Love stories are almost always about love.
I say almost, because sometimes, it’s just plain lust, and at other times, it’s nothing but a blooming infatuation.
My love is different.
My love has never really been love.
For lack of a better word, I’d say my lost love story is a memory.
A sliver of what I wanted love to be, what I hoped it would be.
Yet, I consider my tryst with my first love to be nothing short of a beautiful love story, one that coils and uncoils in those moments of solitude, bliss, remorse, and pain.
But I guess I treasure my lost romance a lot more than most others I know treasure their present love.
Setting the stage for a love story
My chapter of love began a long time ago. When I was still a boy and she was still a girl.
The first words of my chapter of love were written in a wonderful setting filled with colors and costumes. Ah! A setting so beautiful I could have been in a fairy tale.
I felt that special jolt just above my stomach for the first time when I was a senior at school.
I was representing my school in an inter-school competition, and had completed my role in a play, as the lead actor of the play.
After washing the load of paint off my face, I scuttled back and joined the audience to watch how the other plays were.
My pals and I were quite sure we’d win, but there was an all girls team from another school that seemed to be performing just as brilliantly as us, if not more. Fifteen minutes later, there was a wee bit of panic in my little heart. Those girls were pretty good, and the lead girl of the play was ravishing, not just with her acting skills but also with her beauty. The performance ended with a smattering applause, and I couldn’t really tell if there was more applauding for them or for us, but it was alright. Something in my gut told me we were better!
Experiencing love for the first time
After a while, the girls’ troupe walked back and sat a few chairs away. A few minutes later, I craned my neck quietly and tried to catch a glimpse of the lead amongst the girls. One glance, it just wasn’t enough. A minute later, I looked again. And again. And again. And one more quick stare later, she saw me. And a few more excited fleeting glimpses later, I could see her staring at me too! Wow!
Half an hour and a hundred glances later, my stomach was churning and I had cold sweat on my forehead.
I had goose bumps all over, and I faced her. This time, she looked straight into my eyes. I’d seen it in movies, this was how love began, by staring into each other’s eyes. So I stared, and I wanted to stare until one of our eyes watered. One… two… five… seven… that was it. Seven seconds later I felt weak and faintish, and I wanted to throw up in excitement!
She hadn’t taken her eyes off me. Man, this girl had balls, I told myself (of course, not literally!). There was no way I could have stared at her for longer than that. I remembered all the movie sequences in awe. It really was hard to keep the eye contact going!
A chance meeting that led nowhere
I was too scared to exchange glances anymore, but each time I did manage to look away before she faced me. It happened for the next half an hour, and I felt so good! I did want to talk to her, but I had never done anything like it, so I decided to wait for the opportune moment. Moments that, as we all know never come.
Eventually, we were awarded the first place in the play, and her team came second. We even stood next to each other for a photo-shoot, but I just couldn’t say a single word to her. I was certain she knew what I was going through because her friends were giggling and nudging her towards me every now and then. If only I would have just said one word, it might have made a difference. “Congratulations…”
Saying a word may have changed the ending of my story.
We parted ways without even as much as a smile. The show was over, but her pretty face lingered in my memories for several nights. I even remember dreaming about her several times, and I wondered if she ever felt the same about me. Weeks passed, and then months. I had lost all hope of finding her again, but I still couldn’t stop thinking of her. Call it one of those childish crushes people get when they’re young. To me, it was love.
A second chance comes knocking on my door
My friends and I spoke about her now and then, and we wondered if I would ever be able to go out with her. I even hung around near her school, which was a few miles away, in the hope of finding her someday. But I’ve never really been that lucky in life.
And then it happened. One fine day, a good pal of mine, bounded across to me just before the school bell rang, and gasped “…I saw her! She was getting into her school bus…”
I held his collar, with the frenzy of an excited madman, and asked him to tell me more. All the others too huddled around, waiting to hear more. He went on, “Her school bus picked her up someplace close to my place.”
It was a great day for me! I knew at last how I could find her. It was too late to talk more, as we were pushed into class by our history teacher. We took our seats and passed notes around, and decided to do something with the shining splinter of information that we got. I wanted to see her… Just the thought of meeting her and spending hours together got me delirious!
