a cosmic, oceanic moment. It was a free fall through destiny.
The portal began to spout high romance like a blast furnace. It was near palpable. The energy was so strong.
“Look!” Per pointed at it.
All eyes fell on the portal. It was now heart shaped and vibrating, growing perceptually smaller by the moment.
“Hey, I think its calling to us! I think it wants us to jump in.” He had a look of utter amazement on his face.
Sarah froze. Turned pale. “J-Jump in?”
Taking her hand firmly, Per spoke in a breathy voice. “Don’t you feel it? I can. It wants us to be together.”
“Can’t we just be together like we are now?” Sarah’s face was awash with fear.
Per shrugged. “I guess so…But it’s like it made us meet each other. It’s like it’s trying to help us along somehow.”
Even though the prospects of passing through the portal simultaneously frightened her and intrigued her, the fact was she would have played Beatrice to Per and descended into the outer circles of hell just to be with him.
Pointing to the ever-shrinking heart shape before them, Per’s face tightened. “Look it’s going to close up! We’re going to lose our chance for help! I think we better go if we’re going to.”
Sarah nodded and squeezed his hand.
With her eyes closed, they ran and jumped in together.
The first thing Sarah experienced was hearing an organ playing. Though she was scared to, she opened her eyes slowly.
She saw Per in a tuxedo beside her. Willow slept at his feet.
They stood at the front of Vicary Cathedral. The pastor, an older, graying gentlemen, beamed at the two of them. The strains of the wedding march echoed throughout the old cathedral, giving it an even grander sound.
Looking down at herself, Sarah was amazed to see she was wearing a flowing white bridal gown. It fit her perfectly. She had never looked or felt better in her life.
Then a tiny, red blur, valentine shaped and small as a butterfly fluttered momentarily between bride and groom. It hovered. Then was gone.