My attempted ‘short’ romantic story…
“Oh boy! Why did I choose her?” I scolded myself, “She looks darn cute.”
I’m sitting on one of the benches in the Hyde Park, Westminster, London, with a few papers piled on my lap and am cautiously observing the girl sitting on a bench some long way off. Whenever she cast a suspicious glance at me, I’ve to bury myself with the brushes and paints.
Yes, I’m an aspiring painter, well, I’m going to be one, when I finish portraying the ‘darn cute’ girl on my canvas. This is my last assignment that I need to qualify as an artist and receive my certificate from ‘The Heart-to-canvas drawing school’.
Our final assignment is to draw people unawares, without their acknowledgement.
“She’s staring at you now. Go, grab the opportunity. Talk to her man!” my mind raced.
“No, get a firm grip. You can’t talk to her right now, when her portrait’s unfinished. She might get mad at you if she knows you’ve been painting her or even worse, refuse to pose anymore. So, stay put,” I ordered my thoughts.
A few strokes here and there, then my painting indicated a clean picture of the intricate features on her face and I loved her hazel brown eyes the most.
“Man, how did this happen?” I questioned myself, “you’re falling for her, aren’t you?”
This is one of the best pictures I’ve ever drawn and I was overwhelmed, that I had produced a xerox copy of her neatly trimmed eyebrows that slightly arched up.
I was intensely looking into her eyes on the canvas, analyzing what emotions it implied when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I looked up and noticed my live portrait, tapping her shoes impatiently in front of me.
Though, her black leggings concealed her sleek legs, I simply couldn’t resist myself from gazing down at it often. Mustering up the courage, I looked directly into her eyes and met her gaze. Her face softened a little and a smile twisted at the end of her lips.
“So, you earn your living as an artist?” she spoke like the gentle breeze. Her husky voice had an appealing effect on me. She was eyeing my painting in my hand.
“Yes, m’young lady,” I replied, duly impressed by her eyelids that blinked innocently. But I realized the word ‘young lady’ was a mistake to the start of a conversation. Her lips tightened a little and she blinked faster.
So, why did you paint me without obtaining permission first?” she demanded folding her hands to her chest. It took a great deal of time to explain her my assignment and my notion to portray a stranger, before she finally cooled off a little.
“But why me? Why me, when there are a hell a lot of other people in the park?” she inquired, boiling in rage.
“I’m asking myself the same question,” I blurted out the thoughts in my mind.
She led an interrogating gaze at me and snatched the painting away from my hand. From the way she pulled the sheet with her might, I thought she was going to shred them to pieces.
“Screwed,” I muttered.
But instead, she studied my art intently and I can say she was utterly impressed by my soft, colorful strokes.
“Do I look this cute?” she asked absent-minded.
“Yeah, you look darn cute.”
That brought her to full attention. Her cheeks blushed and Oh My! I simply loved to see her fair skin turning a soft pink. Just then I got the intention to cup her face and smooch her slowly and deeply.
She coughed to get my focus and I put up an innocent face that made her squirm.
“Don’t work your charm on me. I don’t fall for such traps by you men,” her eyes hinted.
“Oh, you’ll come to me alright,” I told aloud and she gasped.
I heaved myself up from the bench and stood face-to-face with her.
“Nice piece of work,” she remarked, handing back the sheet to me, “though you should have asked my consent before.”
“My apologies, young lady,” I said earnestly.
“Oh, stop treating me like a princess. This ain’t any Medieval age,” she said shaking her head. As she did so, her locks jerked to and fro.
I admired every feature of her face and badly wished for a lip-lock scene.
“God, can love happen at such a short notice?” I wondered.
“So, you live around here?” she poked my shoulder, asking.
“Yup, my room’s just a couple of blocks away,” I responded as I rolled up my painting, “By the way I’m Sid, short for Siddharth.” I held my hand out.
“I’m Teju,” she said shaking my hands. Her hands were cold and I sensed her shivering.
“You okay?” I asked her concerned.
“Yeah,” she lied. But her face couldn’t mask her lies and she looked even cuter when she lied.
I looked around and noticed everyone wearing jumpers, covering themselves from the cool breeze that indicated a downpour anytime. But, she wasn’t wearing one and she rubbed her hands to feel the warmth.
I immediately removed my cloak and just like every other hero in Bollywood, loaned it to her and just like every Indian does, she refused instantly. But, I pulled her hand and put my coat on her. I inhaled the sweet jasmine perfume of hers as I moved around her. She caught me whiffing and arched an eyebrow at me.
“I like the fragrance of your perfume,” I commented. She frowned.
“Are you waiting for someone?” I quickly changed the subject.
“Yeah, my boyfriend,” she said looking at a shrub nearby. Anyone could say she was lying. But I decided to play the game along.
“Glad to hear that,” I said collecting my brushes and paint bottles, stuffing them into my bag, “because I don’t want my girlfriend doubting me. She’d have enough evidence after she sees your boyfriend, when he arrives.”
She grimaced. “Is she Indian too?” Her voice was aching that I’d say ‘NO.’ Anyway, London didn’t seem to be a likely place to find Indian girls strolling through every street.
“Yea, she’s Indian too.”
“Oh,” she replied monosyllabic. She seemed to be immersed in a deep thought.
“So, shall we stroll along?” I asked, mounting my backpack onto my shoulder.
