Love over Books

The sun seemed to have emerged two shades brighter than usual, the breeze felt like silk running down my skin and the green that usually went unnoticed imparted peace. That day has been eternally inscribed in the book of life since then. For others, it might have been a signature Sunday, a day to relax and gather courage for the coming week. But, for me, it was a defining day of my life.

“Are you going on a date?” Mom inquired in a teasing tone.

For someone who doesn't take more than a minute to get ready, who keeps her hair relatively short in order to escape the tiring process of combing hair and who frowns upon the mere mention of the word makeup, staying in her room for more than half an hour would definitely make it crystal clear. However, even if the time spent by me in dressing up had matched other girls, she would have known. In all these years, the one thing that I have come to learn is, moms are gifted with massive amount of sixth sense. They effortlessly read your mind.

“He is just a friend.” I sheepishly replied in an attempt to avoid the gaze. I knew she knew but I couldn't bring myself to confess. I was plain embarrassed. Why wouldn't I be? It was my first date after all.

I had been introduced to him a few months back by a friend and we had built an instant rapport owing to our similar interests: books, movies, music and the most vital of all, our idea of LIFE. It appeared to be the perfect match. But it was too soon to form a strong opinion, especially when it came to the matter of the heart. Life is much more than interests and ideas. Love at first sight had never appealed to me. In fact, it went against my logic. Hence, although the prospect of going on a date excited me, I had decided to go with the least expectations.

I was 23 but a just born in the land where cupid is the torchbearer. Despite my desperate attempts to brush the nervousness off, it over powered the excitement. Butterflies were having the times of their lives with my stomach as their playground. In the auto rickshaw, on the way to the pre-decided venue, my throat ridiculously demanded for saliva and the mouth uncontrollably stretched wide open every ten seconds, the identical reactions to stress before an exam. It seemed that the notorious clock was playing a prank on me. It had virtually stopped. Ten minutes appeared to be no less than an hour.

I finally reached the venue: A bookstore (The crossword) to which a friend had guffawed.

“You will stay single for life.” she had said with a giggle.

“Tum nahi samjhogi (You won't understand).” was my reply mimicking a popular dialogue from her favourite Bollywood actor Shahrukh Khan.

I got down from the auto rickshaw and started walking towards the store. The heart was racing as if determined to win a marathon.

“Relax. You are not heading on a space mission.” I tried to console myself.

I saw him stepping out of the store. We had been talking over phone for a few months now, but were actually seeing each other in flesh for the first time.
“Plus one for the guy” I started rating him on a virtual score card. Perhaps, he might have done the same thing. Raised in a family that has always stressed upon punctuality as the most important attribute, it had always topped my list when it came to a date, rather a pre-requisite to take it any further.

Appearance was ruthlessly placed at the last spot on the same list. Hence, I had expected that factor to be neither overwhelming nor disappointing.
We walked towards each other. I saw a neatly ironed shirt tucked in the black jeans and black polished shoes. Heart beats, by now, had dashed to its peak and the steps had come close to crawling. We finally reached at a hand’s distance.

Did we hug? No, we hadn't reached there yet. Hands met followed by our eyes. I believe, eyes reflect the soul. They have the power to reveal the characteristics of a human being that words often fail to. I could clearly see the simplicity, the clarity entwined with the innocence I would seek in a partner. However, I averted my eyes for a fraction of a second in order to not be perceived as a maniac. But somewhere, deep down, the chord had been struck.

It all began with a 'Hi'

After an exchange of the pleasantries, we decided to do what we loved the most, when alone. I was a bit apprehensive about the idea in the beginning but persuaded myself to give it a chance.

“How bad could it get?” I thought. “I might have to stay single for a bit longer. I haven’t been unhappy anyway.”

