“Will I ever have a valentine?”, Carl thought to himself while forcefully reading his best friend–Morris’s chats with his girlfriend regarding their plans for 14th Feb. It was just a week away and everyone around him was preparing for the ‘big day’. Morris was his closest buddy in school, and the fact that Morris not being a nerd in his stream, yet having a girlfriend (his 3rd one to be precise), made Carl highly envious of him. But Carl wasn’t going to be like his buddy, breaking up every second year – having another girl beside him. He aimed to be the loyal kind. The one when, in a relationship, would stick with his girl till the end of his days, someone whose eyes he would look into on his death bed and for those few brief moments of life recollect his long romantic relationship right from this year.
It’s not like Carl never had a crush or something. Of course he had one. In fact, a huge crush, that his entire friend circle despised and urged him over and over to forget. But here he was, aiming to be a dedicated partner. Karen, his girl, was on the other hand, a complete opposite. She aimed to be highly independent but just one of those chicks who loved to mess around, with a crusher’s worst nightmare – mixed signals. As 14th Feb came closer, his dreams went further. His hopes went higher, as they did for the past 4 years, every year. And he began with his planning. Since 14th was a week day, and his mom would by no means allow him to leave the house on a weekday, also, ignoring the fact that it was a weekday, and just considering that it was St. Valentine’s Day, he would not be able to be the saint of the day and sneak out without his mom assuming it was a 14th Feb plan. She knew all about him and Karen, that there was for an investigative mom to know. He then had to devise another plan for his one and only love. What was there to lose? Everything. His four-year long struggle to get the love of his life would be flushed down the drain in a matter of seconds.
On the eve of 14th Feb, he decided to pose the big question before her. Since a voice call wasn’t going to make it through with his mother at home, he’d have to make the best of an SMS. He took the phone in his sweaty palms, opened the chat, hovered his thumbs over the on-screen keyboard. All of a sudden his fingers refused to recollect how to type. All he wanted to type was a “Will you be my valentine?”, and that just wouldn’t go down. “How’s it so easy for Morris? Must be because he’s had had to type it so many times that his fingers had just mapped the letters by heart.” “(Valentine’s day) it’s all a game. All you gotta do is learn to play it right.”, is what he always told me a day before proposing a girl.” But to Carl this was no game. Karen was no character in this supposed game either. He couldn’t take a topic this serious to be a mere game. Just before he touched W, a knock on the door of his room gave him a mini heart attack.
“Mom, what is it?”
“Dinner’s almost ready for my studious bachha.”
“Mom, I told you a million times, don’t call me that”, he replied blushing red. “I’ll be at the table in 5 minutes, just a bit of the last chapter left.”
“Okay, make it quick.”
With that, he got back to his screen, and finally typed it out. “Will you be my valentine?”. The message got sent, within 10 seconds – delivered. All he had to do now was sit back and relax. But relax was nowhere in the dictionary. What was the meaning of relax at this moment? Coaching classes for the heart to prep itself for a grand acceptance begun. “Her most probable answer will be Yes, why not? And you gotta stay calm. Don’t you dare say something in excitement or you’re dead meat”, and before the next expert advice could have come, a notification popped up on his screen. ‘Karen has messaged you’. His heart ran even faster, faster than it ever could. Thinking of all the time he’s ever spent on her, now was the time to know if it all was ever worth it. Were the sleepless nights he spent on keeping her company even when she had a million other friends at an arm’s reach, going to go to waste? Was all the trust his mother lost in him because of her, going to go in vain? Were his friends’ advices on leaving her, all going to turn out to be right? The only way he would find out was by clicking on that notification that read ‘Karen has messaged you’. He took his laptop, sat on the windowsill, so tempted to open the message but before he could open it he wanted to embrace his future in the grandest way. He imagined her sending her grand acceptance. What and how would he reply to her then? Where would he even take her? What’s the best restaurant in the area? Also a small budget had to be kept in mind. Having a grand date would set high expectations from her once they’d be in a relationship. What if she found the small-budgeted date real cute and then expected a big-budgeted one? Maybe she’s the humble kind. “The place wouldn’t matter to me, it’s the time that I spent with him is what would matter the most”, is what she once told him while they strolled along the corniche. So a fancy place wouldn’t come in the list. “Yay to me! And yay to my pocket!” He imagined her sitting in front of him on a table for two at a mediocre restaurant– a pizza joint since she loved pizza– looking into each other’s eyes, taking a slice of pizza and sharing each bite and and smiling at each other. After a perfect night at the restaurant he’d drop her under her building, wait out till the lift doors closed and until he’d see the last of her gorgeous face and then leave to come back to his mom – “MOM!”
“How on earth am I supposed to leave the bloody house with mom at home?” He thought for a moment and then came up with this genius idea of a ‘virtual date’. What if they had the date on WhatsApp? What if he took her on a virtual date on WhatsApp where he could represent most of the elements of the date with imojis. That wasn’t such a bad idea after all. “I’ll have to pitch this date to her like I’m Steve Jobs pitching my idea to IBM”. He then went on to WhatsApp, into the emoji keyboard and began shortlisting a list of suitable emojis for this grand virtual date. “The heart ones are a must, and then oh! The heart box with a ribbon! Then for the main part, wine and fries! Yes, fries…she loves fries…just like she loves me.”, he thought even deeply. For dessert it would be chocolate ice cream from Baskin Robbins with the tiny ice cream cone emoji. He then went on to plan some quirky lines to ‘sent the mood in’. Since this was going to be a midnight date, to romanticize marginally higher he also added the element of stars in the sky and the corresponding emojis. “Let’s lie down next to each other and gaze into the starry sky”, he imagined telling her.
And once the night ended he would ask her out on another date, a ‘real date’ this time, ’cause surely she would have loved this one. From then on, they’d go on multiple dates. Until one day when he’d propose her, get the ring for her, down on one knee, and she’d say YES! overjoyed by his efforts. He’d actually introduce her to his mom in person and she’s introduce him to her dad. Dad…the word “dad” gave him the chills. The multiple calls he had hung up on her dad picking up the call were ridiculous.
“Who’s this?”, a stern police-like voice would reply.
“Hallo uncle, I’m Carl.”
And BAAM! He would slam the end call button before her dad would even think of giving the phone to Karen. But Carl wasn’t going to give up that easily. He knew that to conquer a girl’s dad’s heart, he would first have to conquer her’s. And that’s exactly what he planned on doing tonight. He was going conquer her heart, mind and soul. Be the only guy to ever make her feel so special. He was going to give this moment his all. There was nothing he wanted to keep back. They knew each other better than anyone they knew, so much that Carl could predict what she’d reply to almost anything he said and this time he predicted a “Yes, why not?”
It was about time, 2 minutes had passed since she replied and the notification ‘Karen has messaged you’ still pending on his laptop screen. He quickly switched his laptop with his phone, came back on the windowsill, where the air was light and cool – just enough for the grand acceptance. He unlocks the phone, his fingers once again giving up to inch one bit. He forces the courage into his system, gathers the balls to check the preview. First thing that appears on the screen is her name and then the message saying:
Hey, really sorry, I’m spending tomorrow with someone already…
The phone fell 14 inches onto the mattress under windowsill and Carl, 14 floors from the windowsill onto the pavement.