An UnJoyful End
I heaved a somewhat heavy sigh as I walked slowly forward. The breath I uncaged felt rather forced. I knew I should have been panicking by now, or at least be somewhat nervous, and yet I was strangely calm despite the dangerous situation I was foreshadowing. The area around me was quiet and the atmosphere serene. Perhaps that was the reason behind my peculiar state. I gazed at the grass below that my feet were trampling. On another day I would have sat down and felt mother earth caress my body as the moon peered from above. Not today though, I had more important matters to attend to.
I suddenly shifted my eyes forward as I started to walk more briskly over to my destination. Ahead lay a short stone building that would have usually appeared cold and unfriendly. Tonight however, basked in the golden aura of the luminous posts surrounding it, it looked as if it was inviting me over, asking me to move quicker. I had planned a different route, but I decided I'd take the risk.
I lugged my helmet under my left arm and my sword in my right. "There was no reason to be nervous," I thought to myself, mouthing the words. I wasn't sure if I actually said these words aloud or not, but that wasn't my biggest concern.
As I finally neared the corner around the building, an array of assorted benches peeked from behind. This exact place used to be a very lively area. A place where teenagers flocked and kids crowded, producing a cacophony of laughter and inaudible speech. Tonight however, the place was deserted. I preferred it that way, it made me feel special. It didn't take long for the three figures at the very last bench to materialize. Two were sitting, one was standing.
My eyesight wasn't perfect, and I could barely even make out the genders of these people, but my heart shuddered and my mind froze as I studied the person standing. My body was unaffected and just kept moving towards them. As I slowly got closer, I could feel my heart pounding harder and harder, almost as if it was pleading to be let out. My brain did the only thing it could do and released much adrenaline as my mind cried out "shit!".
As I finally arrived within talking distance, I stopped thinking. There was no time to think, or perhaps I couldn't think. Either way, the prize atop my temple that I had treasured for so long and have even been envied for was now as useless as a pile of bricks.
"Hey guys!" I said in a tone that fortunately hid my state of panic. I was acting on pure instinct now. I was relieved to see that I was quite familiar with the two boys who were sitting down. As I shook each boy's hand, I never turned to face the standing girl. I assumed my greeting of the others would hide my eagerness to look at her. I finally turned to her and said, "Hey Sarah" before quickly averting my gaze once more.
I only barely got to look at her, but her face was hammered into my mind. I pictured her beautiful face with two hazel diamonds that always seemed to be dilating. Her white complexion highlighted her reddish cheeks. I always wondered if they were naturally that red. I'd never seen a girl whose cheeks were always rosy. Then again, I never really paid much attention. Her lips were small and faintly red, but her hair was a tease. I was only permitted a few locks of brown hair atop her head due to her veil. She was wearing a large, brown fur coat and matching brown boots.
"Oh what's this?" Karim, a kid with a large Afro, blurted out, pointing to my sword. I handed it to him. I enjoyed playing fencing, perhaps not as much as the company of my instructors, but it was definitely worth being the guy walking around with the sword.
The two boys stood up, unsheathed the sword and started flailing it around each other, incorrectly I might add. Mina, the larger boy but with the smaller Afro started to poke Sarah with the sword. She wasn't too fond of this sort of play.
I watched the hyperactive two and Sarah, frustrated by their immaturity. She finally turned to me and said "Why do you even walk around with that all the time?". I couldn't possibly say anything funny or witty in the state I was in, so I simply said the first thing that came to mind, "I like showing off". This was met by a giggle and her reply "I like how honest you are". Normally I would not have been able to contain myself with excitement at receiving a complement from Sarah, however tonight, I was barely able to muster a smile as I took another glance at her.
Her face was simply, like her last name, a Joy to watch. Again, I averted my eyes, hoping not to stare for too long. This was a horrible disaster.
A few months ago, an incredible event happened in my life. Sarah called me late at night, asking about something. This was the moment I realized I was in love with her and it was such a pivotal moment that I, oddly enough, wrote a story about the phone call and actually gave it to her. I used "Joy" as a synonym for her last name instead of her real name for a bit of subtlety.
Now she said she loved it, and loved how vivid all the details were, but she never mentioned anything about the love implied in the story. I had been chasing after the girl for so long, I decided I finally needed an answer. In a moment of despair I asked a friend to tell her that I was in love with her. Her response was that she felt that we should just be friends.
That was fair, that was exactly what I expected. I just wanted to hear it from her now.
So I told her there was something I wanted to tell her in person, and the day had finally arrived. The problem was that I had no idea what I was going to say. There was a lot I wanted to say, but choosing the words to express it felt like such a daunting task with her inches away from me. I had planned on outlining everything before calling her and asking where she was. I never imagined I would bump into her like this.
And so the night kept going, and several friends of ours kept coming and going. The only ones that remained were Sarah, Mina and I.
I felt incredibly out of place. People were joking, talking and having fun while I was in turmoil. I didn't even attempt to partake in their conversation. I was desperately trying to conjure anything to say that might finally give this futile romance the closure it deserved. My efforts at winning her over for the past 9 months were almost as useless as my efforts to try and think of something coherent at that moment. I finally just reclined onto the fact that perhaps somehow, this was all going to fix itself and life would be awesome.
As the night went by, it was getting late, and it was finally just me, Sarah, Mina and another girl who had joined us. I was still sitting with a blank expression on my face when Sarah spoke and uttered my name, "Omar, there was something you wanted to tell me...face to face?"
That was it. There was no going back now. I had to do this one way or another. I followed the rules I had practiced in dealing with social crisis's, one of which was to speak slowly and carefully, and not to try to sound more confident than I actually was.
