It was vacation time. You would be leaving for a month or so and I wanted to say goodbye properly. I knew your friend. She was my friend too. While everyone was waiting for the bus to take them to Mettupalayam, I suppose, you met me with our friend. I had this colorful, sparkly pencil that one of my Aunt’s had sent me. It was my favorite. It was brand new. I gave it to you. Hoping you would understand. I was glad you had something of mine.
We may have exchanged letters. I don’t remember. You were three years my senior. I noticed you watching whenever I played with the school team in the girls’ basketball court. Until then, I had not bothered using a signature. I created a signature which when inverted revealed the first letter of your name. Drew it on my house school t-shirt and wherever else I could. You sent me a handkerchief once. Washed and scented. Sigh. Put our sign on that too. There was always a buzz when you were around.
You said you were being called to your hometown. You did not know if you would be able to visit again. You were sitting on a swing, after the sun had set, and we were talking about life. I asked you if I could kiss your hand… hihi. You laughed and said no. I said, “Your feet then?” You laughed more and said no. Your elder sister came out of your home, about 50 meters away and called you in for dinner. I think we both know why she actually called you. Anyway, I was glad I asked. At least you knew how I felt.
You wanted to go to the market for shopping. I said I’ll come along. I followed most of the time, since I never went shopping for groceries myself back then. On the way back to the school, you reached out and took my hand in yours. The road was empty, no one was around to see, but I was scared. You had some grip. I just gave in. When we reached the school gate you let go, so none of the kids playing would see. Firm hold. You made me feel secure.
I was going to do a course in another part of Bangalore. 6 months, and I probably wouldn’t see you until the course was over. I told you I had some extra pocket money and I wanted to buy you something. My budget was only Rs. 200, so we went to one of those makeshift wedding halls where stuff is on sale. We decided the sarong would be a good choice, so you could use it when you visited a beach. It was below 200, I think 150, so I agreed. We walked back to your hostel and I went home.
You talked as though it was your bike. Yes, you did put in some cash when I was buying it, but I returned it. It was my bike. We were going to visit my parents in Rayasandra as we made it a point to do so whenever we could. Since they were so against us even talking at one point. It was the monsoon and this being the outskirts, the road was just a slippery, slushy mess. That didn’t deter us. As expected, a kilometer or so from our college, the bike got stuck in the slush. We both had to get off and push it. We laughed so much. We were both filthy when we reached my parent’s house.
You told me you had a crush on my elder brother – if only I had a rupee for every time I heard that – and wanted to meet him. So I asked him first if he was game and then told his girlfriend also that my friend wanted to meet him. I didn’t give all the details. Hihi. We met at Popsies for lunch, you sat across from me and my brother. It was clear you had run out of words, and well, my brother is no better. So I intervened and tried to make conversation. It was awkward, but I did it for you.
Your parents were visiting, but since our parents knew each other, they didn’t mind us hanging out. I took you to see my brother’s band perform at Pebble. It was always dangerous riding with you sitting behind me. You would playfully hit me and tug at my helmet. Like you couldn’t sit still or something. I could tell you didn’t go to loud concerts like that very often. You were very tense and attentive. Just stealing glances back at me during the songs. During one of the songs, which I told you I liked, you took my hand and placed it on your heart. My heart stopped.
We hadn’t been dating that long and we decided to ride to Nandi Hills one day. The usual devotee’s, tourists and monkeys. While we were relaxing at the food stalls near the peak, a lady wearing a blue saree walked by, and I exclaimed “She’s beautiful.” Haha. You lost it and walked away in a huff. I gathered our things and started running after you, apologizing, but you did not stop. Down the stairs, me chasing you, people staring, you not even looking back and getting further away. By the time I caught you I was in tears. I begged you to listen and said I was sorry. And we sat on the mountainside, out in the open, me trying to hide from onlookers, and you consoling me like you were the one at fault.
Plumeria. I told you it was my favorite flower while we were chatting at work and you said you had seen it. And I tried to explain how lovely it smelt and it seemed like you were not convinced. That night while I was thinking, as usual, I decided to get some champa’s for you. The next day was a Saturday, so we could go late into work, but I had to get the flowers. They don’t sell them and this is a real crime, but I think the milk from the flower is poisonous too, so maybe that’s why. I rode to NGV and hunted around the park until I had a small packet of plumerias. God, it felt like I had collected rubies and gemstones. I knew this would do the trick and you’d fall for me. Haha. Got into the office, ran to your desk and placed the packet in front of you. “For you.”
Mum was full of praises for you whenever I visited her in Attibele. So I thought I needed to get to know you, if for nothing else, just to see if what mum said was true. I asked you after we had been chatting for some time if you would let me take some portrait pictures of you. You agreed and we set a date. We decided to do it at the school where you taught on Sunday, so there wouldn’t be anyone to disturb. I had given you the responsibility of choosing what you’d wear. You were the first of my photo subjects that actually wanted to try two different looks. You were as enthusiastic to pose as I was to try different angles and expressions. The red dress was the best and mum was right.
I don’t know who gave you your driving license, but I would argue its authenticity. I could never relax if you were driving and I was in the passenger seat. Speed bumps, potholes, you didn’t care, the car had to take all the abuse. I think after some time you stopped watching the road too, since you knew I would be keeping an eye out for everything. Following Google maps while returning from Hampi was a disaster. We landed up on some unpaved road used by truckers in the middle of nowhere. I was afraid the car would break down with all the scrapes and bangs it endured. There were moments when it felt like we were in a rally race, cause all we could see was dust covering the windscreen and all around these huge trucks. We made it out alive, and you patted my hand saying “Don’t worry, na.”
The flight was supposed to land at 4:30. I had taken the bus from town but got off at the wrong stop. It was like some terminal only for cargo, not passengers. I was getting frantic since I didn’t wanna miss your flight and asked the security guy to help, since I had no data usage on my phone. I had no idea which terminal you would be landing at. After pacing up and down for a while, a guy called me over and showed me the terminal listing on his phone. I got the next bus and reached almost exactly when the plane landed. I searched through all the faces for yours, but nada. So I called you and you said you were trying to connect to the airport wifi. I told you I was waiting at the gate. There was this indescribable electricity in the air. Mothers reuniting with their kids, friends having a group hug. It was as close to a scene from a Romcom I have ever witnessed. It was uncomfortable standing there as people pushed their trollies by and rushed to go wherever they were going. I began to worry, as I often do, and then you appeared. Everything went quiet.