When you let your happy life slip past you in the pursuit of materialistic happiness, all it takes is one magical moment to pull everything back to ground reality. Jonathan Mathers narrates his story of the pursuit of riches, and finally, his run-in with love to create a romantic love story worth reading.
You may not have noticed this, but I believe that there are always life-altering moments in every single person’s life.
And more often than not, it’s the little things and little decisions that bring about a great change.
And one thing that’s funnier than all of this put together is that, the biggest changes in life usually happen when the past merges with the present.
I’m talking about get-togethers, bumping into old school friends, and other things that run along those lines.
The pursuits of my young life
When I was a young boy, I wanted to be a big tough guy.
And by the time I was in college, I wanted to be the richest guy in the world.
And finally when I was done with formal education, I had decided to make some money. I unclogged all the empty dreams in my head and worked hard towards my real dream. Making money.
To me, at that point of time, it sounded like a master-crafted idea. Really, who would ever think of money, everyone I knew wanted job satisfaction.
I would be the only guy who thought of money more than anything else, so maybe, just maybe I would be able to grow money on trees, while the rest of the world sold their Ferraris, converted into monks, took a year off to eat, pray and love, look within, or just search for job satisfaction in architecture like Howard Roark.
Now, a decade later, I know how wrong I was.
An encounter with the ghosts of my past and future
I did manage to do what I wanted to do best. Make money. But along the way, I had lost everything that mattered most to me a good decade ago. I didn’t have friends, I had business associates. I didn’t have free time, I played golf and spoke business. I didn’t take off on vacations. I just travelled the world on business prospects. I had become the one thing I was afraid of becoming.
I was a man who didn’t know to draw the line between fun, games, and work. I still don’t know how to sort my life and its different aspects. My work is my life and my life, my work.
Six months ago, I had a panic attack when I sat out on the balcony of my hotel, after a long strenuous business meeting. My mind was so full of thoughts, it was driving me insane. I could barely hold on to the cigarette in my hand, and I felt faintish. My heart ached, and my lungs couldn’t take in any more air. I was fine in a minute, but that shook me up. I may have consumed a few doubles of alcohol, but I was totally consumed by work. I needed to change my life, before I lost it all. I had no personal life. I had no friends. I had achieved my dreams, and lost everything else that ever mattered.
I wanted my friends back. I felt like Ebenezer Scrooge from ‘A Christmas Carol’. The ghosts of my past and my future had knocked on my door, in its own way.
The day I got back home, I made a couple of calls to the few friends who had still decided to keep in touch with me. Thank God for that! And I asked them if they wanted to meet up. At first they were shocked to hear that I wanted to meet up, but then, the plans were on in full swing. We chatted over the phone like little school kids, and our conversations, as with every man stuck with his old friends, were lewd and crude.
The excitement of a reunion
The guys took up the rest of the planning and decided to call in eight of our BFF buddies back from school for a reunion of sorts. I couldn’t recollect it at that point, but we did have a close knit group of friends back then, there were nine of us in all, and we used to have a great time, all the time.
As I lay in bed, I remembered all our young enthusiastic faces on the day of graduation. We hugged each other and I made everyone promise that we’d always keep in touch.
It took me almost ten minutes to even recollect all the names of the eight other people in my group. How ironic, isn’t it? It disgusted me.
We had decided to meet up that Saturday night, and that thought excited me. I was quite certain that I was the most excited of them all. They didn’t know how much this meeting, I mean, get-together, meant to me. It felt like my personal Last Supper. I was so scared to die all alone. Stupid thought though, I was still 30 and exercised six days a week. I missed my friends and I missed the hours of idle chatter and laughter. I was sick of being uptight and held back all the time. I hated being on guard. I was sick of chasing money. I just wanted to be free, and not be judged. And only my old friends could help me there.
I dragged on through the week, kept busy by work and other uptight meetings with associates. But deep inside, I wanted the week to just fly past, and I wanted to get away, even if it was just for a night. Finally, after a long drawl, Saturday evening finally arrived.
Reclaiming my lost life
I kicked off my boots, flung away my suit, and had a long, cold shower. And for the first time in years, wore a simple tee and blue jeans. It had been close to a decade and a half since I had even given all my friends a second thought. I had no photos, no scrapbooks, no facebook account, nothing. I had erased my past because I wanted nothing to do with it. That thought made me feel like shit.
I left my lonely house early, I had no dog to say bye to. Just the flicker of the boobtube going blank announced my exit. I got to the restaurant on time. I had made sure we’d go to this restaurant, the same one in which we used to hang out on Saturdays, when we were in school. A little, shabby joint that was the best place in the world for me, back then. I walked in and asked about the reservation. It wasn’t necessary, there was no such thing as reserving tables in this restaurant. I looked all around the restaurant, and I panicked.
