After two years of a beautiful relationship, she realised that she has more important things to do, and that our love was making her lose focus on her priorities. She broke up over a text message and left for a foreign land to pursue higher studies.
It was not the breakup, but the fact that my love was a hindrance to her dreams – that hurt more. Tried doing new and different things to keep myself occupied, but in vein. Memories kept popping up mercilessly, and there was a memory associated with her for almost everything I came across.
During one of those days of emotional turmoil, I was randomly checking social media and came across a group photo posted by an almost stranger in my friend list. Out of the many people in that photo was a face I could never forget – an awesome person from the past, my bartender lady.
The ‘butterflies in the stomach’ sensation is real; ask anyone who has fallen in love. It was a point of realisation that, even after all these years, I haven’t really gotten over my Cranberry Crush.
My first instinct was to go through the profiles of the people who were tagged in the photo, hoping to learn her name. But she was not tagged in it.
Why not go to that place once again, I thought; a change of environment would do good for my healing soul. Moreover, I could see her once again.
That’s how I decided to revisit the past, a city that gifted so many good experiences and memories to hold on. Called up my best friend and told him about the plans. He was excited too!
The first thing I did on reaching there was to go back to the pub where my not-so-secret love worked, along with my friend and his boyfriend. The place was crowded, and most of them were unknown to me. She was nowhere to be found. I went to the bar counter and ordered for a Cranberry Crush out of habit.
When the stranger served the drink I asked him, “What about the lady bartender here? Is she around?”
“Oh, she left the job about a month ago.”
I stood there numb.
People move on eventually, it’s true. But I never expected to not see her face there, making my FAVOURITE drink as soon as she sees me arrive. The hope of meeting her again, watching her do her “thing”, is what kept me going all this while. And now she is gone.
Asked him for more details, but all he knew was that she quit her job all of a sudden and they didn’t hear from her since then. My friend gave a consoling pat on the back. But that couldn’t make me feel any better. Didn’t know what to do with my life any more.
I went back to my friend’s apartment, stayed there for a couple of days more, caught up with some old friends, and returned to my place.
“You’ve been obsessed with her for so long. Now it’s time for you to move on,” bestie’s words of wisdom were playing in head on loop. He was right. There is no point in crying over the past. She and I were probably never meant to be together.
A week later, on a Tuesday afternoon, I walked into the nearest pub. It was almost empty although there were a few familiar faces – the waiters and the regular customers like me who converted that place into their working zone.
I sat at the corner table, opened the laptop, and started working. The thoughtful waiter quietly stood next to me to take the order. Without lifting my eyes off the screen, I said, “Safe Sex on the Beach, please.”
“No Cranberry Crush anymore?” asked a familiar voice from behind.
Startled, I turned my gaze towards the source of that voice. Couldn’t say whether I was hallucinating or whether my good old badass bartender lady was really standing there, next to me.
“Oh my God… You… You’re here… I don’t… I… I’m…” I blurted out.
Have you ever had that magical instance when the person you love is there next to you and everything around looks blurred, as if nothing else in the world mattered except the two of you and that moment? That was my state then.
“Yup. But in a different role this time,” she said.
“I don’t understand. How come you’re here?”
“Had a terrible breakup and life looked lonely and meaningless after that. One fine day I decided to follow my dream of being a musician, rather than getting stuck there as a bartender with emotional burden. Decided to start fresh in a new city. So here I am,” she said shrugging her shoulders.
“That’s awesome!” I immediately clarified, “The ‘following your dreams’ part that is. I never knew you were a musician too!”
“Yup. I’ll be singing at acoustic nights here and a couple of other places.”
Then I remembered the poster they recently pinned outside, with information on acoustic nights starting soon. “So, it’s you! The new singer! I had seen the promotion posters for it.”
She laughed hysterically. “You didn’t know my name all this while, did you?”
“Ummm… Well… Never really got a chance to ask your name or talk to you properly. By the way, I’m sorry to hear about your breakup. Even I had one recently. Remember the lady who was with me the last time we met? She broke up with me last month.”
“Yes, I know.”
“You do? How?”
“I have a confession to make, and please don’t think of me as a creep when I say it to you. Been following your Facebook profile for a while now. Also, a mutual friend of ours – don’t ask for the name – has been updating me about your details,” she smiled sheepishly.
I was startled.
“Does that mean you already knew I live here?”
“Yes. Also, I knew about your breakup just a week after it happened, and that you are single agai…”
Probably she noticed my pale and shocked face; she immediately changed the topic and said, “It’s sad that they don’t have Cranberry Crush in the menu here.”
“There is a confession from my end too. I hated that drink you made.”
“Really? I thought Cranberry Crush was your favourite drink! You asked for it every time.”
“That’s a long story. Shall explain it to you some other day.”
Didn’t know whether or not to continue with the next question, something I had been practising for three and a half years now. But this was the perfect time to let her know. “I’ve always wanted to ask you this. Have asked it once too, but messed up big time and you didn’t even understand what I really meant.”
She looked very puzzled and said, “Shoot.”
Rubbing my sweaty hands on the jeans, I asked, “Would you like to join me for a cup of coffee tomorrow? I mean… Only if you’re…”
“I prefer Irish Coffee,” she gave her sultry smile and winked. “But tomorrow is my first day of performance here.”
“Oh, all right. I’ll ask you out some other day then.”
“I was going to ask you to come over to my place, tomorrow evening after the performance. I shall make your drink, the Cranberry Crush.”
“Yes! Perfect! I missed having that crappy mocktail you make,” I said, and we both started laughing.
My body trembled in excitement and cheeks hurt from smiling. This is one of the best moments of life, when two people acknowledge their love for each other and are ready to take the next big step.
“Gotta get back now; I have to talk to the manager and arrange things for tomorrow’s event. I shall join you after that.”
She grabbed a tissue and the pen lying on my table and wrote her name and phone number on it. “Ping me,” she said and went across the room and started discussion with the manager. In between, she gave me occasional glances and smiles that melted me away. I held the tissue paper close to my heart and wondered whether it was just a pleasant dream. But no, this is real. I am seeing the side of my Cranberry Crush I’ve never seen before. She was no longer the monosyllabic bartender who didn’t give a damn for anyone or anything. She was no longer someone out of my league. I was just blinded by admiration for her and my negative self-image.
We love each other. That is all that matters now. Don’t know what the future holds, but I am up for that challenge and eagerly looking forward to it.
Well, now at least I don’t have to pretend that I’m watching something else. So, I kept staring at her doing her “thing”…