We were gathered around my mother as she lay in her coffin. Mum had lived a wonderful life surrounded by her family always. Even when she died, all her children with their families were around her. She had timed her exit perfectly.
This is a story of one-sided puppy love
But this story isn’t about my mother. It’s about puppy love and pretty one-sided I must say. This one has left such a lasting impression in my heart that I chose to write about it 35 years later.
I looked up from the coffin and saw him standing at the doorway. He was no more the gawky lad I had fallen in love with. He looked confident, mature and above all, handsome. My gaze returned to my mother’s still face. I wanted to cry but my eyes remained dry.
Time passed by before he came over and sat beside me to offer his condolences. He reached out to hold my hand and comfort me. As we sat in silence, my mind raced back to the time when I was 18 years old and he was studying to become a doctor.
I was in love with him
We lived in a joint family, mother, father, brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and all. He was a good friend of my brother and quite fond of one of my cousin sisters. Everybody liked her because she was a warm, friendly person and very pretty. The rest of us in the family were average in looks. To add to it, I, in particular, was an introvert.
His visits to our home were infrequent. While he chatted away with our families, I would sit tongue-tied unable to look at him, let alone make intelligent conversation. I don’t know when I realized I was in love with him but it dawned on me one day when he didn’t visit our home for a long time. I found myself checking dates on the calendar to see if I could see a pattern in his visits. My young mind fantasized a romance blossoming between us. The more I fantasized, the more in love I was. I wished I could see him more often. Maybe someday, he would notice me and we would become friends. But being such a shy person, I didn’t know how to go about it.
I ensured I could see him
One day, one of my little cousins developed a skin rash and my aunt decided to take the child to the hospital where he worked. An appointment was fixed over the phone for the following Saturday. He would be expecting them around 10 in the morning.
My brain went to work – if I could find a reason to accompany them, I would be able to see him. I began to plan a modus operandi for Saturday.
When Saturday arrived, I told my aunt that I would accompany them to the bus stop, as I was visiting a friend on the same route. As the bus reached my stop, I pretended to look alarmed and told my aunt, ‘Oh! I just remembered, my friend is not at home today.” I slapped my palm on my forehead for better effect.
“Oh, what will you do now?” she asked. I sighed and said, “Well, since I’m already on the bus, I might as well accompany you to the hospital.” She seemed convinced and was happy I was tagging along with her.
It was one sad glimpse
Once we reached the hospital, I accompanied them to his room and said I would wait outside. I then climbed up a flight of stairs from where I could look down into his room.
A little while later, he came out of the room looking for mother and daughter. He took them back into the room to meet the senior doctor. The consultation lasted barely ten minutes. He then escorted them out of the room and waved goodbye. That was it.
My plan had worked. Yet I was a jumble of emotions. I was happy because I got a glimpse of him, frustrated that he didn’t look up and see me, idiotic about the whole affair and quite sad because I knew he never really noticed me and would probably never know how I felt.
My cousin got married
One day I casually asked my cousin if she was interested in him. She said, “Yeah” then mulled over it and said, “No, not really. Why do you want to know?”
“He seems interested in you,” I replied. She was silent.
A year passed by before a dashing young man came into my cousin’s life. She fell in love and soon was planning to get married.
The hero in my story hadn’t visited us for more than a year. I graduated from college and got myself a job. I took pains to dress better and became more confident. I now had many friends, both male and female and I was slowly beginning to relax and feel good about myself. Memories of the past began to fade and so did my thoughts about him.
He came on the eve of my cousin’s wedding
Then, out of the blue, he came home one day. It was the eve of my cousin’s wedding. I was out shopping the whole day and had come home in the evening, exhausted. The house was bustling with activity but I immediately spotted him. He sat in a corner of the hall, quietly watching the scene around him. I wondered if her getting married had shocked him. You see, he was not informed about the wedding. He had casually walked in unannounced as he always did, and found out for himself. My cousin was nowhere in sight.
I dared to speak to him
When the room slowly cleared, I summoned the courage to walk over to say hello. “How have you been?” I asked politely. I don’t recall what he said but it had something to do with a serious skin infection he had, which was being treated. Having visited his doctor and taken a shot, he had then decided to visit us. I let him speak while my eyes absorbed everything about him. He looked tired, pale, distressed and yet, still so lovable. My heart constricted with all the love I still felt for him.
He then extended his arm to show me the skin infection. “See, here’s where I took the shot, right on the infection.” I looked at his arm and saw a small white patch on it. It had two red dots in the middle and the skin around it looked red and inflamed. His hand was shivering. Tears welled up in my eyes as I reached out and gently touched his arm. I hoped my touch would tell him how much he meant to me. But the man pulled back and said, “Ouch.”
“Does it hurt?” I asked. He nodded.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’m sure you’ll heal. Everything is treatable these days.” He nodded again.
He got up and looked around him. He must have realized it was pointless hanging around. My cousin didn’t have time to chat with him that day.
“So, it’s goodbye then.” He smiled sadly. I couldn’t look up at him because my eyes were filling up with tears. “Okay.” was all I could mumble.
I never saw him again
When he walked out of that door, I didn’t know I would never see him again. I hoped he would come back when he healed but he never did.
Life went by. I eventually got married, had two kids and settled down in life. Now and then, I would search for him on the net. Therefore I know that he went on to become a successful neurosurgeon in the US. I was told that he did contact my cousin a couple of times but she could see he wasn’t interested to be in touch. They are not friends any more.
Our families, however, remember him with great fondness even today. I think each of us liked him in our way. We rarely talk about him. It is apparent he has moved on and out of our lives. I continue to hope that I will see him someday. I imagine myself watching him from afar, unnoticed as always. I just want to see how he looks, know that he is doing well and is happy with his life.
He was always in my thoughts
He is in my mind in my happiest moments. I silently told him that I was planning to get married, that I have two daughters and how adorable they are, that I found my dream job and I am finally content.
He is in my thoughts in my saddest moments too. I told him that I had major surgery, that I developed Herpes and almost died, that my girls were finally leaving home to live their own lives and finally that my mum had passed away. ‘You knew her so well and yet you will never know of her demise.’ I silently told him.
This is possibly why he finally appeared, to sit beside me, and hold my hand. Across the room, I saw my brother watch us before he left the room with my girls. We sat there together for a while, he narrating something I have no recollection of. I was just happy he was there and holding my hand.
It was a dream
But then, I woke up from my dream and realized mum had died a month ago.
As I sat up in bed, I wondered if I could ever erase him from my mind. I suppose I will continue to think of him through all the milestones in my life, hoping to see him one day in real life.
And they call it Puppy Love!