Was I not able to recognize them?
And then, I felt a sharp searing pain on my back. And then I saw a face that I longed for. A friend! A friend that I truly recognized. “Jon, you bastard…” Sam yelled out.
“Asshole, how the hell are you, dude…” I blurted out, without giving barbarism a second thought. We hugged each other, and for the first time in a long time, I felt the warmth of a real friend’s hug.
“They’re all on the way, buddy… they’re coming together. Shaun and Ali are picking them up.”
“That’s cool…” I replied, without thinking much. It felt good to see even one of them. He obviously had no idea how much even seeing him meant to me. We sat down in a huge table and ordered for beers. It had been a while since I had tasted beer.
We started speaking and soon, we were lost in a conversation. It felt like hardly a minute or two had passed by, it was actually half an hour, when I heard a huge outcry of people calling out my name. Faces, faces, and more new faces. And faces that slowly transformed into ones that I recognized, and knew well. Something erupted within me, sheer happiness and joy, I was overwhelmed with gratitude and my throat went dry. I had a hard time swallowing, as each of them ran up and threw themselves in my arms. It had been so long. And I had been such an idiot.
There was Shaun, Sam, Richard, Ali, Kimberly, Mary, and Brittany. They all looked the same, just older. Even today, I wouldn’t be able to explain the emotions that overwhelmed me that evening.
“Tanya’s on her way, she’s held up with something…” Kimberly spoke out to no one in particular.
A tingle of romance in all the friendship
I got to know so much about my old friends in those hours, minutes or probably seconds that we sat together. Some of them were married, some even had babies, and one of them was engaged, due to get married the next month. I had been too busy to give a damn and they had given up on me anyway. But now, I wanted them around me more than anything else.
The rest of my friends were in touch with each other, and knew everything. Apparently, all of them made it a point to meet at least once a month. They had stuck by the promise I made for them. I felt slightly nauseated, and very guilty. I looked away, without anyone noticing it.
Sometime later, a pretty girl walked in and waved out, straight at us. Everyone waved back, but me.
“Jon… Omigawd… you look so different!”
I looked at her, stifling my incomprehension, and then it hit me. It was Tanya. Without her braces. Without her pig tails. Without her huge outrageous earrings. This Tanya was gorgeous. This Tanya had long, beautiful hair. This Tanya drew the air out of the enclosed space. And this Tanya actually called me by my name. I couldn’t remember a time when she had addressed me by any other term but ‘Idiot’. I smiled back as wide as I could. Words hardly had any significance at moments like these. We hugged tight and started laughing at each other. [Read: What guys always notice in a girl]
“Idiot, you look so bloody different. And look at you, didn’t bother to keep in touch with us, did you?”
“Tanya… why… I’m sorry… Gosh, you look so different…”
“Whatever, idiot… Okay, hope you guys ordered my drink…”
Everything was so confusing to me when Tanya walked in. I had given up all of what I was experiencing in the pursuit of happiness, and yet, I felt more happy sitting with all my school friends who made no big deal about meeting up. I had actually let all my happiness drift away, and ran in pursuit of something that I thought would be the only way to achieve happiness.
Tanya sat down next to me, and her hands were on my shoulder the whole time. She didn’t think too much about it, but I did. I didn’t know why. It felt weird. [Read: How to meet the one]
The start of a romantic love story
A hug was one thing, but Tanya’s hands on my shoulder made me feel uncomfortably happy. We sat down until late night and there wasn’t a moment when there was silence. The dinners I remembered were sober, quiet experiences with occasional toasts and happy talks laced with ego. Here, there was no ego, it was frank, and brutal at times.
I was laughing so much my jaws were hurting. I exchanged numbers with everyone, and we decided to meet up the next weekend. I didn’t want to be too enthusiastic in bringing that line up, even though my heart ached to let them go. I had let them down once before. This time, I wanted to be the mute acceptor, one who would keep his promise. Soon, everyone had to get back, and I bearhugged every one of them.
“Richard, drop me to my place. I didn’t get my car, I caught a cab” Tanya snapped out at Richard.
I don’t know how that happened to me, but I blurted out, “Hey, I’ll drop you, it’s cool. I’ve got nothing to do.”
“Ok…ay… If you really say so…” and she just flashed a cute smile at me. The guys smiled at me too. Maybe they knew there was something more than just stale beer in the air.
