Written by Nandini Sethi
As we handed over our last paper to the examiner, a twinkling hope in her eye that we somehow manage to do miserably, we looked at each other, smiled tugging at our lips, the excitement of summer gnawing at us.
Stepping out of class, for the first time, I wasn’t caught off-guard when you took my hand in yours and kissed me in front of everyone. High School Sweethearts of the Year was the title given to us, and despite how mushy everyone and everything was, I had to admit I was emotional at the thought of leaving school.
One last time, we walked through the halls of school, tracing the markings we made on the walls as kids, relishing potato puffs and warm cold coffees from the canteen, and walking past teachers and HODs in the corridors, shamelessly deciding not to greet them this time; what could they do anyway, expel us?
Indulging in our after-school ritual, I waited for you to pop the question, the one I waited for every day during school hours – ice cream? And as we mixed my chocolate with your strawberry, we didn’t talk about the latest school gossip or homework we weren’t planning on doing, instead, we spoke about our future. The dreaded discussion.
“Sometimes, I think it’s easier to be older and have life figured out. I mean look at our parents – it goes without saying that wherever one is, the other follows,” I said, “and look at us, we’ll be off to college soon, god knows which of us in which city, how many miles away.”
“I guess that’s what being a teenager is all about”, Rohan spoke for the first time, “let’s just make the most of it.”
I looked up from my ice-cream, “what do you mean?”
“I mean look it at this way- we’ll be getting our admission letters soon, and the likelihood that we both end up getting into the same college, the best one we have applied to, is minimal.” I didn’t see where he was going with this. “We have 30 days. Let’s do everything there is to be done in this month. Let’s have the wildest time before we have to say goodbye!” He said it excitedly, but it came across as more of a question.
I met his eyes and he looked at me expectedly, with a glimmer of belonging in them. When I nodded and voiced my agreement, he tackled me into a hug, and we finished our ice-creams together. Then ordered some more.
The next day I woke up to the sound of a dull thud. Followed by another, then another. I looked around my room but didn’t find the source. Unwittingly, I got out of bed, and made my way to the balcony, from where the noise sounded. Through the glass, looking down, I saw Rohan stand, aiming rocks at my window.
Hurriedly, I opened the door and laughed, “what are you doing?”
“Romance!” He exclaimed.
I giggled, “you know there is a main door, right? And my parents know who you are, what’s the point of this?”
He smiled. “I thought we were doing it all.”
We had lunch at Mcdonalds and desert at a 5-star. We went swinging on the playground, then bowling in the alley. The next day we attended a house party, then snuck out and spent the rest of the night in the parking lot of the building, talking about everything, swatting away flies and hiding from watchmen.
The beach was an hour’s drive away, and we planned to watch the sunset together the next day. Over inconstant skies and lazy little drops of rain, we sat listening to the music of the waves and the buzz from my earphones, a perfect symphony that I knew in that moment I would never be able to recreate.
Our days passed by like this – in moments that felt like time through an hourglass, so slow they felt like they were paused, then in quick blurs and blobs, where I couldn’t make out if it was today or tomorrow.
Even now as we sit, facing each other, no words being said, we’re both thinking the same thing: what lies in the emails we haven’t opened in the past few days. This was the moment we knew we were going to have to part ways. On one hand I wanted it to be fast, like ripping the band-aid off, and on the other, I felt like I wanted it to be gentle, like breaking the news of death to a loved one.
It was a trance-like moment. I knew I had the rest of my life ahead of me, a future to focus on, but in that moment, I wished to be a nomad, a nobody, that belongs nowhere. I wanted these 30 days to prolong to forever, each day filled with love and excitement and uncertainty. Wasn’t that the gist of life? I didn’t know how ready I was to admit it then, but I didn’t mind the whole cliched romcom playing out – I wanted to drop out of college and spend the rest of my days with the man I loved most.
It wasn’t just about him. Who knows, maybe tomorrow things don’t work out and we break up? I won’t mind. At least now I know how much life is there to be lived, and all the things that are out there that I don’t even know of. The unknown didn’t make me fearful, it made me happy. There will always be something out there for me.
“Listen, Rohan, I-” but he cut me off. “Let’s just do this. Rip the band-aid off, right?” It was like he read my mind earlier. I was too overwhelmed with emotion to say anything, so I just nodded. And waited for the worst.
“Wait!” I stopped him. “I can’t do this! Can you open both our emails? I don’t want to look.”
He knew how anxious this was making me, so he agreed.
I closed my eyes tight, waiting for the rip, the news, the moment I had not been waiting for. A second passed, then two, now it just felt like it had been a whole minute without anyone saying anything. Something had to be dreadfully wrong. Did I not get into college? Did no one accept me?
I snatched the phone from his hands, trying to understand what all this fancy English meant, but it was all going over my head.
“We both got in.” There was a second of silence. A second too long. “We both got into NYU!”