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1001 First Times...

The first time you connect with someone defines the context for the life that happens from that point on. I have imagined meeting you and connecting with you a thousand different ways. This is my attempt to record each until the day I meet you in real life or till the day I run out of imagination… 

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Week 23 excerpt:

It seems the red thread had two properties. One was to be a visual cue. Second, was to sense each other's thoughts the way a transmitter and a receiver works. That second function can create a deeper appreciation for one another because you invariably see the world through the other person’s eyes. Sort of the perfect communication platform.
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Week #23: Red Thread of Fate​​

“Kat, this class sounds like a bunch of mumbo jumbo, make believe, wanna-be literature. Why do I want to take it, again?” I couldn’t stop whining.


“Because you are enrolled in a liberal arts program and it meets a pre-req for graduation. Plus, this is only 4 weeks of pain compared to taking one in a regular semester when it’s 12 weeks of pain. And, of course it’s Professor Kim teaching so it’s fine even if it’s gibberish.” Kat went on and on in her sing song voice. She was obviously in a very good mood.

“You and Prof. Kim… the dude’s like 27 years older than you and yet, you all just can’t leave the poor man be.”


“He doesn’t look that old… oooh…maybe he’s a vampire that doesn’t age. I wonder if he’d turn me?”


“Seriously woman… I need my head checked for hanging out with you... Plus, he comes out during daylight to teach so can’t be a vampire.”


“You are so behind on vampire lore… they can walk in sunlight now… like the Cullens or the day-lighters…”


“You are right… I’m soooooo behind on vampire lore.” I made a face and stuck out my tongue which Kat responded in kind before answering.


“Anyway, anytime Prof wants to turn me, I’d happily join his coven.”


Shaking my head, I completed class registration before leaving the dorm room to get to work. It was half way through the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Kat had stayed at school during the break because her step parents decided to attend a Christmas themed yoga retreat. I was there, along with most of the other international students, because going home for 3 weeks was beyond my budget. Now, just two weeks before the Winter session classes began, I needed to make every penny I could so I didn’t have to work as much during the school year. Waiting tables at Boone Tavern was however the only option during breaks and in the Winter session, unless you were a nursing student and wanted to work at the hospital. I wasn’t a nursing student. I wasn’t all that partial to seeing broken bones or really any kind of pain. My contributions to medicine will be from behind a microscope lens, one day. So, waiting tables it was for a month at least.

I met Prof Kim at Dinner that night. He was there with what looked like his extended family and sat in my section of the restaurant. I didn’t recognize him until Emma came over and asked to swap sections. Apparently, Emma was another vampire wanna-be. I gladly handed her my section and took her tables. Throughout dinner I couldn’t stop watching the Professor from afar though. He seemed ordinary enough but, in an exotic, unrealistically good-looking way. His mannerisms showed age but his appearance didn’t. Anyone would guess him to be maybe thirty-five and not past sixty. It was an ageless thirty-five at that. Like his eyes had seen too much to be that young but his skin cells didn't age.

Their party was one of the last to leave the restaurant that night. Since I had finished with my tables early, I was asked to help get their coats as they got ready to leave. Professor was the last in line.


“Thank you, Natalia.”


“You are welcome, Professor. Hope you and your family enjoyed the night out.”


“We did. It was very pleasant.” He smiled, paused and then continued. “I look forward to having you in class next semester.”

I smiled and waved them off, lost for words. He must’ve read my name from my name badge. But how he knew I had registered for his class was a puzzle. I had done it only today. Perhaps he got the roster immediately? But how he would know I’m the Natalia that registered and not one of the other twenty-five with the same name was still a mystery. Perhaps he is a vampire with mind reading abilities, after all…

I completely forgot the incident till first day of class. Winter semester is always more relaxing because it was only one class and it’s only four weeks till another break. Most Winter classes are designed to be fun since most professors only teach one class as well. Professor Kim’s classes are always packed. Winter session was no different. Surprisingly though, it wasn’t just female students. Our class was half and half. First day of class decides your seat for the rest of the semester. Given this is a pre-req and not one I cared to actually pay attention to, I chose third from back row. It still had to be an aisle seat. I don’t really like the sliding between the seats and desk thing very much. Kat and Emma, of course, were at the very front.


