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Wednesday, Feb. 09, 2005 - 1:05 p.m.

This is a story of four lives that ran parallel for exactly one hour. During that one hour, none of them saw the parallel nature of its lines; they did not even know there was a total of four lives confluenced at that one physical space. They were just four strangers who were there for different reasons. After that hour, they each left the swimming pool without understanding its significance, only able to say years later - you were there as well?

Eye had come to the swimming pool to buy a drink, and there was some water-polo match being played between two schools. RJC versus HCJC, letters which meant nothing to him since he was from ACJC, but he stayed to watch. Eye nudged his friend, hey do you know that girl? The RJC one there. Later, through a chain of acquaintances, he would find out her name. She was sitting in the stands, holding a hand to shield her eyes from the glare of the morning sun.

Of course she did not care about water-polo, or if RJC lost. She was there to watch Boy, as he chased the little yellow ball up and down the length of the pool. Girl's classmate was seated next to her, and asked which one was Boy. Girl could recognize his shape instantly. That one, she pointed at a corner of the pool. That one, she smiled to herself.

Boy's teammates were standing by the water's edge in their swimming trunks, yelling abuse at the other team. One of them, called Sub, had joined the water-polo team for that explicit reason. He had absolutely no idea that there was someone called Eye, and another person called Girl watching from the stands. He had even less idea that over the next six years, the order of persons falling for Girl would be first Boy, then Eye, and lastly, Sub.

After they lost the match, Boy let himself sink to the bottom of the pool, facing the water-blurred sky. Air bubbles escaped his nostrils, and he watched them float inevitably to the surface, catching light and then disappearing. A visual record of breathing, he thought. Then a face appeared at the water's edge, peering down at him. Were its lips moving, trying to talk to him, or was it just the movement of the water distorting the image? I can't hear you. But finally Boy ended his exile by floating upwards, and as he broke the surface of the water, he came face to face with Girl.

The one pervading theme that infected all four that morning was that they did not know. Eye, Girl, Sub and Boy - none of them understood the significance of the present moment. None of them knew how the long roads of years would lead them away, from that one hour at the swimming pool. They would go to university, and be scattered across the different continents. Boy would pick up Japanese in Australia, Girl would study finance in England, though no one would know what happened to Eye. Sub would walk into the Metropolitan Museum of Art one day and stare at a Vija Celmins painting of a star field for an hour. The painting contained no comets, swirling galaxies or planets. It was just an immense black canvas dotted with silver and white points of light.

For all their schooling, they could not undo the ignorance of the hour six years ago.

What they lacked was not prophecy, but cognizance - they were ignorant of how all the possible futures in the universe are already contained in the present. The comings and goings like the tide, the lives running parallel for minutes or months like yours and mine, are all pieces forming that grand mystery of life - I met you when I did not know you. I knew you when I did not meet you yet.


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