The first dateAll my nervousness over the date dissipated the moment we held each other’s hands.
I ruffled my hair the moment I saw you. It’s one of those things I do when I’m nervous. You were sitting on the bench, your hands placed on your lap. I’d only seen you in photos before. You looked nothing different than in your photos. As I approached you, I saw a smile etched on your face. I smiled back in response. Your blond hair was gleaming in the wintry sun. Before I could sit on the bench, you jumped to your feet and pulled me for a tight hug. Till that moment, we hadn’t even said a word to each other.
Before coming on the date, I had rehearsed the first sentence I would say to you, but after you hugged me, I forgot my line. It was as if a single hug had wiped away everything from my mind. If I remember well, it was the first hug I received as a young adult.
I caught a whiff of your cologne when we were embraced in a hug. I had never used perfumes, and at that moment, I wondered what I smelled like. I prayed I hadn’t smelt foul, but would it even matter to you? To the best of my knowledge, you never judged people, especially their outfits and appearances. If you were the kind of lady who fancied stylish boys, I would have never made a place in your heart. As I pulled back from the hug, I suggested we sit on the bench, and you agreed. We were sitting side by side, and it was only then I noticed your outfits. You were dressed in a silver t-shirt and blue trousers. It looked well on your slender body. I couldn’t tell if you noticed my worn-out shoes.
It was the first date of my life, so I was clueless about everything. I had no idea what people talked about on dates, particularly the first ones. You waited for me to initiate the conversation, but I kept quiet. We had spent an entire month chatting on Instagram before finally agreeing to the date. As we sat silently in the middle of the park, I realised it was easy to lie in bed and text each other. Minutes ticked by, but the words didn’t come out of me. I guess you felt awkward, so you began talking. Fifteen minutes later, we were holding each other’s hands, making fun of ourselves for how nervous we had been earlier. If I’m being honest, I must tell you that you were far more confident than I was.
I asked you if we could go for a walk rather than sit on a bench. You said you wanted to go to a nearby bookstore, so we set off towards our destination. As we walked along the streets of Lakeside, our hands were intertwined the whole time. Fellow pedestrians walked as if they had all the time in the world. The happy faces of tourists assured me that life was peaceful in this part of the world. This calming ambience of Lakeside was a contrast to other parts of the city, which were always noisy and polluted.
We stopped by the bookshop, and I said I would wait at the entrance. You creased your forehead in disagreement; it was enough for me to come along with you. Confused, I walked by your side as you kept browsing the shelves. I asked what book you were looking for, and you mumbled something I couldn’t comprehend. To avoid embarrassment, I didn’t ask again. The bookstore was so large I’d never known such a place even existed in Pokhara. You must have noticed uneasiness in my body language because you asked, “Are you bored?” I said no. Honestly, I felt out of place amidst the plethora of books, for I’d never read a literary work before. If I had uttered this truth to you, would you have kicked me out of the bookshop? I know you wouldn’t do such a thing. You were wise enough to understand that not everyone has the same choice.
“Hey, why don’t you find yourself a book to read while I search my books?” you said. I couldn’t say no, so I left you behind and walked ahead to explore books. I stopped by the shelf labelled ‘Nepali Literature’ and began going through book covers. A few moments later, I found myself skimming through books, and I enjoyed the process. Even as I flipped the pages, I kept checking on you, but at one point, my eyes couldn’t find you. I left the book I was going through on the shelf and walked to the counter. You were chatting with someone behind the counter desk, perhaps haggling over the price. As I got near the counter desk, I realised it was not about the price but about the release date of a book written by some popular author. When you saw me walking towards you, you smiled and asked if I’d picked any book. I shook my head.
A pile of books mounted on the desk was all yours, and I gasped as I learned it. The owner bundled the books in a large bag, and you told him you would return in a while. You led me out of the bookshop and asked if I was hungry. I said yes, and you guided me to a cosy restaurant across the street. You handed me the menu card and allowed me to order food for both of us. The cost was shockingly expensive. I said I was not good with ordering food and pushed the menu card to your side. It didn’t take much time for you to place an order. It seemed that you were familiar with the restaurant’s offerings. You ordered some Italian dishes that I’d never tasted in my life. I was unknown whether I should swallow or chew the food. You didn’t notice my awkwardness as I gobbled the food without knowing its name. It had to be the longest hour of my life. You paid for the lunch without turning around to see if I would pay. Once we were done with the lunch, we sauntered back to the bookstore. At the bookstore, you paid something close to Rs 10,000. After the payment, you tried to lift the bag full of books, but you failed to do so. The owner laughed at your fragility. “Maybe sir can lift the bag,” he suggested. I lifted the bag off the floor, and we exited the bookshop. You apologised for making me carry your books, and I said I could shoulder every burden for you. Once we reached the entrance gate of Basundhara Park, you asked me to set the bag on the ground. I did as I was told. You said your car was parked right around the corner, and I waited until you drove back to where I was standing.
Back in my room, after I opened the door, I found flies hovering around the unwashed dishes from the morning. The bed was not made; its crumpled sheet wafting the rancid smell. I was too tired to restore things back to order, but I had to. Before I could make my bed, I heard a knock on the door. I paced towards the door and opened it. It was my landlord. I hadn’t paid the rent for the last two months, and now he was saying he would evict me if I didn’t clear the rent in the next two weeks. I convinced him I would pay the rent by the end of the week, but I had no idea how I would do that. Exhausted, I threw myself on the crumpled bed and replayed the moments from my first date with my rich girlfriend.