I Like You - A Short Story
I Like You - A Short Story11 mins 6.2K 11 mins 6.2K
“I like you. I never thought I would fall for you”. No. Not good.
“I am crazily in love with you”. That's too cliched.
“I like you and I think we are made for each other”. Is that the best you can think of? Not good.
OK. So how about this. “We are different. You have your ideal and I have mine but we both respect each other and enjoy each other’s company. I think we should marry. What do you think?”.
That's interesting but too many words. Can’t you think of something crisp?
And so the day started with him talking to his bathroom mirror, trying to come up with the perfect sentence that would sweep his girl off her feet. It was good that the mirror was not a real person. If it was then it would have got boredom long back. But that's the greatest thing about mirrors. It’s never judgemental and you always can see what you wish to see. It had taken him so many days to arrive at the decision to propose to her.
The unfortunate part was the pessimism he had about her potential response. “If it’s a no, it’s a no. You cannot do anything. So it’s pointless to even think about” replied his optimistic side from across the mirror. Finally, it said, “Don’t worry. You will do good”.
He came out of the bathroom with a clean shaven face, well-combed hair that had wax applied on it & an ironed shirt that was tucked into his new jeans. His sister looked at him and wondered “what on earth is wrong with him?” When someone who never does these things while going to the office, walks out of the home with a sort of cleanliness that he had never showcased, it was bound to raise eyebrows. He smiled at her and said, “Yes. I have decided and I am going to ask her” and there was a smile on his sister's face.
The hardest part of a proposal is to know the right time to talk the right words. Most of the time, men do get impatient and all they want is to get it out of their system because keeping their thoughts locked inside them can become very overwhelming. If the other person too shares similar feelings and is waiting to hear it, then all the above does not matter one bit. But if one’s unsure of that then it does matter to convey it interestingly that would leave an impression. But unfortunately talking the right words at the right time happen only in novels and movies. The heroes there are so convincing that it’s impossible to give a negative response to them. But this is different and real.
Aravind is a real person who's a typical example of not having the qualities of a hero, not one among the impatient lot and also don’t have any clue if the other person shared similar feelings towards him. It can only be a coincidence if this lot are able to articulate the right words at the right moment. This lot, to their disadvantage, worry too much about their self-image and the biggest factor would be how determined they are to unfetter themselves from the clutches of their self-image.
While travelling to the rendezvous, Aravind’s pessimistic head was filled with every dark thought possible ranging from “What if she thinks bad about me?” to “Getting slapped by her!”.
Thinking about getting slapped, invariably reminded him of what his friend Pradeep told him years back on a similar conundrum, “It’s high time you get slapped by a girl. That would be your emancipation moment”. From then till now, he hadn’t been slapped by any girl and he was pretty sure that slap was not going to happen today but his head was in that kind of a state where negative emotions were triumphing the positive ones.
To take his mind of all the negativity, he thought of the days when his heart and mind were in the euphoria of talking to a loved one and pessimism didn't have the guts to come near his head. It was exactly 6 months back when he met her during one of his daily journeys from Jersey City to New York City. The image of those pair of eyes looking at him from behind the black-rimmed spectacles was not easy to forget.
Thinking that today, he felt it was a freaking coincidence that the seat next to him became vacant on the train and she had sat next to him. He wasn't sure if he would've tried to strike a conversation if she had sat somewhere else. Nevertheless, rub of the green that never comes his way came that day and he was eternally grateful to the gentleman who sat next to him that day before her. If he had not got up, a lot of things would not have happened.
“Hi. You're from around here?” was his first question to her for which he got a nodding of her head. He waited for a “What about you?” that never came from her. So he had posed his next question, “Indian?” and again it was the same nodding of her head. He had thought of saying, “Oh that is great, I am from India as well” but his better senses prevailed and he said, “Oh that's nice. You work in New York?”. And then came her first words, “No I don't”.
Some conversations are engraved in the corridors of our head and for Aravind that conversation was one such. The curt responses from her, in the beginning, that day made him absolutely sure that she was the most arrogant person he has ever encountered in his life. But little did it occur to him then that she encounters dozens of men like him every day. As a writer of this piece, I spoke more about Aravind's inabilities but the best thing about him is his ability to introspect his prejudices and try to overcome them.
“Although I try to have a conversation organically, it can be a bit awkward at times. Don't think bad!” he had smiled and said. That had caught her attention. He remembered well how her head turned up towards him, temporarily discarding her mobile phone. “I am trying to improve though” he added. This time her lips parted slightly to give a smile and said, “You at least try but I totally suck at that”.
“And there is your destination, brother!”. The Lyft driver broke his reverie. “Have a great day, brother.” He thanked him and entered the Hoboken waterfront that had the morning joggers, the dogs on leashes, the Hudson and the breathtaking view of the New York City Skyline. It's hard for many to romanticize the idea of a proposal with the skyrise buildings and the Hudson in the backdrop but Aravind had a gut feeling that his girl might like this idea and not to mention his zero confidence in his articulation abilities today.
