First Love

For today’s offering on the altar of my blog, I was thinking about writing about my first real boyfriend. Then I remembered I probably have a post written about him somewhere, and I should dredge that up first.

[I’ll add my 2016 bits in post the recap. So stay tuned.]

When I was dating my exes, occasionally I would remember my first boyfriend. Well, technically he was the second, but then again the actual first was a total wash-out. So NAM was whom I considered my first real boyfriend. I would feel horribly guilty, because whenever I thought of him, there was a wistfulness that crept into my mind. He and I were so good together – we laughed, we quipped merrily away, and we were so young. But it was a doomed relationship from inception because he was a Arab Muslim and I was an Indian Hindu – and never then twain shall meet. (Although he was rather liberal in his outlook.)

However, I am not going to dwell on the pitfalls and the eventual demise of our short relationship, but more on the parts that still make me smile when I think of him. He had to be the most intelligent, romantic, exciting, charming individual I had ever met. He was kind and sweet, and he had a roguish twisted grin that used to melt female hearts left, right, and centre. His jet-black hair flopped cheekily over his brow, and he had the most chocolate-y brown eyes I had ever seen. It was no exaggeration that he could have had any girl in the entire college, but for some bizarre reason decided I was the one for him.

There was the complication that my best friend at the time was completely bowled over by him. It also helped significantly that she was also Arab and Muslim. I really didn’t think I stood a chance with such a dazzling character, so I didn’t try. (I was seriously overweight and had hair that went beyond my knees. DWEEB!) Oh and I was all of 15, whereas both of them were 18.

I suppose we started becoming friends because we lived near each other. I would spend hours after class in the IT centre, and he would be hanging around as well. Just goes to show how incredibly innocent I was that I never thought it was odd that his and my work finished at the same time. I lived about 45 minutes away by foot, and I used to walk that distance (I was in England, and I loved the countryside). He had a bicycle, and again it never occurred to me that it was odd that he pushed it all the way home. Just to walk alongside me.

I still remember the day we actually started dating. He had been coming over and spending time with me, watching stupid movies and chatting into the small hours of the night. My best friend obviously didn’t appreciate our budding friendship, and talked to me at great length about how she and NAM were dating and hitting it off so well. It never struck me to consider WHEN they were actually dating. I was such a DUMB kid. The feelings continued to develop and I continued to deny they existed. I had only confided in my landlady’s daughter, Stacey.

One evening, NAM and I had had a small argument – which I can’t even remember right now. He called me up saying he had something to say to me. I stood on the porch in the freezing cold and waited for him. He showed up, and stood making small talk. I was so mad that I didn’t want to invite him in, but Stacey overruled me. (She was really fond of him.)

The mother and daughter pair were going out, so they were off getting ready. NAM and I sat watching TV, and I refused to speak to him. (Yes, I am aware that was infantile, but ‘poise’ wasn’t in my dictionary at that time.) Stacey hung around trying to get us to talk, till she lost her temper with me altogether. It was her belief that NAM fancied me, not my friend, and therefore I should tell him I liked him too. (She was a much smarter 11 year-old than I was a 15 year-old.)

Finally they were on their way out, and she left with the parting shot that maybe I stood tell him that I fancied a bloke. I couldn’t believe my ears, and I stared at the shut door in abject horror as she winked out of sight. I mustered up every inch of courage and looked at NAM, and I remember squeaking out, “Didn’t you want to tell me something?”

Every trace of the grin habitually on his face had been wiped off. He replied, “Yes, but who is the guy that you fancy?”

Me: “That’s irrelevant. What did you come to tell me?”

“You first.”

Even after that tell-tale remark, it didn’t strike me that he had come to tell me he liked me. I cringe at my stupidity.

I looked at the carpet for approximately half an hour, while there was pin-drop silence in the room. Finally I realised he wasn’t leaving without an answer, and wanting desperately for the earth to swallow me up, I blurted out that I liked him.

Again with the pin-drop silence.

And then a few seconds later, I was in his arms, looking up into his smiling face and doubting my hearing because he whispered, “Me too.” in my ear.

So many years later, and this story still brings a smile to my face. It was in 1999, and here I am 17 years thence, still thrilling slightly to the romance in that interlude.

