“Hey AJ, AJ! Look at that couple who just entered!”, Sam whispered gesturing towards the door of Westland Café. I turned back and my gaze fixated, just for a second, on the girl.
“What are you staring at?!”, Sam asked and looked over my shoulder. She knew. “Umm. So you really don’t want me to answer that right?”, I asked, wearing the most innocent smile I could conjure up. Sam looked at that girl, looked down and then straight at me and said “AJ, mine are so small no? Guys don’t like them small, right?”
You see, these are the times when a guy really has no idea what to respond. The obvious reply will, obviously not be liked.
“You are perfect the way you are Sam..”, I said in the most softest of voices possible. “Look at the bright side, you can come out of very tight spots much easily than her!”. Sam grinned. And that’s why she was awesome.
A waiter came with her chocolate milkshake and my strawberry cheesecake. We were seated at the corner table, one of the few spots at Westland that faced the blue sea; our favourite one as well.
Westland Café was almost like our second home. To an outsider, it may seem like another one of those humdrum shacks on the beach. But for us locals, it was nothing short of a veritable goldmine of the yummiest delicacies we could find in the city. And undoubtedly, the best filter coffee.
“So, what happened with Rani at the Gym? Staring and cursing whole day!”, I asked, slicing the cake. “Hey such a pain she is, AJ! You know what she did? She….”
I really don’t know what she said, I had already been lost, her voice forming the perfect music for the song in my head.“….. and then she told….erm… Hey HII, here!!”
I turned around and saw Nikhil approaching. A wide grin lit up Sam’s face, decorated on the sides with glowing red. A loud wave came crashing down at the beach nearby.
There may be very few things more frustrating than being there.
Imagine you’re hurtling towards this heavenly being, like an asteroid through space, but you’ve got the landing all wrong. And instead of touching down in a blaze of fiery glory, you’ve been caught in its orbit, encircling the heavenly body, gazing from afar, hoping for that final touchdown.
Such has been my life since the first time I met Samiksha, 2 years ago at this very café when the ever perky, very effervescent Sam had forgotten her purse and I offered to pay for her. I became her closest friend; revolving around her, protecting her from the vagaries of life. Westland was our second home; the sea, our own special hideout. And then came Nikhil.
“Sam!”, he said with his hearty smile while receiving one of Sam’s bear hugs. I get a hi-5 soon after. He seated himself between Sam and me, taking a bite of the cheesecake from my plate.
I won’t hesitate to admit that I was jealous. Of course I was. Jealous of the way Sam looked at him, jealous of how she giggled at his jokes or stammered and acted like a complete nutjob when he complimented her. Oh, and the cherry on top of my cake of misery? It is hard to the hate the guy. The glitter in Sam’s eyes sparkles as she talked to Nik, perhaps similar to mine as I talked to her. She gave me a warm hug as I left for home.
Like a lone animal in Noah’s ark, I sometimes felt like a misfit, lost and alone. All I wanted to do was to take her in my arms and pour my heart out; I wanted to tell her that she is the most beautiful part of my world. She was enraptured by him; I by her.
This is the story of a day that will be etched in my memory for a long, long time.
Very early the next morning, my phone’s ringtone woke me up. ‘Sam xD’ – the screen read. Sam!“Do you know the time, Sam?”, I said groggily. “AJ..”, her voice, a half sob.I sat up. Venting session at this time?
“AJ.. I like Nik”, she said. “Hmm. Tell me something I don’t know. Why’re you crying?” “Why isn’t he proposing to me?”
For a fact, I knew he liked her a lot. He had told me himself. “Maybe he fears rejection.” I said, voicing my own thoughts.
“Why-why would I reject him?” “I don’t know, you can be intimidating sometimes.” I heard a faint chuckle. “Ass. We were standing near the shore for a long time after you left. It was… heavenly.” Sure it was.
“You love him a lot, yes?” “Yes.” “Isn’t the solution obvious then?”
There was silence for many seconds. Just her soft sweet breaths.
“I’m going to propose.”, she said. “I’m going to-propose! It will be heavenly. AJ! You are awesome!”
A thousand unsaid words volleyed by my mind. I could say them even now.
“Obviously! Go get him!”, I said instead. I shall never learn.
– — –
The shadows on my wall faded as the mobile screen dimmed out. What would I do without AJ? Pushing away the quilt, I got up and walked towards the mirror. A weary face stared back at me, straight hair streaking the sides of my pale, tear-stained cheeks with a background of light orange from the rising sun.
But what if he says no? Am I worth it? … Is he worth it? He likes me. Everyone likes him.
Go get him! AJ’s words echoed. Maybe I should… I will!
I had to make a plan. This had to be spectacular. It took me the better part of the morning to finalize what I needed to do.
I typed out a text message to Nik:
‘Heyy! Come to the Mariner’s Memorial at 4 tomo. Wear that red shirt I gave you. xoxo’
My thumb paused before touching the send icon. I looked up and saw bright daylight streaming through the curtains..
Go get him!
The message was delivered.
I reached Westland at around 3:30pm that afternoon. Inside, I saw AJ with his head low, staring at a mug of black coffee. I went up to him. “AJ! You look bad, what’s up?”
