And now I am proud to present:
We were alone in the ladies’ room again, sitting on the tempting red sofa. The sounds from outside were distant and inaudible compared to the rushing beats of my heart. Her brilliant blue eyes had a perplexing charm that captivated me. I couldn’t lose contact with them, and somehow I felt they were calling upon me. Closer and closer I leaned, and my heartbeats grew wilder... finally our noses touched gently, and there was only one last move to be done. The sweet scent from her cheeks was like opium. It made my senses rebel against me! Unconsciously, yet with extreme determination, I found myself heading for her lips. I tilted my head sideways and she raised hers slowly. Halfway through, our lips met; they were a perfect match. At that moment nothing mattered anymore except Maria. I couldn’t stop! Kissing Maria was something I didn’t want to let go of. An indescribable feeling of warmth filled my heart and set out to the rest of my body! This was too good to be true, I thought to myself... too good to be true...
All of a sudden the ladies’ room became pitch black. Maria’s beauty dissolved in the darkness, and the red sofa faded into my ragged-looking bed. I was sweating profusely, my heartbeats still on fire. This wasn’t the first dream I had about Maria. I checked my phone for the time, and saw a missed call from Jasmine! I couldn’t help but laugh bitterly at the dark irony of the situation. Seconds later, the feeling of “something is inevitably wrong” pervaded me again; this feeling had been lingering around my conscience for a while. I thought I would gradually get over it, but on the contrary, it made me feel more hypocritical day-by-day. I intended to miss-call Jasmine back, but halfway through I felt repulsed by the idea and refrained. Instead I skimmed the contacts for Maria’s number and just looked at it. I had deleted that number and re-saved it again tens of times during the last month. It seemed impossible to erase the memory of Maria. Despite my hard endeavors to alienate her from my mind, she still lingered in my thoughts and dreams. I knew I was angry at her; but I also knew I was crazy about her. In spite of my bruised pride and the great sense of ambiguous resentment that clouded the situation, the thought of Maria still made my heart beat faster. I remembered the Monday when we were supposed to meet, and how the unexpected turn of events started...
...I was restless like a child all day. I had never felt that excited about a girl before. I skipped a class so I would have enough time to prepare myself. I rushed home, showered, shaved, and primed myself to the last notch; I even wore my “good shirt!” I bought a rose from a small flower shop next to my house; but as I was overthinking about it in the cab, I felt it was too soon to be romantic. What if she panics? What if she doesn’t accept it? What if she thinks I have issues? All of these questions rushed into my lavish imagination and depicted rather undesirable scenarios. I sheepishly left the rose in the cab, hoping the driver wouldn’t notice it until I was out of eyesight. I thought I would ask Maria for dinner, or at least for a drink. My head was crowded with ideas as I walked to our intended meeting place. I felt glad the crowd of AUB students was starting to subside, for hordes of people usually made me nervous. Luckily, the bench I was imagining the rendezvous on was empty. I sat down, staring out towards the glimmering sapphire Mediterranean in the distance, and yearned to recognize Maria’s face in the faces of the people walking by. Maria would be here any minute now, I thought to myself.
Half an hour passed, and Maria still hadn’t showed up. My anxiety was rising, but my enthusiasm refused to subside; I waited and waited, not patiently but very intently. Whenever I saw a girl coming from a distance, I would cross my fingers hoping that was Maria, just to realize later on it wasn’t her. Tentative thoughts started to crowd my mind: What if she doesn’t show up? What if she forgot? My genuine enthusiasm started giving way to doubt. Maybe she is stuck in traffic... but isn’t she supposed to be inside AUB? Should I call? No, that would sound desperate! I’ll wait five more minutes then call. I should call, shouldn’t I? Maybe send her an SMS? Where is she!? I was having a violent internal monologue when a familiar distant fragrance knocked gently on my senses.
My heart skipped a beat at the sound of Maria’s voice. I turned my head, and there she was standing behind me. She looked a little different, but I still found her beguiling in her own special way. She wore her blond hair in a simple ponytail, and she had glasses on. Apparently she had contact lenses on Friday night. She was wearing jeans and a blue top that made her eyes stand out. My heart was welcoming her with the rhythm of a very special beat. I missed her so much!
