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Two Weeks Later
Einstein once said,
“Time is relative; it’s only worth depends upon what we do as it is passing.”
I barely did anything for those two weeks. I must have added a few more pages to that thesis I was writing, but I was definitely behind on my end of semester schedule.
For the first few days, I reached the library all excited. I’d check myself in the washroom mirror and comb my hair nicely before I sat at my place. I was hoping to run into Shreya again even though her library card said her books weren’t due till the next two weeks. "Who takes two weeks to read a book?", I thought, or she might need more material for her Mark Twain thesis and I’d be waiting for her at my same spot.
But here is the thing about hope, it makes you feel stupid sometimes. Three days after I met Shreya, the hope started receding. When that happens, it is taken over by a lack of self-worth feelings. Maybe that encounter was just a normal encounter and she had a cigarette with me just to be polite. The “good writers and cheap cigarettes” comment was just a coincidence. And I’m not that attractive anyway, she definitely didn’t smile at me for my looks. What if she was not even single? She was beautiful, and that smile was gorgeous. It would be a miracle if she was single.
Few days of fighting with my self-worth brought back the balance. Who cared about Shreya anyway? I had survived all these years with minimal social interaction with people and I could go on for decades. All this internal fighting between head and heart just increased my anxiety and led to me taking several smoking breaks. I started finishing off multiple packs in a day. My procrastination and anxiety made me productive at the wrong hours. I’d feel guilty about not finishing my work and I started skipping meals. Some days, I only lived on cigarettes. This started to affect my health. Nothing serious, just acid reflux due to cigarettes, tea, and no food. I skipped going to the library for a couple of days. I recuperated with proper food and coconut water and returned to the library as a changed man. I started focusing more on my thesis and got back to my earlier routine. I could see my pace picking up and I could catch up to my earlier plan if I did a few more long nights.
Einstein also said,
“When you sit with a nice girl for two hours, it feels like two minutes; when you sit on a hot stove for two minutes, it seems like two hours. That’s relativity.”
These two weeks felt like an era. The part of me who was stupidly hopeful about a woman seemed to have lived a lifetime ago. I no longer cared about how I looked, or how my hair was. I was focused like a hawk on my notes. I kept typing like a man on a mission.
“ty yeshche chitayesh' Dostoyevskogo?”
I heard a voice over my shoulder, asking me if I was still reading Dostoevsky. I looked up and then behind me. There she stood in a white t-shirt and blue jeans. Her hair tied up in a bun and her glasses hung precariously in the middle of her nose. I smiled at her and she smiled back at me.
“da, ya vse yeshche ubit gorem”, I replied. “Yes, I’m still heartbroken.”
She laughed. She stood with a cigarette in her hands. “Care to join me for a smoke?”
“My pleasure!”, the words just rolled out of my mouth.
My mind was blowing several times as I stood up and walked towards her. Internal voices of justification, wisdom, advice, and evil all kept talking at the same time. Somehow I managed to tune all of them out.
“So what brings you back? More of Mark Twain!?”, I asked her as I lit my cigarette.
“Yes, more or less. I also finished a Murakami.”, she said lighting up her own.
“Oh! Which one?”, I pretended to be surprised.
“1Q84”, she exhaled. “It is such a beautiful book. The style, the characters, the way Murakami describes Japan. Makes me want to visit.”
“So you’re heartbroken too.”
“True. Everyone is just going about trying to fix themselves either by fixing themselves or by fixing others.”
“True. Which one are you?”
“Me?”, I thought for a moment, “I fix others. You?”
“I don’t know if I can fix anyone. And I read to mend myself. But I’d like to fix someone, make an attempt probably, and maybe even let someone fix me.”
My cigarette was over. I threw it down and stamped it with my feet. Hers was still lingering near her lips. I never knew that cigarettes could look attractive just by the way someone held them close to their lips. I knew I couldn’t go through two more weeks.
“What are your plans for the day?”, I asked her abruptly.
“I need to pick up a few books and then sit and work on my notes.”, she extinguished her cigarette too.
“Would you like to do that here itself and then maybe we could go get beers?”, I let those words out with whatever courage I had left in my body and waited for the slap of rejection.
“Umm, I need to meet someone for a couple of hours but how about I come back here when the library closes and we can get those beers.”
“That sounds perfect! I’ll call you?”
“Sure, here is my number.” She tore open the cigarette box, pulled out a pen hidden over her left ear, and jotted down ten digits on the inside.
“I’ll mostly be back on time, but if I’m running late, call me so that we can coordinate.”
We both stepped back into the library, she escorted me to my table and then waved goodbye before disappearing into the Mark Twain section.
Oh Einstein! Those two hours felt like a month!
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See you next week with the next part. 👋
- Darshan Pania