NAM – those were his initials – was far more mature than I was, and there were many reasons our relationship failed. I expected our romance to unfold like a romance novel, and of course it didn’t. In retrospect, I would have to experience the requisite misery too, and that would have been awful. I just wasn’t very smart at the time. [Still not smart, but at least now I know it.]

NAM and I broke up in a few months, and I played the role of tragedy queen to the hilt. Thank you, exclusive diet of Hindi movies. I thought that a first love was the last love, and I was resigned to pining away the rest of years in solitude and melancholy. Ha. If you have read my Spring-Summer Connection series, this happened shortly before those events. Stacey’s house was my first paying guest accommodation in Scunthorpe, and the hero of the series owned the second. Altogether I lived in three places during my two years there.

[Also, the best friend in this story, and the best friend in the next series are the same person. I was a terrible friend clearly.]

Eventually, I came back to Dubai, and I think NAM went back home to Doha. He emailed me a few times, just as my family was moving back to India. The better part of two years in England, and me acting like a ridiculous movie trope, wasn’t enough to convince him, but in early 2003, he suddenly realised that he couldn’t let me go.

Finally, I lied to him about being in another relationship to make him go. That moment in my life was about my family, not about my love life. Certainly, it wasn’t about a doomed relationship at the tender age of 19.

NAM and I didn’t keep in touch. I did try looking for him many times, but he doesn’t seem to have an online presence under his own name. To be honest, part of me is glad. Because, as I’ve said before, nostalgia is a dangerous thing.

A Spring-Summer Connection #4

Well, my next move was out of the house. Literally. My first year in England was up, and I headed back home to Dubai for the summer holidays. My landlord had decided that he needed to sell the house, and it had been bought jointly by him and his girlfriend. Unsurprisingly, she wanted her money back.

He set me up with his best friend’s mum, as she was looking to get lodgers in from that year on. I moved in there during my second year, and spent the rest of my days in England living there.

In the interim, my now erstwhile landlord sold his house, and bought another. Coincidentally, it happened to be quite close to where I was staying. It was however some time before I met him again. My new landlady suspected that I had a thing for him, and was incredibly curious about the whole situation. For my part, I couldn’t admit to any of it for reasons I cannot fathom right now. I think it may have had something to do with his girlfriend, and that fact that I stayed alone with him for months. Nothing happened, but I knew my assertions sounded weak.

I stayed away from him, in an attempt to get on with my life. And then he came to the house one day, in order to help my landlady lay tiles in her kitchen. And I bumped into him unexpectedly, and of course all the old confusion surged up once again. He was cool and collected, and she was openly inquisitive. In response, I bolted up the stairs, stammering about some assignments that were due.

I don’t recall the exact chain of events, but I do remember that we exchanged messages on occasion. In retrospect, I always initiated the text exchange, and his replies weren’t exciting. However, just by the virtue of his being the sender, I was always thrilled to bits.

Finally, I went to visit him one afternoon, and we spent time chatting in front of the television. I was hoping to recapture some of the magic that had existed a mere few months previously, but (again in retrospect) it was there no longer. A few more visits ensued, visits during which we made out. But it was useless in my mind. I was the one always seeking him out, and I wished for a little more initiative from his side. And over and above it all, it felt a bit tawdry and illicit – and I do not do illicit – even though we were both very single.

To add interest into this uneasy situation, my best friend used to confide in me about similar evenings she had spent in his company. There were several issues surrounding her, even with our other friends.

I felt the fantasy and magic drain out of the situation. Perhaps it was my extreme naivete and innocence that propelled me into the situation in the first place, and my innate dislike for subterfuge and secrecy thankfully propelled me out again.

Until last year.

A Spring-Summer Connection #3

Intrigued yet? When I left the story last, I was sitting crushed into the side of my landlord, dizzyingly and uncomprehendingly experiencing many emotions. He was a fit bloke, in that he worked out and he was drop dead gorgeous. Think Gerard Butler back in the day.

(Approximately 30 minutes has gone past, as I went to helpfully link to a suitable picture, and got sidetracked. Also, no pictures. You’re welcome.)

