When I look back at the moment we faced each other in that corridor, I realise it was merely my brain going into an overdrive and ignoring all other stimuli except his face. But that’s not how I felt that time. We were in a noisy corridor but it felt like someone had turned off the sound altogether so that all I could hear was his rugged breath and mine. Participants and organizers alike were bustling past us, but I was only aware of him, as I waited for him to say something that would make me regret my actions. The awkward silence was welcome, though.
“Will you be staring at your feet the entire time I talk?”
Seriously, wasn’t he expecting too much of me? Asking me to look into his eyes while he tried to gently let me down and make me realise what a total ass I had made of myself? Naah thanks!
More awkward silence. I figured he wasn’t going to say another word till I did what he asked. However, the minutes of silence had allowed me to come up with some defences that I planned to use if matters got worse. You know, a few lame excuses that might help me save face at least a little. So when I looked up into his eyes, I didn’t quite expect him to be smiling so disarmingly. See? All defences gone! This was so unfair. But wait, why was he smiling?
“You were amazing in there, by the way. I’m glad I came to watch.”
“Yeah, me too.” Liar! But what else was I supposed to say? Every minute on that stage with you staring at me was torture?
He seemed to have caught my lie because he was laughing. “Really? Then why did you run away from me before? I called after you but you seemed hell-bent on getting away. And don’t tell me you were getting late for your event. I know there was plenty of time at hand.”
Okay. This is not how it was supposed to happen. I was supposed to confess my feelings, it was supposed to get all uncomfortable and he was supposed to avoid me for the rest of my life. Instead, he wanted to play Q&A with me. Great. Absolutely great. Why wouldn’t he just get it over with already?
I was back to staring at my feet. He realised he wasn’t getting any answers and he grabbed me gently by my shoulders. I had no choice but to look at him again. “I knew already. In fact, I have known for a while now.”
He did not just say that!
I stared at him in absolute shock. “Did someone….”
“No one told me. I kind of figured it out myself. It’s not rocket science, you know. You’re like an open book.”
I blushed an embarrassing red. “Shashank, I will totally understand if you feel awkward and wouldn’t want to talk….”
He smiled brilliantly again and everything I planned to say jumbled up in my head. Instead, he spoke again.
“This isnt awkward at all. Awkward was trying to pretend to be your friend when all I wanted to do was tell you that… that… I I feel the same.”
Maybe this was a dream and I would wake up in my bed in a minute to realise that nothing like this ever happened. So I blinked. But he was still there.
“But why did you never tell me… there are other girls… I never imagined….” My inability to form complete sentences amused him.
“I know there are other girls, but I like you. Ever since we worked on that school magazine together. I didn’t want to overwhelm you by telling you I knew how you felt because I was sure you would freak out. I mean, look at how you’re reacting!”
He had a point. I was still in denial that the boy I had spent all my waking (and sleeping) hours thinking about was confessing that he liked me back. Maybe there was something wrong with me.
As the realisation sunk in, I managed to return his smile with one of my own. Not as gorgeous as his but it seemed to have worked.
It felt like somebody had turned up the volume and we could suddenly hear the commotion around us. We both realised we were still in that corridor and it was time to go back to the foyer to the others. As we began walking towards the exit, Shashank took my hand in his and my heart fluttered.
“So… how about we go out sometime… you know… just us both… and you know… talk… and….”
I was surprised to find out that even the Mr. Populars of the world could have moments of nervousness and loss of words, and that gave me some confidence.
I smiled at him and said, “Yes, I’d like that.”
“Cool, It’s a date!” He paused for a moment and grinned mischievously before adding, “Just remind me to hide all the ketchup bottles though!”