Braving up for the second chance
In the back seats of the class, the battle-plans, in this case, the meeting-plans were made. We decided to get to her bus stop early in the morning and I had to talk to her. We figured that a lead time of fifteen minutes would be good enough, and so the very next day I, along with two friends, went straight to where her bus would pick her up.
It was a cold misty morning, and at last I saw the beautiful girl who had been haunting my dreams for several months. Gosh! She was so stunning. I couldn’t stop staring at her. Time was fast slipping away. Now that we were on the late side of the fifteen minutes we had before her bus came by, I just didn’t know how to talk to her. I just stood there, hiding behind a tree, waiting for the courage that I lacked, to seep into me.
My friends tried persuading me, but all I could do was kick a stump jutting out from the tree, and shiver. Of course, I wasn’t shivering because of the cold. Her bus reached the stop, and even before I could take another glimpse, it was all over. We headed back to school, and we thought about the next problem. We knew where to find her. I just had to get over my cowardice! And no one could help me with that.
Working my courage up for more encounters
Day Two. We reached half an hour early, and I waited. She was there alright. But again, after all the super colossal inspirational words I heard from my friends, I still couldn’t do it.
Day Three. The same story.
Day Four. I was getting quite good at kicking the stump of wood on the tree.
Day Five. The stump of wood was wearing out.
We were back to the battle stations on a Monday, which was Day Six. I was aiming for the tree trunk, but there was no stump left.
Day Seven. My shoe ripped out because of the frustration-filled continuous pounding on the stump.
Day Eight. I was frustrated, I didn’t know why I just couldn’t do it. But I guess my friends were even more frustrated.
Just as the bus was approaching, in an instant, they dragged me from my well hidden tree-stronghold and pushed me out! I slipped and slid on the cold slushy ground, creating quite a bit of a distraction for all the girls in the bus stop. And then, in that moment of Keanu Reeves’ Matrix manoeuvre, our eyes met! At first I saw shock in her eyes, and then I saw her lips stretch into a wide smile.
I really don’t know if she noticed, but I smiled back.
It was all too fast. The next instant, I had lost my foothold and I fell hard on my backside. I didn’t know when her happy grin ended, but I saw her laugh. And she wasn’t alone, every girl in that group laughed. I don’t know what came over me, because now I know that it would have been a great time to wave out, but all I could think of, with my extended and ‘evolutionized’ brain, was to tuck tail and run.
Run, Forrest, run!
I ran. And I ran hard. With sodden wet white pants and a big brown patch on my butt I ran. I ran like my life depended on it. I ran until I could hear none of the girls. My friends who were laughing and running behind me, caught up with me. I laughed too. Come on, at least I got her to smile, didn’t I?
But somehow, I just didn’t feel too good about myself. I mean, I wait all these months, only to show her my dirty, sodden jeans? That thought didn’t seem to lift my mood.
My new master plan – Plan B
We scraped through the class bell, and made it back to school. It had been a sadistically fun morning. Everyone got to know about it, and we had a great laugh. But then, I still had a mission, and we switched to Plan B. We decided to stalk her. Yeah, my brilliant mind figured that it was the best thing to do. Stalk and hope to find that elusive opportune moment.
My friend asked his chauffer to take us to her bus stop one evening, and we waited for the bus to show up. Her bus route was #9. My friends and I followed her school bus all the way to her bus stop, and then slowly followed her all the way to her house, which wasn’t very far. I just had to know where she lived.
The next few evening were spent on scouting for a place to hang out around her place, so I could have a chance to accidentally meet her some time.
Come Saturday morning, my two friends and I settled in a little coffee shop just around the corner and waited for her to come out sometime. We did see a lot of girls living around there, and finally the girl I liked stepped out of her house and started walking towards us, and eventually walked past us.
We sneakily got out of the coffee shop and trailed her like a bunch of confused lambs. We ran from one lamp post to another, rolling across women with kids, and postmen, all in the hope of remaining invisible from her sight.
