These things I'll never say - my story that didn't quite make it
I have a bad news and a good news. The bad news is that my story didn't make it in the IndiBlogger - HarperCollins Get Published contest. But no matter, I feel I gave it a good effort so I'm still happy. If not for it, I wouldn't have this story. Coming to think of it, maybe it's a blessing in disguise. I don't have to deal with publishers who will want to re-edit my story so much it could probably become a different story altogether, and the personal touch lost. So moving on to the good news now: I can publish it here just as it is. Not perfect, but at least pure me. What you just witnessed is part true reflection of my emotions and part an act of consolation. Anyhow, here we go:
These things I'll never say
Hazel eyes, dark brown hair stained with the colors of Holi, bold green & black chequered shirt: a discomfort to the sight, awkwardly tall. Hazel eyes, piercing hazel eyes: bothersome, stupid facial expression, so White, so European. If I told you these were some of the thoughts I had about you the first time I saw you, would you laugh? You had stood there wearing an alien expression on your face; words trapped inside your mouth while I waited reasoning you would eventually say something. Ten seconds like ten minutes passed until I turned away, no room in me for more awkwardness. If I saw you now I would ask what it was you had in your mind then. But I will let my imagination suffice and say that that was the time you fell in love with me. I, on the other hand, was a little slow to catch on but when I did how I left you behind. I am the kind that gives it all when I give at all, but I even outdid myself when it came to you. What was it about you that made me go a little cuckoo?
Following our clumsy first encounter it was hard to not observe you and your ways. You made me curious. From the table where I sat I looked at you way too often. I looked at you as you made polite conversation with the girl sitting at the table next to yours, and couldn’t help but notice she was giggling a little too much, her body inclining towards yours a little too close. But you didn’t seem to reciprocate. “So this is a man who knows what he wants and takes no distraction”, I thought to myself. I looked at you as the band belted out covers although nothing substantial transpired from it; except that I got caught by you a number of times for looking, and quickly looked away every time in restrained embarrassment, though not quick enough. But hang on there; it’s not like how it sounds. I wasn’t staring at you incessantly like a buffoon. I was simply observing, you see. I don’t stare. I observe. Ashish helped relieve a little of my curiosity then when he told me you were a friend of his visiting from Poland, and were helping him out with the coffee shop.
When he introduced us later that evening I pretended I was seeing you for the first time. Nobody likes to remember embarrassing situations they’ve been in, I justified. Learning that you were an architect enkindled a new kind of fascination in me about you, I admit. But all my bantam observations aside, it was the way you made me feel above all else that convinced me you were some kind of special. As we talked for the first time it wasn’t so much about what we did than it was about how we did, if you know what I mean. Weren’t you reaching out to me even in the moments of silence in between our conversation? The silly acknowledging smiles we exchanged when we had nothing else to say to each other and yet couldn’t bring ourselves to close our little rendezvous. Weren’t you looking at me with a fond familiarity that exists only between friends? It was your eyes that spoke, those penetrating hazel eyes that broke down the walls I had built around myself following my experience with a moron, ‘the wrong kind of guy’. You brought down my defenses so effortlessly; you didn’t even need to try hard. You introduced me to an unfamiliar yet beautiful place I never knew existed. I found comfort with you in one evening that only comes with months of familiarity. Wouldn’t you say a part of me and a part of yours connected like the pieces of a puzzle interlocking perfectly? How can we make sense of this with reason? But it was reason I chose that evening as I made my way back home, still uncomprehending the change you had ushered into my life starting that moment which is frozen in my head, the first time I saw your face.
I told myself I wasn’t going to get emotionally engaged, especially when I knew you were leaving in about a couple of weeks’ time. And yet I consciously decided to drop by the coffee shop again the following evening because you were going to be there. God, who orchestrates all things, must have a sense of humour. Our second meeting was no less awkward than our first, which is meaning, awkward for you. Preparing myself mentally to not look excited about seeing you again while definitely feeling it, I walked in casually, oblivious that the first thing that would greet me were your long legs overwhelming the couch on which you napped. I stopped short. You must have heard the door because you opened your eyes to find me looking down at you wearing, perhaps, a surprised expression on my face and quickly sat up. “Hi,” I greeted as you simply grinned. At least someone spoke this time. Thanks to my friends waving at me then to go sit with them, the moment passed. Thanks to them also because you weren’t going to think I was only there for you. I suppose it was good fate you knew Ashish and Ashish owned a coffee shop.
