I love solitude. After spending a week socialising with people, I need the weekend by myself to recuperate and rejuvenate myself to face a different set of people the next week. The cafe near my house offers me the solitude I need. I spend my Saturday evenings here, order a coffee, and spend a couple of hours reading. It is the Valentine’s Day week, and maybe it is the pinks and the reds everywhere, I decided to re-read the first book I wished was my life story. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
“One cafe latte, please”, I place my order and find my usual empty corner to sit. A few minutes later, the waiter comes with the milky goodness of caffeine with a heart made on the froth. Usually it is a leaf. Valentine’s Day effect, I guess. Wait, is there something written on the tissue paper?
There is something scribbled across it. What the fuck. It reads like “Hi! :)” I called back the waiter and he said, “Madam, the gentleman here gave it to me to send you.”
“Who?” I asked.
He pointed to the guy in another corner, reading a book by himself.
Oh, I’ve seen him here often. Usually by himself too, occasionally accompanied by a guy, but mostly alone. He looked up and smiled.
This is the first time I gave him a proper look. He has a two-day old stubble, is wearing black rimmed hipster glasses, a grey pullover and one of the warmest smiles I’ve ever seen. He is attractive.
And that makes me awkward and conscious. What am I supposed to do? Should I call him? Am I supposed to sent another tissue with ‘hi’ written on it? Or should I just send back a smiley? Should I smile back?
Oh, god, no, let me just be invisible. Look away and pretend I’m not here.
Please, please please.
Oh god, he’s getting up.
No, don’t come up to me. Oh god, he’s coming up to me.
“May I?” he asks, pointing to the empty chair in front of me. Damn, should’ve put my bag there to show I am accompanied by a bag.
“Sure,” I squeaked.
“Hi, I’m Arjun,” he said.
“Naina. I’m Naina.” I said meekly.
“I hope I’m not disturbing you,” he said.
I come here to escape from people. And try as hard as I could to remain invisible and here is someone, a complete stranger, trying to talk with me. Calm the fuck down, Naina.
“No, not really,” I said. There is a strange feeling in my stomach. Oh, this is the proverbial butterflies in the stomach.
“Do you come here often?” he asked.
“Yes, I usually spend my Saturday evenings here.” I said.
There is silence between us, as he looks at me smilingly and I try to avoid gaze while fidgeting with my fingers. Oh man, what do I do with my hands under normal circumstances. Today I cannot seem to make up my mind whether to put them on the table, or under it, or cross them or just cut them off.
We sat there in almost silence as I fidgeted my fingers to the point I feared they would fall off while slowly sipping my coffee. Heh. Who am I kidding. I almost gulped it down.
“May I have the pleasure of taking you out for dinner tonight? I know of this really nice pizza place.” he asked warmly. Do I hear an accent?
I’m sure he sensed my awkwardness and is trying to make me feel comfortable. But I’m like the deer caught in the headlights.
Did a complete stranger, who doesn’t look like a psychotic stalker-cum-killer, has a cute stubble and clean set of teeth just asked me out? Really?
What should I do? What should I do.
“Um, okay.” I said.
I asked for the check, and the waiter told me it was already taken care of by, well. Arjun.
Okay, flattering. Almost creepy, but flattering.
Apparently, the pizza place he has heard of is nearby. We chose to walk. That means more awkward moments where I struggle to keep up the conversation.
Arjun is an entrepreneur and has a e-commerce platform. He recently moved to Ahmedabad and spends most of his evenings in the cafe we just met. He had been gathering courage to come up to me since past 3 weeks now and was disappointed when I did not come here last weekend.
What. This is too much for me to digest. How can anyone find me attractive! I am a fashion disaster, I don’t wear any make up, I am far from being skinny, when women trot around in clothes which look like handkerchief wrapped around them.
We talked about his experiences in the city, and how he has been liking it, and when I told him I’m a journalist, he could not stop grinning. Oh god, now even complete strangers don’t think I could be a journalist.
“You are Naina Shankar?” he asked. I did not tell him my last name.
“Yes, that would be me. How do you know?” I asked.
“I read your analysis on the upcoming election and why the populist policies will not work in the long run. Nicely written.”
Hot guy has read my article. He knows me. Must act calm.
“Thank you.” I managed to say.
Now would you just stop staring. I don’t eat pizza with fork and knife. I am going to eat it like a normal person, and no one looks good while biting into a pizza. Stop staring.
After an hour long ordeal where we talk more politics and then some more politics, he calls for the check. Should I offer to pay? Should we split? Should I just sit around twiddling my thumbs?
“I’d like to pay for the dinner.” I say.
“Dinner is on me. But you could treat me to the dessert.” he cocked his head and smiled.
Okay, fair enough.
Just as we left, it started raining. Damn these unseasonal rains. We had to walk back to where I had parked my car and we were drenched. I started sneezing. Obviously, the dessert is postponed to a future date. Not happening today.
I sneeze again.
“I live nearby, why don’t you come up and put on some dry clothes and wait for a while till rain stops. You’ll fall ill. Plus, its unseasonal rain, won’t last long.” he said.
Considering I just got up from a two month long viral infection, the idea of warm, dry clothes is tempting.
“Okay,” I agreed and we walked over to his apartment.
He gave me his shirt and trackpants to change into while he made a mint and ginger tea for both of us. Okay, he’s a nice guy and hard for me to not like him. He’s fun too. I don’t remember laughing so hard on political jokes in the longest time. It’s like, he just gets me.
We sit on the couch looking at the rain while sipping our tea.
“Well, we shall keep the dessert for next time,” I say.
“Of course.”, he said.
The air between us suddenly becomes heavy. I’m feeling thirsty. I get up to fetch a glass of water while he suddenly holds my hand and pulls me down. I look down as he takes my hair off my face and tucks them behind my ears. I feel like electricity has passed through me. My breathing becomes heavy as he brings his mouth nearer to me. And in that one moment of passion, we kiss.