Illustration by Shikha Sreenivas
I will not write about the boy I like. The world is imploding. A virus is ripping through everything and everyone, we are breathing in the ashes of pyres lit in parking lots and pavements, and now is not the time. I should be writing that report for work, an article about the pandemic, a message to a friend asking how she’s doing. I should not be writing about the boy I like, who recently told me he likes me too.
The boy who wants to kiss me within three seconds of meeting me. Who framed it as a question in an age when people scoff at consent, and we thought chivalry was all but dead. He checks for consent every time he wants to flirt with me.
I will not write about the boy who makes my heart sing with the beeping of a WhatsApp notification. Who, even 1157 kilometres, away feels closer than anyone around me has been. I will not write about the boy I like, but someone should definitely investigate which mysterious hand of fate or algorithm in cyberspace brought us together in the first place. Here I go again, writing rhyme for the boy I like even though I just decided I wouldn’t. Is this what they call love?
‘Love In The Times Of Corona’, it was called. The blind dating-pandemic mating feminist virtual event we met at last year. My first-ever blind date, and I snag a keeper. Sigh. What are the odds?
The odds have been next to impossible. Bombay-Calcutta. Bombay-Delhi. Delhi-Bombay. But how far is 1157 kilometres really, when we haven’t even been able to meet those living 1157 steps away in this year of interminable lockdowns?
I like the boy, but we’ve never met. This is a good reason to not write about him. After all, what would I even write? I don’t know what it feels like to sit across a table from him. To hold his hand. To wait for less than three seconds before wrapping him up in a kiss delayed by a year. I can only imagine.
But I have imagined. And I want to write. About dreams soft, swirling. About waking up smiling. About how he checks up on me when I’m sad. And stressed. And sick.
But I don’t really know him. I only know the side of him that texts me each day without fail. And the side that worries about the world and our place in it. And there’s also the side that debates policy with me one day and names my new octopus soft toy the next. I know the person that shows up for Zoom dates right on time, drink in hand, smile on face. The one that plays drinking games with me. “Never have I ever fallen so hard, so fast.” Sip.
I know his face, and the scar from the ball that just about avoided his eye that one time when he was young (thank God), and the way he likes his hair to fall. But I don’t know him well enough to write about him. Not really.
And so I will not write about the boy I like.
Instead, I will write a list of reasons to not write about him. That doesn’t count, does it?
Reason one. He may not like it. But then, writers in love write for ourselves, not for others. Did Sidney write sonnets for his Stella or for himself? Did Maud care that Yeats churned out endless love poems for her as she rejected his proposal, then another, then a third?
“I have spread my dreams under your feet” I send him. A beat later, he sends me, “I am not the first person you loved.” We watch Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye tell us how it feels when love arrives.
But words are not enough. Humans have always searched for words to describe love and lust and liking, and sometimes even for the girls and boys we adore, but I don’t have the words for this one specific boy I like. How does one use words to paint a picture of a cherished smile, kind eyes, an ever-so-slightly accented voice, and the giggles and blushes that arise? What words can describe the bafflement and delight of finding something this good when the world is collapsing?
I don’t quite have the words. So better not to write about him.
And while I try my hardest not to write, the world spins on and the stars collide. Another Covid death, another lovely date. Another sealing of our fates. Where is the poetry coming from?
Change tracks. Let’s think more sobering thoughts. About how difficult this has got. About the obstacles. The ex in the building. The ex who is always texting. Girls on dating apps mighty interested in him. But he says I’m miles ahead of them. And somehow I believe him.
I will not write about the boy I like because he doesn’t yet know how I feel about him. He can’t. If he did, he would be as torn as I am, and the world only has space for this much yearning. So I will not write about him, or tell him all that I like about him. Instead, I will take refuge from my own feelings in the Spotify playlist we made of our favourite love songs. How does that song he added go? “This year’s love had better last…”
It really better.
But then again. Is this really love? Will it even last? Who knows?
Who can even know?
On the tough days 1157 kilometres can seem so far away.
Let’s face it. Writing is about control. You have to know where the story is going to go. And I have no control. Over this pandemic, over him, over myself, even. I drift from dream to despair, sometimes in a matter of moments. My friends smile and gently say, live in the present. The present, when the boy I like is just that: a boy I like. No more, no less.
On most days, that’s enough.
But I don’t know where this is headed. Or how our story ends. I just have the skeleton I envision. And only time will tell.
So until then, I will not write about the boy I like.
Tanvi is a writer from Calcutta.