He looked up, dazed; as though I had rudely interrupted a dream. “Eh, just a hurting head. You think the music here is a bit too loud today?”
Apart from the fact that he abhors EDM, there wasn’t anything different about the music here. “No, music is just the same! What’s bothering you?” He got up. “Just a bad day I guess. A walk along the shore should cure it. I’ll be right back!” he said, paying for the coffee.
“AJ, I’ll come with you.”
He looked away and hesitated. “Umm no Sam, just me this time. And I’m guessing Nik will be here soon? Have fun, I’ll join y’all.” he said, turning away, through the door, and towards the shore. Wonder what happened to him!
Brushing away the thought, I took out a sticky note and scribbled on it. It’s a big day today!
– — – –
It’s not unusual to get a message from Sam at 6 in the morning. But a message like this is something that I wasn’t used to. Sure she can be spontaneous but this was out of the blue. And she didn’t even explain why either!
It was half past 3 and I started towards the Memorial, wearing the red shirt just as she had asked. The Memorial – a grand old tribute to the sailors who had given their lives for the Great Battle of 1809; it’s lawns were the envy of the country; it’s fountain shows the envy of the world.
It was a wonderful day; strong breeze with the salt high in the air. It was 4 and I looked around for Sam. She was late.
Teens playing soccer, elders playing tennis, our Mr. Guitar strumming away for his buck. 4:20 and I get a message, ‘I am not coming. Let’s play a game. Find me ;)’
Sam! What did she expect me to do? I walked around, looking for a note or a sign. Nothing.
20 mins passed by, I kept pacing up and down the lawn. It took me a while to realise something was amiss.
Each time I passed by Mr. Guitar, he would change his tune and after I pass by him, he’d change back to the old. So I went close to him, and listened. He winked and sang his new tune. It went like this:
“Ooh! Won’t you come?
Come, look beside, the crashing brine?
And see the neptune clutching,
our towering treble of shale?
Ooh won’t you, come…find me?”
A riddle? This, I had not expected. She knew I relished a brain teaser.
Crashing brine… Ok the sea. The neptune holding a treble of shale? Treble of shale. So there are 3 rocks?
Neptune? Not the planet, obviously. What else? Roman god? No, Greece! Sea… Poseidon! 3 rocks. Poseidon’s trident.
She wants me to go to Trident Rocks!
I got up, satisfied, gave Mr. Guitar a hug and some cash and bolted towards the Trident.
I reached the Trident, magnificent cliffs watching from behind as waves crashed onto this natural rock formation. I looked around. It took me a while but behind a giant sandcastle, written using pebbles and seaweed was “WESTLAND BB ^_^”.
And off I scooted to the place where I first met Sam, the Bulletin Board at Westland.
– — –
Back at Westland, I ordered a sandwich to go. Sam had gone home, she wasn’t around here anywhere. Wonder what she did about the proposal issue. The call early that morning had shaken me up considerably.
I walked towards the Bulletin Board; I had heard rumours that Metallica was visiting the city and if they were, Westland would surely have posted it up. I scanned the board, in vain. But I did stumble upon a post-it note which seemed interesting.
‘Tired? It’s almost over!
I’m at the house of the sailors’ guardian. Find me ;)’
What seemed interesting was that, the handwriting was very, very familiar. I looked again. Sam!
The house of sailors’ guardian? The Lighthouse? She needs to work on her riddles, dear Sam! I made my way towards the Lighthouse.
A lone tomato-less club sandwich awaited in vain on a clean granite counter.
The Lighthouse was tall, red, iconic, and non-functional. Non-functional because after building it, the brilliant engineers realised that no ship could ever see its light.
It was deserted on the outside but the door was left ajar. Sturdy stone steps spiralled upwards, leading to the glass dome. I paced up and almost reached the huge stone doorway to the dome; I heard whispers. I crept up behind the door and strained to listen. A sudden, short shriek pierced the heavy air.
“It took me a year, I couldn’t wait. I-I, how was the game?”
“Sam! I never-Wow, you’re amazing!”
“Nik, this is not easy for me to say-I… Nik, would you…?”
“Oh gosh, a ring. Samiksha… Yes, damn get up you!”
I climbed down the stairs as they did what couples do after a proposal. All the way down.
– — –
A blustery breeze swept over the shore as I sat at the cliff-edge, gazing at the Trident being mauled by the savage waves of the sea. Mauled.
This can’t be happening. Not to me. She definitely would have seen how much I care for her.
Two seagulls, one with blue stripes, other black, stood at the edge, pecking and flapping wings at each other.
How could she not? I have been with her through thick and thin! How dare she do this to me?The Black manages to out-peck his adversary. Blue backs away as Black flies over and flaunts his scars to his mate. The Blue looks over at Black, squawking weakly.
I’d give anything … anything to be with her. Is there any point in all that time spent with her?Black nestles close to his mate, their heads resting on each other.
My thoughts were interrupted by the buzzing of my phone. ‘Sam xD’. A couple of seconds passed by before I picked up that call.
“AJ, AJ! I have so much to tell you!”, an exuberant voice relayed from the other side.
A huge sigh escapes me. “Sam! Tell me all about it!”
I guess in the end, it was all meant to be.
I got up to leave. Blue shrugged and flew away.
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