Meet me at the Sunka Lake Hill at 7 tomorrow morning.
I’ll be waiting for you.
But I’ll wait only till 7.15…
The cracked note in my hand read….
I was sure it was you. It had to be! Who else would write to me like this? Normally, people don’t write notes like these unless there’s a score to settle… or so, if movies are to be believed. But my life wasn’t a movie and I had no one to settle a score with.
Suhana’s Father? Nah! He’d never do this. Could he? I mean, he’s crazy but why would he when I’ve already left Suhana? Or maybe… Suhana herself… But she knows where I live!
And while I was thinking all that, I had checked out the parking lot, had run back to the Salon to look around, had run back to the parking again only to find it vacant. Not one soul was there.
I looked at the note again scrunched up in my hand; traced a finger over the smiley face doodled over it. It had to be you…
…because no one else knew that I was waiting….
But the bigger question was – Was I gonna go?
Dawn came cold and clear; salmon pink with undertones of mandarin orange, sandwiched between ribbons of violet-blues, and the Sun looked like a hungry glob of gold in the East, gaining on the firmament with the rapidity of first love. It was a beautiful morning with just the right kind of nip in it as not to make it too cold. The air had a hint of dew and a whiff of wet grass.
I remember that morning well because I remember thinking how apt it was for a first meeting, though somewhere, in the back of my mind, fear lurked that this could be a joke… or worse, a trap. Well I was already almost there – Sunka Lake, at five to 7. I could see the hill the note mentioned a little ahead of me, but I couldn’t have rode upto it. So I stopped the bike, parked it under a tree, and walked the half mile uphill to the summit.
The hill and the lake was once a prime tourist spot because it was away from the city, had a beautiful view and was lush enough to make you forget that you lived in a city that was fast turning into a concrete desert. But the development of a theme park and an artificial lake much bigger and better maintained, four miles away, ensured that the tourism was deflected. The natural lake was left at peace, it’s occupants – the egrets, and the water hyacinth – left to create their progeny, so that it looked like the lake was wearing a verdant carpet of green, dotted with purple; and the remains of human endeavours – the warping and decaying wood of boats, boardwalks and shelters, had almost merged with the elements.
Why choose an abandoned place like this to meet? Why send me a note like that? Why no phone number so I could call? There were so many questions whirling in my head ever since I saw that note. I hadn’t been able to sleep one wink. I was all excitement and anxiety.
As I reached the grove of trees at the top, I saw a figure approach me. It was hard to tell if it were a man or a woman because it was misty at the summit and the trees stood right before the rising sun, casting long shadows on the side from where I approached. But the closer I got, the more I believed it was you, till at last it was confirmed when you slipped off the hood from your jacket and smiled at me… That same wisp of a smile you gave me at the superstore…
Oh fuck! It WAS you!!
I would have jumped for joy had I not been panting for breath. So all I could manage was, “Well, finally!”
Your smile broadened. And what did you do when I finally reached you?
“Here, have some water. You’re panting like a dog.”
I deflated. I looked down at the portable water-bottle you had fished out from under your bulbous jacket and were now offering to me. Dammit, I was panting because of you. And it’s not how I wanted to make an impression on you, but you gave me no chance to catch up to your moves. I was lost.
I took it anyway because I really was out of breath, uncorked it and added jokingly between sips, “Do you have breakfast in there too?” I gestured to your huge, bubbly, blue jacket. You shrugged, “Maybe…” and you started walking back into the grove, me following you, first with my gaze then with my feet, clueless. At that point I had no idea if your ‘maybe’ meant you were joking or you were serious. Like I said before, you were hard to read.
Oh, who am I kidding! You were like an Agatha Christie – a page-turner that keeps you hooked till the jaw-dropper comes. You were unlike any girl I had ever met before. In fact, you weren’t a girl; you were mystery personified. You weren’t even dressed for a date (if this were a date at all). Heck, you weren’t even dressed for that matter. You looked like you had just hopped off the bed and jogged all the way up here. Your hair was all windswept, and it was not deliberate (I’m a stylist, I would know), your denims were crinkled up behind the knees, which told me you had worn it several times before, and the hair on your lashes and around your temples were still dewy with water you must have quickly splashed on your face just before you rushed up to see me. Well, at least you made the effort to be there.
I was staring at you openly, trying to demystify you, while you somberly looked into the space above the lake. I had never experienced anything like you before. I was intrigued, dazed, scared, ticked off and addicted, all at the same time.
“Do you want to date me?” You asked suddenly, still staring into space. That was abrupt. Yet another thing I had never experienced before – being asked out just like that. I have to be honest, I had no idea how to answer. I mean, sure I wanted to, I was dying to, but your question turned something which is generally romantic into something mundane. And dammit, I didn’t even know your name!
I sputtered, “Uhh… Shouldn’t we first get to know each other?”
You turned completely towards me, like a full 90 degrees, and for the first time I noticed the scar on your left temple, half-hidden by the thick fringe you had over your face, maybe four inches long and half an inch wide. Must have been a serious injury. You cocked your pretty head to the side and parroted out, “My name’s Pihu and I know yours…”
“Hhhhow…” What the heck!
“I know your name because it was stitched on the breast pocket of the shirt you wore at the Salon. Now… will you date me?” You cocked an irreverent eyebrow.
I was mildly scared now. “Look…”, I began with a hand thrust out to pause your onslaught over my senses, “What I meant was, get to know each other… y’know, like, where you’re from, what do you do, where you live and stuff… Usual things…”, I shrugged.
You interjected immediately, “What’s there to know about those things? I’m from the same city as you. I’m a student, you’re a stylist. As for where I live, I don’t see any need to exchange that information with you yet.” Now you were angry, your nostrils were flared and your pout was pursed in a line.
That put me on the defensive, “Look, I need to know more about you… Get to know you better beyond those few preliminary questions… That’s how people get to know each other.”
You were on defence-mode too because you crossed your arms over your chest, “Really? And is that why you came all the way up here? To exchange preliminaries, gain information on me? Just to get to know me better without the promise of gaining a girlfriend?”
“Is that why you look at me that way? Is that why everytime we met you looked like you wanted more of my time… that you wanted me to stay?”
Whoa! You were perceptive. “But we can be friends first and then get into a relationship. What’s the hurry?”, I was all wide-eyed exasperation and you were getting increasingly confrontational. That was not how I had pictured our first meeting.
You held up both your palms up in the air, “Heeeey! Who’s talking about a relationship. I’m only talking about dating… get coffee, lunch, dinner, movie, the works sometimes, y’know…. Nobody’s asking you to marry me or put a ring on it.”
When you put it that way, yes, that was definitely what I had in mind.
You cocked another inquisitive and sarcastic eyebrow at me, “So? What’s it gonna be?”
I still felt uncomfortable. Who wouldn’t. But if this was the only way I could get you to talk to me, I was gonna take the chance, “Yes, sure… Let’s date…ha!” You broke into a triumphant smile and your eyes lit up. You jumped and clapped your hands together, a move that was so unlike the ‘you’ that I knew till then, that I was left dazed. I felt so out of my depth with you, and I’ve said this before, I hate feeling that way. You had confused me thoroughly and I had zero clues to whether you wanted a casual fling or a steady thing.
I decided to wait and watch. I wasn’t done being wary yet…
To be continued….
©Pradita Kapahi, 2017.
Picture Credits – http://www.pixabay.com