F I C T I O N
It was a Tuesday afternoon, mid-August of 2020, in a (mostly) masked crowd and under heat — too scorching for it to be autumn. This was the first time ever since the pandemic hit when I had gone out on my own — to run a few errands, and meet a friend. As I was glancing around at our priorly decided meeting spot for a guy in a blue T-shirt, said friend decided startling me amidst a bustling street would be funny, and suffice for a proper greeting.
Unfortunate, as it must’ve been for him, I am quick on my reflexes — a trick one learns naturally to navigate these streets as a girl — and I turned before he could successfully “boo” me.
“Oh, hi!” I said. “I’ve been looking around for quite a few minutes now, but I couldn’t spot you.”
“Well, that’s because I planned to do a jump-scare on you,” he said, sourly, “But then I contemplated being a decent, mature guy for a second and the dilemma made it flop.”
“Oh, isn’t that too bad?” I cheekily replied.
“Don’t be too sad, though. It’s not very easy to take me aback.”
His face seemed to morph into an expression that, if were to be put in words, would say — Is that a challenge?
However, he decided to keep quiet. Little did I know how real my interpretation would later prove to be, and how utterly I would fail to keep true to my previous words.
There was not much I knew of this friend, except that he had grown up in Khulna and moved to the capital for college. We actually did not even go to the same college, but thanks to the wonders of social media and mutual friends, we knew of each other’s existence. It was only after a group chat opened during quarantine with the both of us in it did we really become friends.
After having spent three months in his hometown, he came back to Dhaka and landed right outside my door (well, figuratively, at least). I remember his first text to our group chat upon his arrival — something along the lines of “Just letting you all know that I’m currently in Uttara, so if the air feels fresher around some of you, you know why.”
Narcissistic, as usual. So I had characteristically replied, “Let’s meet up, coward,” and our short mindless exchange had brought us here.
My plan was to hang out with this dude — whom I’d only had half a minute of interaction with once before in real life, that too at an MUN conference, if that even counts — for an hour or so, then I ran my errands and went back home. If only I had known what a day awaited me! A day I could not have predicted if you handed me a crystal ball that led to a courtship I could not have imagined if I were given a lifetime.
Now for a little B&W flashback scene as the plot thickens. You see, I had encountered a very tragic heartbreak at the beginning of that year, and ever since, I had instinctively become very wary of love. I had thought if I fell in love again, it would invalidate all the pain I had felt, and belittle the magnitude of my previous love. I had always been fine on my own — and for a girl who believed she had lost the love of her life, abstaining from romance was fairly easy.
Why I mention that — is because, for the first time, in a warm afternoon in August, as I sat in the biggest park of Uttara with a curly-haired boy lying down beside me on the grass and yapping away (uncharacteristically, might I mention, for he’s always been a man of few words), I felt unguarded for the first time. Unguarded, is the word I choose because ever since my heartbreak, I had become quieter, more reserved. I would put up way less stories on my Instagram feed; be insecure about the littlest of my achievements, and talk to a very few friends. And to any I did, I would only speak the lore of heartache, of beauty I’d found in pain, and why I wished to cherish it. It was as if my tongue were made of shrapnel and the only language I knew was of anguish.
But this boy, in the span of four hours (when it was only meant to be around one), would get me to open up and talk and laugh more than I had in months. And he didn’t even try. Neither had I, yet he spoke to me of his family, his childhood, his adventures on his mariner dad’s ship and how he still kept the photo his ex had taken of him, by the way, in his wallet as an act of rebellion. It was as though our minds were the contents of Pandora’s box, and someone had just lifted the lid.
I was never the one to believe in love at first sight; I still am not. The day we spent was purely platonic, and the only thing that changed was I got closer to a friend I didn’t anticipate. However, as he dropped me home (since it was already past Maghrib), I couldn’t help but hug him thrice as we said goodbye. I remember him walking away after the second hug and I, being me, ran after him and hugged him again (at least one of us was successful in startling the other). His eyes lingered as I grinned and walked back this time, in a droopy, puppy-eyed manner. There was an intimacy in those last few moments, as we both reeled from a really good day spent in the company of a newfound companion.
As anticlimactic as that may have sounded, we did end up falling for each other. It took one more meeting a month later, that consisted of coffee and window shopping, to notice the shift in our energy. It was as that song goes,
Prem e pora baron, karone okaron/
Angul e angul rakhleo hath dhora baron.
He didn’t once touch me—for he, as he would later inform, was a big believer of not touching women unless you are family, or dating, but one could tell his fingers itched to. I don’t know why I remember that vividly, whether it’s because I respected the distance he kept and it earned him my favour, or because I secretly wished he would just darn his principles and hold me once.
I remember telling him that day, about how “I love you” was said in traditional Japanese culture — not with the words themselves, but by finding beauty in nature in front of their loved one, by saying — “The moon looks beautiful tonight”, in hopes of expressing “I find you beautiful just the same”.
And I remember the moon looking absolutely mesmerising that night, as I informed him of this fun fact right there. I may not be too good with metaphors, being an open book is more my style — but I would say that was a pretty big one.
That is how I found love, in the oddest of places, people, and circumstances. Things escalated pretty quickly after that day, as I would receive an email a week later, with a poem written for me. I can write plenty about what happened afterwards, but it all zeroes down on that first moment we met, and his failed attempt at booing me. Must say, finding love when it’s the last thing you’re looking for, in the last place you’re looking at, is thrilling. That’s when it is something bigger than logic and rationality, that’s when it is ‘blind’.
After so long, I am unafraid; I am gentle and open and caring and ready to love anew, and to embrace heartache if it may so come — and it’s been a long time coming home.
Nabiha Nuha is a 19-year-old female who only loves three C’s in her life: cats, cuddles, and chocolate chip cookies.