Falgun 17, 2066
First day of college. Five months of waiting, doing nothing at home and then a few more weeks of this hell hole called Bagbajaar. Finally, D-day had arrived.
‘Should I shave? May be just a trim? Oh, hell with it. I’m not going on a date.’ I thought before I went for a short but exciting ride along the city.
PULCHOWK CAMPUS. Finally, the hallowed gate had arrived. I saw people, lots of them, everywhere, and almost exclusively men.
‘Well, it’s engineering. If you wanted girls, you should have studied biology’, I walked into a hall and thought, ‘Okay, who should I talk to. That guy at the back. And he has long hair like mine. A conversation starter.’
I sat next to him and talked a little about each other. His name was Anil and he was from Butwal, the place I’d stayed most of my life, despite being from Kaski. He seemed like the guy you’d want to be friends with.
We were herded around like cattle to different places in the campus. That was our orientation. In that messy, random group, my eyes fell on a girl. I didn’t get a good look at her but I could tell she was pretty. We went around for a while and then told to look around ourselves. Oh, I knew what I wanted to look around for. But I didn’t find her.
‘Well, may be I’ll see her tomorrow.’
The next day, a crowd of young and confused people were swarmed around a notice board. I joined in. I saw that I was in the same class as Anil. ‘Good, one familiar guy to talk to.’
If you didn’t notice already, I like to talk. In fact I love to talk, even to myself.
I went into the class and straight away looked for a long haired dark skinned guy. Lucky for me he was wearing the same shirt as the day before, it was easy to spot him. ‘Thank god, he’s sitting at the back. I can’t talk at the front of the class, not on the first day anyway.’ As I sat there waiting for the teacher to come, I saw two girls walk in through the door. One of them was that girl. The same girl from the orientation. Now, I got a better look, and yes, she was indeed pretty.
Classes, labs. canteens, everywhere I went I could see her with her friends. No, not everywhere, actually. I had a smoking habit and I used to go by the near by teashop, or “Bhatti” as we called it to light up a cigarette between classes. As days went by, I slowly but surely was getting into her friend zone. I didn’t mind being a friend. I thought that was the first step to something else. Yes, I wanted “something else”.
I started talking with her in classes, between classes, on facebook, and sometimes on the phone. I loved it. Oh, and her name was Mamta. Pretty name, don’t you think? I certainly did.
First semester exam was taking its toll. People looked scared, smiled less and worst of all, talked less. People talking less, that was literally like hell for me and her talking less made it worse. So, like every other self-loathing engineering student, I dove into studies. I had no choice.
It was one of the exam days, Drawing. I was good at it. She was also okay. ‘ I guess I don’t really think about how she does in her exams. I think I just like her. May be I am not that serious about her.’ There I was trying to draw faces of some random object like everyone else, and an invigilator walked in. She was in her 50s, a little overweight, and was smiling. She looked harmless, or so I thought. She walked around the class and stopped right next to the girl whose phone rang. I looked up and sure enough, it was her, the girl ” I just liked. ”
The old lady took her answer sheet and in one swift motion of her index finger, showed her the door. I felt bad, but I didn’t have the time to feel bad. I got back to my paper, thinking I would console her later. She just stood there for a few minutes. After a while, the lady lost her patience and told her to go in a harsh tone. I looked up again. And then disaster struck. A tiny tear drop rolled down her cheek. I was all the way across the room and I still saw that. Actually, I felt that.
‘Damn, I’m in love with this girl’
Then and there, I decided if she had to leave, I wasn’t going to hang around either. I couldn’t wait to console her till the end of the exam. I was ready to submit my paper, when a generous old teacher walked up to her and told her to give him her phone and continue with the exam. He saw a damsel in distress and came to her rescue. He gave her the answer sheet and she sat back wiping the tears off her face. Everything seemed fine in the room. Everything went back to normal. Not in my head though. Everything in there had changed in those few minutes. My life was never going to be the same again.
