When I saw the movie Twilight or maybe it was New Moon, I thought the idea of a werewolf imprinting1 on a woman was a load of bullsh*t. It just didn’t seem realistic. Do you see the irony? I was trying to find “realistic” reasoning in a movie based on vampires and werewolves. Yet, the day I saw Avani for the first time, all my logic went out the window. I must be a werewolf at heart, because, at that time, I believed that I had imprinted on Avani. My world revolved around her, and she didn’t even know about it. Who knew that the road that I had taken to learn the magnificent French language would actually lead me toward a girl, whom I would never forget.
Saturday mornings are my favorite, but this particular Saturday was magical. Flying across the amber blue sky, I looked down to behold a breathtaking scenery. The snow-covered mountains beneath the clouds offered a glimpse of what heaven must look like. To think that a mere mortal, such as me, shared the view with the Gods was a humbling experience. With my huge white wings stretched wide, I took a deep breath. There was a distinct burning smell in the air. I turned sideways to find the source of this smell. To my horror, my left-wing had caught fire. From where? I was flying above clouds.
How can anything get to me here? Just then, my whole body started shaking. No matter how hard I tried, I just could not gather myself. The shaking was getting more violent by the second, and now, I was falling. My wings flapped relentlessly; even my burning wing was trying hard to save me from hitting the ground. Gravity was winning, and there was nothing I could do to avoid my downfall. Just as I was about to hit the ground, a melodious tune grabbed my attention. I paused mid-air, and a voice called out to me,
“Ved, wake up NOW.”
Just then my eyes popped open. My mom was shouting from the other room.
“So, I wasn’t flying,” I whispered to myself.
“Ved, it’s your first day of French class. Do you want to skip it already?” my mom was not the one to give up once she set her mind to something. And right now, her mind was set on getting me to my first class on time.
What was I thinking? Five days a week, I bust my a** in the office for 10 hours. Why did I think of joining weekend classes in the French language? But what could I do now? One cannot go back in time, right? Speaking of time, it was already 1 p.m. No wonder mom was getting ready to wreak havoc on me. Since the class started at 2 PM, I did not have the luxury of time. I had to skip either shower or food. Admittedly, it was not an easy choice, so I had to take an executive decision. I clean up good without taking a shower, but I could not learn anything on an empty stomach. Hence, food wins!
Despite lethargic morning, I managed to reach the institute a good ten minutes early. My friend, Ayan, who was as punctual as a clock, was already there. In a typical guy style, he gave me a ‘sup and pointed at the empty chair next to him. Guys rarely admit how much they care about each other. So, saving a seat for their friend is one way of expressing their affection to their friend. Of course, if alcohol is involved, their confession becomes more vocal and physical. Assuming that he didn’t come to the class drunk, the meaning of his act was well-received but never discussed.
For my 6 ft tall build, I could rarely find comfortable chairs. And the chairs in this class were no exception. Have you seen the chairs that have writing desks attached? It was of that kind. Let me tell you, these chairs were a hassle for me. Anyway, Ayan and I indulged in a customary small talk and observed the students. The class had a good mix of students of different age groups. The oldest one was a lady in her early 50’s, and the youngest was a twenty years old guy. Most of the others, including I and Ayan, were in their late twenties.
There were eighteen chairs in the class. When all, but one, of the chairs were filled, our language teacher, Miss Ada, entered the class with the director of the institute. He had a personality that commanded attention and respect. While he welcomed the class and explained the advantages of learning a language, I wondered about his age. He must be at least sixty years old. I must admit that I find welcome speeches quite pretentious and boring. I was suppressing a yawn when a voice stirred me awake. At the risk of sounding filmy, I must share that the air instantly changed the moment I noticed the source of that musical voice.
So, this is what imprinting on someone must feel like. She exuded a l’air d’innocence that arouses a guy’s desire to protect her. At the same time, she gave the impression of a self-sufficient lady. It was all very bewitching to me. I was so smitten by her stunning beauty that I didn’t catch her name. Now, I couldn’t very well ask my friend about it. Knowing him, if he got even a hint of my attraction, I would never hear the end of it. I was all out of sorts that day. I could not focus on a word that Ada ma’am was saying in french. Yet, I caught when she asked us to introduce ourselves to the class. In French! On our FIRST day! One by one, most of us began disfiguring one of the most fascinating languages.
