It was the twenty-fifth of September when I fell in love.
In that deserted lobby where disco lights frolicked playfully across the floor; throbbing disco songs buried in a cocoon of the haze of sleep and fatigue after a series of tapping feet and swaying hips; after turns, twists, and swirls of uneasy bodies grinding against each other; energy settled into the calm of an ending, he stole my heart like a thief in the night.
I was seventeen.
Away from home; bored and tired of hearing my girlfriends talk about boys. I was the girl who wished she would have someone to fawn over in a strange place that is a thousand miles away from home, just to kill the overbearing ennui. It is one of life’s contradictions to wish for something and then regret it when you finally get what you prayed for. That is why they say, “be careful what you wish for ‘cause you might just get it.” I wished to like someone. God heard me. He gave me something beautiful—a love that will never fade away.
The heart has reasons the mind itself cannot comprehend. I fell in love with the way we parted. The stare that we shared in the wee hours of the morning. He was sitting at a corner across me, leaned forwards, hands clasped. Silent. Contemplative. Dark hair sticking on pale face against the dim lights. He was trying to recover his breath from too much dancing; alcohol still in his veins. The sound system was a muffled tune. The chilly night air, the roving disco lights on a lonesome floor, and the silence that we shared in that enclosed space were the only things that kept us apart.
Just a glance. That is what I prayed for, as I sat there across him, my heart beating so fast as if there was a revolution inside of me. I wanted him to look at me. I prayed that he would look so that I could go to sleep and cherish the thought of him reciprocating a glance. I swore I would keep that gift like a treasure and hold it in my heart while I sleep every night. I was prepared not to ever see him again.
Breathless. I waited. I waited for him to turn. I waited for the moment when he would shift his eyes and look to my direction. People pass, disappearing into the corridor, leaving us again into our little world, where I was a turbulent sea, and he was moonlight, shining on my dark waters guiding me through longing and sleep.
I wondered what he was thinking. I wondered what made him visit the place he already abandoned. One always returned to the places one didn’t want to leave. To preserve the memory perhaps? Or to relive the good things and maybe, a little of the bad things.
I was preoccupied with these questions. It took me by surprise when he finally moved. My breath caught in my throat when he finally raised his eyes and looked at me. The sheer delight of it!
I left with a furtive smile, as if I knew a funny secret that I had to keep. My heart full with delight. That morning I wrote in my diary,
“September 25, 2xxxx. I fell in love.”
I thought that morning would forever remain a dream; a distant memory that I could pluck if I end up missing the stranger that had stolen my heart. This is what we do when we find ourselves in an enchanting situation. We see it as dream-like. Surreal. Immediately after, a stroke of good luck, I woke up to the sound of his voice frothing like a newly opened beer days after. Refreshing.
The sun spilled inside my room. Calm. Soothing. But it was the noise outside that woke me up. The other sounds outside became muffled when I heard his voice searing through the amalgam of voices. There was nothing that could compare to the feeling of waking up in the morning and hear the beloved’s voice wake you up. It was like a reunion of sorts.
I just pretended to be asleep, when actually, I was busy trying to find his voice. When in truth and in fact, I was trying to figure out which footfalls were his, or which laughter that bubbled in the air on that early morning was his. I was holding my breath every time someone spoke, praying I could hear him speak again. Praying that he’d speak, laugh, or say something funny, or whine. Whatever.
I just wanted to hear his voice.
The anticipation made my heart feel like it was being pressed tightly. I was alarmed. Love consists of both fear and excitement. I was afraid. Afraid of the feelings that swelled in my chest. I am afraid it will smother me, break me. On the other hand, I was excited simply because I would see him again. Even though he takes my breath away when he’s near.
Why does love make you feel breathless? Why does it make your hands go cold whenever the beloved is near? Why does it make me run away and hide when God leads me to him? I run away. When I should be saying I love you.
I love you. I love you. I love you. A thousand times I love you.
Other times I miss him when I shouldn’t be missing him. How can you miss a stranger? Someone that you’ve never actually talked to before apart from the casual “hi” and “hello”?
I loved him. Maybe my feelings for him never went away, maybe it just turned into something beautiful. Even if the only thing that connects me to him now is the rain. Even when I could no longer hear his voice echo inside the hallway as I lie in bed in the afternoons. Even when I could no longer hear his footfalls nor see him.
Years had passed. Yet I always think of him on rainy days. I think of the memories we shared. Knowing that those wouldn’t mean a thing to him; knowing that I’ve loved alone all this time and the remnants of the feelings he made me feel is just me unable to let go of the fact that loving him was the best thing that happened in my life. The warmth of the flush suffusing my cheeks; the coldness that would wrap around my hands whenever he’s near. To miss someone when you can see them everyday. I learned that loving someone is beautiful in of itself. I learned that the day I fell in love was the day I became whole. It made me better understand myself and my surroundings. Loving him was solace, something I could always go back to relive moments I held dear.
Times may have changed. Memories may have faded. But I would still remember that it was the 25th of September, the day that I fell in love.