“Hi Maria! It’s nice to see you!” I stood up quickly, and shook her hand more than warmly. I was so happy to see her, and my eagerness was very obvious! I had totally forgotten her belatedness; seeing her made me oblivious of the tentative time I spent waiting. I gently gestured for her to have a seat, and she sat down silently. In contrast to my enthusiasm, she seemed a little cold. She wasn’t smiling at me like she was in the ladies’ room. She wasn’t emanating her usual charm. I couldn’t help noticing something was wrong.
“Are you okay Maria?” I asked. She slowly turned her head and looked at me; her expressions were solemn. Something was definitely wrong.
“I’m sorry, I can’t stay long Nick. I have to leave. But it wasn’t appropriate to keep you waiting here,” she paused for a while then continued. “You are a really nice guy. But please forget everything that happened last Friday,” she turned her head away, as if shy to confront me. “Please forget about it, and just let it go.”
“What...?” I still hadn’t fully comprehended what she said. This was the last thing I had expected to hear. I couldn’t describe the feelings that permeated me. Shock, disappointment, confusion... She was still looking away. “Maria, look at me. What happened?”
“Please Nick,” she was still looking in the opposite direction, as if talking to the tree next to her rather than me. “Just let it go, there is no way for this to work out.”
“Why Maria? Please tell me,” I pleaded. I tried to put my hand on her shoulder, but she withdrew immediately and stood up. She was about to leave, but paused and turned back. At that moment, she delivered the metaphorical coup de gras that causes shock waves to penetrate into the depths of your heart.
“I have a boyfriend Nick.” She said it in a quiet voice without making eye contact with me, and walked away.
“What?” I shouted unconsciously. I was dumbstruck; I could feel the mushroom cloud of nuclear fallout dissipating into the atmosphere inside of me at the thought of her words; the aftershocks of the echoing inside my mind. I couldn’t see her walking away like that; something stirred me up from inside. I stood up quickly and caught up with her. “You what?? Why didn’t you tell me before!??”
“Please Nick,” she started walking faster. “Please leave me alone...”
“No Maria, listen to me!” I held her arm and pulled her back. But I immediately felt guilty because I did it with a furious attitude; I moderated my tone. “You know, I have liked you ever since the moment I saw you. And I made it clear that I want to get to know you better. I honestly meant it. I think I deserve more of an explanation. Do you really have a boyfriend or are you just saying this to push me away?”
Maria finally looked me straight in the eyes. Her beautiful blue eyes were clouded with tears preparing to be shed on her beautiful white cheeks.
“No Nick, it’s not like that. I’m not saying it to push you away. But it’s beyond my control.” She sounded sincere, but I still found it hard to believe.
“Why didn’t you tell me on Friday? Why did you give me hope, knowing you would take it away like this?” I sounded bitter, and my fury was rising again. I felt manipulated; I hated that feeling. Then my anger said something I regretted right away, “Or did you grow a boyfriend over the weekend?” for the first time Maria looked frustrated. Her white cheeks turned crimson, and she gave me a scornful frown.
“On Friday I had an ex-boyfriend who wasn’t talking to me and who I was still hung-up on. He wants me back now. I know it’s messed up; I’m messed up, and he’s messing me up even more. But I love him, I do. And I need to believe that this time he has really changed. So Nick, understand my dilemma. I’m sorry for the way things went on Friday. I wasn’t trying to mislead you. I’m sorry.” She said it with such grief and anger, and teardrops fell from her cloudy blue eyes. Without saying another word, she turned around and left. And I stood there speechless, watching her walk away...
...Back in the darkness of my room, those memories made me feel uncomfortable. I turned and turned in bed trying in vain to fool myself into sleeping. Instead, other images from the past chaotic two weeks flashed into my mind...
…A couple of weeks later, as I was still bitterly trying to recuperate from Maria’s rejection, a familiar ringtone opened a door I thought I had shut for good. It was Jasmine, asking about me and how I have been. She triggered a remote sense of nostalgia that had been smothered by Maria. It struck me that the amount of thought I allocated for Jasmine was negligible compared to the time Maria occupied my mind. It was uncanny how little I remembered Jasmine, and how much I fantasized about Maria. But Jasmine’s call stirred something inside me, something I couldn’t describe or define. The aftermath of our break-up went smooth for me; I didn’t reflect deeply on what happened because I met Maria the same day, and she engaged my mind and feelings since then. But hearing Jasmine’s shaky voice still shook me somehow. She wanted to see me the next day, and I couldn’t refuse. I still had a tender spot for her in my heart.
