The bus jostles its way down the crowded, unpaved Rawalpindi road. We are lost; we can’t seem to find the correct route to Saint Mary’s Academy. There is a Model United Nations competition there that we are headed for. I have no idea what an MUN actually entails. In fact, this is my very first tentative foray into the daunting world of debates.
The bus is full of nine other boys and girls from my new school, Westminster College. They laugh, chatter, and discuss people I don’t know. Almost all of these people have known each other their entire lives; I have never before felt this left out. If this is what life at Westminster is going to be like, I don’t want to go here, I think bitterly. Tears are brimming up, and I’m starting to feel frustrated by how easily my emotions can overpower me. But then, I have always been terrified of being alone. Loneliness is the one burden I know I cannot shoulder.
We reach there, an hour late. Saint Mary’s is a huge, sprawling campus. The amiable, chatty lady at the reception desk looks at me, mouths questions that have answers I don’t know. I shrink back, turning to one of the people in my teams for help. A boy from my school comes forward, rescues me, smiles at me. I develop a crush on him then and there, and I’ll continue to have feelings for him for the next six months. And then one fine day after six months, I’ll wake up and discover that those irksome feelings have packed up and gone, like thieves stealing away in the night, taking the treasures and riches of my heart with them.
* * *
He’s fat and loud. He comes over to me, appreciation in his eyes and warmth in his tone. He quips jokes; jokes that fail to amuse me. I smile politely. My mind is on other things. I’m focusing on the people around me. I don’t know anybody here, but I plan to change that very soon. I want to make good friendships here, valuable friendships, friendships that will last. This overweight boy with his too-loud voice is definitely not on the list of acquaintances I want to forge, that much I know with certainty.
He says something else, another attempt on his part to grab my attention. I don’t even bother pasting my fake smile on my lips. I turn around and start walking. What an annoying person, I think, not knowing that a few months down the line he will become one of the most amazing friends I will ever make.
* * *
“I miss you,” he whispers into the phone. His voice is low and throaty and I can hear desire in his voice. I swallow, clearing my throat. I miss him too. I shouldn’t, but I do.
“I have to go now,” I reply. It’s late, I need to sleep. I’ve missed too many morning classes already because of my topsy-turvy sleep schedule.
I make it to class on time, and see him there. We exchange glances, and smile shyly. For the entire next month, we will continue to meet each other between classes, sit across tables and drown in each other’s eyes. I can’t tell if its infatuation or love, but I’m so damn happy that I don’t care either way. We open up around each other, like buds uncurling into blossoms. It’s beautiful and glorious and like a ray of warm, warm summer, right in the middle of the frozen wastelands of December.
But the more we blossom, the sharper the thorns that emerge. The differences in our personalities and outlooks are vast and unyielding; the bridge between them too fragile. The bridge splinters apart one day, crumbling into clouds of smoky dust. And I cry and cry over its demise, until my eyes are red and puffy and I’m as empty inside as an abandoned shipwreck, washed up on a sandy, barren shore.