She sat across the triangular table we shared in a small cafe, looking straight into my eyes. Tears started to form in her eyes and then slowly made their ways down on her cheeks. Then she blinked! Yea, I won. I remember how we stole away from the basketball game and went to that cafe. Saturday afternoon in November, a perfect time for imperfect people to fall in love.
Once we reached the cafe, we ordered coffee and sat at the corner-most table. We had been friends since we met on the admission day at the college and had been hanging out together. As we sat waiting for coffee I challenged her for an eye to eye staring contest, something I’m really good at. Have you ever met someone in your life who you felt can look through into your very being, right into your soul. To me that someone was her. As we sat staring into each otherâ€™s eyes, trying not to blink, something was being revealed to me. It was far from the kind of revelation John had in the Bible, but rather a simple yet sweet and meaningful one, which since then changed my perception of love and life itself. Yes, I realized that I was in love with my best friend. Scary huh!
That Saturday evening, I was in a dilemma. A decision had to be made and a risk had to be taken. Like Shakespeareâ€™s Hamlet, Prince of Denmark â€˜to be or not to beâ€™ was the question. The stake was not a small thing. I knew just too well how our friendship could turn sour, how we could become strangers! But the urge I felt, the need to let it out was just too strong. I had arrived at impasse.
With a heavy fear-laden heart, I went to the PCO on the ground floor of our Hostel, picked up the phone and called her number. Her aunt answered the phone and announced â€œItâ€™s your phone Elâ€. At that moment, I seriously thought of keeping the phone back and run outside before the whole world crashes on me. But, miraculously nothing of that sort happened. I held onto the phone. An unfamiliar chill ran through my body and I trembled. Then, I heard her voice, â€œHelloâ€.
â€œItâ€™s meâ€, I said, â€œIâ€™m just calling to say â€˜hiâ€™.â€
â€œOkay. Hiiii..â€ she replied as cheerful as always. She paused for a moment then, and continued, â€œSo, whatâ€™s up?â€
At that moment, I wanted to say so much that I called her just to say ‘I love her’ but I chickened out, so I said, â€œIâ€™m good. I was just thinking, maybe you would like to go for swimming tomorrow, after classâ€. I did not know who I was kidding! It was November in Shillong! Crinoline swimming pool where we used to go for swimming was closed. But, there was no time to take back what I just said! â€œSwimming! Youâ€™re kidding right? James, are you out of your mind?â€ she shot back. I had to think a way out quickly so I replied, â€œ Yeah, I know..I was kidding. You know, I just wanted to talk to youâ€.
â€œOkay, what about this..letâ€™s just hang out at Hyderi Park after class. Will see you, byeâ€. I put the phone down before she could say anything. Mission failed!
I felt terribly bad about myself then. I walked to my room, pulled the chair near the only window there was and sat quietly, staring into the darkness. I could almost hear the â€˜lub dub lub dubâ€™ sound of my heart, which was at the verge of explosion!
Around 2:00 p.m. the next day, I was waiting for her near the college main gate where we usually meet after classes. I still didnâ€™t have any plan on how to let out my feelings to her, how to tell her. I knew that I was heading for a disaster which was looming closer every minute and, I was still rushing into it!
On our way to the Park I was oddly quiet. She did notice and asked if I was okay to which I casually replied, â€œNever betterâ€, and tried real hard to hide my anxiety. When we reached the park it was almost 4:00 p.m. There were only few people there. She walked ahead of me, straight to an old swing and started to swing. I sat beside the swing and watched her swinging. Then I took out a notebook from my bag and started to draw something on it. After awhile, she came off the swing and sat beside me. I quickly closed my notebook before she had time to see my drawing.
â€œWhat have you been drawing?â€ she asked.
â€œCome on, I know that youâ€™ve been drawing something. Show meâ€. She grabbed my notebook and pulled. But I seriously did not want to let it go and so, held on to it. Then there was the wager.
â€œLetâ€™s play a game then. Iâ€™ll tell you a secret if you let me see your drawingâ€. Saying this she looked at me and smiled coyly. I laughed. It was very much of her to propose the same. She always did that. I said â€˜okayâ€™ and asked her to go first. She hesitated for a moment and then told me that she had a crush on a boy from a college near her auntâ€™s house. I knew the boy â€“ a basketball player, tall and handsome. I felt I had been struck right on my face by something big and hard. I was shaken. I didnâ€™t remember how I answered when she asked me â€˜what did I think of himâ€™. I guessed I said something like â€˜a great guyâ€™.
â€œOkayâ€ she said as she exhaled. â€œItâ€™s your turn to show me your drawingâ€. I stood abruptly and kept the notebook in my bag while forcing a smile at her. â€œLetâ€™s go home loverâ€.
Ten years have passed since then. Sometimes I still wonder how things might have turned out had I shown her what I drew on my notebook, that winter afternoon in November.
(Saptawngin kan ziak leh khut thin a..lo dawh hram hram teh u – James Famkima)