Can I laugh along?
I have been in this department for two years, but I saw his smug face for the first time in Fall-2016. I still remember that day-I was busy with class-to-class promotional activity for a departmental event. He was told to accompany me as he was my senior. I didn't know about his existence until that day. He hesitated to come with me. It felt like he looked down at me. Maybe he thought I was an insignificant tiny junior because I barely passed the height of his shoulder. I didn't like tall guys back then. It made me feel insecure. I wore Saree that day, a blue one.
I dressed up formally-ladylike heels, not sneaker and braided hair, not my usual messy hair. Well, that is not important. I do not remember how he dressed if I knew what was coming, I surely would have observed it. The promotion went well. He did not need to utter a single word. When we were finished, he just gave me a smile, not a single word, just a neutral smile.
In the next semester, we had a course together. We were strangers, but seeing familiar faces was always a relief. I tried hard to remember his name and when I did, I greeted him. I got no response as if he didn't recognize me. Perhaps he did not! He sat there at the back of the class with his friends, enjoying the moments of his life. But there I was broken, friendless, and stuck with a class full of seniors; cons of the open credit system. I thought we could talk because we were not strangers. We knew our names, but we remained strangers definitely. Days would pass just like that. I would be the frontbencher and he would be at the back.
I wondered so many times about the reasons behind his laughter so that I could laugh along sometimes; at least once, if not possible together but laughing silently on my seat, all by myself.
All that happened in my life in the following semester: I left the club, received a merit scholarship joined a job, and his memories slipped away from my mind until I see his same smug face. Once again I would forget his name and those random spring days. I no longer wondered about laughter, nor reflected on my feelings. Laughter was not important, achievements were.
It was spring 2018; he came by with one of my friends. What a smug! Once more he didn't recognize me. We were strangers, right? Right. Besides I could not recognize myself anymore. We did not talk much that day. We would not talk at all unless it was necessary. We were not friends, not even on Facebook. I had some friends then, but I confined myself within a small boundary.
I had two courses with him that semester. I didn't want to sit next to him in class but my friend insisted. Later, we ended up in a presentation group. After a few days, we ended up in a drama group where he was Mr. Rochester and I was his wife. Things went so fast. I told my friends that I would not deal with anything regarding him. I would not direct him, even though it was my script. People mentioned that he was extraordinary. He had more acting experiences than the other group members. So, I let that be. I didn't write his dialogues. He did it by himself as he wanted to. I worked hard for scriptwriting and participating in that drama competition. But the only scene I had, it was with him and I left that in his hand. What was I thinking?
We started to talk a little because of the drama. He didn't excessively show pride, but his self-satisfied attitude intrigued me. That smug Mr. Rochester was bearable now. When the first rehearsal day came, the other group members bailed on us. It was me and him practicing in the basement, not many students around. I was scared, not because of him but the idea of being alone with any human I am not closed to was terrifying. My friend said, "He seems a decent guy. It's fine." She left after a while. There we were in the basement.
I uncovered my head and let my hair loose. I was mad…his mad wife. He looked at me, our first eye contact. He held my hand, and we started the act. I saw awkwardness in his eyes when he held my hand. I wondered why he chose to play Mr. Rochester when he knew I was his wife. Our first few attempts were a complete failure. I tried to keep myself composed and said, "If you feel awkward, it will make me more uncomfortable." I grabbed his collar and slapped him. He grabbed my hair and yanked me to the ground. I resisted. He dragged me across the floor and put me in chains.
That was our first scene. He made me bleed. I scratched his hand. I said sorry for a million times for slapping him. We went all over again. It was better this way. I didn't think he would make me bleed again. I would scratch him many more times. It was going to happen over and over again before we stopped. Would we stop, ever!
The writer is M.A. student in the Department of English, East West University