I held it together until the last person passed through. They swirled around me like ripples on a lake; restricting my ability to focus my eyes. They were overwhelmed by the extravagance of the city lights, and I don’t blame them. The city seems new every night, no matter how many times you visit. But being alone in the swirl put me in a trance like state, freezing me in one spot. I was trying to set my eyes on something, just to a keep my head from spinning. Afar, a man stood out from the crowd with a familiar face; he was tall and slender, with curly black hair and trimmed full beard. I watched him gently pace through the crowd, sipping on a cup of Starbucks’ coffee. He hasn’t seen me yet, as he was busy enjoying the city lights; so I gazed at him freely.
Dev! Oh, no. It can’t be him; after all these years. The last time I saw him was almost six years ago, at our high school graduation; and the first time being in seventh grade. When he first arrived at our seventh-grade classroom; I didn’t notice him, not more than a classmate, but soon it was different. I have had always been so quiet in school, but he befriended me. He made me feel welcomed, so much so that we sat together at lunch. He would bring chocolate pudding to share with me every day, and occasionally some string cheese. He didn’t have to, yet he did. What I felt toward him, was no more than a sweet admiration for his kindness.
The year following seventh grade, he transferred to a private school. It was one of the most devastating goodbyes, and I failed miserably at convincing myself that it’s only temporary. I never thought of finding him again, until I unexpectedly met him in high school. I was pulled toward him in a crowded school hallway, and I was attracted to him like the way a butterfly is attracted to flowers. People often fall in love with features of a person, however, there was no one feature made Dev so handsome; though his long hazel eyes come close. Apart from his glistening eyes and his long curly lashes; he was a gentleman. He was the man who saw the beauty in others and was always there to help them. His beauty was never skin deep, it came from within. Seeing him every day felt as if I had seen the morning sun after a long night.
A rush of chills would go through my spines, when he is near, as if my body senses his presence. One day, while in our school tutoring center, I felt an eye staring at me. My eyes wandered through the room trying to see who from the corner of my eyes. Just as I looked over, searching, he looked up, and our eyes met, for the first time. To my surprise, his face glowed in a full smile, reaching all the way to his ears. His eyes were so captivating, staring into my souls, speaking a million words. I tried to get more glimpse of him through the side of my eyes, and caught him again and again. Each time, he smiled bigger and brighter than the first, as if he heard the voices in my heart.
Last I saw him was at graduations. I saw his eyes wandering and scanning the crowd to speak to me. He kept turning his head, smiling at me, as if he wanted me to wait for him. My mind and heart argued whether I should go up and talk to him like an old friend. But a part of me kept withholding in fear of rejections, knowing that I don’t see him like a friend anymore. I was left to hopelessly watch him walk away with his family and friends. Those years of missed opportunities, has had accumulated in a book filled with words unsaid. That emptiness haunted me for years. Now having found him again, made me feel so strange. A part of me felt that he too waited for me, or hoped to bump into me, and that he was infatuated by me as well. Somehow, somewhere, I felt a bond.
All these years: it was odd at first but every day I fell in love with the idea of falling in love with him. He doesn’t know the way I jumped up and down after seeing him on Facebook, or the sleepless nights reliving the moments we once shared. He doesn’t know I never gave up looking for him, never gave up hope he’d return. That he would come and sweep me off my feet, and that he’d kiss me and the whole world would fall at our feet. I wanted us to find each other, no matter how far we get away from each other. The four walls of my bedroom would tell the longest tales if they had a voice.
Now, watching him stand before me, as if we shared a life; I finally admitted to myself what I knew all along, but was too afraid to admit it: I love him. It was unpredictable and crazy, but I loved it. I was in love with him. A part of me was desperate to talk to him, while the other was in fear of rejection and embarrassment. It was a dangerous feeling. After so long without him I thought I’d die if he leaves my sight. I needed him; I hoped that he needed me too.
His eyes wandered around the crowd, but my big brown eyes stayed locked on him. Stop staring at him. He is no one. Just walk away. I kept repeating to myself. Yet my heart was not ready to do so, neither was my legs ready to walk away. He stood only few feet away, that I could see his hazel eyes glowing in the golden city lights. His cheeks dimpled as he smiled watching the kids run around him. If it was a Bollywood movie, I’d have run toward him at this point, throwing myself into his arms like long lost lovers, but I couldn’t. I just wanted this moment to freeze in time, so I could hold onto the little moments I had of him.
Then in flash of a second, he caught me staring at him. We locked eyes once again. A smile overtook his face as if he was seeing an old friend. My mind went into denial and expectation as he stepped from the swirl of people, taking my breath away as if there was no one around except for him. He gazed down the paved ground, swaying his shoulders to one side as if he was a Bollywood hero making his big entrance to win his girl. My cheeks flushed hot and my heart pounded in my throat, threatening to break out. All the emotions and expectation in clichéd love stories, finally made sense.
My eyes widened, engulfing all of him and the world at once. With his eyes locked into my eyes he said “Meena?” sighing, as if he was waiting all these years to bump into me. The whole world went mute. There were butterflies, not just in my stomach, but in my chest, my heart, and in that moment, they flew away as if they were set free from its cage. My soul felt full as if a hole, I was never knew was there in my heart, has been filled; only a murmured “Yeh-Yes…” spilled out in reply.