Short story about a girl's affection and empowerment, based on true life events
The Very First Contact
It’s a match!
Oh! He has already liked my profile, thought Prerna as she gently brushed away a dark strand of hair from her round, yet attractive face. Her dark brown almond-shaped eyes, sharp nose, thin lips along with a fair complexion made her look younger than her actual age of 32. Her medium build only complimented her average height.
Peering into her smart-phone, she went through his pictures and bio again which read:
Hates mono-syllabic responses
What a weird bio! She was actually confused about him. There were only three photographs available, two of which were taken in poor light, and the third of which was old. She had “liked” his profile purely because of her vibe.
“Hello Saumit. How are you?”
And this is how Prerna met Saumit on a social dating app.
August – September 2016
It had been just a few weeks and Prerna was already bored of the app. She had found a couple of matches, but wasn’t able to connect with others like she had with Saumit. She found his responses to be delayed, but he was courteous enough to apologize each time. Leaving that aside, Prerna found that she was able to hold intellectual and humorous conversations with him.
“I’ve never watched a play in my life. I’d really like to watch one,” she expressed as she found that they shared similar interests.
“There is a play starring Sharman Joshi. We can go if you want,” Saumit responded.
Prerna knew sometime or the other the question of meeting would come up. When she had joined the app initially, she was only looking for a distraction from her boring life and didn’t intend to meet anyone. Due to her past hurt and rejections, she avoided getting involved. Each time, the emotional attachment had left her broken and disconnected from herself.
It had been over 6 years since she had experienced intimacy and the feeling of being wanted. At times, her heart ached with a longing for a companion – someone who would embrace her in a warm hug, soothing her insecurities. But all she found was loneliness.
Despite her reservations, she found herself to be drawn to Saumit and wanted to meet him. How long will I keep running away from my fears? I have to face them, if I wish to find someone in my life. She decided she would meet him.
“May I know your contact number so that I can call you sometime?” Saumit asked.
“Sure.” She passed on her mobile number with conflicting emotions. A part of her wanted to remain inside her comforting shell while the other pranced around like a warrior ready to battle her fears.
“Is it a good time to call you?” he asked.
“Yes, it is,” she replied.
As she answered his call, Prerna found that her body was shivering with nervous excitement. Her palms had turned cold and sweaty. “Hello Prerna! How are you?” A deep voice sounded from the other end of the phone, filled with enthusiasm and warmth. Her apprehensions melted with his casual and friendly demeanor.
Due to Prerna’s post graduation exams, the meeting was postponed. However, they stayed in touch daily through messages and occasional phone calls. Prerna noticed that their conversation had now acquired a flirtatious tone which only added to her excitement. After a long time, she was able to connect with someone who neither viewed her as a sex object nor judged her for her beliefs. Misunderstandings did crop up at times, but were resolved.
Finally, the day arrived when they decided to meet. Being a weekday, the meeting was held at a railway station due to time constraints.
Prerna was thrilled, nervous, anxious, scared, all at the same time. What if he finds me boring? What if we have nothing to speak about? What if he doesn’t turn up? And many such thoughts kept flooding her mind.
“I can see you... Turn around... I am right there!” Saumit mentioned over the phone with his usual enthusiasm.
Prerna turned around and finally managed to spot him in the milling crowd. Her heart started beating faster and she could feel the excitement levels rising as she walked closer.
With a smooth, fair complexion and an average build, he stood just a few inches taller than Prerna. His rimless spectacles gave him an intellectual look and his modest choice of tee-shirt and jeans only hinted at his simplicity.
He looks much cuter in person than in photographs! Prerna was instantly aware of the physical attraction that consumed her senses. As he spoke, she couldn’t help but notice his alluring lips and the clean shaven jawline.
Forty five minutes later, they shook hands and went on their respective ways. He seems to be a nice guy. I’m glad we met. Prerna reflected upon their brief encounter as her train slowly pulled away from the station.
The messages continued even after Prerna went on her month long holiday. The temptation was evident on both sides and the conversations only got spicier.
Prerna, by now, had started liking Saumit. After years, she felt a stirring in her heart - a sensation which she had almost forgotten. On one hand, she was aware that her liking was based on virtual interaction; on the other, her fear of regret loomed larger than her fear of rejection. She decided to express her feelings.
“Saumit, I really enjoy our conversations and like your company. I feel there is a click. Would you like to see where this goes in the long run?” Prerna waited with a bated breath as Saumit’s status changed to ‘typing….’
