The Tags

31 Jan, 2018 || 5 min read

I don’t know who first invented the tags. I don’t even know how they work. All I know is that every time a child is born they do a test and find out — to the exact second — when they will meet the person with whom they are destined to spend the rest of their life. It’s 100% accurate. 40-something years of tags, and not a single mistake.

You get people who choose not to find out, of course. I’m not one of them though. I’ve always known when I’m due to meet my soulmate.

It’s today. In about 10 mins, as a matter of fact.

I’m sat in a coffee shop in the centre of town. How do I know that this is where I’m supposed to be? I don’t. I’ve got no idea. You could spend hours debating determinism, and whether the proof of soulmates renders the concept of free-will meaningless. No one told me to come here today, nor did I feel any cosmic pull towards this particular coffee shop. I’m just going about my day. I’ve no idea what happens if this is the ‘wrong’ coffee shop. What if I’m too late, and I’ve missed her? I’ve never even met this person before — I don’t even know if she likes coffee.

I don’t know the answer to any of these questions. That’s ok though, I’m not worried. My tag is 8 mins from going off, and the system is infallible. I take a sip of my flat white.

I suppose I’m quite lucky; not everyone is meant to be with someone. Sometimes new-borns fail the test. They don’t have a soulmate, and their tag — whether they choose to keep it or not — registers as inactive. It’s not the end of the world though. They still have ‘old fashioned’ loves. Between the inactives, and those people who choose to reject the tags altogether, I suppose there’s a chance you can still end up happy. They claim it’s more ‘romantic’ at any rate. Quite what is romantic about continual dating and constant heartbreak is beyond me. But more power to them I guess.

Not for me though. In 5 minutes and 37 seconds, I’ll have the rest of my romantic life mapped out.

Is it only 5 minutes already? I pull my eyes from the book that I’m pretending to read and scan the coffee shop. No one new has walked in for a while. Does that mean she’s here already? It happens sometimes — you can be in the room with your soulmate for ages before you realise. When you lock eyes, that’s what the tag is counting down to.

I wonder what it feels like? Not the tag going off, I mean. What does it feel like to finally meet your perfect match? You see it in films all the time, what happens in the moments leading up to a couple’s zero-hour. What goes through their minds? How do they bump into each other? Does anything connect them? You know the type of thing. Whatever the scenario, every film has the moment where our lovebirds lock eyes as their tags go off. Almost every film has that moment, because almost every couple has that moment. Art imitates life.

No one in the coffee shops seems to be paying any attention to me though. Not even in that furtive ‘I want to look at you but my tag still has 3 minutes and 30 seconds left’ kind of way.

I look out through the window, watching the people walk by. Yes, I’m sure that she’s out there somewhere.

I’ve been smart about it, and picked a place in the pedestrianised area of town. There are no roads or vehicles anywhere. I’m not taking chances — not even with fate.

You hear about it occasionally, from friends of friends. People walking down the street and their tags buzz as they lock eyes with someone crossing the road. And then they can only look on as their soulmate gets hit by a bus. Imagine that. Imagine locking eyes with someone and knowing, beyond all logic and reason, that the two of you were made for each other. And then the next second you watch them die. How do you move on from that? Do you live the rest of your life alone? Or do you find someone you know you weren’t meant for?

I shudder at the thought and take another sip of my coffee. 2 minutes to go. Despite my earlier resolve, I’m starting to get a little nervous. I go back to staring at the book I’m entirely failing to read.

How long now? A minute? Less? I can’t bring myself to look at my tag.

It must be less than a minute though.

I hear the door open and someone walks in. The hairs on my arm stand on end. This must be her, surely?

I can’t look up.

She’s walking this way. There must only be seconds left.

She’s so close now.

As she walks past me, her handbag clips my shoulder. As I look up at her I feel my tag buzz. This is her. My soulmate.

I’m staring into the most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen. Wow, is eternity going to be ok now I get to see those eyes every day.

“Oh, I’m so sorry!” she apologises, reaching to move the handbag to her other side.

Suddenly, my eyes aren’t looking at her face. On her wrist she’s wearing her tag as a bracelet, the numbers prominently visible.

“4 weeks, 2 days, 3 hours, 6 mins, 17 secs”

tags: fiction love short story soulmates time featured