We saw her enter an apartment’s gate, and we followed her. But we lost her in no time, and we didn’t know what to do. So we just walked right out and headed back to the coffee shop. I had made up my mind to meet her today, so I decided to wait for the opportunity if it ever showed up. A couple of hours, and there was still no sign of her. It was soon dark, and I told my two wingmen to leave.
I didn’t want them to be held up by their parents because of me. They held on for almost another hour and decided to go. They asked me to call them as soon as I got back, so they could know all the details. I nodded nervously, and bade goodbye.
All for this moment!
Now, I was alone and the fourth mug of coffee was getting on to me. I was feeling quite restless, and didn’t know what to do. I decided to take a walk towards the apartment she had vanished into. I walked up, and then walked back. I did this a couple of times. It was getting really late and my stomach was rumbling with hunger. I decided to take one last walk, and then head back home. I was quite pissed off with myself. Another day and another lost opportunity.
I absentmindedly took a turn and even before I could think, she was right in front of me! I didn’t know how it happened or what to say. I hadn’t expected to see her.
She looked at me too, as she was walking towards me. She seemed surprised and paused, but in an instant, she looked away and started walking fast. We were almost on the verge of crossing each other, when I gathered all my courage, turned around and ran up to her. My heart was beating wildly and I didn’t know what to say. “Hey…” I blurted, “Hi!”
She looked up, and said ‘hi’. But she didn’t stop walking. “Can I talk to you for a minute?” I asked as I ran up with her.
“I wanted to talk to you since a long time, but I just couldn’t…” I trailed, as I tried matching her pace.
She raised her eyebrows all the way up until it was hidden by her fringe, “Oh…kay, so…?”
“I really wanted to know you better, and I don’t even know your name. I’m Noah” I said, feeling a bit of my confidence coming back to me.
She stopped walking. She turned around so fast I was afraid she’d slap me. “Why are you trailing me around, I’ve seen you and your friends hanging around wherever I go. What’s wrong with you guys?” she retaliated.
“I just wanted to be your friend… Ever since the day we met at the play,” I said, trying to rekindle her memory.
“What are you talking about? I’ve never seen you before in my life!”
“Do you remember the school play a few months ago? My team came first and you came second?” I added tactlessly. For one second, I was quite sure she did remember me, but I just couldn’t figure why she wanted to behave like she’d never seen me.
“I’m sorry but I don’t…” she replied and just walked away.
“Listen, could you at least tell me your name?” I pleaded.
“It’s Hailey,” she shot back and just walked on. I didn’t follow her. I didn’t know what to say anymore.
Was I supposed to be happy? But I was!
A part of me was extremely happy. I had got to know her name at last, and I also spoke to her. Something I never thought I could do. But at the same time, I was upset. She didn’t know who I was. The worst part of it all was that she was in my dreams, she completed my existence every day, but yet, she didn’t even bother about knowing my name. I was depressed beyond words. The thought of dreaming about her every moment, and the fact that she didn’t know me, nor was she even bothered to know me hurt a lot.
I told my friends at school the next day that I didn’t meet her, and I wanted to try again today, alone.
I waited for her again at her bus stop, and I spoke to her on the same street as she walked the few minutes back home. Her attitude towards me wasn’t any different. She still behaved quite rudely. My days were filled with bursts of happiness in anticipation of the meeting with her, and my nights were depressing and awful. I wanted to meet her but she showed no interest in knowing me better. It soon because a daily routine. I used to wait for her at the bus stop near her place, and used to walk with her until she got home.
Can my persistence ever pay off?
After about a couple of weeks, she started warming up a bit more. She actually used to smile when we met, and sometimes, we used to laugh about a few things. Her mood used to fluctuate a lot, and on some days, she would just be really rude or ask me to leave her alone. Soon, the days passed by and the vacations were coming closer. On the last day before the vacations, I mustered up enough courage and asked her for her phone number.
She was silent for almost an entire minute, and then she ripped a piece of paper from her book and wrote her number on it. I was overjoyed. I thanked her, and asked her if I could call. She said it was alright. Now these weren’t the days of cell phones and facebook. Getting to know someone or have a conversation was never easy. We were still learning about the internet!
