For months Steve's friends had been trying to hook him up with Stephanie but he declined for many reasons the most trivial being her name. "I can't date a girl that has the same name as my sister and is the feminine version of my name. It's just weird" he told his buddy Ron. "Bro if you want to get over it, you can. It's all in your head". "Fuck you" was all he replied with a wan smile.
Standing in the open doorway of the bar while the bouncer checked his ID, Steve scanned the patrons looking for Stephanie. He had only seen her profile pic on Facebook and since he wasn't that interested, he hadn't bothered to stalk the rest of her profile and was a little unsure whether he would recognize her. "Thanks mate" he said putting the ID back into pocket. "Hey do you recall a Stephanie coming in yet? I don't suppose you look at the names. Sorry". "Actually bro I did see her. Some chicks you gotta try to remember their names when they look like her. Nice job". "Oh we're just..." but he stopped short realizing he didn't need to explain himself to this bouncer. "Thanks" he said stepping through the door.
If the Irish music was loud outside, it was almost deafening inside and even at 9 there were already numerous inebriated individuals dancing. Steve had always wished he could dance but couldn't seem to break outside of his own self judgement to allow his body to move to the music. It felt like his limbs were frozen in blocks of ice - immobile, while his heart was pumping with passion and desire. A line dancer broke free from the throng and came towards him her face obscured by the intense back light from the stage. It wasn't till she was a few feet away shouting "Steve?" That he realized it was Stephanie. He blinked several times trying to focus - she was so beautiful, maybe he should have paid more attention to her other pictures. "Hey how are you?" He queried but Stephanie had grabbed his hand and was dragging him to the small dance floor. "I don't really dance" he said when they were finally face to face, then overcome with her beauty and presence he realized that it would be a mistake to disappoint her. "I mean I wish I could, I mean I can try..." "Shhhh" Stephanie said putting a finger on his lips sending electricity through his body. They began moving to the music Steve still feeling awkward but strangely drawn in wanting to keep going more than he wanted to back away. When they finally tired of dancing, Steve went to grab a couple pints. "I know it's raining but do you want to go outside and talk?" "Sure" Stephanie replied "let's slam these first and then go sit in your car". All the women he had been with in the past were fairly meek expecting him to make all the plans and moves. Stephanie's take charge attitude caught him off guard but instantly knew he liked it. Glasses drained and tab paid, they grinned at each other "I'm sorry I don't have an umbrella. We'll have to run for it". "I don't mind getting rained on, I actually kind of like getting wet" she said with a devilish little grin. "It would be weird to tell her I love walking in the rain too" Steve thought so he simply smiled back and said "let's go".
They both jumped in the drivers door but Stephanie slid to the opposite side of the bench seat and Stephen wasn't sure if he should give her some space but wanting to show some interest, he positioned himself between the drivers seat and the middle of the bench. Talking with Stephanie was like breathing it was so easy. An hour had gone by and the windows were completely fogged from all the breath expelled in conversing. A spark of hope had begun to burn in the last hour that maybe he would find someone to be in love with one day. If he could have a connection with someone who was almost a complete stranger just two hours ago, maybe, just maybe there was hope. As the hour had passed they both had readjusted themselves and were now only 10 inches apart. "You know I'd love to just live in Europe for several months in out of the way small towns. Making friends with locals and living like they do. That would be awesome." As she said that she leaned over and rested her head on Steve's shoulder and sighed. On a first date he normally wouldn't kiss a girl and was this even a date? He hadn't meant it to be but she was so beautiful and they had so much in common that the urge to kiss her overwhelmed him. "I would love to..." the debate raging in his mind of what to do. "Fuck it" he thought and mid sentence he turned his head bringing his lips to hers. She hesitated for a second then relaxed into it. If there was a spark before, it had become a full fledged flame now both feeling the intensity of two souls connecting. They continued talking and making out for another hour till a cop patrolling the parking lot for drinks stopped and knocked on the fogged window. "Please step out of the vehicle" he said curtly shining a flashlight into the window. Stephanie giggled as they separated and Stephen opened the door. "We're just talking sir. It's too damn loud in there." After a few perfunctory questions the officer was satisfied that they were neither drunk or "engaging in lewd public behavior" and left. It was getting late and Steve had to get up early for work the next day. "Can I see you again soon Stephanie?" He asked staring into her beautiful face not bothered in the slightest saying her name. She smiled and kissed him "definitely. I would like that."