The conversation that day did not become like a Richard Linklater movie if that's what you are expecting. I did give it a serious thought about taking both of them to New York and make them walk the streets of New York, talking from dusk till dawn, taking them to the observation deck of the World Trade Center or the Empire State building in the early hours where they get to see New York City in lights, make them kiss etcetera. The idea was so romantic to write but as I said this is reality and very rarely do two not so social strangers become so intimately involved in each other in a single night.
He stood holding the railings and wondered at the prospect of his girl accepting his proposal. That was the first positive thought he had had that morning. Perhaps it was the calming influence of New York. He couldn't help but smile at that thought and that simple thought made him feel cathartic. “She already knows why you asked her to meet you here.” said his inner voice. “If not she is as stupid as the heroines in mainstream films.”, chuckled his inner voice. He, like every other human being, took the part that he wanted to hear and dumped the other.
“So what do you do for a living?” Aravind had to be the one to take the initiative in this. “I am an IT security Administrator” was her response. “Wow! That is interesting”. Aravind had wondered if she would ask the “What about you?” question. But it did not come for some time. Again her lips parted slightly to give a smile. Till date, he isn’t sure if she had sensed what was going inside his head and gave that smile. Nevertheless, the question eventually came out of her mouth. “I work for Infosys!” and he can never forget the “Oh!” that came from her.
Aravind flinched to the pat on his back and saw her standing next to him. “Hey! Sorry, I was thinking something and… ” he paused to which she completed the sentence with the question and trademark smile, “Got Scared?”. He replied in the affirmative. “Of course! I got scared”. “So what brings the ever lazy owl out so early in the morning and that too well dressed? Is it apocalypse already?”
“It’s been years since I slept earlier than midnight.” he had said after a month into the new friendship. “I think I have been institutionalised into this now. I don’t get sleep until 2 AM in the night” he said “That’s awful. Is that due to work?” asked she with genuine concern on her face. “Partly due to work and partly due to my interest in reading!”. She smiled and said, “Staying late for work every day is sacrilegious. You need to change your job soon”.
“Not yet madam. We still have time for the apocalypse. At least, I don’t want the world to end now” he said with a smile. “And I wanted to tell you something!”
“How can you even say that restricting immigrants is a good thing, being one yourself?” he had asked with anger, two months into the friendship. She replied calmly, “Don’t get angry. Every society needs people to build it and they become part of that society. When they become a majority, they decide who is part of it and who isn’t. That is how the evolution has always been. We all come here for selfish reasons and we have to accept that we are creating an economic imbalance wherever we go.” He sat dumbfounded, unable to respond to her.
She looked at him with curiosity all over her face. “OK. Tell me”. She rested her arm on the railings, genuflected her body and twisted her head towards him. It reminded him of the head twisting she did during their first conversation. He took in a deep breath and looked at her. Words did not come out of his mouth. All the preparations in front of the mirror went void and he was starting to get really nervous.
“I don’t believe in the concept of a marriage, really. I don’t see even a single good marriage around me. My friends are all on the verge of a divorce. My parents, well, No comments” she had said with exasperation when the talk was about marriages. This was around three or four months into the friendship. He laughed and said, “Maybe you did not see good marriages. Take my close friends for example - Gautham and Patrick have very good marriages. Vicky is getting married this month and knowing Vicky, he chooses well. So I don’t have any doubts. So there are good marriages around all of us. It is just what we want to see.” he had said with a confidence that he never knew existed within him. “Maybe your friends don’t share everything with you” and he did not have an answer for that.
She took her left hand from the railings and squeezed his hand. “It’s OK. You can tell me anything. I won’t get mad at you. Have I ever got mad at you?”
“How can you say that you had a nice time at a strip club?” she was furious at him. “Don’t you feel that she’s faking it?”. This was after he told her about his recent visit to a gentlemen's club. “I know she’s faking it but no one loses anything. I pay for her performance and she gives me that performance and pleasure. You know I am not even allowed to touch her.” He felt that he was having a level playing field in this conversation even though she was mad at him for saying that he had a nice time. “Agreed but how can you feel the pleasure when there’s no love!” And that’s how yet another conversation ended in her favour with Aravind unable to muster a reply for the umpteenth time. With each defeat in the conversation, he was getting to know her more and he was happily taking each and every defeat.
He chuckled a bit and said in a sarcastic tone, “You never got mad at me!”, “except when you talk Strip clubs and pornography”, interjected she. That reassuring touch made him feel extremely confident in his decision to propose to her. He did not worry about the coherence of whatever he was about to say.
“I have never been the luckiest person. Good things rarely happen to me in life and when it happens, it always came with a cost and uncertainty. But your friendship is the best of all the good things that happened to me. I still thank the gentleman who vacated his seat next to me on the train that day. I have never been happier like these past six months.” he paused to see if there’s any emotion on her face but did not find any. “I feel so greedy to have this happiness all my life and that is possible only if you’re with me. Will you be with me forever and will you do that one thing that you don’t like?” He then uttered the words, “Will you marry me?”
Her face still expressed no emotion and then the lips parted slightly and that caressing smile adorned her mouth. She nodded her head and he could see droplets of tears flowing down her face. He wasn’t concerned about the lack of words this time.