Ironically, she met me on the same bench where my rendezvous with Maria was. Jasmine was wearing the outfit I liked best. She was also adorned with accessories I had bought her throughout our relationship. She was still the most beautiful brunette with hazel eyes I have ever seen. I approached her cautiously, and only shook hands with her. But she gave me a smooth kiss on my cheek. I didn’t feel anything at the moment. Jasmine confronted me with her feelings, explaining how she was sorry for what had happened before. She promised she was willing to put all her effort into our relationship this time. She didn’t want to lose me. She was crying by the time she reminded me of our imminent first year anniversary...
I held her hand, and wiped the tears off her face. She did mean something to me at some point. But I realized right then that it wasn’t the same anymore. I tried to find a reason that made me want Jasmine back, but I couldn’t find any solitary emotion left for her in my heart. Indeed, I did cherish the relationship we had, but that had already been archived into the pages of the past for me. There was no doubt she still had ripe emotions for me; it was obvious. I, on the other hand, was hoping it was Maria’s hand I was holding instead of Jasmine’s. The biggest problem was that I felt too guilty to confess my lack of emotions when she was openly admitting her perpetuated love. That tender spot was sympathy, not love. I kept the conversation going, though; we discussed how our relationship had been going downhill for a while, and how we had changed throughout its ups and downs. I offered her my consolidation, but refrained from giving definite answers. Jasmine was obviously trying to redirect the plot of the conversation to the same point.
“But don’t you want to give it one more chance? We deserve this!” Jasmine didn’t know my emotional interest in her had ceased, and that someone else was reigning over my heart.
“Jasmine, you are a wonderful girl. But what if we end up in the same place like we did the first time?” I had to be as diplomatic as possible with her...
“Maybe we shouldn’t rush back into a full-fledged relationship right away,” she offered. “Nevertheless, I want you in my life. Take me out on a first date again. Remember how wonderful those days were? Let’s take it step-by-step all over again,” she pressed hard on my hand, and fixed her gaze at me; I knew her well enough still to know that this meant she was waiting for my answer.
It took me a while to realize my tongue slipped; luckily, she didn’t pay much attention to it.
“Jasmine!” It came out more like an answer or a statement rather than the beginning of a sentence. I didn’t know what to say next. I went blank! Mentioning Maria’s name broke my chain of thoughts. “Listen Jasmine, I need time to think about this. I can’t give you an answer right away.” I didn’t know what else to say! I couldn’t break her heart, but I couldn’t claim her as mine either.
“I love you Nick...”
Jasmine was on the verge of tears. She seldom cried before. My face turned red with shame; I couldn’t tell her I loved her too, I just didn’t feel it. Awkward silence hovered over us, pending the answer I didn’t have. Jasmine kept looking at me, as if convincing herself I would answer her any second. “Nick, don’t leave me hanging like this. Please!” Her hand was still holding mine. “Don’t drag my love around. Tell me right now, do you still love me or not?”
“I care about you Jasmine,” I lied; it was excruciating pain to push forth those fake words, but I couldn’t break her heart. Guilt demoralized me as I uttered another lie, “I do care. I just need some time to figure things out more clearly...”
...The projection of memories stopped, and brought me back to my room and the morbid feeling that I was doing something wrong. I had been indirectly avoiding Jasmine since then. My sole pretext was that I needed more time. But the more I procrastinated, the harder I found it to confront her with the truth. Over and over I turned in my bed, as if searching for a solution in the folds of my sheets. I had to put an end to the collateral damage I was inflicting; I just didn’t know what to do. One person would truly understand my dilemma and help me solve it, I thought to myself. Peter couldn’t give me any helpful feedback in that area, neither could Mo or Tom. I needed some quality time with Sally.