The next few days were filled with a distracting amount of text messages and a video chat for hours every night. With each conversation it became more and more evident that there was something indescribable but palpable between these two souls - a connection that spanned not only physical and mental attraction but time itself. Every time they talked it felt like they had known each other forever - like their souls had been split apart from one in a past life. A week after the first meeting at Sláinte, Stephanie invited Steve to come hang out at her house. Impulsively she offered "you can spend the night if you want but it's just cuddling". Afraid of messing up the connection they had established, Steve was completely fine with the stipulation of only cuddling. Sometimes though, your heart overpowers your logic. When they kissed goodnight, the sex that naturally followed was not just sex but the making of love.
A relationship that started with much skepticism of love and scarred hearts became a life long partnership as Steve and Steph made life and the world their own gigantic adventure. They never got married in a legal sense because why do you need the government to tell you if you should be with someone? Hippies at heart they opted for a beautiful ceremony officiated by a Native American elder that had none of the legal formalities. Forgoing the traditional attire, she wore a floral print dress made of a sheer material that flowed around her as if she was wearing a thousand butterflies - a vision of perfect beauty. Steve wore loose pants and a thin shirt both made of hemp. The ceremony took place in the middle of the winter in Northern Michigan at 2 am - the aurora borealis lighting up the sky as if the universe was celebrating the rejoining of two halves of one soul. It was an unconventional wedding to be certain but not an incongruity for a couple who's existence was an incongruity to the status quo. Despite the attire and the blistering cold, neither one minded, focused only on each other and the love that they had found. "I promise to always hold you in the highest esteem, to love and respect your spirit. To hold you loosely and let you breathe like a flame, fan you when you are run down and need air. I promise to always be first and foremost your friend and companion through whatever might befall, knowing that I might not always get to be your lover throughout eternity but I'll pursue and try to capture your heart no matter how much mine bleeds". Steve had written his vows down months before but as he said them, his voice quivering with emotion, they felt completely authentic and perfect as if he was promising to wake up tomorrow.
Years passed as the couple traversed the path of life. It wasn't perfect, nothing is but they embraced the bumps as just part of the journey. Children, cancer, careers, countries explored - all part of the adventure lived by a couple that some would mistake for brother and sister they were so similar but they never paid any mind. Refusing to slow down even in their late 60s, they would work out in the garden all day with the more than occasional love making in between the rows, or the traveling and mountain climbing that challenged some 20 year olds but invigorated them. They were unstoppable. Then on a trip down to Ecuador in a small prop plane to help victims of a mudslide, the aircraft was blown into the side of a mountain killing everyone aboard.
It is a singular experience to have your consciousness return to you in a state of disorientation and that is what Steve felt after the crash. He couldn't remember where he had been or understand where he was now but it was dark and someone was beating a drum. Days went by (not that he could tell) as he had time to mull over his dark prison. He wasn't afraid but he did feel like something was lost and that feeling wouldn't go evaporate. The next day his mind was overrun by the sensation of being pushed out into the blazing sunlight of the African desert. It's only a rare few that retain a portion of their consciousness but he still had memories faint and fleeting so the adjustment to being reincarnated as an elephant took some adjusting but the distant memories slowly were pushed aside for several years.
One day in his adolescence, out foraging for food he came upon a lioness basking in the sun. Not being full grown he was slightly wary of the she lion wondering if there were others that were going to circle behind him for a kill. He waited stock still save for his flicking tail and trunk swaying slightly side to side. The lioness raised her head and their eyes met. Suddenly the flood of memories returned and he knew that it was her - his soul mate but why? Why was she not an elephant like him? He slowly approached and nuzzled her with his trunk. She raised her paws and he thought she was going to swipe his trunk away possible even slashing it with her sharp claws but instead her paws wrapped around his trunk in recognition pulling him closer. He trumpeted a combination of joy and intense sadness.
Nature takes it's course and over the next few seasons both came of age to mate. Never far from her pride, he watched as the males fought over her, one finally mounting her trying to claim her as his own. It was heartbreaking for the elephant but he took solace in knowing that no one could make the lioness theirs unless she wanted them to. Unfortunately the trend of hunting big game resurfaced with the humans and many from her pride were slowly picked off to be mounted on some douchbags wall as they attempted to boost their pathetic egos. Towards the end of summer, the elephant was out patrolling for hunters to trumpet and warn the other wildlife. It was rare that an elephant would be shot because of the firepower required along with the enormous logistical problems of bringing a dead elephant out of the bush. As he walked down the road he heard shots coming from a small stand of trees followed by the screams of a wounded lion. Charging full speed in that direction he came upon his love lying wounded and bleeding as hunters closed in. In a blind fury the elephant trampled several of the hunters crushing them as he ran to his lioness. Kneeling down he cradled her head with his trunk looking into her eyes. Suddenly there were several loud cracks in short succession and he felt warmth running down his side. One last trumpeted cry rang out as he lay down beside the lioness curling her up against him knowing that it would soon be over. But also knowing that there would be something else after the lights went out and he would find her and pursue her once again.