Curtains billowed when fresh air blew through the window. He dozed off in the chair and fell into a dream. It began as a dark and tenuous dream. Isaac found himself in an unfamiliar place. A train station built like a cathedral of iron with dim lighting and deep shadows. A series of cylindrical metal carriages waited like giant snakes made of steel. Crowds of soldiers bid their loved ones’ farewell on the platforms amid clouds of mist and the hissing of steam.
Isaac recognized himself standing beside a woman. He appeared to be a few years older. Taller, stronger, more refined. He stood with an air of dignity and confidence he did not recognize in himself.
The woman was unfamiliar with her dark brown hair pulled back in a bun. Her hazel eyes accentuated her china doll’s complexion as she gazed at the older Isaac adoringly. She stood in his embrace, perfect, elegant with soft features; it was as if Saint Catherine of Bologna—Patron Saint of the Arts—sketched her into existence with a gentle stroke guided by the hand of God.
He figured she must have been about twenty-three, yet there was something about her demeanor that reminded him of the ageless beauty of an angel. Her long red dress covered her shoulders and fell to just below her knees.
“Did you know that no one in the history of the world has ever seen the love of their life before meeting them?” said an unfamiliar voice.
Isaac turned and saw the mysterious figure from the darkened street now standing beside him. His face remained hidden by a veil of darkness. A shadow fell over his face cast by his wide brim hat.
“Who is she?” Isaac turned back toward the woman.
“She will be the love of your life.”
“Love of my life?” Isaac looked perplexed. “But I’m in love with—”
“I know.” The stranger cut him off. He walked away and disappeared among the crowd.
Isaac glanced over his shoulder at his future self before he raced after the stranger. The man had walked through a set of double doors. Isaac pushed his way through the throng of people bottlenecked at the entry-exit doors. When he crossed the threshold, he found that he was no longer at the train station.
The crowds had vanished. When the doors slammed shut behind him, Isaac stood on the front steps of the Cathedral of Santa Maria. The empty plaza stretched before him beneath a clear blue sky. Stone benches were assembled in the shade of fruit trees surrounded by bushes. Patches of grass stretched across the plaza and surrounded the fountain. Passages of stone neatly carved among them lined with petunias and roses like a garden. A dove sat perched on the arm of the statue of an angel in the center of the fountain. The dove flapped its wings and shook its head when droplets of water from the steady stream splashed up at him.
“Why is he alone?” Isaac muttered to himself.
Why indeed? The voice of the stranger echoed in Isaac’s mind.
Isaac scanned his surroundings. He saw the silhouette of the man before he disappeared behind a set of tall bushes. He pursued him through the plaza until he found him standing underneath a canopy of trees. The stranger stood with his back to Isaac and his hands clasped behind his back.
“Are you going to tell me about the woman at the train station?” Isaac asked.
“I would, but I cannot ruin the magic you will experience when you discover love as a man.”
The stranger sensed Isaac’s confusion.
Isaac hesitated before he said, “But I have already discovered love.”
“You have only felt the feverish palpitations of young love. That is but a flame that flares when a match is struck.”
“That doesn’t make it any less real,” Isaac said.
“I never said it wasn’t real. I’m only saying it is different.”
“You must discover that in your own time, for it is the nature of love to be understood with age.”
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