He opened the door for me. "Plus one for the chivalry." Together, we browsed through the new arrivals on the ground floor reading the synopsis and discussing the authors for a while. The comfort started to crawl up between us and the nervousness found its way out amidst the smiles and blushes. It was a feeling unknown to me. It is amazing how life comes with multitude of emotions: Joy, excitement, fear, stress, and sadness. But, this was new, different and out of this world.

We climbed up to the first floor. I managed to catch a glimpse of him when he was mesmerized by the shelves laden by books. I saw a childlike inquisitiveness in his eyes and my heart skipped a bit. The cupid was hovering around.

We went up to the classics section. We glanced through O Henry’s, Mark Twain’s and Aldous Huxley’s. Our hands reached The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand at the same time. The classic we could eat, drink and sleep with. The heart, once again, skipped a beat and we burst out in laughter. We went on to find a comfortable place to sit, a red coloured sofa for two on the extreme end of the store.

What ensued not only turned into the defining moment of the date but of LIFE as well. He opened the chapter that had dazzled me to the core when I had once read it. He started reading out to me. The curve sitting close to my lips, escaping my attention, stretched a tad more. This time it was accompanied by a glee in the eyes. I tried my best to concentrate.

The moments of bliss

“But you see," said Roark quietly, "I have, let’s say, sixty years to live. Most of that time will be spent working. I've chosen the work I want to do. If I find no joy in it, then I’m only condemning myself to sixty years of torture. “

I had always dreamt of this moment. I didn't realize when a hand's distance between us turned into an inch. Our arms brushed against each other and a shiver ran down my spine. He paused for a fraction of a second. This was it. This feeling, of love, was overwhelming.

“And I can find the joy only if I do my work in the best way possible to me. But the best is a matter of standards—and I set my own standards. I inherit nothing. I stand at the end of no tradition. I may, perhaps, stand at the beginning of one.”

I was struck by Cupid’s Arrow. Soon the reality surfaced and I realized it could be just me.

“He might be doing it just for the sake of passing time. What if he didn't like the way I look? What if he found me too boring for a date?” The smile that had been accompanying me since the past hour faded away in a jiffy. My heart started pounding unusually with a lump in the throat.

I insisted on leaving. The sudden change in the behavior scared him.
“Is everything alright? Are you OK ” He asked with a wrinkle of worry emerging on his forehead.

“I am alright.” I replied with a slight tone of irritation. These Geminis like me, I tell you, can ruin the most precious moment.

We rushed out of the bookstore. More than alarmed, he looked worried.

“I needed fresh air.” I clarified and smiled.

The wrinkle on his forehead disappeared.

“What a relief. You scared the hell out of me.” He said with a nudge on my cheek. I responded with a guilty smile. The moment had passed.

We entered a restaurant close by. I had promised to bring along the dairy which had  my scribbles written in it. I had once read a poem out to him. That is when he had requested me to get the diary along whenever we meet.
“Time to talk.” I thought.

“What brought you here?” I asked

“This.” He replied pointing at the diary.

Love Struck

couldn't help but blush. We ordered food. I read it aloud, managing to steal a glance at him. I saw it in his eyes too, the love.

That day, we talked about everything under the sun: The things that excited us, scared us, overwhelmed us, disappointed us, motivated us, and taught us. What we intended to do in the future, what we wanted to make of our lives, what could make us or break us and so on. Hours passed. We didn't realize that the sun had bid adieu for the day which meant we had to face the same fate. 

With the promise to meet soon, we parted, this time, with a hug.

“How was it?” Mom asked with her signature tease.

I smiled. She understood.

It has been four and a half years since that day. Together we have crossed numerous high tides. We have survived the frustrations of a long distance relationship and issues way more grave than the usual misunderstandings and possessiveness. Miraculously, we have always been beyond the petty fights and hang ups.

I have heard ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ umpteen numbers of times, directed at me as well as in general. I had chosen to ignore it. All I know is, it has made the relationship stronger and induced a trust that will never dwindle for life.

Labels: ,