What’s your name?A shy boy dreams of talking with his crush. Will he make it?
I can't remember the exact date I saw you, and I don’t think it’s important either. I was standing on the playground, watching the boys play when a flock of girls entered through the gate. I couldn't recognise a single girl from the group, so I immediately realised that it was a group of freshers. I scanned every face, and for some reason, my eyes stopped at yours. My gaze lingered on your face for a while, blurring everything around. You looked so calm and composed that one wouldn't think it was your first day at college. Your shoulder-length hair danced in the breeze as you continued to walk. I couldn't take my eyes off you until you disappeared into the classroom. Right there on the ground, I visualised you placing your bag in the first row. A few of my classmates must have noticed me prying on you, perhaps the reason why they teased me when I got into the classroom. I looked at them irritatedly, but I secretly enjoyed it.
That day, I was the first one to make it to the cafeteria, hoping you would show up. I ordered a cup of tea and waited for you to come. My eyes were transfixed on the cafeteria’s gate, and I guess I didn't blink much. I tried to locate you in every bunch of students that walked in, but I failed each time. Within minutes, I was surrounded by my classmates and got lost in their talks. When I finally dashed out of the cafeteria, it was clear to me that you didn't like eating out.
When the class ended, I rushed down to the gate and fiddled with my phone, pretending I was waiting for someone to pick me up. My colleagues threw me a whole lot of questions, but I simply waved my free hand and continued to peer down at the screen. I don't know how many minutes I stayed like that, but I know I stood long enough. I was determined to see you at least once before heading home. To my relief, you showed up in a while, and I watched you leave. As you passed by, my heart picked a different rhythm, making me wonder if my heart was normal. The air smelled of jasmine, tempting me to stand and inhale the fragrance. Long after you were gone, I stood there cherishing the imprint you left behind.
At home that evening, I did nothing but recall my day at college. I was surprised that my mind was full of you: your subtle smile, your peaceful eyes and your hair that you kept sweeping every once in a while. After dinner, as I sat to complete the assignment, I couldn't concentrate for long. I postponed it for the morning even though I knew I couldn't wake up early. I wasn't fond of music until the day I saw you. I made my way to the window and drew the curtains to take a look at the surroundings. Then I pulled out my phone and typed 'Romantic English Songs' on Youtube. Sitting by the window, I listened to the songs, observing the lyrics and relating them with you. The stillness of the night and the soft melody of music synchronised to perfection. And I had something more: your image etched on my memory. The night couldn't be any better than that. When I finally went to sleep and closed my eyes, you were the last thought of my day. I didn't see you in my dream; I saw myself around the flowers of distinct colours. When I woke up in the morning, I tried to make sense of those flowers and the meaning they carried. I should have interpreted the dream in any other way, but I assumed I was going to fall in love. That is how I remember the day I saw you.
Days passed by slowly, and I began to enjoy my time at college. Even though I didn't get to see you much, I went to college every day. Boys in your class had started reaching out to me, requesting help with their studies. However, none of the girls came asking for help. I wished you would come to my class. I was too shy around girls, so I staved off the idea of visiting your class. I should have gone to your class and talked to the boys; that way, I would eventually befriend the girls too. But I didn't make a move and nothing much happened between us. It had been a month since you joined the college, but I didn't make any effort to know your name. By then, many boys of your class were in my friend circle. I should have asked your name with any of those boys, but I felt it was not the right thing to do. No rush, I kept reminding myself. More than anything, I wanted to hear your name in your voice. I kept waiting for that moment. Part of me doubted if it would ever happen, but I was quick to brush away such pessimistic thoughts.
One Sunday afternoon, at the library, I was reading an article in the newspaper. You appeared out of the blue, making my heart race faster. Your presence was so shocking that I pushed away the paper and started noticing your movement. You were alone, as calm as always, taking brisk steps to the Literature section. My soul leapt with joy as you moved around the shelves, tracing the books of different genres. Students rummaging literary books was a rare sight at the college. It would be easy to strike up a conversation now, I thought. I watched you pulling book after book, unable to find the one you were looking for. To avoid getting caught, I tried to focus on the paper in front of me. I could go through a few lines only, and I knew I couldn't focus on anything when you were there. You returned to the library desk, looking weary and hopeless. It was the first time I saw your face covered in sweat. Your cheeks looked a slight red and your mascara was just about to escape the lashes. You murmured something to the librarian, but the words didn't reach me. At that moment, I wondered what your voice sounded like. The librarian interrupted my thoughts as she called out my name. I glanced at the librarian and you were by her side, reading my expression. It must have been the first time you noticed me. Or I don't know if you'd noticed me before that day. Your gaze was so piercing that I couldn't meet your eyes and looked away. I feared you would notice my nervousness, but I fought back the tension and walked towards the librarian. The librarian asked me if I'd seen the English translation of 'Sirish Ko Phool' at the library. I nodded yes and led you to the far corner. We didn't exchange a word until I placed the book in your hand. You smiled in return and mouthed 'thanks'. I'd expected you would talk more, but you didn't.
A shy girl, I thought. But you proved me wrong. You turned back to ask if I'd read that book, and I said yes. You asked what the book was like, and I said I couldn't summarise it in a sentence or two. I can listen for hours, you said. And that was the sentence that led us to the cafeteria. As the cups of tea kept getting empty, my anxiousness gave way to contentment. We talked about books ranging from classics to contemporary. At one point, you asked me who my favourite writer was. Upon hearing the question, I burst out into a long spell of laughter. Annoyed, you looked at me and asked what the matter was. When I told you that we haven't introduced ourselves yet, you laughed louder than I had. And I joined the laughter again, drawing inquisitive stares from the people around. We kept laughing, ignoring what others would think of us. And when we were finally done laughing, I asked, "What's your name?"
Gautam is an IT student at GMMC, Pokhara.