Andy was a third-year B.Com student in Kohima, the state capital of Nagaland. He originally belonged to Peren district. One afternoon, after returning from his college, he stood in the College hostel’s balcony, feeling the fresh spring air in Kohima; cool and breezy. Just two blocks away from the hostel, he saw a girl leaning on the wooden wall of their front porch. His eyes were glued to the magnificent bayou, the kind of which he had never seen before; he could immediately feel falling in love with that girl. Andy was no longer tired but pumped with lightning zest. His heart was filled with unexplainable joy. It was as if his whole three years of existence in Kohima was meant for that particular day and to meet the mystery beauty. Andy smiled and waved, and the girl waved back. They both stared at each other till it was invisibly dark.
The next day, after classes, Andy rushed to his hostel’s balcony and excitedly took a glance on the front porch of the adjacent house, only to find there was no sight of his newfound beauty. He paused for a while, dejectedly looked at his watch, and said to himself, “But it was exactly this time, yesterday.” As he was about to leave the place, he noticed the girl, slowly walking towards the exact location where she stood the day before. Andy trembled with elation and smiled; no words were required for the girl to know his feelings. They stared at each other and both smiled shyly. That went on for a week before they made it a morning and evening affair. Getting up in the morning, which Andy had hitherto loathed, became his much-awaited time of the day, so much so that there were nights he’d stay sleepless so as not to miss the morning glance of his love.
One afternoon, just a moment before the sun was about to set, Andy waved at the girl and asked her phone number by gesturing a phone with his hand and placing it in his ear. Then the girl smiled and nodded her head, possibly conveying that she understood the signs. She gave her number by writing in the empty air. It was tough but Andy could get the number after much effort. Soon they began messaging and chatting. The girl’s name was Ruby and she lived with only her mother. The chatting and calling became so regular that Ruby’s mom caught her sending an, “I miss you” text.
“Ruby, you are just eighteen and your higher secondary exam is knocking at the door. I can’t let anybody and for that matter, even you spoil your future, ”said the mother. For weeks, the duo had to be content with the distant smile and love gestures. One afternoon, Ruby got hold of her mother’s phone while she was taking a nap and asked Andy to meet her. It was getting dark and Andy embraced Ruby without saying a single word. It was the first time they met. To Andy, the girl he had been thinking and smiling at for months is now in his arms, nothing else matters. He kissed her on the forehead and said, “I love you, Ruby.” She kissed him on his lips and as she moved her fingers across his chest and abs, she remarked with a faint voice, “You have such a smooth yet hard physique. I love it. ” Andy kissed her back and said, “I love everything about you.” Just as they began sharing their feelings, a voice erupted, “Ruby! Ruby! Where the hell are you? ” She was shaking with fear as she quickly ran towards her house. “You are going to pay for this” were the last words Andy heard before heading back to his hostel.
Andy didn’t sleep that night. The next morning he stood in the hostel balcony for five hours but Ruby never came back. The following days and weeks, Andy would be staring at the empty porch, only to be lost in his own world. Soon it was time for Andy’s final year examination. After the completion of his exams, he returned to his native village. Ten years down the line, Andy now works in Kohima and is happily married. He has a daughter and he named her Ruby. As for Ruby, the beauty of Kohima that once stole Andy’s heart, nobody ever heard of her again after that first meeting. Some said she left her home after a fight with her mother that fateful evening itself. While there are stories that she had taken her own life, a few believe that she lives on her own somewhere far away. Whatever it may be, Andy and Ruby never get to meet again after their first kisses. Sometimes, especially at night, under the fading moonlight, when the cold breeze of Kohima blows over the hills, Andy can’t help but secretly remember Ruby.
(TS Haokip is the author of ‘Hilly Dreams’. Views expressed in this article are personal and may not necessarily reflect the views of Outlook Magazine)