Whenever people used to say that opposites attract, I used to scoff at them. Maybe not actually scoff but definitely an eye roll or something. I used to think that only applied to magnets and cheesy romance movies with obvious plotlines. I could never see how anyone, let alone me, a quiet person with practically zero people skills, could get on with someone they had nothing in common with. Until, that is, I found her, my best friend, my soul mate, my everything. Though it might be more appropriate to say that she found me, as that is quite literally what happened.
As I said, I used to be a pretty quiet kid. Making friends was never easy. Going up to a person and actually making small talk scared the living hell out of me. A stranger approaching me to start a conversation caused me to break into cold sweat and my mind to go blank. As a result I used to find shelter in one fictional world or another. My books or my handheld gaming console acted simultaneously as a safety blanket for me, and as a deterrent for people to approach me. At least I thought so until one day, someone actually approached me and started a conversation with me!
In hindsight, it should not have been that surprising, but I was still pretty young then, maybe twelve or thirteen years old, and it was at a housewarming party for our new neighbors. I was pretty much indifferent at the idea of having new neighbors, and them having a daughter about my age did not even make it into the top ten things I had to think about. My parents though, oh boy were they excited! They were invited to a party next door, thus had an occasion to let loose after god knows how long, they’d get to meet and befriend a new couple and, the cherry on top, their weirdo son might finally befriend someone! Well, they might not have said that last bit and I might be paraphrasing here, but I’m pretty sure that’s what they were thinking!
As for me, I planned to do exactly what I usually do during each of these sort of gatherings: fix myself a plat of snacks, grab a drink and slide off to a corner, reappearing only if I need to top up my drink or use the restroom. My parents however actually wanted me to socialize that time, so they forbade me from bringing any books or my Gameboy, the jerks!
With my plans derailed, I had no idea what to do when we arrived. The new neighbors greeted us warmly, exchanged pleasantries about the neighborhood with my parents and tried to get me involved by asking me all sorts of questions. Thinking back on that night, I can never remember what they asked about, maybe it was about school about myself, or they could even have asked me if I killed their puppy for all I know! That entire conversation is just blank. What I do remember though is me answering everything with a one-word answer, and the look of slight embarrassment and concern on my parents’ and neighbors’ faces respectively as they looked at me, each other and back at me again.
After what felt like hours of awkward silence, I was directed towards the backyard where other children from the neighborhood had gathered. I made my way there slowly whilst I berated myself for being so goddamned awkward. As I neared the glass door that opened onto the garden, I could hear the sounds of music and laughter and I could see the various groups that had formed and I fit into none of them. I so very much wanted to just go out there and strike up a conversation with any of these people, but I could barely come up with any topic to discuss, let alone some way of broaching the subject. Dejected, I turned around and made a bee line for the snacks table. I’d resigned myself to spend the night quietly snacking on potato chips and sandwiches when I heard someone clearing their throat behind me.
Thinking I was in the way of them getting their food, I turned to apologise and get out of their way. The person behind me was a girl, about four feet in height with short brown hair and a blue and white stripped dress. She had her hands cocked on her hips and an eyebrow raised.
That was my first meeting with the one who would later become my better half. And my first impression of her was… not very good. She’d introduced herself, dragged me by the arm to the couch and just started to talk about anything that came to her mind whether or not I answered her countless questions appeared to be irrelevant and I was honestly starting to panic. I had no idea how or why this strange girl had cornered me!
As the night progressed, I managed to relax a little around her and I learned quite a bit about her. She was two years younger than me, she’d had to move because of her parents’ work and she loved sports and animals. To my shock and amazement, I even managed to share my love of video games with her. I mean, a girl who loves video games?! That was a first for me. Neither my female classmates nor my cousins had ever expressed any interest in anything of the sort. As I look back upon that night, the way her eyes shone as she talked about her passions, especially about her saving Hyrule from the tyranny of Ganondorf as the Hero of Time, was undoubtedly the moment where I started to inevitably fall for that strange girl. Not that either of us would know it for many years still!
Years later, I asked her about that night and her answer was both slightly embarrassing and touching. Apparently, before I’d even gotten there, I was a topic of discussion amongst the other kids. They all knew me as that strange kid who was always by himself and never interacted with others. During the party she’d seen me freeze before going into the garden and I reminded her so much of a lonely puppy that she’d sought me out! And I thank all the gods that she had, because I dread to think what would have become of me if she hadn’t.
