It’s funny how life comes about to bring two people closer at a certain moment in time, when they could have met a lot earlier, or later and had a complete different set of experiences together, or not met at all. Yet random choices and circumstances led them to meet at this particular moment and no other, marking the beginning of something dynamic, something different, something exciting, memories of which they would take with them wherever they went for as long as they lived.
He always laughed at her side of the story when it came up, how they met and where. She knows she’s right, but he thinks it was a lot later. Of course he was inebriated, given the circumstances it was only fair that he wouldn’t remember that first meeting. She, however, would remember that meeting, and almost every other they’d ever had together. She’d smile at his scoffing and say ‘Of course you’re right’, both actually knowing he wasn’t. It was a cold sunday night, and she was all alone and in desperate need of company and readily agreed to a social night out at the campus bar. It was her first week and she barely knew people, and was glad for the invite. He was there, chatting to the friend she’d gone with. They were introduced and she could tell he wouldn’t remember a thing the next morning, he was at that stage of happy drunk bordering on knocking out cold. They had a conversation about where they were from and what they were doing currently, small talk.
The next few weeks passed, she barely thought of him. He didn’t know she existed. One day his name was mentioned in passing by a mutual friend, and she realised she’d met him. She said she’d seek him out again and pass on the mutual friend’s greetings. Of course, it was just an excuse for her. They chatted online a few times, exchanged more details and then met one night, when she was at the library and couldn’t concentrate. He invited her to his flat. Again, he was inebriated and had lost his wallet and keys. She was amazed by him constantly. She walked with him all over campus searching for them, retracing his steps taken earlier. This was no easy feat, considering he’d randomly blurt out his thoughts about anything and everything and laugh uncontrollably. Well past 3am, they decided it was a fruitless search and went back to his flat. His flatmates were great, and she smiled to herself at the thought that he was liked by everyone, the room lit up with his presence and people would never forget him. That was the effect he had, of course totally unaware of it.
Over the next few months the friendship blossomed, into something she had been quite unaware of existed. Closeness to the point of comfort and dependence. They met almost every day, planned out weekend nights out, went for random walks, went drinking at 4pm on Tuesday happy hours, instead of being in lectures. He made her laugh. She made him think. They could sit in silence for hours, she could listen to his talk and he hers for hours. They’d laugh at each other’s theories and thoughts. They made each other think and question things. The nights turned into mornings, he’d make her breakfast, they’d go to random houses knocking and ask for balloons. He taught her to have faith, and she taught him compassion. They’d go splashing in the puddles left behind by the rain, and laugh at those that laughed at them. He had not a care in the world, and she loved that confidence in him. He taught her not to care what others thought, and be her own person and to let things go. She tried but never really understood it. They could talk about everything under the sun, and she loved that. That was the effect he had on people.
Time passed, and she got more and more aware of her feelings for him. They had changed very suddenly from knowing he was a little nutty, to liking that nuttiness as a friend, to caring as only a lover would. She would smile for no reason, walk with a little bounce, and every time she saw a balloon she thought of him. But, she wasn’t sure if the feelings were one sided or both. She began testing him, asking him questions, looking for clues. He was like that, free and not one to be tied down. She tried to understand that, but failed to grasp it. Why wouldn’t he return the same feelings when they both knew they existed? She liked to comfort herself by thinking that he didn’t want to spoil what they had, he’d been hurt before as had she, they were unsure what they wanted. Maybe it was too soon?
Then she moved away, and making that decision and telling him was difficult. They stayed on the phone for hours talking the night she called to break the news. She could tell he was crushed. He kept begging her to change her mind, asking her to come back and reminding her that she was his best friend, he needed her. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she finally hung up and said ‘I’m sorry’. The feeling of exhaustion crept in that night, the kind where she felt she’d physically laboured on a farm ploughing all day and every bit of energy in her had been drained. She couldn’t sleep for several nights. She hoped nothing would change. How naive they were back then. The memory of that thought now brings a smile to her face. Ah youth.
The distance diminished what they had in months, through neither her nor his fault. It was just one of those things. Inexplicable. The more and more she tried talking to him, the less she found to talk to him about. The conversations became fewer and further in between, then dwindled to an almost complete stop. Then she heard they were together, her two best friends. That crushed her heart. She tried to understand it, but failed. That was another one of life’s lessons he’d taught her. Maybe she hadn’t conveyed her feelings well enough? Maybe this… What if…? Why?
Those thoughts stayed with her for a few years, forcing her to grow up very suddenly and realise that life changes, when least expected and that people change and not always do we get what we want and she should learn to let go and accept it. That was what he’d always tried telling her, and she got it, albeit too late. He’d always said not to take life so seriously, to learn to laugh at herself. Perhaps it was for the best. She’s at a better place in life now then she’d have been had they stayed together. She would not be the person she was, and proud of it, if she’d stuck in that little town. But she couldn’t help but wonder, did he ever think of her the way she did him? Did the thought of her put a smile on his face?
They met a few months ago, at a friend’s birthday party. Of course there were lots of balloons, and they both smiled at the memories. He hardly left her side all night, calling her name in that funny voice he made that she loved so, but out loud would always say she hated. He kept asking her ‘do you remember when…. do you still…. have you…..’ and the fact that after all these years he still remembered and cared was enough for her. It gave her a tiny ray of hope that perhaps they could have been. And they would have been great, just not in this lifetime.
Now, whenever she sees a balloon, the memories come flooding back and she thinks of him with a little smile. That was the effect he’d always have on her.