Written by Nandini Sethi
“Will you go out with me?” Jay asked me over the phone.
Most people would prefer a grand gesture for such an event, but I was glad he did it over call because I didn’t want him to see the deep pink blush that coloured my cheeks.
“Yes Jay, I would love to finally be your girlfriend,” I’m sure he could hear how flushed I was just by the sound of my voice.
He was in Delhi at the time, spending a few days with his parents, before he would finally come back to Bangalore, and we could make the transition from being friends to a couple.
After cutting the call, I sighed dramatically and hit my head against the pillow, pretending to be in a teenage movie, with me playing the part of the female lead finally getting her happy ending. That night, I only got dreams of him and I, going out on our first date – watching a movie, holding hands, and ending the perfect day with a kiss that would be one for the story books.
But that day never came. I waited all week for him to fly back, but because of the unprecedented lockdowns, days became weeks, and weeks became months. Our relationship status remained unofficial and bringing up the topic seemed too awkward.
However, while the label was indefinite, we were still attracted to each other, just as much as the first day we ever spoke. There were definite sparks, and I would like to believe it was love at first sight.
Soon after that day, we exchanged numbers and began texting. One day while I was watching TV in my PJ’s, I received a call from him. Taken aback, I answered after several rings, not wanting him to think I was too eager to speak with him. Not long after our first phone conversation that lasted 2 hours, we shifted to video calls.
This was almost 4 months ago. Today, our mode of communication remains the same. It was frustrating and long-distance seemed hard, but we didn’t know any better. We had never been with each other for long in an offline setting, so we craved what we were missing out on; we craved to live our daydreams and be a normal couple.
But the distance didn’t deter our bond. We still spoke for hours every single day, either on text or phone call, constantly seeking updates from each other – about our day, our food, our friends, and literally anything under the sun. The comfort that he radiated was so powerful, that I felt it all the way in Bangalore.
October saw a ray of hope. With COVID norms easing a bit, travel became more plausible, and Jay booked his tickets to come back home. I was excited to see him, but also a little nervous. What was he like in real life? How would he look standing next to me? Would we make a good pair? All these questions plagued my mind and put me to into a restless slumber. I don’t know what woke me up the next morning – the butterflies from excitement or from anxiety.
“Okay, call me when you reach,” I spoke into the phone. Jay had landed last night, and we decided to go out for our first meal together today. He texted me the entire time – while boarding, waiting in the taxi, and after reaching home and freshening up. His little updates kept me going throughout the day – the build-up to meeting him was killing me!
So, when the day arrived, I woke up to chiming bells and an imaginary fairy godmother that helped me get dressed. After putting on my cutesy little pink dress and my favourite pair of Converse, I spritzed on gallons of perfume and fit my straightened hair into a high ponytail. One look in the mirror and I was ready. The time had finally come!
I walked into the café to see Jay waiting at one of the tables, a cup of coffee in his hand. Overcome with emotion, I ran towards him and engulfed him in the longest hug I ever gave anyone. He stroked my hair lovingly and spoke in a whisper, as if he didn’t want anyone else to hear, “this feels like a dream.”
After about two minutes of hugging, we ordered some food and expected to dive into conversation. There was lots to catch up on. Except there wasn’t.
Struggling to come up with things to say, the both of us stole glances and blushed fervently every time we made eye contact.
“So, how about the weather, huh?” I asked, raking my brain to come up with something to say.
“Yeah, well, Bangalore – doesn’t get better than this,” we both nodded and smiled.
The small talk was choking. How is it that just the night before we couldn’t get enough of each other and now we were struggling to find words to say?
The date ended after he walked me back home. The walk was nice, the weather just perfect, but when I reached the gate of my house, neither one had it in us to go in for the first kiss. Everything was just too awkward.
I went back inside and got undressed. Changing into my comfiest PJ’s, I plucked out a tub of chocolate ice-cream from the freezer and put on the trashiest show on the TV. This was my way of sulking.
I didn’t realize when day became night, but I was startled out of my reality TV marathon by the shrill ring of my ringtone. On the screen, in big bold letters, the name displayed: Jay. I cringed a little, deciding to leave it unanswered. But two rings later, I began to feel guilty, and I quickly picked up the call.
“Hey, how are you?” Jay asked.
I laughed a little, “you were just with me 5 hours ago.”
“Yeah, but a lot has changed since then.”
“Yeah, it has.”
There was a moment of silence.
“Were you just watching those housewives on TV again?”
And the conversation picked up. We spoke about everything, again – from the delicious food at the café to the weather on our walk back home, from the Kardashians to global politics, it felt like everything was normal again.
I didn’t realize when 2 hours passed by. We had been on call for so long and there wasn’t even a moment of awkwardness between us.
“Hey, it’s getting late, can I call you tomorrow?” He asked.
I agreed happily and put the phone down.
Skipping and giggling, I made my way into the bedroom. But then it hit me: was this how our relationship was going to be? Have we become so used to the long distance that we can’t even face each other in real life? Why does COVID have to ruin everything?!
These questions bothered me more than I would like to admit. I decided to set up a second date with Jay. I didn’t have any expectations from him, and I didn’t get my hopes high. I wonder how it will go? I wonder if this is just another thing COVID has destroyed for me…