After my short circuited brain came back on track, I hotfooted it upstairs, ignoring the pleas of my friend. Since this was the same friend who practically dissolved into a puddle when she so much as caught sight of my landlord, I couldn’t very well share my mixed up state of mind. Five minutes after we came up, so did he, presumably leaving his friends to their ahem devices.

The next morning, I rose early, thanks to fitful night of contemplation. My friend was fast asleep. I tiptoed out of the room, and went downstairs to get some water. My landlord was also up, having been awoken by his departing friends. One of them was still passed out on the sofa, but most of them had cleared off.

We met up in the kitchen, and after a bit of awkwardness, chatted about the previous night. He then confessed to not knowing how someone as innocent as I was would deal with this sort of party. He went on to express his sense of responsibility for me, and that this was not the sort of thing he enjoyed. I, for my part, assured him that I was less scarred and more amused, and that I hadn’t felt scared for a moment.

He told me then that he cared about me, and what happened to me. That he felt very responsible for me, claiming that it was because I was under his roof. I took this heartfelt conversation purely at face value, and I didn’t read anything else into it. I factored tiredness and surprise into my reaction of the previous night. We were back on an even keel once more.

The status quo continued for some time. In time, my friend and I drifted apart due to differences. My landlord and I became closer and closer. We stayed up nights talking, heading to bed in the wee hours of the morning. Our days fell into a familiar pattern of spending the days apart and nights in the sitting room.

One evening, we were chatting and we both started feeling peckish. There was nothing in the fridge to eat, so we decided to walk down to the nearest petrol station for some munchies. I went upstairs and came back down wearing a sweater. He took one look at me and went back into the closet to get a second coat.

I protested about wearing what was clearly a man’s coat. He argued that it was very chilly outside, and he wouldn’t take me if I didn’t wear it. When I continued to murmur, he shut me up by saying that people would think it was my boyfriend’s coat, so I was keep it on and lump it. I was so stunned by that remark, I desisted from arguing any further.

Life continued on, and he did go out quite a bit with his friends, but never brought anyone back home with him again. On weekend nights, I watched movies, and fell asleep on the sofa. He used to come home, wake me up, and we would chat again.

Then one night, he was a little tipsier than usual. I had fallen asleep on the sofa again, so I woke up to him prodding me insistently. I woke up to find him very close to me. I think my heart stopped for a moment, and I think he read fear on my face.

I wasn’t afraid of him or what would have happened then, but I was taken aback with the situation. I desperately wanted him to make a move, but he didn’t. And that’s the moment I realised that I had a ginormous crush on this man. A man, I might add, that was a good 12 years older.

Um, what exactly was my next move?

A Spring-Summer Connection #2

Continuing on from where I left off, the story takes a turn late one evening. My friend was over to stay the night, and we had rented a bunch of movies from Blockbuster. There were Doritos and salsa, and it was a Friday night.

My landlord was off out with two of his work colleagues, since he hadn’t had a weekend off in a while. He wasn’t particularly chummy with the two of them, but felt obliged to go nevertheless. This wasn’t a figment of my imagination: he actually said all this to me before leaving to go clubbing that evening.

They returned pretty late, and my friend and I were just finishing Six Days, Seven Nights and were having a conversation about Anne Heche’s lifestyle choices. (I was 16, and this was my first experience with homosexuality. I was baffled at the time.)

My landlord walked in, and was a little cheesed off to see me still awake. I found out much later that he was upset with my presence because he was quite protective of me. My friend, of course, was thrilled to see him, and immediately went into starstruck mode. He hinted heavily about me heading off to bed, but she was having none of it. And because this was England, and no one forced anyone to do squat no matter what the age difference. *cough* stupid Indian mentality *cough*

The next thing I knew, his friends had pulled, and under my astonished gaze these three men brought in two girls. Well, one girl, who was from our sixth form college and who my friend instantly recognised, and an older lady. And by ‘older lady’, I mean she was at least 50. They were all drunk, including my landlord, although he was not on a happy high.

Now if you do the math like do, you will notice that there were three blokes and two ladies. My brain seized up at that point, and I wanted to bolt. My friend hung on to my hand tightly and compelled me to sit back down again. Apparently, she couldn’t stay back if I decided to go up to bed, and she oh so desperately wanted to witness this crazy comedy.

