I met him for the first time at Nandos. Now, when I say met, I mean I stared awkwardly at him - feeling things that I never knew were even possible to feel - while he stood and chatted with my friend. They knew each other through her brother and got talking. He was looking at me, though - I could tell. Even from that moment, there really was something undeniable. Call it chemistry, a spark, whatever - but there was something.
Months went by, and I thought about this mystery man often. It was inexplicable. I had "met" him only once!
I was out to dinner with my cousin when serendipity played her hand again! Randomly, at a store, I saw him from the corner of my eye. I yanked my cousin as fast as I could and hid behind the makeup counter and gestured, whispering "That's him!!" I didn't dare say a word more, for I would have stuttered over the sound of my own heartbeat.
I spent a good portion of the evening reasoning that the only thing that could have brought us in such proximity again was fate. So, taking matters into my teenage hands, I added him that night on Facebook. He accepted, pretty much straightaway. Now that I had made the first move, I had to take my chances. So I messaged him. Not before carefully constructing it in consultation with my girlfriends, of course!
I asked an older girlfriend for advice and she obliged and sent me the message to send across to him! I copy-pasted it straight, without thinking, and just clicked send. The next 10 minutes were life and death as far I was concerned. I was 16 at the time (he was 19) - there was no option but for him to reply. Else my life would be over!
He did reply. We had a conversation that I remember word for word till today. And then we exchanged email addresses so that we could become better acquainted via MSN! (Like I said, I was 16 at the time. This was 8 years ago!) The summer passed and we managed to stay in touch quite a bit. He even started calling me on the phone, and I remember the giggling and mid-morning conversations with a smile even now. I was falling madly in love with him.
He was from Nigeria, and I was in London. He was studying in London at university, though, and would be coming back in about a week's time. It seemed only natural after the amazing summer we (virtually) had that we should meet up. Properly.
I would say I had butterflies in my stomach, but that just wouldn't remotely do justice to the massive pterodactyl wings I had flying around in my stomach on the night that we were due to see each other. I got there early. Panicked, I went and hid in the McDonalds’ around the corner - it was my first ever date, after all. When I finally took courage into my hands and emerged, he’d got the cinema tickets, and we had an awkward exchange about who was to pay for them. He did, in the end. "Woohoo!" I remember thinking, "it IS a date."
"I didn't know you had braces".
These were his first real words to me, as we climbed the escalator up to the cinema. I wanted to die. Run back down the escalator, jump into a hole and never ever come out again.
"Oh..." I said
"Yeah. Well, I do now," he calmly replied, with a reassuring smile.
It was an Adam Sandler movie. We laughed. He kissed my forehead - and I fell even harder in love. We had our first kiss the next night. It was on my staircase. I still can't walk past that spot without thinking about him.
These little outings continued for a while, our mutual love for chicken took us to Nandos - a lot. We watched loads of movies and chatted over countless ounces of ice cream. But with our age difference and lifestyle - nothing really came of it. He moved back to Nigeria and I finished my final year of school. There wasn't a single moment that he didn't run through my mind! All of my friends knew this. Heck, pretty much everyone knew this. I would find a way to weave him into conversation whenever possible.
Of course, as time went on, we both began to date different people. We stayed in constant touch, though. I can definitely attribute 70% of my relationship failures to the fact that I was still very much in love with Surya. I know now that it wasn't fair to any of the other guys - but you live and you learn, I guess.
I still remember the first time he told me loved me. It was a year or so after he had moved back. He called me in a rather tipsy manner and said in the most nonchalant way ever that he was about to tell me something, that it wasn't a big deal and that he would probably never say it again. "I love you." I had waited years to hear these three little words from him. Of course I didn't miss a beat and said the same to him. "Woah, heavy duty - I didn't expect you to say it back!" he said. He called me the next night and just fell into a stupor repeating those three little words, over and over again.
The volume of our phone calls increased and we began to Skype frequently as well. I was nearing the end of university by now. He had a girlfriend back home. I had been dating someone for two years. But we had formed a bond so strong by now, that no one else seemed relevant - to me anyway.
Surya and his girlfriend broke up for reasons that I don't recall - I was too busy doing cartwheels in my head upon hearing it to actually remember the details. I continued to date my guy, though, for a few months afterwards, until it finally ended on pretty mutual terms.
Nothing changed. Surya and I remained friends, our bond growing even stronger as days went by. We had fights - a lot of them because I wasn't being able to understand why more wasn't happening. "We're in different places geographically and otherwise." That would be his standard response to my protests. One day, I couldn't handle it any longer and we had a massive fight and stopped talking.
That was the first time in 6 years that he was not actually a factor in my life.
Of course, it didn't last! Facebook played its part again. This time he sent the request and messaged me. I didn't want to reply, but before I knew it my fingers had made the decision to do so.
We finally started dating, two years ago. It was everything I had always wanted for it to be and probably everything he never knew he wanted for life to be. I was happy. I felt complete. I was finally with the person who had changed my life. The person who had taught me to be a better person - who had somehow become my conscience and closest confidant amongst the chaos that is life.
But life is funny that way. Just when we had finally found a time for us - life decided that other things demanded priority. Family for me, work for him. And we couldn't make it work. After all that; we had to put what was unequivocally meant to be down to something as trivial as timing.
P.S.: If you're reading this - I want you to know I still think we're meant to be, I just think we (both) took too long...
* Names changed to protect privacy.
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Who - seriously, who in their right mind - could have ever believed that your life could be changed by one little "friend request" on Facebook?!
Published on Sep 11, 2015