Sally was a very close friend of mine. We met during my sophomore year when she was my registration guide, and our friendship grew strong in a very short period of time. She was one of the few people I would trust with my life. Sally graduated a year ahead of me, and was already working in a prestigious consultancy firm. We were both beyond busy most of the time, so we weren’t seeing each other very often; we only talked on the phone from time-to-time. Luckily the next day was a Sunday; I called her early in the morning, and we agreed to have lunch together later that day.
We had lunch at Bliss Street, and went for a walk inside AUB. I had developed a strong sense of belonging to the campus in the past three years. I particularly admired it on Sundays when it was quiet and almost empty, and the scene of young children playing on the green oval gave me a sense of peace. Sally shared my taste in the tranquility of a Sunday-afternoon walk at AUB. I didn’t realize how much I missed her until I remembered how her company felt. We caught up on a lot of pent-up news. I was glad she was gradually acclimating to her new job. Naturally, at some point she asked me about Jasmine. The last update she had was rather obsolete; she only knew that we were passing through rough times. I explained how Jasmine and I had broken-up, how she tried to make-up again, how I was currently afraid of confronting her with the truth, and how puzzling it felt to have Maria standing in the middle of everything. I started from scratch and didn’t skip any minor detail, although it was agonizing to go through the subject all over again. Sally burst out laughing when I mentioned the ladies’ room part! But by the time I was done she had on her scrutinizing look that meant she was interpreting everything in her mind. I liked how she listened to the whole thing before giving her opinion.
“First of all, Jasmine doesn’t deserve this. She thinks you still care about her. She is going to keep convincing herself that you do. Do you know how hard this is?” Sally’s expressions were serious. I intended to answer, but she continued talking. Apparently it was a rhetorical question.
“It’s true I never liked her in person that much, but you made a huge mistake by not ending it right away when you had the chance. You shouldn’t have agreed to meet her in the first place.”
“I thought I might still care about her!” I knew I was starting to talk rubbish.
“You thought you might? You don’t think you might still care about someone. You just know this kind of thing.” She made utter sense, I thought to myself.
“I think Maria messed me up!”
“No. This is not the point. You don’t want to admit you moved on so fast, so you’re blaming it on Maria. Maybe you even started moving on before you actually broke-up!” she said, and gave me a deep look. I loved how Sally understood me in places where I lost track of myself. “The sooner, the better Nick. It is unfair for her. And you know it is the right thing to do,” she smiled at me. “And what about Maria?”
“It’s been a month and I’m still not over her. I keep dreaming about her!” I sounded rather pathetic, but Sally wasn’t a stranger.
“But how could you like her, much less love her? You barely know her! I think it’s just a crush,” Sally said, and we sat on a bench facing the green oval.
“I think it was meant to be. Think of it, what are the odds of entering the ladies’ room and falling asleep inside!?” Flashbacks were running back and forth in my mind. Feelings of happiness and bitterness clashed inside me. But my heart still felt light.
“Dude! You were drunk! How can you tell your perception wasn’t compromised?” I knew Sally was trying to bring me back to Earth. But what happened was indeed beyond the realms of reality. Sally continued, “Even worse, the girl is emotionally unavailable. Why don’t you get that?”
“The way she acted all night obviously showed she did like me. She didn’t mind giving me her number. We were doing great. By the way, she admitted her boyfriend was messing her up.”
“Nick, that is her problem, not yours! It’s inappropriate to attach yourself to her. You know you can’t have her. Why bother yourself that much? This is just irrational.”
“Who said love is rational?” I asked without much thought.
“Ha! Fall in love then act irrationally. Don’t act irrationally and convince yourself you are in love. There is a huge difference.” Impatience was growing in Sally’s tone. We realized we weren’t going to reach a consensus, so we agreed to move to a less controversial topic.
Sunday afternoon reluctantly withered into night, and the battle inside me refused to ebb with the fading sun. I had two hard things lurking on my mind; first, I had to talk to Jasmine, and confess that I didn’t want to be with her any more. The second and definitely harder thing was alienating Maria from my feelings. I decided to start with the easier of the two, because only God knew how much it was going to take me to put Maria completely behind me. I reluctantly texted Jasmine, and asked her to meet me the next day. She answered right away with a very excited tone in her message, she said she would meet me at Jafet [Library] at five, and sealed her message with a kissing smiley. It was our thing...