That day, each student presented their own version of the simple “Je m’appelle…” sentence. From “Zamapele Rohit” to “Jhamape Ananya” to “Shamapele Vishal,” “Je m’appelle” died one million deaths that day. I couldn’t care less about other names. I had to know her name. After all, I had imprinted on her. All of a sudden, Ayan poked me with his pen on my arm. Without even realizing what I was doing, I slapped on his arm. The quiet room resounded with the sound of that slap, and subsequently, I was the center of attention of the entire class. For the first time, even she looked in my direction. Perfect! So much for the first impression. No English rule of the class rescued me from the embarrassment of talking about my childish act. However, what followed was even more humiliating.
My limited French vocabulary forced me to turn towards sign language. Oh, I didn’t know that language either. I just started enacting the scene that resulted in my slapping Ayan’s hand. My every movement followed a random guess from the students and a reminder from Ada Ma’am to only speak french. I would have been ecstatic to see “the girl I imprinted on” laughing if it were not at my expense. Even then, I couldn’t help but notice her exquisite laugh. She really was perfect. Tired of my shenanigans, Ada ma’am declared that it was enough. Just like that, it was 6 PM. The class was over, and so was my time with my girl today. Thanks to my antics, she didn’t get the turn to introduce her name. I had to wait until the next day to know her name.
In a matter of a few hours, I had gone for hating myself for joining the french class to waiting impatiently for the next class. From now on, I am forever team-Jacob. I would tell the whole world that even humans can imprint. I thought about her the whole time. I’ve had crushes before, but nothing was as dramatic as this one. I was sure it was more than a mere crush. It had to be love. I wanted to dream about her, but the only thing I remember dreaming about was the game of dumb-charades. Even in the dream, I was a laughing stock.
The next day, I put an extra effort in looking sharp. After yesterday’s disastrous performance, I had to work on the damage control. After spending more than reasonably necessary time in front of the matter, I headed for lunch and then class. If I tell you that the day was brighter and prettier, you would mock me. But, I must present an honest account of each fact; therefore, believe it or not, that Sunday was exceptionally radiant. Even so, the atmosphere of the class was in stark contrast to the beauty of the day. In my viewpoint, her absence was the sole reason for this gloom. Yes, she was not in the class.
The clock struck 2 O 3, and Ada Ma’am entered the class. If it were a cartoon, you would have seen my hopeful face droop so that my cheeks would hang a few inches below my jawline. As it was not an animated movie, nobody noticed my disappointment. Despite this setback, I focused on the board to grasp the lecture. If she were here, today’s lesson would have been quite useful. Ada ma’am was explaining how to tell in french if you’re single (Célibataire), committed (engagé), or married (marié.) in french. Right now, I couldn’t care less about anybody’s romantic status. The only person I wanted to know more about was not in the class.
In my peripheral vision, I noticed a movement at the entrance of the class. There she was! I don’t know what I was thinking, but I started to get up from my seat. Thankfully, everyone was too distracted at observing the reaction of Ada ma’am to notice my weirdness. Was I seriously going to escort her into the class or was planning on curtsying to her majesty? Did she bring out my peculiarities, or there was something very wrong with me? Quickly, I sunk back into my seat. Ada ma’am waved her in and asked her not to make a habit of being late in the class. She apologized profusely and occupied the last remaining seat.
Finally, the lecture ended with fifteen minutes to spare. Ada ma’am asked the students, who didn’t get a chance yesterday, to use the words from today’s class and introduce themselves. As other students began telling about themselves, I wanted the superpower to fast forward the time to the part where she would speak. I didn’t need to wait that long. She was the fourth in the queue.
“Je m’appelle Avani. J’ai vingt-huit ans. J’habite à Gurgaon avec mon mari.”
Avani. What a cute name! As I was contemplating ways to ask her out, Ayan’s irritating voice broke my daydreaming.
“She doesn’t look married. Does she?” he threw a rhetorical question without even looking in my direction.
“Married? Why would you say that?” I was suddenly feeling too hot.
Ayan just shrugged and said, “Mon mari means husband. She said ‘avec mom mari.’ That would mean with her husband.”
Well, I knew imprinting was a stupid concept. Undoubtedly, Stephenie Meyer would receive a very different kind of letter, now. With my chin tucked in, I looked in her direction, one last time. As everybody got up to leave the class, somehow, I lost balance and stumbled. I didn’t fall, but the chair made a loud screeching sound. Hearing the commotion, Avani glanced in my direction and asked if I was alright. Generally, I have one thousand words ready, but in her response, I only nodded. She smiled and left. I sat back down and buried my head in my palms.
“Are you having a stroke? Let’s go!” Ayan shouted from outside the classroom. Just then I realized that I was sitting alone in the class. Without another word, I just walked toward Ayan. Together we left to attend a friend’s promotion party. At least, there would be booze.
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