"Yeah...I uh...had something to ask you." I said. Her sweet lips formed into a smile as her left leg bent delicately and her arms stretched out slightly to the sides. She looked like an elegant, beautiful bird, "Well here I am" she replied, "ask me".
Now this was when I got confused. I knew the gist of what I was going to say. I was supposed to propose my love to her, and she knew what I was going to say. I know she knew I loved her, and I think she knew as well. I just wanted to say it, but was she expecting me to confess my love in front of our friends? I had never done this before, so I had no idea how I was supposed to act.
"Erhm.." I continued, taken aback. I thought I'd recite the only line I had thought of the previous day as the opening statement to this confession "Do you remember the story I gave you?". "Yeah, I still have it" she reassured. I took a pause before continuing "You understood it, right?". She said she did. I repeated the question. "You understood it.....right?". She just repeated her answered. I paused for a few seconds, just looking at her, waiting for something, giving her a confused look.
She finally broke the silence saying "I really did understand it, I know I never said anything about the part you're talking about but I did understand". Perhaps I should have stopped there and gone home. But I didn't.
"Oh" I uttered. I hadn't thought of anything past this point. She gave me an expression that said 'well?'. There was absolutely nothing that was coming to my mind. I finally said "Just...gimme 5 minutes to think". She giggled, once again I assume amused by my honesty and told me to go ahead and think.
I tried, but my efforts were fruitless. I decided I would just get her alone and then I would say whatever came to mind and end this horrible night. Little did I know that I had yet to see the real horror of the night.
I thought I would just ask her to go buy a juice or something. It didn't really matter how cliche or stupid the excuse was, I just wanted to get her alone with me. The words, however, came out wrong. I was supposed to ask her if she wanted to buy something *with* me. Instead however:
"Sarah, is there something you want to buy...with me?"
"...Are you sure?"
"Yes...is there something you want to buy?"
"Yes yes, just..come with me"
She awkwardly got up and walked with me. And thus began a symphony of social awkwardness, incoherent-ness and bad, bad communication. It was also the night I realized I tend to raise my voice when I get nervous.
"Sarah I've..erhm, just wanted to say that, you inspire me"
"And uhm, uhm..that" There was so much I wanted to say, why was none of it coming up???
We arrived at the snacks shop, I was standing unusually close to the stand, perhaps as a means of hiding.
"I've always wanted to tell you that...you're beautiful"
"Could you lower your voice a bit? I think everyone just heard you" She said, taking a step back.
"Alright...sorry..umm, and I wanted to say that, just being around you has given me reason to--"
"Your voice is seriously really loud"
"Do you really wanna buy something?" She said, taking a step back again.
"What? Yeah sure. What was I saying...you know I gave the story to the english teacher" It wasn't the most romantic thing to say, but I was desperate for words.
"What english teacher??" She snapped back. I was referring to the teacher whose class we met in.
"That teacher...was her name?" It was no surprise i couldn't bring up her name either.
"Mrs Nagwa?" She asked
"Do you seriously want to buy something?" She repeated. I thought I should buy something then. I turned for my wallet. I couldn't find it. I must have forgotten it back where we were sitting.
"I..forgot my wallet.." and then came the stupidest thing I had ever said to her "do you have any money?"
She reluctantly got out 5 pounds, saying she didn't have much money with her.
I took it and gazed around, trying to decide what to buy. It took me moments to realize how bad it looked for me to take money from her and buy something I didn't even want.
"Just..here take it" I handed her her money.
"So you don't want to buy something?"
"No I don't want to buy something!" I almost yelled back, frustrated at how she keeps spacing herself away. I motioned for her to come closer.
"No! Why are we standing here so close? I feel like the guy is with us in the conversation!" She said those words with a look that felt like my own sword, sharpening and dug deep into my gut. I couldn't tell why, but her ferocity in that split second almost killed me. I just swallowed whatever dignity I had left and moved away from the shop towards her.
"Did you like the part where I referred to you as Joy?" I asked, trying desperately to remember anything of the volumes I wanted to voice.
"Yeah...it was nice" she said in a tone that sounded unimpressed and an expression that I couldn't really place, but it wasn't good.
"I just wanted you to know that you're like the only girl I know well--"
She interrupted me again, "your voice is seriously really loud. I feel like everyone is listening"
I couldn't take much more.
"I just wanted to say that I loved you." I had no idea why I used the past tense. Pehaps at that moment, her once beautiful face and warmth-emanating body was now impaling me with ruthless spikes that drained all the love away. Or perhaps it was just easier to say that way.
And then came her reply. Her awful, awful reply. It was not rejection, but oh how I wish it was.
"Well..I'm not really good at replying to this stuff.." were the words that were left hanging in the air.
We were silent for a few moments. I couldn't bear to look at her face anymore. A face that shifted so quickly.
"Well..let's just go back" I said.
"Are you sure? There's nothing else you want to say?" She inquired. What was the point? She didn't seem like she wanted to hear anything anyway.
"No, nothing to say, let's just go back"
"Okay.." she replied, reluctantly.
And those were the last words I heard from Sarah for months, despite us being in the same school and sharing many classes together.
I went home that night, and cried. It felt good though. I hadn't cried in years. It was strange. As soon as the tears began to flow, this amazing feeling landed upon me, and as soon as it did, the tears recoiled. They refused to come out again and I was stuck with the this dark, dreadful feeling of worthlessness and self pity.
Those were the last words I said to Sarah, but they weren't the last she said to me. Months later, a few more words emerged from her beautiful lips to me. And those words were:
"Thank you, Omar".