I was furious. Just when I thought that I had left this hateful place forever, I was being chained down here again.
At first glance, the campus I had called ‘home’ for the past six years seemed idyllic. Perhaps it could be called rustic, or even boring, by a more jaded critic. A misanthropist could possibly call the closed community insular and the atmosphere stifling.
But for me, my home, my entire city seemed nothing more than a gilded cage. I had not changed at all in the last six years. Every day was exactly the same. I felt like I was being trapped in a mire of inescapable sameness, of familiarity and sickening complacency. I desperately wanted to escape from my life, from the ennui of my entire existence. I wanted to go to college in a different city, far far away from anyone who knew me.
It was not to be. My parents, and even my brother had conspired against me. Today was the final day of enrollment: the final step that would seal my fate. I was going to be trapped here for the next four years.
Feeling ill-used and at war with the world, I resisted in every way I could. In a final act of defiance, I wore the shortest dress I could find. Seeing the bare inches of my unattractively skinny thighs and knobbly knees, I felt savage pleasure in contemplating that my attire was wholly inappropriate for the occasion.
I barely remember the car drive. I had stared out of the window mutinously, with tears of rage and self-pity blurring the dismal all-too-familiar landscape.
When we reached the college, I signed the papers without preamble. I wanted the torture to end. There was no escape for me anymore. People stared openly at my short dress, and I stared aggressively and uncharacteristically back until they looked away.
Then, just as we were going back to the car, my parents met you and your father. I had remembered you from the counseling, despite being in a haze of disbelief and grief at the time. I checked you out discreetly from the corner of my eye. You seemed disinterested in the world, typing away on your phone. You were certainly oblivious to my existence.
I looked away. The enormity of my own troubles could not be assuaged by such frivolities. I concentrated on stoking the flames of my anger.
When we were finally in the car, my mother told me glibly that we were going to have lunch with your family at a nearby mall. My eyes nearly popped out of my skull. Here I was, coping with the biggest crisis of my life, and there she was heaping social obligations to the pile of my grievances. Incoherent with anger, I exploded in a torrent of invective.
Eyes still brimming, I sat down at a table, opposite you. By some contrivance of fate, the adults had disappeared. I was mortified.
Even in normal circumstances, I am not a good conversationalist, especially when confronted by a personable member of the opposite sex. In my current state, I was certain that I would say something absolutely banal or commit some kind of gaffe.
Somehow, I willed myself to speak. We started talking, ironically, about the many shortcomings of the city I was so desperate to leave. You laughed deprecatingly about the ‘wildlife’ that freely roamed the streets.
I was so absorbed in talking to you that I forgot to be angry. I forgot to be resentful. Every time you laughed, I felt like I had won a prize. Your smile dazzled me. You were so nice, so like-able, so normal. The uncertainty and the aberrations of the past few months melted away in those few minutes.
By the time my mother had returned, I was positively cheery and exuberant. The awkwardness of the impromptu lunch no longer bothered me.
Unbeknownst to me then, my life had changed. That first fateful meeting with you set the cogs of my life turning. At the time, I felt only a sliver of unexpected peace and joy during a turbulent period.
But that day, three years ago from today, was the first step in the most beautiful friendship I have ever known. My first instincts about you had been correct. You, quite simply, make me happy. You are the silver lining that I needed. You are the change that I had been waiting for.