When Things Are Not What They Seem

I really like him, at least I think I do. I sense that he feels the same way about me, but right now we’re just friends. I feel my heart flutter when he’s near. When we’re at a gathering with other friends, I want to see him smile. Oh, he has an amazing smile. His eyes get all squinty, they’re really cute; black beads set in a handsome face. He smiles, I smile (inside that is, I try not to let my feelings for him show.) I also notice how careful he gets around me. It’s like he wants to please me to his own detriment. Besides, he looks at me funny, like he’s helplessly smitten by me. I catch him staring at me from time to time. He looks at me with intense longing, but I pretend not to notice. I’ve observed how he subconsciously seeks my approval. He tells a joke at a gathering and his eyes immediately fall on me to see if I laugh. When I laugh, I see his eyes light up. I giggle (Inside, that is, I try not to let my feelings for him show), I’m happy that he’s happy. He brings food to a potluck supper and wants to know what I think of his cooking, and never fails to tell me how he enjoyed my contribution to the potluck. One evening, we spent time alone; without other friends around. The atmosphere was charged with desire, I wanted to blurt out my feelings for him; I guess he wanted to do the same, but we didn’t. There were awkward silences throughout our conversation, and again I caught him staring at me a few times with that ‘I’m hopelessly in love with you’ look on his face. It was adorable (the best part is, he is unaware of the fact that I know he looks at me that way. I always pretend not to notice, and I’m pretty good at keeping a straight face while my heart is doing cartwheels.) We shared a bowl of ice cream and spoke about random things. None of us touched the subject we desperately wanted to discuss, because we’re friends. It was a nice evening though. Every time I spend with him is nice, whether in the company of other friends or not. We took a long walk another time. I thoroughly enjoyed it. We were being friends, walking and talking, laughing and sweating and then somehow his hand touched mine, and he apologized excessively for it. I laughed. It was nothing. The touch wasn’t even intentional, but the way he kept apologizing, it was like he had offended me in the worst way by allowing his hand brush mine. I laugh now as I remember it. He fell ill and my world turned gray. He was hospitalized for a long time. He missed a semester of school. I went to see him at the hospital as often as I could. I met his mother and father and sisters several times. I met his only brother once. We bonded because we shared a common wish: that he get well soon. It was heartbreaking watching him suffer, seeing all those tubes go in and out of his body, watching him fight for his life. I missed our long walks and gatherings with other friends. They came to see him too, but not as often as I did. I missed his approval seeking and excessive apologizing. I missed the look of longing in his eyes (His eyes were hardly ever open at this point.) I promised myself that if he survived, I’d proclaim my feelings for him. I wouldn’t wait for him to make the move. If only he would get better. He got better. What a miracle! At some point we didn’t think he’d survive, but he did. Boy, was I glad. He resumed school, a semester late, but happy. He couldn’t attend gatherings much with others but he and I hung out regularly. I reneged on my vow. I lost courage and didn’t tell him how I felt. He didn’t seem to have much courage either, and things were the way they had always been. We were still friends. He complimented me a lot more after the illness. He noticed more too. He noticed when I changed my hair, he noticed when I put on an earring he had not seen before. He noticed when I was happy, he noticed when I was gloomy. He asked deeper questions. Our conversations were not so random anymore. He asked questions about the future. What kind of house I’d like to spend the rest of my life in, what I thought about having a family, things like that. It never got beyond the questions though. He never confessed how he truly felt about me. I decided not to say anything too. I told myself that if this continued till my graduation, then I’d make the move. Graduation came. When I went up the podium to receive my certificate, his cheering voice was the loudest. I looked beyond the sea of faces present at the auditorium and caught his eye. The look on his face was…words can’t accurately describe. He looked at me like I was some highly valued treasure, like he couldn’t live without me, like he needed me, really NEEDED me, like I was his oxygen. I melted (inside), I smiled (outwardly). I walked off the podium and he embraced me, swirling me around like I was a little girl, I couldn’t help but joke about how unapologetic he seemed after holding me. Wasn’t he the excessive apologetic? He smiled that squinty-eyed beautiful smile and uttered the few words that shook my world: You’re now my best friend. Best friends don’t apologize for holding each other. My smile evaporated, my eyes teared up. Best friend? He just referred to me as his best friend? I ran to the bathroom. He pursued, rushing into the ladies restroom with little regard for the fact that he was not supposed to be there. I locked myself in one of the stalls. He knocked and knocked. I sobbed uncontrollably, wailing as I felt my heart shatter into a million pieces. He sounded perplexed—not knowing what he had said or done wrong—pleading with me to exit the stall and talk to him. I couldn’t speak. Wave after wave of grief washed over my body. I shook and quivered as all my dreams collapsed before me. Best friend? I couldn’t understand it. He didn’t leave. He kept pleading with me to unlock the door. After what seemed like a long time, I sniffed, dried my tears, gathered the last remains of my dignity, opened the stall and walked out. He was on one knee, an opened box in his hands. He had been crying too. Tears streamed down his face. My family was there. His family was there. Our friends were there. They all beamed. Some gently wiped tears of joy away with paper towels. As I stepped out, an applause ensued. At first I was puzzled, then it dawned on me. HE.WAS.PROPOSING. “Sandra,” He said, “You don’t know how hard it was hearing you cry like that. I don’t want to go out with you Sandra. I want to live with you. Will you marry me?” I smiled, then laughed, then fell on my knees and hugged him. “You just broke my heart, but yes, I’ll marry you. Don’t ever break my heart like that again.” We shared a passionate kiss. Everyone in the bathroom applauded enthusiastically. “Never, my love.” He whispered. “I’ll never break any part of you, much less your heart. You’re my life. I break you, I break me. I’m sure you can tell.” “I can.” I kissed his tears away and stood up. He slid the ring down my finger. My smile was from ear to ear. My joy could not be described. My mother walked up to me and gave me a tight hug. The rest of my family joined. His father hugged me next and whispered in my ear, “Sandra, welcome to the family.” His brother hugged me and said, “I know you love my brother, I didn’t know you love him this much. You should have heard yourself wail.” He chuckled. I hit him playfully on the chest, “If you guys didn’t plan something so heart breaking I wouldn’t have cried so much.” His eldest sister also hugged me, “Congrats Sandra. Welcome to the family. I recorded your sobs, in case you care to listen someday.” She laughed. “That’s not fair!” I exclaimed and laughed, “You guys ambushed me!” It was all joy and excitement in the bathroom. Afterwards, we made our way to the elaborate graduation/engagement party both families had planned. So, ladies and gentlemen, this is the story of how I graduated and got engaged to the man of my dreams in a ladies restroom on the same day. How fortunate can a girl get? P.S: I tell our children that their father proposed to me in a public bathroom and that we never dated. They always find it unbelievable, especially how we went from being friends to married. It makes great dinner conversation when they pay us visits.

Image Credit: Flickr

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