I remember it being cold with an eerie mist rising off of the Backs and Fellows Garden. It was a year or so before I met Emily. Michael already knew Paula for they were on the same course, although they weren’t dating at that point.
“So you don’t believe that we have a soul?” said Michael as we passed Magdalene College heading under Bridge Street. “No.” ~
“So there’s no chance of you meeting your soul mate then?” ~
“I wouldn’t say that” I replied, ~ “You can still find unique compatibility. But that’s Darwinian. The term ‘soul mate’ is a romantic, nonsensical term. But used as an analogy. The idea itself is perfectly rational.” ~
“Just one?” said Michael.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Do we each have just one soul mate?” ~
“Yes. Unique compatibility is just that … unique. You may achieve near perfect compatibility countless times. But perfect only once. So yes, one soul mate.” ~
“Do you think Paula could be mine?” As Michael said this were heading towards the Bridge of Sighs and on hearing him say this I stopped punting and floated along the still water. Michael stopped too but for a moment didn’t look back. He then turned with a big bright smile etched on his face. Steam from his sweat rising through the openings in the pattern of his woollen jumper.
“Really?” I said. He nodded. For a while we just stood there floating, one ahead of the other under the beautiful stone bridge. The echoing tap of a solitary figure crossing the bridge disrupted the silence of the river until whosever footsteps they were faded into St Johns College.
“She is beautiful” I said finally. He flicked some water at me,
“You keep your hands off Charlie boy” he said smiling. “Everyone in my class already fancies you, including Desmond! Can’t stop bloody going on about you!” We both laughed and started punting again.
“One soul mate and one only,” Michael repeated looking at me. “I like the sound of that; and I certainly hope you’re right about its reciprocality.”