It would have extremely unlike her to go up to a random person and gobble their chicken roll. She didn’t know what she was thinking! One moment she was being introduced to a friend of her friend, and the next minute she was shoving his second roll of meat down her throat. Okay, that sounded …disgusting.
Which is why thank goodness there was no mayonnaise in the roll, or it would all be dripping down the sides of her mouth, like the ungracious munching machine that it was. “But why isn’t there Mayonnaise?” she thought out loud. He, Elijah, turned to look at her, slightly amused, deliberating this first chat, his first reaction. “I think there should be Mayonnaise too.” She, Ali, was just going to nod, hmm and munch, when he went on to say, “This grown man of 20 is going to tell his mom to put mayonnaise in his tiffin rolls from this Tuesday.” She didn’t want to, but she found herself smiling.
She was walking through the woods from a class she had just finished. Instinctively, her hand rose to wave at him. Less than a thousand words. Less than a hundred. Less than a fifty?
She waved, because acquaintances were nice. And there was something about him.
“You have to stop this. You can’t keep pining your hopes on sack of meat who doesn’t care about you!” Ruth was saying. She was supposed to be yelling, but that hardly worked in a classroom.
“I can’t, I love him,” Ali whispered back hopelessly. Her face was crumbling, her eyes damp without any signs of tears, like she had wrung them off their capabilities to produce more. “Why doesn’t he understand? Can’t he see?” She used simple sentences, because it was. Her queries were basic. Her problems were tiny. His eyes were blind.
“You can’t save people who don’t want to be saved,” she said quietly to herself. It was some kind of reasoning that she used to liberate him from her hold. In a blur of steps that she took, she passed Elijah, not even noticing that he had waved by.
“Your hands are cold,” Elijah said.
“Yeah, it happens when I get nervous,” Ali replied, looking at a boy beyond him. But Elijah did not know.
Elijah looked into his friend’s phone. All this while he had been keeping quiet, a task which was quite manageable given that everyone in the foyer seemed to be talking to themselves, aloud. “Who’s that with her?” he point to Ali’s What’ App contact.
“That’s the guy she’s been going out with.”
The next time she saw him, he hadn’t seen her. What took over her body and made her grab his shoulder she’d never know. It had been months and months since they last said a proper “Hello, how do you do?”
“Elijah,” she simply said. “Hi,” cautiously taking her hand off his shoulder.
“Hey, hey,” he seemed to be in a hurry.
From another end someone called out to him. “Off to some place?” Ali asked stupidly.
“Yeah,” he sighed instantly, happily.
The other voice called back to him again, “Your chic’s class just got done, she’s waiting for us. Let’s go.”
Ali would have waited to politely say goodbye, but those demons that were possessing her thought otherwise. She had left before the end of that sentence.
In a huge sea of people, he saw Ali standing with her group, eating, laughing and looking gorgeous at the same time.
A few months ago, he would have tapped her and said hi. Today he had something else to do. A love letter in his hand, he walked passed her and to someone else.
An entire year had passed
“You’re still here!” Ali burst. She encircled in with her arms and even he looked surprised.
“Well, I still have a few exams left and then I’ll be gone for good. You still a year left right?”
“You’re always free on Saturdays, 9:40?” he asked.
“Yeah, the professor canceled our lectures for this month, at least.”
“Oh,” he scratched his head. “Well, an early breakfast is always a good thing.” Neither of them mentioned the mayonnaise. “I gotta go to the lab for my practicals now,” he said, taking bag over his shoulder. Quickly, without a beat she replied, “I’ll walk you there, I’m free anyway.” She turned to grab her satchel, but in her hurry she hit her leg across the table.
“What happened?” she looked at him, then her leg. “Oh God, is that blood. Why is there blood on my leg!” Elijah bent down and dramatically pointed out to the nail sticking out of the table. “Thank goodness I was here or otherwise how would you have answered that question.”
“Oh shut up,” she smiled at him.
He took out a band aid out of his bag, antiseptics and cotton rolls tumbling out. “I thought you were a physics student…” she mumbled.
“Nope, I’m Elijah the Emergency guy,” he said ripped off the seal of the band aid.
“I can do it myself.”
And then in a voice she hadn’t heard before, he said, “It’s fine, let me.” The protest in her throat died down, as a his fingers rubbed on the band aid securing it in place. She wanted to tell him it was a sweet gesture, but her words got lost in an attempt of trying to explain what any of this was.
Right then she saw the girl he was dating, and in a mad fervor to get away from what she was feeling, she said, “Hey isn’t that your girlfriend.” He turned his face up to look, and the next moment the leg that he was kneeling beside was gone.
The last of the Physics Exams were over
Ali pressed delete.
Her group of five had encircled her as she performed the solemn ritual of destroying everything that reminded her of the boy she once loved. They let out a collective sigh.From the corner of her eye, she saw someone walk to the general office. Elijah! He was probably collecting his mark sheet.
“I know Dean looks hot and all-” one of her friends was saying. They were looking at their pictures. “-but he looks so mediocre in this picture,” another one finished. “Don’t delete it if you don’t want to- I mean, half of your face is also there in that picture and you look pretty rad.”
She cut them, “I’m doing it. Delete.”
She sighed. Everything was coming to an end.
A nice shady lane, the leaves twinkled in the sun light. She could almost hear them sing. Or was that her I-pod. Against the black marble, she loved the sight of her reflection, her legs thudding heavily against the ground, her body moving like a beautiful hurricane. She couldn’t believe she was smiling.
All to herself.
Upon entering college with this grand feeling of fulfillment and carpe diem that getting up on time would give you, she realized that actually she wasn’t on time and quite late for her 9:40 lecture. She buzzed like a soda pop in between her friends, her voice ringing loud and confident. She had all the new jokes up her sleeves, all the “your mom” comebacks on the tip of her tongue. There was so little that a good ray of sunlight couldn’t do. And she was so, so happy.
She turned round the corner and bumped into someone, ready to giggle and embarrass the stranger.
“Don’t you have this lecture free? It’s a Saturday,” the stranger said.
If she had been carrying any books, she would have dropped it. But all she dropped was her jaw, onto the floor. An entire year. A whole other one had passed. “You have a very old copy of my timetable Elijah,” she said.
“You didn’t even have mine.”
There was lot in between the things they hadn’t said and the things they had heard from others. A lot that had made them turn the other way, take the longer route or try again for a person that wouldn’t come to matter. A lot that amounted to this moment never occurring. But for once they let things be.
“Are you walking me to class or what?”
“Only if you let me wait for you till it gets over.”
They never had mayonnaise chicken rolls ever, but they did have some other things.