She started school the following week and was an instant hit with everyone and at first that irritated me to no end. I tried my best to avoid her, because as opposed to me, who was always alone and ignored, she was always surrounded by her friends, always laughing and making others laugh. To me she was like the sun, always so bright and cheerful and full of energy. She could go toe to toe with any of the jocks in any sport whilst maintaining good grades. I was so envious of her.
However, despite how popular she became or how hard I tried to avoid her, she’d always seek me out whether at school or at home and she’d simply talk. She’d talk about her day, her friends, she’d ask for my help with her homework and on the weekend she’d invite me over to play Mario Kart together. Little by little, I too was won over by her. For the first time I was not alone or ignored but I had a friend and I felt good and light. It was as if there had been a cloud hanging over me previously and now it was gone.
As time went by, our friendship continued just as strong, if not got stronger. We were nearly always together. She broke me out of my shell and I never realized when that had happened. She would drag me to her sports meet or hikes even though I acted grumpy throughout. She introduced me to her friends and helped me grow comfortable around them. I still preferred it when it was just the two of us but hey, I had nothing to complain about. Actually, I felt a slight twinge of jealousy whenever she was with them instead of me, but I pushed it down as far as I possibly could and locked that away. At home our two families were as close as could be. We had lunch or dinner all together at least once a week, we vacationed together quite often and since neither of us had siblings, the guest bedrooms in our respective houses were reserved for the other and they got used quite often. During our sleep overs she would bring her gaming console and school me in Mario Kart.
Puberty came and brought with it a whole slew of changes. As my body started to change and my hormones started to go haywire, the way I started to look at her also started changing. No. It was exactly changing, since my feelings for her were already there. Rather I started to get a better grasp on them. I started to understand why ‘best friends’ always seemed so weak when describing my relationship with her.
With that new understanding however, came new insecurities. Whilst I changed thanks to her, became more outgoing and less shy, I still viewed myself as that gloomy kid most people ignored and she was still my sun, bright, warm but ultimately unattainable. So I kept my feelings in check. At times when it was just the two of us, it almost seemed like the air around us would become charged and during those times, I almost confessed, or I would imagine that she would, but neither happened. Later on, when I was alone, I would berate myself for another missed opportunity. I was simply too afraid that everything between us would change, and not in a good way.
This continued until my first year of college. That summer would become the first major milestone in our relationship. It was and still is however a real bittersweet moment for us.
A few weeks into my classes, I stopped receiving any communications from her. It wasn’t until I went home at the end of that semester that I learnt what had happened. She got into an accident which left her paralyzed from the waist down. She hadn’t wanted me to worry and do something rash, so she said nothing, and got my parents to agree to do the same.
Needless to say that I was furious with them all, but I had to put my anger away to care for the most important person in my life. In spite of the many objections and protests from both her and my parents, I took a year off from college. That left her absolutely fuming and she yelled at me for hours. As for me, her outburst left me rather happy, since it showed me that she had not lost her spirit yet, and I vowed to do all that I could to make sure she never lost it.
During my time taking care of her, something must have happened to reveal how I really felt about her, or maybe she knew all along and chose then to let me know that she knew… Anyway one day she confronted me about them and I had no choice but to confess everything. For a long time we were both completely silent, then she started sobbing. She cried for a long time and I simply held her, not knowing what else I could do. Her folks came in to check on us but they could not help either.
Finally, after she’d cried what seemed to be all the tears in her small body, we talked. For a long time we talked about us, about hidden feelings and past regrets, we talked about doubts and fears and we talked about the future, our future, and our hopes and dreams, both old and new. By the end of the night, we were both exhausted but more importantly, we were together. At last, the sun that seemed so far away was finally all mine. She appeared a bit dimmer and a little smaller, but she was still plenty bright and warm and I vowed that night to do everything I could to never let it go out. Our families were elated and dare I say it, somewhat relieved, when we broke the news.
It took a while but she bounced back. Not literally, obviously. Her friends came to visit her, and since she was so popular and well liked, there were a lot of them. It always irked me when one of her male friends would come to visit, as they always appeared a bit too concerned, if you know what I mean. And despite my best attempts at hiding my jealousy, she always knew. She never said anything except give me an amused smile and a kiss on the cheek.
After a few months in bed, she got permission from the doctors to go out in a wheelchair, which she now had to learn to use, provided she was accompanied by someone, and I took that job very seriously. Most of the time, she was very upbeat and would tackle the new challenges in front of her with gusto. She managed to learn to use the wheel chair by herself in less than a day and managed to drag herself up short stairs after two or three. There were also days where she would feel down, but those were fortunately few and far between. Our lives together had more ups than downs but ultimately very fulfilling and I owe it all to that little girl who forced her way into my life.