I was truly in love and couldn’t wait to speak with her over the phone. We started speaking over the phone occasionally, and on every opportunity I got, I asked her if we could meet. And she always had the same answer, “No, I don’t want to.” Soon, she started getting annoyed easily over the phone, and always wanted to hang up each time I called. I was happy to hear her voice, but yet, somehow I couldn’t see any progress in love.
Holding my breath and taking the plunge
The vacations were almost coming to an end, and I hardly got to speak to her as much as I wanted to.
After several days of not being able to speak over the phone with her, I called her up and asked her if it was a good time to talk. She told me she could speak for five minutes, and had to rush out. I was getting quite desperate to push some steam into our ‘love’.
“Hailey, I have something to tell you…” I said to her.
“Okay, what is it?” she asked me in an unconcerned manner.
“Hailey, I think I’m in love with you… Ever since the day I first saw you at the play. I didn’t know how to say it better, but I’ve always wanted to say it…” I said cautiously.
“Hailey… hello!” I heard a click. She had hung up on me. I was shattered.
I called her back, but there was no response. The next few days, each time I called or asked for her, she hung up without saying a single word. I couldn’t understand what she was trying to do. Wasn’t it obvious that I liked her from the start? It wasn’t like I just wanted to be friends!
This went on for several weeks, until one day when I decided to meet her at her bus stop early in the morning. I got there on time, and waited for her. She came in a while along with a few friends. I tried talking to her, but she wasn’t very interested in talking.
“Was it something I said?” I asked her.
“No” she shot back.
There was no smile on her face, just a cold hard look.
“Then why are you avoiding me like this?”
She stared into my eyes and said “look, we used to talk, I know, but I’m really not interested in being friends or anything more alright? Why don’t you just let it go… don’t you get it? I’m not interested!”
She walked away from me. I just stood there, listening to the conversation she was having with her friends through the breeze. I caught a few words in the breeze as I stood rooted on the ground, “…he’s such a creep… why can’t he just get a life…”
How could something so perfect end so badly?
I was hurt. I got back to school and just sat by myself in a corner. It had been almost a year since I had first seen her, and I had such high hopes for ‘us’. I don’t know where I went wrong. I spoke about it with a few friends of mine, and none of them could say anything more than “big deal, dude, forget about her… there are plenty of fish in the sea.” But then, who cares about fishes, I wanted to know what I had done wrong. Was it because I told her that I loved her?
I called her a few more times over the years, making sure I gave her a few months of space in between each call. She used to talk occasionally, but there was no affection or concern in the voice I heard on the other end of the phone line.
I had to initiate the conversations all the time. The only line she wanted to initiate was “umm… listen, I’ve gotta go now.” I never did get to know what I did wrong, and even to this day, more than a decade and a half later, I still can’t figure where I went wrong.
From intense love to a distant memory
I do remember her with the same affection that I once had for her though. I kept in touch with her for a few years, but soon we both parted ways. I travelled to another state to complete my education, and I guess, so did she. I haven’t seen her or heard from her in all these years, but something tells me that there would be a day when I would bump into her again.
The last I heard of her through a far common friend was that she was pursuing a career in law and also working in a charitable organization. That didn’t bring me any closer to seeing her. And quite frankly, I’m not very sure if I want to see her again, though a part of me aches to see her pretty face. I’m afraid she might still spurn me or ignore my presence just like she had always done.
Wrapping up my lost love story
I still think of her often, just like before. But just one thing has changed, I’m quite certain she would never have thought of me once in all these years, which is a painful guess.
But I think I’d meet her someday, my only hope is that she wouldn’t recognize me as the boy who didn’t know what to speak, but as a man who knows to how to behave. I have been in several happy relationships, and I could say I’ve been in love too. But there’s something about Hailey that still grips me like no other person can. And the closest word I can find to describe that something would probably be ‘love’. Or perhaps, it could be a lost love that needs an ending.
My tale may not have a happy ending, nor does it have the couple locked in a passionate embrace. All my story has is a man who still dreams of a girl he never had, and a lingering thought about what it could have been, that made the girl hate the boy so much.