I should perhaps mention that my friend is an Arab Muslim, and lived a rather sheltered existence. Tipsy ladies coming in on the arms of drunk men they met the same night was not an experience either of us had ever encountered. She was mesmerised, and I was bemused.

The sofas were ranged around the sitting room walls, and these folk were sitting on the largest one. My friend and I were sitting on the two-seater opposite the television, and one of the girls squeezed in with us. My landlord, the host, was sitting primly on the last sofa at the far end of the room. He was not pleased about this arrangement.

Soon, someone suggested that they would like some water. So he got up to get some, glaring meaningfully at me. I had no clue what he was trying to communicate in this non-verbal way, so I merely shook my head to indicate I didn’t want any.

He went out of the room for approximately two seconds, when he charged back in again with glasses of water, slopping messily on the carpet. He then offered the room a cup of tea. Again, I shook my head. The others heartily welcomed this offer. Again, he stormed out of the room, only to charge back in two seconds later. This time, though, he came in to ask for my help.

This night was proving to be very confusing for me on many levels, and this uncharacteristic request to help with tea was the final straw. I couldn’t very well say no, as he phrased the request in such a way that if I had refused, it would have looked like I was being an awful hostess.

Another bit of back story here: I couldn’t make tea to save my life at the time. I didn’t even drink the stuff, and I followed him confused to the kitchen. And then he admits that it was a gambit to get me out of the room, because he was very uncomfortable with me being there with those men and women. Just as I was incredulously about to ask why, my friend came barrelling into the kitchen. And my landlord promptly clammed up. He handed us four cups of tea, and marched ahead of us back into the living room.

In our absence, the men and women had taken the opportunity to rearrange the seating plan. The large sofa was now occupied by one canoodling couple, and the two-seater my friend and I were on had the second giggling duo. The sofa my landlord was originally sitting on had two spots free. I made a beeline for one of those, as I assumed he would do the gentlemanly thing and let my friend and I sit together on it, and he would take the remaining seat on the large unit. Spoiler alert: he didn’t.

My friend was forced to take the seat next to one of the couples, and she sat squished into the corner, trying her best not to come into physical contact with either of them and their flailing limbs. (They were still clothed, just very actively embracing.)

For the first time that eventful evening, I saw my landlord relax. He slumped into the sofa a little, and I ended up being pressed into his side. (The other side was taken up by magazines and other paraphernalia, which I couldn’t shift for the love of anything.)

I remember that he smelled of his leather jacket, the styling cream in his hair, the faint sheen of perspiration, and his perfume. And my heart started beating wildly in my chest. It was so exciting and unprecedented. What was happening?!

A Spring-Summer Connection #1

Between 1999 and 2001, I did my A-level at a sixth form college in England. I stayed as a paying guest in three homes during my two year stint there, and the subject of this series of posts was the owner of the second house.

To begin, when I moved into the spare bedroom, he owned the house with his then girlfriend. They were both 28 to my 16, and I instantly bonded with her. Then, about a month in, they broke up and she moved out. To say I was discombobulated was an understatement. Here I was, a young female teen staring at the prospect of sharing a house with a young adult man. I am Indian, my parents are Indian; this sort of thing is way outside the comfort zone of our culture. However, the lady convinced me to stay, and I convinced my parents. And so I stayed till the end of the first year.

I barely even communicated with this man, because I was more comfortable with his girlfriend. But slowly, over time, we started talking. And then we got really close, and he started confiding in me. We spent hours talking about stuff, and I was enthralled by the fact that an older person found me interesting.

At first, I was completely oblivious to the fact that he was a male, as such. I was a completely innocent airhead, and it never occurred to me in the slightest that this gorgeous man (hooboy was he gorgeous) would ever be interested in me. I was very wrong.

I wasn’t attracted to him at the time, but my best friend couldn’t get enough of him. He was physically stunning, so she used to come over to gape at him. He resented her presence, and never spent much time with me when she was around. I, once again, was completely oblivious to his obvious dislike, which I can now see in retrospect.

In spite of having friends, I spent long evenings on my own at home. He was there a lot of the time, and we ended up chatting through the night, into the early hours of the morning. I started to get an inkling of that he may feel somewhat differently towards me than I had previously imagined.

And it was hilariously confirmed when he came home drunk one night. But that story is another post! Stay tuned.