“Uh?” she asked me to repeat.
“Shall we walk?”
“I thought you were waiting for your girlfriend to arrive.”
“I never said so.”
“But I thought you meant that.”
“Why should I wait for her?”
“Why?” she asked quizzically.
“Yea, why should I wait, when she’s right beside me?”
As soon as the words escaped my mouth, she was taken back. It amused me to see every muscle on her face scrunch and expand when she gave a laugh.
She threw her hands up saying, “OK, I surrender. I wasn’t waiting for anyone. Indeed, I don’t have a boyfriend.”
“Which is a green signal for me,” I said as we walked in silence.
A cool breeze blew and her hair fluttered a little and she brushed them aside. I couldn’t help but glance at the way her brown eyes twinkled.
“Are you feeling warm now?” I asked.
“Yea, thanks for the coat. By the way you are a bombaywallah right?”
I nodded, “And you’re… Um… lemme guess… A Tamilian? But a definite South Indian, right?”
“So, it’s gonna be the story of ‘Two States’ I guess in our case.”
“You heard me right.”
“Well, when did I agree we were in a relationship?”
“Your eyes begged so.”
“No, they didn’t,” she said defensively. She removed my jumper off her shoulders roughly and said, “Thanks and I’m leaving.”
“Hey, Teju, I was just pulling your leg,” I said offended.
“Should I believe you were just kidding?” she said turning around to face me.
“Okay, I’m sorry.” I sensed her cheeks turning red in anger. “Stop, observing her,” I ordered my mind. She cocked her head to one side, demanding an explanation.
“C’mon Teju, you just know I…”
“Sid, enough,” she cut me short, “if you want to fool around,I’m not the girl then.”
“Good gracious! You are damn serious. Now, calm down. That was just a harmless joke.”
By this time, we had reached one of the park’s exit gates and I noticed a coffee shop on the opposite street. I checked my watched and it ticked 5:35 p.m.
“Coffee?” I asked hopefully.
“Yea, but no more flirting,” she said stubbornly. I nodded smiling and her face spread into a grin too.
By the next half hour, when the streets of London took on a glorious view as the lamps were lit, I got to know Teju a lot more better. She rattled cheerfully about her creative fiction course that she has joined and even offered to tell me a romantic story that she had penned.
But I silently turned down the offer by changing the subject as I’m not one of those film heroes who admire their girlfriends talking and laughing. Then, when will the girl observe the boy talking and laughing?
Despite our coffees had turned cold, we didn’t even reach half of our glasses. We simply were enjoying each other’s company.
“So, Sid, shall we…” she dragged.
“Yes?” I asked innocently.
“Shall we meet here everyday at the same time, if you’re not busy? It feels um… good, talking to another Indian.”
From the way she dragged cautiously, I knew she was considering our relationship.
“Why not?” I said, unwilling to upset her, “just give me a ring, I’ll come anywhere, anytime.”
She boxed my shoulders saying, “Is this how every Indian guy gets a girl’s phone number? Too smart.”
“Fine, I’ll come here everyday. Shall we meet at this same table?” Though, I’m not filmy, I could make it a bit romantic.
“Hmmm…” she replied.
“Bearer,”I summoned. Before I could settle the bill, Teju spoke, “My friend’s texting me to return. So, I’m leaving. Catch you later,” leaving the chair.
“See you,” I said. But I didn’t leave immediately, instead watched her cross the road. Her curls bounced with every step that she took. I sighed. In the next few meetings I was sure, I’m gonna propose with a bunch of roses.
But fate had its way. A drunken bastard came zooming in from the distance and hit her and another guy, when she was walking on the pavement.
Unlike many heroes who throw their hands in the air and shout ‘NOOOOO,’ and wait for the background music to chime in, I lost no time in such absurd acts. I immediately rushed her to the hospital and even though she acted bravely, doctors were unable to save her within time.
A few calls to India to her parents and I was thunderstruck to actually digest the truth that she’s no more. Though Teju can’t make it to our meetings every single day, as we had agreed, I sit at the same table everyday to curse myself of having chosen her for my portrait. But she assures me in my mind that it wasn’t my fault and sometimes I can feel her sitting on the opposite chair, happily chatting, with her hazel brown eyes twinkling and her locks jerking with her echoing laugh……’
“Teju, that’s outstanding! You’d get an ‘A’ grade for that story for sure,” Jessica praised, “A marvelous shot!” handing over the manuscript back.
Teju smiled weakly.
“Ah, Jessica sighed, “A love story that ends just when it had bloomed. Wish the story was real. If I’d been you, ‘I’ would’ve scooped Sid and kissed him.”
But Jessica couldn’t see the tears in Teju’s eyes as she had turned to leave the classroom. Jessica didn’t know that it was Sid who died and the story has happened in a reverse manner to him.
“If only ‘I’ hadn’t spoken to him,” Teju thought with remorse, “if only ‘I’ hadn’t invited him for a coffee…” she thought as her cheeks turned moist, “then, he would’ve lived and I’d have simply admired him like I used to everyday before he had even noticed me… I didn’t even get the chance to tell him that I frequented the park for months just to see him and he never got to know this before and forever… If only I had controlled my urge to talk to him…”she could think no more as she could feel Sid’s soul wiping away her tears and placing a reassuring kiss on her cheek…..