“Settle down children. It’s still January so it’s still cold and my old bones are still aching. That’s code for find a seat and don’t make noise… you are in General Studies 402. Yes, this meets your senior pre-req for divine design studies. We are not going to study any of the monotheistic religions however. If that’s your interests Prof. Soren is doing an excellent session on the Logical Misalignment across Modern Monotheism. I sat in it last Winter and I’m telling you it’s a fascinating topic… but if you are interested in the interpretation of divinity from a period a tad before monotheism was in vogue, you can stay with me a little longer. We are going to the far east, where I’m from, to a time when divinity was more like holding a job. But because there were hundreds of “gods” we are going to narrow our focus on one of the more interesting aspects of divine intervention – that of love and marriage! Yes, you heard me – this one’s going to actually be interesting! We are going to study the Matchmaker and his craft with the Red Thread of Fate for the next four weeks. Excited?”


It still sounded like a load of mumbo jumbo to me but then I wasn’t particularly religious and I’m routinely told I have a serious lack of imagination. I would’ve been so much happier taking a post-grad micro biology class than this. It’s the kind of world you couldn’t see with the naked eye that I was ready to believe in! But my family’s financial situation dictated that I go to school where an international student could get a full scholarship. That meant eight general studies requirements to complete undergraduate work. At least this is my senior pre-req. After this I can go do graduate work without anymore time wasted on liberal arts.

“Ok… so, to get started. We are going to do a survey. But first, you have to read a short introduction to the Matchmaker. This is one of the very old folktales that’s been passed over generations in parts of east Asia. In fact, I wrote this down myself some time ago, from an oral narration of a bard in a rural village in China. So, log into your student account and you’ll have a link to the story. Once you finish reading it, you’ll get the survey. Answer it and then we begin the journey to discover an interpretation of divine design.”


The story was simply titled.

The Original Red Thread of Fate’ narrated by Pinghua Xi, documented by Prof E. Kim.

(Part I) When animals could speak in human tongue, humans could see magic and gods walked the earth alongside us. At that time, the Red Thread of Fate was visible. It was a semi transparent bright red thread that seemed to be spun of moonbeams. It was attached to the left small finger for men and right small finger for women. The matchmaker himself would visit the family on the day when a child came of age (at puberty) to grant the child the sight to see the thread. Once attuned to the red thread after it became visible, the child could feel their fate-partner’s (i.e. Soulmate in western terms) thoughts through the thread. Some people immediately went looking for their fate-partner while others took their time. But invariably, everyone ended up with their chosen fate-partner at the end. There was no mistaking your fate.

This lasted until the Crow complained to his goddess. He felt it was unfair that much of its life is spent trying to attract a mate when humans didn’t have to. He made the case that the only reason humans were advancing at a faster pace than animals were solely because this distraction of finding a suitable mate was eliminated in their lives compared to the crow and other animals.


The goddess in turn called the Matchmaker and requested he either provide red thread to her crows or he dispose of the practice of tying humans with red thread. Vexed at being told how to do his craft the Matchmaker vowed to never let the Crows have any red thread. But he refused to give up binding humans either. Instead, he chose to leave the red thread invisible. He argued, that the claimed advantage humans had is no longer an advantage because now they have to find their fate-partner through their own efforts much like the crows. Only difference is that humans have a fate-partner while crows did not have a red thread tied partner.

Since then, the Matchmaker rarely visited human homes though he still walks among us. It is said, when he meets particularly strong minds that have unintentionally become attuned to the thoughts of their fate-partners through the invisible red thread he sometimes takes pity and opens their sight so they can find their way amid the confusion of today’s human life.


