I have no idea where it all began.
It was supposed to be normal, the usual first college crush that people have and get over as they move on with their lives and one fine day, forget exactly when her birthday was or even what her last name was. But for me, it didn’t turn out that way somehow.
It's not that hard to describe my story. A typical nerd, whose last concern was being noticed by the other half of the world, gets into the 2nd best college of his dreams, takes on the immense pressure to perform and over-achieve, as a compensation and obligation for being raised by a single parent.
It was absolutely not in my wildest dreams that it was possible for me to talk to the girls of her league. She, on the other hand, was as brash as they came. A higher middle-class education with half her life spent abroad had given her the experience and freedom to not care about a damn thing seriously in her life, but at the same time, she aced it.
Our first bus ride was where things started getting messed up. We were taken to a science lab visit from our college and every first-year student was excited (for a variety of reasons of course) about it. Nerds were generally punctual in my times, not sure if the same still holds. So, I was easily resting my eyes (and hands) on the latest edition on my PSP in the modestly windy seat of the bus while the entire class waited to be graced by the presence of the few.
She was late. I think this was one of the things that had entrapped my subconscious. I had no idea who boarded at what time but all I knew was she was tapping on my shoulder enquiring if the seat next to me was taken. Out of the fear of human interaction, I took my earphones off, presumed her question and lifted my bag as I got engrossed in my world again.
The experience was not something I had imagined. I had in my hand my most desired object, yet curiosity was wreaking havoc in my mind to strike a conversation with her.
I never thought I would have the urge to talk to another human.
I would have easily advocated talking as a penal crime if I was allowed to, but here I wanted to talk. I caved in. I asked if she was in my division (of course I knew she was in my division). Complying with all the formalities of an appropriate conversation was not something I was really thrilled about. But I had a really weird feeling in the pit of my stomach. Was it the fact that I was talking to a girl or was it the fact that I was voluntarily talking, I wasn’t sure till then. But as I approached my bed after a long tiresome day, I had almost forgotten about this excruciating experience. It was the next day that I saw her taking a seat next to me that the stupid voice in my head took over again.
I knew better than getting distracted during class hours. So I did the one thing I was amazing at, divert. It probably was the lengthiest ‘ethical dilemma’ lecture ever. No pun intended here. We exchanged numbers and I was not sure why. As fate would have it, we were grouped together to submit the report on the visit as well. Then came the canteen bump-ins. I had no idea what was going on, but it felt like I could literally spot her everywhere. At least for 13 out of the 24 hours I had in a day.
After all these incidences, I was sure that if I were to ever recall these moments of my life and archive them, I’d put them under the tag ‘erase immediately’. We started hanging out together because staring at each other from across the tables at the canteen was termed weird by all our friends.
Turns out, we were in love and neither of us had any idea of how it felt like.
The hangouts increased and so did the texts, common activities like morning walks which were planned with a group saw only two participants with time. By this time, I think even the counter guy at our breakfast joint had figured it out, but not us. I'd never had issues with parties but had never really wanted to go to one either. But she did.
So came the freshers’ day and our whole group decided to go to the after party. We tried our first beer and I hated it instantaneously. Old monk and ice-bursts had a different effect altogether. We were on the way back to my place and were so awkward to face each other that we both had our heads planted outside the cab windows on our way back. Just as I was done setting up the beds for everyone and went to the terrace for a fresh breeze, I saw her. Standing. Gazing at me.
She held my hand, placed it on her face, and kissed me.
Today, 25 years later, when I saw her across on the escalator, it was the same face I had a picture of in my wallet from 25 years ago. Only today, it had a bruise.
Both of us, through our eyes, agreed not to acknowledge each other and move on. So we did.