All Monday I kept avoiding the idea that I had to confront Jasmine. Moreover, I struggled with keeping Maria at a distance from my thoughts; yet she still seeped into my mind very often. And repressing thoughts of her was both hard and painful. After a long and tedious day, the College Hall clock chimed five o’clock. I found myself walking to the library unwillingly and very slowly, as if wishing I wouldn’t make it on time and Jasmine would have left by then. I finally arrived at the rear stairs of College Hall facing the library fountain. I looked around the vicinity very quickly, but Jasmine was nowhere in sight. I sat down on the stairs, hoping she wouldn’t be late; I really wanted to get it over with as quick as possible. In spite of that feeling, somewhere deep inside I was still hoping against hope that she wouldn’t show up at all...but things don’t always go as one plans them.
Something beyond my control happened as I was waiting at the stairs of College Hall. A beautiful scent flared up into my senses. The opium-like scent I hadn’t forgotten, the one that reminded me of the red sofa and my recurrent dreams!
“Nick?” A familiar voice called my name. Only it wasn’t Jasmine. It was Maria!
“Maria?” I was shocked to see her. A strange feeling pervaded me, a feeling of utter happiness. I hadn’t felt this way since the last time I saw her. My heartbeats accelerated, like they did in my dreams of Maria, only this time it was much more intense and real! But my mind intervened right away, dictating me to preserve my bruised dignity.
“Hi.” I held out my hand and shook her hand rather carelessly. I adopted an air of nonchalance to smother my sore ego. “How are you?” I asked, fighting the urge to hug her.
“I’ve had better days, but I’m okay. It’s been some time since I saw you,” she smiled gently. Her smile perplexed me; I couldn’t understand why she was being sweet.
“One month exactly,” I said rather bitterly. I had to show her I wasn’t weak towards her at all. But she was looking intently into my eyes as if trying to see beyond my lie. I felt she was looking inside me; at the very essence of my being.
“I know. I have something to tell you Nick...”
“Hey baby! Sorry I’m late!” Jasmine’s lips found their way to my cheeks, and her arms were already around me. “Who’s your friend?” she asked happily. I couldn’t believe Jasmine had to show up at this particular moment!!
“Umm... this is Maria,” I said nervously. I looked anxiously at Maria; her expression was beyond grave. She looked as if she was frowning, but struggling not show it. She was alternating her look between Jasmine and me, apparently really confused at what was happening. I shook my head slightly in attempt to convey to her that Jasmine wasn’t important, but Jasmine blew it all off.
“Hi Maria. I am Jasmine, Nick’s girlfriend!” Jasmine said with a silly smile, and gave me another kiss on my cheek. I automatically withdrew myself, and removed her hands from my shoulders. A dormant emotion erupted in me, something beyond bruised ego and pride. Something beyond everything that had happened during the past month. It made me want to shout at the top of my throat NO! I felt the burning urge to explain to Maria that Jasmine wasn’t my girlfriend anymore, and that all what happened was a mere misconception.
“No, Maria!” I yelled, as Maria laughed sarcastically; she turned her back to us and was apparently leaving. I had to explain to her the truth, I had to know what she wanted to tell me... and I had to tell her I loved her! I had to tell her I loved her ever since I saw her!
“Nick, what are you doing!?” Jasmine exclaimed. “What’s wrong??”
“Just leave Jasmine. There is nothing between us anymore!” I said it with my eyes and mind still on Maria. I saw her entering the library; and without any further thinking I followed her.
“Maria, Maria... wait!!” I yelled as I entered the library, but she didn’t look back; she disappeared to the right immediately. Everyone in the lobby of the library was looking at me, but I didn’t care. I followed to the right, but by the time I reached the top of the stairs, Maria had already descended the stairs very quickly, and was walking to the ladies’ room in the basement. I jumped down the stairs two at a time and ran to catch up with Maria. Eventually, I found myself facing the ladies’ room. I paused at the door for a moment, but I didn’t need to think any further. I had already entered the ladies’ room before by mistake when I was drunk. This time I was going to enter it deliberately and fully sober. My Maria was inside, and nothing could keep me away from her this time.
I took a deep breath, pushed the door, and entered the ladies’ room once again...
© 2009 Rami Daya