-The End-


The survey that followed had only two questions:

  1. Did the Matchmaker make the correct choice in making the red thread invisible?

A. Yes, it’s good to have a soulmate

B. No, he should’ve kept it visible

C. It doesn’t matter

  1. Do you want to find your fate-partner/soulmate?

A. Yes

B. No

I chose C and B respectively. Like I said, it was all mumbo-jumbo, wanna-be fairytales as far as I was concerned. That said, the only thing that bothered me was how it said the red thread was a conduit for thoughts. In scientific terms we come across light, sound and matter transfer through different mediums all the time. Like communication of data through radio waves or transfer of electrons through copper wires. It wasn’t impossible that one’s thoughts, in the form of electrical signals, could transfer similarly. It happens within the human body using the nervous system, after all. If one person was the transmitter and the other the receiver tuned to the same frequency, then it could technically work through other mediums too. Perhaps the only complexity here is the two people would have to simultaneously be both a transmitter and receiver and always be tuned to the same frequency. Again, not impossible. Just complex.

“All right. Looks like you are all done with the survey. Let’s look at the results then. Oh, ho, ho… this is interesting, isn’t it now... For the first question it is overwhelmingly A – yes, the matchmaker made the right choice to keep the practice of soulmates. We just have one vote for C – that it doesn’t matter. And for the second question, almost all of you chose A – that you want to find your soulmate. But again, we have one vote for No… well, we are almost done with time today. So, tomorrow when you come in please come prepared to discuss your position for each question. I’m particularly interested in the one who voted differently. Because normally I have to play devil’s advocate in the class. But this time we might have a real voice to lead the discussion… Thank you for making it on time today children. Make sure you do the same tomorrow because I can guarantee that my old bones will still feel the cold and I’ll be grumpy then too.”

Rest of the day for me was work mostly. But the assignment kept swirling in my mind as I served and busted tables. Since my vote was the anomaly I knew I’ll be put on the spot tomorrow. Which meant I needed a better response than ‘it’s all make believe so I don’t care.’ The more I thought of it though, the more intriguing the concept of the thought transferring red string became. What scared me was not the fact that it was possible. What scared me is how sometimes I catch myself feeling things that are wholly disconnected from how my day is going and this fairytale offered a possible explanation. A highly unlikely, rather fantastic explanation but nonetheless an explanation. No true scientist ever forgot that once upon a time in the not-so-distant past most of what we consider science today was treated as magic and witchcraft. That left the annoying question in my mind about the premise of the red thread.

Class began on time next day. Apparently Prof. Kim was a stickler for punctuality. He also got to the discussion without much of a preamble.


“All right, so yesterday when I asked whether the Matchmaker made the right choice in leaving the red thread but making it invisible the vast majority of you said yes. Only one said it doesn’t matter. Now, before we turn to the person who chose C, let’s first hear from those of you who said it was the right choice. Why do you think it’s the right choice?... You all should know the rules in my class. I don’t care to call for hands. Instead, I expect you all to be grown-ups and speak while maintaining proper decorum. So, let’s hear it.”


Emma spoke first. “Well, if the Matchmaker had given up tying the red string all together then we won’t have soulmates. That would make things far worse than just not seeing it. So, it’s good that he continued to do his job and create soulmates.”


“But does he create soulmates? I thought his job was to just connect them so they can find each other easily.” One of the other students asked.


This made the discussion come alive. Everyone seemed to have an opinion of the matchmaker’s exact role and responsibilities.


Kat finally spoke up when the discussion came to a lull. “Well, either way, whether he chose the soulmates or just connected them, it doesn’t really matter. Because the point of the red thread was that we could find our soulmates easily and have a deeper bond with them. Him not letting the red thread go as the goddess asked for is a good thing because it still allows us to create that deeper bond.”


“Very interesting point Kat. Let's put a pin on the pro side and now, let’s turn to Natalia, who chose C… tell us, why do you think it doesn’t matter what the Matchmaker chose?”

