Posted March 14, 2007on:
You would be led to believe that his life had been completely empty. You would be almost right of course, but not quite. There had been a flicker once, ever so momentary. He had had his tryst with the ocean, even if he had just dipped his toe in it rather than sailing in its stormy midst. Maybe not even much of a story to tell. But then he didn’t have much else to tell did he?
“C’mon, You must be lying” – a friend had once said. “Everybody has a tale to tell, everybody meets sometime somewhere down the line, if only just once”. He had rather clung to this statement, hoping that somehow this generalization, and the workings of chance would work in his favor. That was close to a decade ago. (he had always tended to cling to generalizations. “when it happens, itll be like being hit by a ton of bricks, and you’ll know what to do” he had read once. Basking in this knowledge he had sat pretty, being so relieved of having to think about what to do. That was 15 years ago, the bricks had never flown in his direction and he still didn’t know what to do) But oh yes, the aforementioned flicker. Not much really, wouldn’t even qualify for what his friend had in mind.
“But why?” you would ask. “Whose fault?”. His own – you would most probably conclude. And be right too. But that’s not the story for today.
And the fact that he was waiting for two extra hours rather embarrassed him. He could have left by the local bus for his home, but he didn’t, he waited for the college bus which was to leave in two hours. He wasn’t one to go out of his way, take special pains – he never had. But today, that part of him which he mostly denied, prevailed, and he waited on.
The reason for this uncharacteristic behavior was – Her (as always). This day, She was to travel by the same college bus to the same destination. Not that she didn’t travel the same route by the same bus everyday. She did, but so did the rest of the class, and he didn’t like to betray his emotions with others around. But this day – it would be only her. Chance had for once conspired in his favor. And so he waited on, thoughts and feelings a mixture of embarrassment, trepidation, anticipation, excitement. He wondered if his state of turmoil was evident to those around him. Could they guess why he waited?
Was She special to him? Was she the proverbial “ton of bricks” he had read about? No. He felt for her of course, loved the pleasant giddiness her presence evoked, the sweet nausea the sound of her voice incited, admired her grace and form as she addressed the class, reminisced often the exposed small of her back he had happened to notice as she climbed up the stairs – but it wasn’t as if he had never felt this way before. He felt this way often – hundreds of times maybe. But with him – the feeling never went beyond this. Never beyond distant admiration and the odd meeting of eyes. But this day, things had fallen into place somehow and convinced him to do the unthinkable.
His heart raced as he saw her come down the stairway, walking in his direction with her characteristic grace, arms folded holding her books close to her breast, warm smile on face. He cursed himself for being so foolish to not take the earlier bus, as he imagined himself blabbering incoherently during their 2 hour bus ride. They stood around with classmates chatting until it was time to bid goodbyes and get on the bus. Before he knew it, the bus was on its way, with only the two of them in its entire length (not counting the girl at the far end).
Sometimes we tend to act differently in a situation than we thought we would, exceed even our own expectations, surprise ourselves by discovering a part of ourselves we didn’t know existed. Or perhaps it was the warmth of her persona, her eyes which said they understood his discomfiture but were unaffected by it and chose to ignore it. Whatever it was, he didn’t blabber incoherently, he didn’t stumble over words, there were no painful periods of awkward silence. Soon they were chatting away gaily, him being gradually eased and lulled into the kind and carefree world that surrounded her, peeling away layers of inhibitions and self doubt that encased and weighed him down most of the time. They spoke of everything and nothing as marveled at the pleasure of discussing insignificant things. He spoke with a calmness and confidence he did not know he was capable of. Perhaps such connections were formed at the unspoken level, perhaps some people can form them with most everyone.
Later, as they sat beside each other in a comfortable silence, the bus bumping along the bumpy road, and he drank in the feeling. A feeling that started from the center of his breast and spread all over him, a steady current which made him feel like he was swelling, coming out of his nose. He felt like he had been purged of all his inhibitions, all weights driven from his soul never to return again. He felt like he had been transformed, and the world lay at his feet for the taking. And the feeling grew and grew, grew as he relished her proximity to his body, the strands of her long hair that the wind blew into his face, wondered at the way her pink lips curved at the edges when she shyly smiled when he turned to look at her casually.
An eternity later, the bus approached her stop. As he looked out the window, he could feel her looking at him, or so he thought. Then, it was time for her to leave. “Best of luck for the exam” he said. “thank you” she said. And the eyes met. And in that brief moment spoke things that he had never heard before. The spark in her eyes almost convinced him that the feelings he was feeling were not his alone. Well, he floated till long after.
What happened after that? Why, nothing! He left the college for another college, he didn’t ask her for her number, she didn’t ask for his. As was the habit with him, he was soon starry eyed again for new damsels in his new college.