The first time I got to really look at her, I couldn’t tell if she was pretending to look busy with her notes or if she really was. I’d caught her looking in my direction a couple of times already, and each time she immediately looked away, either back at the professor or out the window on the other side of the classroom. Whatever it was, I wasn’t even sure if it was me she was looking at; I always sat in one of the single seats in front of the classroom window. Too many people in one room always made me claustrophobic.
I was never good at making the first move with women, so I thought, “Fuck it. I’m never gonna have a shot with a looker like her anyway.”
I was wrong. I had a shot. In fact, I later realized I had such a good shot, it could’ve been a piece of cake. A sitting duck.
Except I let the duck eat the cake, and fly away too.
I was sitting alone at home watching Band of Brothers and eating some cold pizza from last night, when she came over. The doorbell rang, so I went up to open the door, expecting it to be my roommate.
It was her.
I froze, my mind unable to grasp the fact that she was standing in my doorway, just as stunningly beautiful as I’d seen her on that first day in college. The fact that she had just gotten married to someone else a few weeks ago and was supposed to be moving to the US soon helped keep my tongue tied.
“Hi,” she said slowly, looking straight at me. “Can I come in?”
“Uh, s-sure”, I stammered, moving out of the way to let her in.
She walked in and I shut the door behind her. I turned to look at her, and under the better light of the hall, I could see that she had been crying. I could also see that her finger nails were chipped.
“Do you want some water?” I asked her, and she shook her head. She took a step towards me, still looking straight at my face.
“Something to eat?”
She took another step, shaking her head. Her face was an inch away from mine, by now, and I could see the smudged mascara giving her what I thought were exaggerated dark circles.
She kissed me before I could finish my sentence. Her hands moved across the back of head, through my hair. I pulled away, and looked at her. She wasn’t crying. She wasn’t smiling. She looked exhausted. I kissed her back, pulling her ever so slowly closer, wrapping my arms around her like I always imagined I would.
She stopped and looked at me, still in my arms, and said, “I’m getting a divorce.”
“Well, duh,” I replied and smiled at her. She smiled back at me and led me to the kitchen. She pulled out a couple of beers from the fridge, opened them, and handed one to me.
“When did you start drinking again?” I asked as we clinked our bottles together.
“Just now,” she said, and took a sip.
“What happened with-” I began, but she cut me off again.
“I don’t want to talk about it right now. I just need some peace.”
We stood in silence for a few seconds, before she suggested we watch something.
Sure, I said, and we moved to the couch. I turned on the television and she sat next to me, curled up under my arm, and we sat in silence, sipping our beers as we watched Arnab Goswami yell at four different people at the same time.
She said nothing else for the next couple of hours.
Two years ago
“I can’t sleep,” I remember texting her.
“Me neither. Wanna talk?” She replied.
I called her without replying to her text, and we ended up talking for a couple of hours. Like we had been doing for the past 3 months or so.
I lay in bed later that night wondering what it was about her that made me want to catch the next flight out just to get to see her in person. I texted her again:
I was in love with her. I just didn’t know it yet.
Two months later, we had ‘the talk’. She said she wanted to be with me. I told her I didn’t do long distance.
We never spoke after that.
A year ago
I was sitting with a bunch of friends from college. We were celebrating nothing in particular, but everyone at the table was happy, I remember.
“Oh, by the way,” one of them said, “Ash just got engaged,”
“Whoa, to who?!” another exclaimed, while I felt a hand rest on my thigh. I looked at Neha, and she looked at me, with that worried expression you get when people think you’re going to lose it any second. I squeezed her hand, smiled at her, and took a sip of my beer.
“Finally!” I said, and the other two laughed. Neha smiled half heartedly, finished her rum and coke, and ordered another.
I went home at 6 AM the next morning, smelling of alcohol and with one hell of a hangover setting in.
Six months ago
“We need to talk,” Ash had texted.
“There’s nothing to talk about,” I replied, and put my phone away.
Seven unanswered texts later, she called.
“What?” I answered.
“Please meet me. Things can’t end this way.”
“Okay. But don’t blame me if you’re blown away by my new found charm and decide to call off your wedding.”
She laughed. God, the way she laughed drove me insane.
“I’ll try to control myself. See you!”
We spent the first half hour in awkward silence, interspersed with small talk in between sips of our coffees.
“I wish you wouldn’t do this,” I finally said.
“Do what?” she asked, setting down her glass?
“This. Forcing this friendship. Talking to me like we’ve been buddies forever. I can’t do that. I can’t just be friends with you. I don’t think I’ve ever done that, and I don’t think I ever will. I should’ve told you this a long time ago, I know, and actually made an effort. I’m sorry I didn’t. But I’m not sorry about the way I feel about you now. The way I’ve always felt—I’m in love with you.”
“John, it’s…I’m getting married in a month,” she said.
“I know,” I replied, “I just had to say that. I’m sorry.”
We sat in silence again for a while. She held my hand, and I stroked it.
At last, she said, “Where was this a year ago? When it really mattered?”
She pulled her hand away.
“I’m sorry,” I offered again. “I should just go.”
I stood up to leave, and she said, “You’ll find someone new, who’ll love you more than I ever did.”
“I know,” I replied, “But I’m not sure I’ll be able to feel the same way about her.”
I began to clear away the bottles of beer, but she pulled me back down on the couch. We kissed again, and she straddled me, as she took her tank top off.
I looked at her and smiled. She smiled back, and we made love.
My phone buzzed on my bedside table, telling me I had a new message.
I removed my arm from around Ash, who was sleeping on the bed next to me. I looked at her and smiled to myself, still unable to fully fathom the fact that she was actually there.
I sat up, picked up my phone and looked at the screen. I had missed six calls, and had received one text message. It was from Neha:
Ash’s husband just called me. They said she jumped off the roof of their building and killed herself. Call me ASAP.
|Pic - DiamondSpider | DeviantArt|