“Because whatever he chose the outcome is the same. The red thread was meant to simplify human life so one of the more illusive, error prone decisions become easier. Once he took away our ability to see it, it’s no longer easy. If anything, because we are still tied to another person, we spend even more time looking for them than if we weren’t.”

“Why do you think you spend more time than if it didn’t exist? Is it because you believe Matchmaker makes soulmates?”

“I don’t know if he can make soulmates. I haven’t done any research to figure the lore around that. My reasoning was simpler. It seems the red thread had two properties. One was to be a visual cue. Second, was to sense each other's thoughts the way a transmitter and a receiver works. That second function can create a deeper appreciation for one another because you invariably see the world through the other person’s eyes. Sort of the perfect communication platform. But the way our brains work, without the visual cue helping to separate our thoughts from the thoughts of the other person you sense, you can get more muddled. Especially if you don’t know it’s another person’s thoughts and feelings. So, either you assume everything is your thoughts and then it’s like you are trying to live two lives, seeing the world through two sets of eyes, which means you feel like you have multiple personality disorder or something… Or on the other hand even if you are so attuned to the other person and realize it’s another person, then you keep sensing a part of someone inside you and then you miss the rest of them... like a part of you is missing. Either way this goes, you end up wasting a whole lot of time that could have been spent on doing more productive things like… I don’t know… medical research… but the point is it didn’t really matter what the Matchmaker did. The crow won. He figured out a way to make humans waste time.”

“Ah… interesting point… now, we’ll come back to this point about whether the Matchmaker can create soulmates or not later in the semester. There are really interesting folklore around that. But for today, let’s shift gears and go to the second question. Do you want to find your soulmate? Who wants to go first?”


Kat spoke first this time. “That’s easy. Everyone knows your soulmate is the most compatible person for you in every way, which means you’ll be happy if you find them and it’s like you’ll get your own fairytale.”


“Yeah, just think how good the sex would be?” Josh said to universal laughter and a few wolf whistles.


“Really? Does it say anywhere that if you find your soulmate you’ll have a fairytale life?... in fact, what exactly is a fairytale life?” Prof Kim was a bucket of cold water.


“Well, all fairytales end in… and they lived happily ever after… so living happily is kinda it.” One of the girls in a middle row spoke up.

“And what is happiness?” Prof Kim, again.


“Not having to listen to anyone”


“Living without worries or stress of needing money”

“Not having to work”

“Having enough money so I can become a beach bum”

“Being able to travel the world and do whatever I like”

The answers were almost endless. Professor let it run for a few minutes until the answers slowed down.

“In general, whoever said, living without money worries, sums it up it seems. So, you all chose you want a soulmate because that will let you live without worries like having to work? I suppose all your soulmates are trust fund babies then?” Professor spoke to general laughter. But there was less mirth and more introspection in the laughter this time. “Let’s ask our class anomaly here why she chose No, shall we? I’m willing to bet you all will learn something there!”


Right, no pressure… I muttered under my breath.


“Natalia… care to share with us why you chose no?”


“My logic follows the first answer still. The whole thing about Soulmates is a waste of time… you see, we are all given a relatively short life. like on average maybe seventy years now-a-days. We spend the first twenty to twenty-five of it just getting up to speed on what our ancestors have figured out about the world. That’s what we do in school and in residencies and apprenticeships, right? Then we enter the workforce and have maybe another thirty five years max to do something new and add to that collective human knowledge base. Then of that thirty-five years we sleep about one third away. Now we barely have twenty five years to actually do something useful, something that will last past our lifetime. I don’t want to waste any of it looking for some imaginary, perfect partner.”

“Ah… so your reasoning is there is better things to do with life than find your soulmate?”


“Well… plus, there’s no evidence soulmates exist. I mean, if you really look at the data on divorce rates and relationship lengths I’d argue there’s a vast amount of evidence to show that the concept of soulmates is a fallacy. Just look at the number of songs written on heartbreak versus happiness. If you take the ratio between those as a representative analogy to the number of people finding love, that’s like less than 1%.”