“There is compatibility but I’m afraid it’s not to that extent. Our mindsets and lifestyles are very different from each other. I am sorry, if I have hurt you. I don’t wish to mislead you. I am not sure how else to put it. I don’t wish to get involved in anything that I’m not sure of,” responded Saumit.
Prerna’s hopes were crushed once again.
November – December 2016
I’ve failed myself! I’d promised I wouldn't get emotionally attached and here I’ve fallen for someone based on virtual interaction! How could I have been so stupid?! What would he be thinking about me? I’ve ruined a potential friendship! Prerna scolded herself day in and day out, all the while fighting with the agony of being “rejected” yet again.
Through her anger and frustration, Prerna was aware that Saumit never misled her or took advantage of her feelings. While she appreciated this, it only increased her liking for him. She was torn between her emotional needs, her longing for intimacy and acceptance. A fear of void made her continue to keep in touch with him, even though his indifference pierced her heart each time. A stark realization hit her that she would never be able to see him again.
Some nights, when the burden felt too heavy, Prerna found solace in her tears. God, where am I going wrong? Am I so awful that no one seems to like me? Is there no one made for me?... Gradually, slumber would embrace her as she wallowed in self-pity, sobbing silently.
Prerna had a tough time focusing on her final exams. She missed those lame conversations she used to have with Saumit. Although he continued to remain in touch, he had become aloof. There were more fights than friendly conversations.
“Prerna, these fights really put me off! Your mind is highly distracted, you think too much… Why don’t you try meditation, it has helped me calm down.” Saumit’s impatience had started to crawl into the conversations.
“I’m trying to work on myself, Saumit… It’s not easy… Please try and understand. I need time.” Guilt gnawed at her heart, as Prerna desperately attempted to get over her affection.
Split between the needs of self-respect and companionship, Prerna tried to cut off all ties but failed each time.
January 2017 – Present
“Prerna, I’m sorry but I can’t take this… I am already messed up in the head... I don’t want to deal with any additional stress… I’m emotionally unavailable and unable to offer anything. Let’s cut off… It will be better for both of us.” Saumit’s frustration was evident over the phone.
“No… Please no… Don’t do this to me! How can you just cut off?! We have been interacting on a virtual platform… Misunderstandings are bound to occur… Please don’t cut off… Doesn’t this interaction hold any value to you?” Prerna begged as she sobbed uncontrollably.
“No, it doesn’t. If that’s what you want to hear.” Saumit’s indifference killed something inside her.
Stripped of her self-respect, Prerna found herself face to face with her brutal enemy – Loneliness. It terrified her; there was nowhere she could run. Feeling defeated, she allowed herself to drown in grief as fresh, hot tears streamed down her cheeks.
The next few days passed painfully slowly. The heartache made her lose her appetite and triggered her migraine attacks. Will he ever come back? She would check her phone every once in a while with the hope that she would find a message from him. There was none. Saumit had gone from her life.
Take a hold of yourself, girl. You are much stronger than you think! You have seen worse than this and have survived. This is no different. Just needs patience and faith. I forgive you for falling weak. The tiny voice inside Prerna shook her to her senses. She knew she had to make peace with her past and move on. One step at a time…
First, the turbulent sea of emotions which ravaged her mind had to be calmed. Saumit had shared that link about meditation. Let me try that! Prerna had never meditated before as she always found herself to be very restless and distracted. This time, it felt different as she slowly opened her eyes after the first session. Her mind welcomed the technique with open arms and was grateful for the respite it offered. Unknowingly, Saumit had opened a door which led Prerna towards tranquility. She made this a daily practice and gradually the rough sea of emotions calmed down.
With the mind taken care of, next was the heart’s turn. Prerna started writing down her feelings. It took her whole day to pour her heart out. A sudden realization struck her that she hadn't missed Saumit even once that day. Instead, she had actually unlocked an unexplored talent. I think I will post my work online and see what feedback I receive. It happened to be positive! Her broken confidence was on its road to repair.
Prerna started experiencing a new glimmer of hope somewhere in the depths of her heart. The time had come to heal her soul, and dance was the antidote for it! Oh God, I can’t wait to join the dance class tomorrow! That night sleep eluded her as she imagined herself dancing joyfully to the music.
My journey has not been easy, but I feel I am now ready to let go and move on. Thank you Saumit, for not being there. I am alone but no longer lonely, Prerna thought with a gentle smile spread across her face, feeling stronger than ever.