You know Oleg I have often been told I am unapproachable. I guess that’s true. I can’t remember a time a guy asked me out to my face. So when I noticed you leave your table from the corner of my eye and unhesitatingly walk towards me even while I was pretending to be engrossed in a chat I was pleasantly surprised. You wanted more from me and so you acted. I think it was your confidence that sealed the deal. I don’t remember much of the content of our unending conversation that followed. But what I do remember is feeling safe in your overwhelming presence, and feeling the butterflies in my stomach and the chills down my spine. Truth be told, I didn’t think all of those were actual sensations until that evening. They stopped being made up stuff from books and the movies since then. And when we ate from the same plate of maggi I ordered but couldn’t finish, maybe Cupid took a break from his match-making business and indulged a moment on his latest accomplishment. Maybe as he watched us he even sighed when you thoughtfully kept aside the tomatoes for me because you noticed I liked them. Maybe. Maybe the Earth stopped spinning for a moment when you helped me untangle my hair. Or maybe it was just my heart that skipped a beat. Well, make that two. That night I didn’t walk, I floated home.
I still can’t comprehend how it is that we shared all that we did during those few days we spent together. And how is it that I even started to complete your sentences for you. That doesn’t happen between people who have just met, does it? And yet it did. Still, in spite of all this, you changed. Like someone flipped a switch. Sometimes I wonder if you were a phantom I conjured up in my head. Ashish reminds me otherwise. Bless him. You came like thunder and disappeared like lighting, suddenly illuminating the sky and suddenly darkening. What was it that sent you a thousand miles away even before you actually left? Your body so near, your mind so far away. Why had you opened ajar the door but did not choose to enter? Perhaps it was your logical head reigned by reason. Your mind became your prison while my heart your prisoner. You gave up even before we could try. But that is how it was to be. I told myself it was time I befriended reason again. And it was reason that made me pretend like everything was okay. It was reason that spoke when I told you I wasn’t looking for anything non-platonic anyway. It was reason I meditated on as we took a cab to drop you to the airport. It was reason that made me look away so easily while you walked away.
It was reason I tried to hang on to as I read your note you had quickly handed me before leaving. Explanations made and forgiveness asked, but I don’t think an apology was what I was looking for. Still, it was made so it was accepted. The long distance, language barrier and cultural differences were what discouraged you, you said. Thanks for pointing out, I wanted to say, I never noticed. I emailed you a reply wanting to be polite; and even after all the nice things we told each other in the long email exchanges that followed, even after the promise we made to stay friends, there remained a vacuum inside of me. One you were supposed to fill but were too afraid to. Don’t ask now how long it took me to get over you. I thought about you every day for a long time. I missed you every time I thought about you. I began to wonder if the initial happy days with you were merely a fantasy I invented in my head. I wondered if I got too carried away imagining something that wasn’t. Ashish reminded me otherwise. Bless him. You did happen, and then you un-happened. What else is there to say?
Nothing I tried would make me move on. When I realized one day it had gone on for too long I decided it was time I befriended also my pain. It was time I told myself what I experienced was something real and beautiful, although agonizingly temporary. It was time I realized two brave people are needed to fall in love and stay in love, and it wasn’t my fault or yours that you weren’t ready to be brave for us. I had to stop punishing myself. I had to stop blaming you. It was time I sieved through the experience, keep the good memories and throw away the rest. It wasn’t easy, of course, but possible like I eventually learned. Just like butterflies in the stomach, getting over a heart-ache is also real. And now I look back and remember the good times we shared. I remember the unexpected stirrings I felt in my heart and smile to myself, grateful I got to feel that way about someone. And I remember you. I remember the kindness in your eyes that shone, your hazel eyes like a deep sea reflecting the light of the sun. I remember, with fondness now, the bold green & black chequered shirt you wore the first time I saw you. Perhaps chequered shirts are still your thing like it was then. I remember the comfort we shared in our little time together. But mostly, I remember feeling safe with you. And I miss you. These, some of the things I will never say to you.
“It was good to have felt that way
It was good to have let you in
To hold someone so dear
Notwithstanding reason and its claims
You may say it was stupid
You have the world on your side
But what I possess is a piece of heaven
To own it millions would die
And although it is not to be
I am grateful for the memory
How I wish you had seen it as well
Beheld the beauty with my eyes, dwelled
All the same, I have to move on now
There is much of life to uncover
But as I leave this moment for the next
I won't stop missing you, well, not just as yet.”