“Ok..., your second point Natalia is that love is a manufactured concept that has no basis in reality and chasing after soulmates is again a waste of time.”


I mutely nodded. It somehow felt like I was walking around popping everyone’s balloons and making them cry.


“But doesn’t her first answer say that it’s so hard to find love because the Crow won and we can’t see the red thread anymore? So, all this confusion is just because the Crow won?” Emma asked.

"Sure... if you believe in love and soulmates then yes, it's the Crow that messed it all up... or maybe there never was love or soulmates to begin with..." I responded

“Well, that was an excellent discussion in the class today. We now have a few questions we need to answer as we go along the rest of the semester. First, we really need to figure out what is a Soulmate – it can’t be a trust fund baby for everyone, it can’t be the ones you hook up for a few days, weeks or months either. So what is the defining quality of a soulmate, according to you? That is the first question I want you all to think about. So, that’s homework… second is, does the Matchmaker create your soulmate or is he just tying you together to make it easier to find each other. We’ll keep that for the next round… alright young ladies and gentlemen, time to go do something other than be in my class for the day. Out you go…”

The class shuffled out. Many introspective faces turned to look at me for a moment. Apparently, my popularity is not going anywhere good today. But then popularity wasn’t really my thing anyway…


“Natalia… come talk to me for a moment before you leave.” I was about to leave when the Professor called out.


“Yes, sir?”


“So, you don’t believe in love and therefore you don’t believe in soulmates and it’s all because you think the Matchmaker made the wrong choice?” His tone suggested I had personally insulted him, which made no sense.

“Well… I mean the Matchmaker probably did the best he could with the limited options he had. But yeah, he just created a larger burden on humans with his choice.”


“So, tell me, if you believed in love and soulmates, how would you define them?”


“I don’t know, I haven’t really spent any time thinking about it. They seem like existential crises that I can’t do much about…”


“Think now… let’s hear how your mind works…”


“Ummm… I’d say love is understanding, being supportive of the other person’s passions, being there when they need you, however they need you – physically, mentally, emotionally”


“Bravo… that’s a great start of a definition for love… so, why do you think it’s a fictional concept?”


“Mostly because humans always put themselves first. They are inherently programmed to take care of their needs before putting anyone else first… except maybe some moms…”


“I see… so love is a fallacy because everyone’s selfish. Are you?”


“Yeah… most of the time…”


“Well, you are at least self-aware… let’s explore your first answer as it relates to this revelation about selfishness. You said, the red thread confuses your thoughts with your soulmates to the point you can’t tell what is your need and what is there’s. right?”

As he spoke it clicked for me. “Oh… I see where you are going. Because their thoughts become so integrated into yours one can argue their needs become yours and so it can break the selfish streak and like make the two of you one unit where there needs and your needs no longer compete but co-exists – equal in importance… that’s an interesting way to overcome the selfishness trait. I’ll give you that.”

“Now, tell me, if there was someone out there who you could feel through the red thread and their thoughts become part of yours and yours become part of theirs, would you want to find them?”


“I mean that’s a no brainer, isn’t it? Who wouldn’t want someone who has your back all the time and puts you first unconditionally?”


“I’d say nobody but then you are the one who said you don’t want a soulmate” the glint in the Professor’s eye was unnerving at that point. He seemed somehow both omnipotent and victorious. “So, you want a soulmate now?”


“Sure… if he’s all that, yes”


In the next instant the Professor stepped forward and put his thumb on my forehead as if he was putting his thumbprint on me. The moment his finger touched my skin it felt like I was the start and the center of a sonic boom. I could feel the energy concentrated on my forehead for a split second and then it dissipated into the world in concentric circles. Soon as it was gone I could feel a tug on my right little finger. Looking down, I could see a red string that seemed to be made of shimmering light and shadow… it took me a moment to comprehend what it all meant.

“You are not a vampire… you are the Matchmaker”


“No, I’m not a vampire despite the campus gossip Natalia. And yes, you are right. I’m the Matchmaker that made the choice to make the red string invisible.”


