That afternoon, he picked me up from chemistry tuition. That day we were going to learn about the covalent bond. How ironic.
I made an excuse. Something very pretty silly. Meeting him was a consequence of a chain of careful excuses. Some at home. Some to friends. Lies made me anxious. Back then, I didn't even know how to contain anxiety. Meeting him had become synonymous to this anxiety. Love, like carbon, does rarely come in its purest form. Love often manifests itself in one form or another. Going down, this anxiety would probably be synonymous with love. And one would have to quietly and patiently unfurl this anxiety, one petal after another, like flowering a rose bud. And at the center of it, find love, untouched, unhinged.
For me, it was always the little things. His face was always neutral of any expression. It wasn't a poker face, never a poker face. Yet, devoid of joy or sorrow. He was always in his skin, contained. But when something genuinely funny happened, his taught face would break into a smile. A slight half smile, if I may. And then, that would lead to a laugh. He didn't laugh that way at jokes. At jokes, he guffawed. That guffaw was devoid of emotion too. But that slight half smile, that one's truly one of my favorite things of him. Most cherished.
The afternoon that reluctantly replaced the class of chemistry was misty. His bike made an usual sound. Probably, it always did. But this was the first time I heard it, being away from the traffic, and all. We rode into what appeared to be the country. I diligently held on to his shoulders. He did cajole me to hold on to more, but that didn't augur much in his favor. Holding on was not my preferred act then. I never assumed we were for the long run.
I was astonishingly young to take it by the day, but I did. We stopped for some tender coconut. After I drank all the water, I sucked in lots of air through my straw, just to ensure I hadn't wasted a drop. And that had led to that sheepish half smile of his. The hawker scraped out the soft coconut cream for him, mine had none. He teased me with it, before giving all of his to me. He was a serious guy, and that probably made him engaging in trivial acts like these very adorable. Yes, he was adorable, whenever he gave in.
It was rather confusing, why we would go out. It didn't seem to fit. All the zigs and zags were out of place. He wasn't my quintessential type. And I wasn't anyone's type. But once we were together, these rationales seemed to matter much less.
Later, I tried very hard to take it by the day. But somewhere down the line, I forgot how to anymore. And got extremely involved. Like head over heels over head. He was quite brilliant. He would make up for the bunked classes eventually, I told myself. And help me too, probably. I swayed and twirled.
Years later, I realize, how much time erodes us. His half smile has stayed. But he has lost some hair though. And I, I have recently got my first few rounds of dark circles. I tell myself they're faint enough and it's gonna be quite alright.