Saturday, 2 February 2013

One Year Later

"Congratulations to the class of 2012! And wish you all the luck in the world." said our Vice-Chancellor as she stepped down from the podium. There was a big round of applause and the crowd cheered. We had just graduated from university and the world was ours to conquer. Everyone was excited, including me, but my excitement was for reasons only I was aware of. Today, I was to meet Elizabeth. It had been exactly one year since I last saw El but her images were frequent phantoms of my dreams. Those enticing hazel eyes, perfectly shaped lips and beautiful brown hair. They never failed to mesmerise.

I remember the day we first met. It was the first day of university. I stood staring at the colossal iron gates, the entrance to a new life. I had never been so far away from home before. My palms were sweaty. There was a sinking feeling in my stomach. One more step and I enter this new edifice of education, leaving my old life behind. This was perhaps the most courageous step I was about to take. I stared at the vast grounds before me. There into the distance, beneath an ancient oak, I saw her. The sinking feeling in my stomach was replaced with butterflies. My legs moved involuntarily as I became a puppet and her charm, my master. Within seconds, I stood in front of Elizabeth, at a loss for words. "Yes, can I help you?" she asked, justifiably confused. "Aaa... Umm.. H-h-hi... Its my first day today. I.. I was.. umm... I don't... You are extremely beautiful." I froze. Why had I just said that? "What?!" she asked, actually amused. "I'm sorry, I don't know why I said that. Im extremely sorry... I-I-I should just go. I'm sorry." I fumbled for a moment and turned to leave. "Wait." she said. I obeyed. "What you just said. You really find me beautiful?" she asked, smiling playfully. "Umm.. What?.. Yes... Yes I do." I said, thoroughly perplexed. "Call me El. Short for Elizabeth Devore. Its your first day you say?" she said. I was at a loss for words."Hey! Fresher!" she voiced, momentarily shattering my untargeted focus. "Yea... umm.. Yes." I said, and went silent again. "Well then, I guess I'll see you around." came her final reply as she walked onto the vast grounds, leaving me virtually paralysed.

It did not take long to get to my accommodation. It was an old building. The stone walls were covered in moss. A few plants had found their way through some of the cracks. The place was abuzz with excited first years like myself. My room was on the seventh floor but the elevator was taking painfully long to arrive. I grew restless and decided to walk up the stairs. The seventh floor was relatively quiet. My room was at the very end of the hallway. All keys were in the locks for ease of access. I quickly opened the door to my room and dragged my luggage inside. The room was not much. A single bed took up most of the space. The rest was filled by a small desk and a wardrobe. I dropped my luggage onto the bed and began to unpack. It was a tedious process. After a tiresome two hours, I lay peacefully on my bed. "Elizabeth....." my thoughts wandered back to her. I was in awe of those hypnotic eyes, that captivating face, those flawless lips..... What had this brief encounter done to me?! I was pleasantly confused. "Elizabeth." I pronounced to myself. The mere sound of her name sent a rush of warmth across the entirety of my spine. I spent all night awake in bed, welcoming wondrous thoughts of El into my shallow slumber.

A few weeks went by, I had yet to see El again. My mind was unfocused, yearning, borderline desperate. I wanted to see her again. Then, one fine morning in the middle of term,  I was rewarded with a glimpse of her. I waved to her and she waved back but within seconds, disappeared behind the doors of Lecture Theatre 8.1. "Beautiful..." I said to myself, staring blankly at the closed doors. I thought of waiting right there and greeting her after her lecture, but being a first year, I lacked the courage to dodge my own academic commitments. In retrospect, I should have waited. The quantum physics lecture that I attended, was simply Greek to me.

A whole quarter went by and our first term was at an end. I grew restless. What I would not give, just to meet with El once again. The opportune moment arrived a few days into the inter semester break. I sat in the empty library, grasping my daily dose of commercial awareness from the FT. There was a tap on my shoulder. "Heyy... Haven't seen you in a while fresher!" the sound of that voice delighted me, took me to another level of excitement. It was her, after what felt like a decade, Elizabeth was standing right behind me. I turned, all the while attempting to maintain a neutral expression. "H-h-hi El." I stuttered nervously. "How've you been? First term went well?" she asked and smiled. I watched, stupefied, as those tender lips stretched to opposite ends of her glowing face. "Yes.... umm... Yea yea term was good. I... umm... managed decent scores." I said, trying hard to keep a light tone. She told me her trip to Scotland was cancelled and that she was free for the weekend. My heart did a joyous back flip. The FT I was reading fell to the floor, and my entire attention was diverted to the enchanting voice of Elizabeth.

After that day at the library, me and El met more frequently. Sometimes we spoke for hours on end while other times, we simply stayed in each other's presence and said nothing at all. As months went by, we grew inseparable. I began attending some of El's lectures and she came to some of mine. We sat away from the majority, at the top corner of the lecture theatre, in our own paradise. She spoke and I listened, magnetised. An occasional nod from me reassured her that I was still listening, and an occasional pause from here reminded me that I wasn't dreaming.

Another year went by, and it was El's time to leave. She told me she was offered a job at a prestigious consultancy. I was happy for her, but to watch her leave, pained my heart in the worst manner possible. I was devastated. Never again would I see her disappear behind Lecture Theatre 8.1. Never again would I walk into an irrelevant lecture with her nor sit in the top corner that we called paradise. All of them were just memories now, etched in my mind, piercing it like little shards of glass. Her parting words still echoed in the depths of my subconscious, perhaps the only thing keeping me alive. "We will meet again, exactly a year from now, right here on campus. I will see you at your graduation."

The graduation ceremony was almost over. Tears were shed, memories were shared. I spoke to those I was close to, but the one closest to me was nowhere in sight. "Hey have you guys seen Elizabeth Devore?" I asked a group of my classmates. "Who?" came a unanimous reply. "Oh! She was a year senior, hazel eyes, brown hair?" I asked, trying to jog their memories. "Don't know a senior like that, dude. Sorry." one replied, and the others followed. "C'mon it was the girl I sat with at the top corner of some of the lecture theatres? You must remember her, right?" I said, my tone precarious. "Dude, when you sat in that corner, you were sitting alone! There was no one with you." came the reply of my classmate. Everyone else seemed to concur with him. I was aghast. What did they mean there was no one with me? Elizabeth was with me! They were right there! They all saw us together for over two years. It did not make any sense! I broke away from the crowd and into the nearest lecture theatre.

Lecture Theatre 8.1. I walked into the empty theatre, trying to think clearly. What was going on? El was right there, all these years, right by my side and now they say I sat alone. Fools, all of them! I could not understand what to believe. Was she really just in my mind? Was the beautiful Elizabeth nothing but a figment of my imagination? No, I refuse to believe that! She was real and she was supposed to meet me. "Hey Fresher!" came the familiar voice that haunted my dreams and supported my existence. "El?" I said, looking around the theatre. "Where are you El? I have missed you!" I said, my voice desperate. She was nowhere to be seen. Was I insane? Was Elizabeth a mere product of my madness? A fiction created by my mind? "Right here, in our paradise." came her reply. I darted to the top corner of the theatre, yearning for a glimpse of my sweet El. I did not wish my previous questions answered. All I wanted was to be with El. I gave up all my inhibitions, all my fears, all my sanity, and allowed myself to be consumed by the product of my insanity, my precious Elizabeth.

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