I fell for her. I fell insanely in love with her. Before, I thought about her a lot. After that incident, however, she was all I could think of. I wanted to be with her more often. I wanted to talk to her even more. I started calling her more frequently. I messaged her on facebook more then ever. I just couldn’t do anything without thinking about her.
I even told my mother about her. One day, I was talking to my mother on the phone and I told her about the girl I was in love with. She even told me to never hurt her. I was happy. I was always in my own little world with her.
There was one little problem though. I had to tell her how I felt. Everyday in college, I thought about telling her. I talked to her about everything else and when I was about to tell her the most important thing, I chocked. Every time I typed in the words on the chat box I couldn’t hit ‘send’. Every time I called her, I’d end it before getting there.
And then one day, I decided to tell her.
‘What could go wrong? She obviously likes me, otherwise she wouldn’t be this close to me. I am one of her few guy friends in college. And I am definitely not bad looking.’
I felt confident. I was riled up, not by anyone else but myself. I was ready. I could do it. I would do it that day. All day in college, I looked for an opportunity to talk to her, alone. No luck. I wasn’t going to back down though. Before she went home, I got to talk to her and told her that I was going to call in the evening.
I went home, gathered all the courage and called her. No answer.
‘May be she’s with someone. I’ll call her later’
After an hour or so, I called her again. No answer, again.
‘Something’s wrong. Did she find out and now avoiding my calls’
It started to become more painful for me. Late in the evening I called her again. No answer, yet again.
‘This is it. This is your answer. She’s not even answering your calls’
Late at night, my phone rang. I looked at it and no other name would have made me happier. It was her.
“Why didn’t you pick up my calls?”
“I was with family and had left the phone in my room”
“I need to talk to you”
“Tell me, what you wanted to say”
“I am in love with you”
There, I had said it. I thought after saying it, I’d felt lighter. How wrong I was. It felt a million times heavier. Every second of silence from her was like weeks for me. I felt old, sick and weak. It seemed as if all the tobacco smoke I had inhaled was trying to escape at once. I coughed. She still hadn’t spoken.‘How long has it been? Is she still there?’
“Hello, are you there?”
“Please say something”
“I don’t love you”
And she said it. I can’t even say how it felt. I was about to go through all that pain once again, but she broke the silence.
“I have a boyfriend. He’s studying abroad. I have never thought of you as anything more than a friend. I’m sorry”
I couldn’t say anything. I just hung up. The feeling after that was one of liberation. Not the good kind, where you’re liberated of all the pain and sorrow, but a liberation of all the hope from my heart. Every bit of it flew away as I clutched at the gadget that delivered me the news.
‘She has a boyfriend’
I felt like an idiot. It wasn’t like I wasn’t good enough or anything. I was just surplus to requirement. The place was already taken. I was a wheel, desperately trying to make a bike, while never realizing there was already one. I was the third wheel. I had to roll along all by myself. She wasn’t the one.
I never felt any bitterness towards her. Some of my friends do and I don’t blame them. They care for me and they sort of blame her for leading me on. I don’t though, she was just trying to fill the gap in her life left by her boyfriend with a friend. I’m sure she didn’t mean to. I just fell into that gap.
You’re probably wondering why I’d mentioned one particular guy, Anil at the start, aren’t you? “Why mention someone so much who has nothing to do with the story?”, you may ask. Think about it. In a short amount of time, him and I became best friends. We were always together. He was there when I saw her for the first time, He was there when I saw her the next day. He was with me when we used to talk in college. He was right there in the same room, when her tears fell straight onto my heart. It turned out, it fell on his too. When I found out about how he felt, I had moved on. In fact, I even wished him good luck once, while I was drunk. Sadly though, like me he fell into the gap and came out with nothing. He’s still friends with her and that never ceases to baffle me. I guess he has a stronger heart than mine. Mine was shattered to pieces and then was never recovered. Did I say that I had moved on? I lied. I haven’t, not even now.