She was at her workstation, eyes glued onto one of the three monitors facing her. The silence in the room was intimidating. Calmness. Storm. Damn!
I would’ve been happy being one of those monitors; one – she’d be glancing towards me at the moment, two – the electronic me wouldn’t have to experience the freeze every time she looked at me, and lastly – I wouldn’t have had to do what I was about to do. I’d choose to be the left-most monitor, I thought, from where I can shamelessly gaze at her chin. A chin so perfect and magical, and special because it was there that the first signs of her irresistible smile surfaced. A smile that… Enough!
She hadn’t noticed me standing. It only added to my pulsating tension.
“Hey” I said, half the syllable flattened by my unprepared throat.
“Hey! Look who’s here!” she beamed.
I sensed the irony, but not as much as I was engulfed by her imminent charm – even when she sported a messy hair! That chin was fully-loaded and shot piercing pellets at me, which were invisible but made my heart race. She, was impossible.
“What happened?” she asked seeing my bewildered silence.
The months flashed by my eyes. The introduction, the sessions together, random conversations, smiles and the countless glances that may have meant nothing, but had burned me to ashes, only to be reborn with a longing for another eye contact. I was shamelessly helpless. Had turned shamelessly helpless, to be precise.
And she asks “What happened?”
“Just something…something I wanted to tell you…” I said, while half-wondering what to say after that.
“Sure. Go on.” She said casually, like I was a carrier of someone’s message. Well, I was excited (and nervous) for both of us combined; so her cold words did not deter me.
She was staring at me, anticipation creeping into her slowly.
I was blank. I had failed.
After a few seconds, unable to take more of those hazel eyes, I lowered my head. Clueless as to what she might be thinking, I spent what felt like an eternity staring at the plain black socks that I was wearing.
“You alrigh-“ She started; I was sure she had the cute inquisitive look on her face.
“Yes!” I sputtered, looking up, startling myself. Our eyes met. She was slightly taken aback by my sudden burst, but she remained composed like always.
I suddenly felt unnatural warmth rise through my body. She sat waiting.
“Listen, for a while. It’s not like the many…like… Listen. You are a nice girl. I mean, a young lady. Nice. All that time we’ve spent working together has been wonderful. The work…is brilliant.” I stopped.
She was staring at me; hazel was mixed with puzzlement.
What the heck was I saying?!
“I don’t quite get-“ she started again.
“Listen.” I silenced her. Again. I took a breath. And continued, “It’s been great working with you. But what I have…to say…is that I quite like you.”
“Don’t ask me when or how. Even why! I know just that it’s been so. For a while. There has not been an hour in these months when I haven’t felt this weight drop inside my heart. Every time….every time you occurred. Like…you’d walk by, smile, wave…even in my thoughts. Imagine – thoughts! So it’s just like you exist, and I’m left with a heavy heart. And that time….that time when you shot me in the air with your hands, like a gun, you left a hole that hasn’t burned out yet. You may not even remember. That’s okay. It’s just moments…..that has driven me. Till here.”
She was absorbing my words.
“Listen.” I continued, uninterrupted. “I’m not even sure if I’m saying the right things. I never felt prepared to tell you these. But I wanted to. I just couldn’t cork myself. Or maybe I just, you know, uncorked myself or something. I don’t know…”
My gaze rested steadily on her now. Unlike always, I didn’t experience the tendency to look away.
“You, are, beautiful. As beautiful as the word can get. I’m sure you’ve heard this all, before. I’m just an iteration. Doesn’t matter. I just wanted you to know….that, though you may not know, you are such a big presence in my day. Every day. Every, single, day.”
I had become numb. But surely not out of angst.
“There is no question that I’m asking. These had to be said. And I’ve said. I really don’t know how it will be now on. I really don’t know. But I can assure you one thing – just say a word and you’ll not hear a word of this, from this moment. I promise you tha-“
“No.” she said, licking her lips. Her eyes were steadier than mine.
She said no further. As the warmth drained off me, I saw her eyes emptying. What they held till then, I did not know. But they had turned empty now.
Incredibly, I took a good couple of minutes to move. As I stepped back into the empty cabin, a conflict was ongoing – within me. My stunned mind wanted to replay the episode, like an eager friend who was made to wait away from the scene. Opposing this urge, I kept feeling burdened about finding a resolution to something vague. It was all a mess.
An array of questions conveyed through. Did I miss something? Was it a fail? How big a fail? What drained off her face? What was she thinking? What is she thinking?
I remembered my very first rejection, years back in school. My best buddy had put his arm on my shoulders and pointed out that she was not the only girl around. Revisiting his words, I laughed, alone in the cabin. If he was here now, he would’ve needed another line of consolation for me. For she was the only one here. The only other human being, in fact. For months. For another few, too.
And I had blown it. Royally.
As I stared out of the cupola of the International Space Station, I was unsure if I wanted to cry, but whether the physics was stopping it. Earth, that seemed romantic an hour back, looked more inviting now.
Even if I did cry, the tears wouldn’t roll down. They’d pool around my eyes, wobbling. Yet, not detaching. Suddenly, I felt alarmed, thinking how much love would be pooled around me at that moment, devoid of a medium.
May be continued…