“But I can see it now”


“Yes, like the story said, I sometimes give the sight back to a chosen few.”


“Why me? I didn’t really believe in any of it? Plus, I don’t have time to chase after someone who lives god knows where… I have to finish undergrad and then I have six more years of grad school to get through before I can even start working. I can’t get distracted.”

“The class is called Divine Design for a reason child. You yourself said the flaw in the human design is the self centered narcissm that prevents the world from connecting, caring and being something more. I didn’t realize when sight was taken away how it would impact the rest of the design.” He had a far away look as if he was thinking of something he regretted from long ago.

“But, why start with me?”


“It’s actually not you perse. It’s you and your soulmate together.”


“Who is it? What’s special about him?”

“Well, what’s special about him is the same thing that’s special about you… You both could feel the connection all along but you both chose bad in your first attempts to find each other and so gave up before you could find each other. The thing about those sensitive to the connection is even when they choose wrong they go all in because they intuitively know there’s something deeper out there. So when you fail you sometimes wall yourself off and never let anyone else in.”




“Yes… you have to find him now and convince him to believe.”


“Wait up. So he can’t see the red thread?”


“No, I haven’t been able to reach him to open his sight. He’s a little hard to get to…”


“But you think I can?”


“Well, you chose him and he chose you long before this lifetime began. If there’s anyone he’s going to let in it’s going to be you. All I can say is, you won’t be able to follow the thread physically and get to him. He has too much security around him to do this the traditional way. So, you have to find a different way.” Professor looked almost apologetic at this point.

“Right, so the one person who didn’t want to waste time chasing after soulmates get’s landed with this assignment?”


“Like I said, you chose him and he chose you. I don’t choose your soulmates despite what anyone says. So, it’s the two of you that have to do it.”


“This is so confusing… where do I start?”


“In your dreams you’ll see him tonight. It’s how the sight works. Once you know him you’ll need to come up with a plan. I’ll say, your love for puzzles will pay off this time!”


I had one last question before stepping out of the lecture hall.


“Why is it important that we find each other? What if we just go like we are? Seems like we are both doing fine as is?”


“Because I need people to believe in love and soulmates again. I need humans to overcome the design flaw of selfishness… Your love story is the one that will make the masses believe in love again.”


“That seems a bit convoluted… how would our love story even be known to seven billion people?”


“You’ll know the answer when you figure out who he is…” His pause was heavy before he continued. “Natalia, you chose him and he chose you. You are perfect for each other. But… it won’t be easy. You’ll have to be strong and patient and never take ‘No’ because there will be quite a few challenges before your story is done. Just remember, he chose you too. He just needs to get to know you so he can recognize you and remember his choice.”

That night was much like any other. It was close to midnight when I finished the dinner shift and got back to the room. A quick wash and I was ready to crash. But the waking dream immediately hit me when I closed my eyes. It began with a pulse at the red thread where it was attached to my little finger followed by a flash that coalesced into a glowing form of a man with dark hair and kind, laughing eyes. He was seated on a sofa with his legs propped up on a coffee table. He had slightly nerdy glasses on and was reading some papers. At that moment, he looked up as if he’d felt someone there.


I could barely catch my breath when I saw his face. I’d never seen anyone more handsome in my life – not in the movies, not on magazine covers, definitely not in real life… not even definitions of prince charming in fairytales could do him justice but it was a simple, unpretentious type of beauty where his eyes spoke of sunshine filled mornings and his lips invited warm kisses… The instant attraction I felt surprised me and I pulled back. The snap back into my body woke me up and I sat up in bed.


“So, that’s who I am tied to with the red thread…?” I reflected. “I wonder if I find him this attractive because we are tied together or if everyone else finds him the same… I’m going to have to fight off a whole bunch of people if it’s the latter…”

While my inner voice made fun of it, a part of me was happier than I’ve ever been.


He felt familiar and I instantly knew the day he holds me the whole world will finally make sense.

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