I hadn’t seen a girl smile that way at me. Nor had I ever felt my heart skip a beat before. I was so happy and intoxicated by their company, and yet, Tanya’s presence was doing more damage than all the others. All of us hugged each other one more time, and Tanya and I got into my car. We spoke all along the way, and soon, we got to her place. I just looked at her, obviously she wouldn’t ask me to come up, I thought. She didn’t.
“Are you busy?” she asked without preamble.
“What do you mean…?”
“Well, it’s been a while, and I’m free tomorrow, so I wanted to know if we can catch up. The other guys are all dating or hitched on Sundays, and I’m not… so… you free tomorrow? Hey, wait a minute, are you busy with your girlfriend or something?”
“No… no girlfriend!” I stammered back, I didn’t know why I was stammering. I felt so out of control with her. I was always the one in control all the time. Until that moment.
“All right then, I’ll come over to your place tomorrow…” she said, as she got off the car.
I stepped out too, and walked up to her. We hugged long, and I looked at her. She looked back at me. It didn’t feel like we were friends anymore. The air was crackling with something I couldn’t explain.
“I really missed you all these years. Even though I never realized it,” I said as I looked into her eyes, “… and you look so very beautiful.”
And at that point, I swear to God, even in the dark, I could see her cheeks go pink. She was blushing! She slapped my face lightly, and her hands took their time to slide away from my cheek. “Idiot…” she smiled. Her smile was infectious. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
The magic moments of experiencing love
I drove back home, with a mad vigor that I couldn’t understand. I was ecstatic. I was beaming at just about anyone who looked my way. I even smiled wildly at a cop at a traffic stop like an idiot. Was I in love? Was it my friends? Or was it Tanya? Or is this what true happiness felt like? I didn’t know. Frankly, I didn’t care. I just lay in bed and stared at the blank space above me. My jaws hurt. I closed my mouth. I was smiling the entire way back home. The thought of Tanya’s smile still lingered in my mind.
I woke up early the next morning, I hardly slept that night, coming to think of it now. I called Tanya up, spoke to her about nothing in particular for a couple of hours, and then, we decided that she’d come over to my place.
An hour later, she was home. In my place.
She really did have something that sucked all the light out the room. She was positively glowing, radiating like Claire Danes in Stardust. And she looked beautiful. All of a sudden, all my expensive chandeliers looked meek in front of this glorious aura that filled up every corner of the room with a sense of happiness I had never known. Even my décor seemed to behave that way, everything looked a lot better around her.
I smiled at her. She smiled back instantly. Her smile was captivating, spontaneous, and yet, so true. And definitely infectious.
We sat down in front of the television and spoke for hours. We ordered pizzas and spent the entire afternoon at home. She told me about her job and about her exes. And I spoke about mine. I kept the descriptions of my life short. Actually, there wasn’t much to tell her anyways.
It was late in the afternoon, and the sun shone lazily through the thick glass panels that made up one side of my living room.
The cold glass had always reflected how I felt about my life, cold, hard and impenetrable. But today, as we leaned against it together and stared at the setting sun, it felt warm. I could have stood there forever, watching the sun set, and birds take their final flight for the day. I looked at Tanya, she looked back. And smiled. I guess she knew I liked her, but she didn’t want to make a big deal out of it.
[Read: How to date a friend]
“You look so beautiful, Tanya…”
She smiled again. “Why Jon, thank you!” she laughed back with a mock curtsy.
“Let’s watch a movie, okay, I have a few good ones.”
“Sure…” she smiled again.
I couldn’t understand what was happening. I was with someone that I had avoided for the past decade, and here I was, falling for her in an instant. She was mesmerizing and captivating, she was beautiful and stunning, synonyms and rhymes made no justice to the aura she infused into the air.
She picked the movie, “The Holiday”. I hadn’t seen it. She hadn’t either. I pulled the curtains shut and dimmed the lights.
The movie was great, and somewhere in the movie, there was this point when Jude Law and Cameron Diaz realize they’re in love with each other. I remember that because it was around that point when our fingers touched. I didn’t know what to do, pull back or be brave. She didn’t do anything either. But I could sense the infusion of discomfort and felicity tingling at the point where our fingers touched. She felt it too. We were both very rigid.
[Read: Is she the one?]
[Read: Is he the one?]
Magical moments and the blurry moments
A good ten minutes passed. Silence. The movie was blurred in my mind. I couldn’t focus. I can’t remember breathing. But I felt something within me. And the feeling was intense. I wanted to hold Tanya in my arms.
Have you come across times in your life when you want to do something and the next instant, everything’s a blur and you’re doing what you wanted to do, irrespective of the consequences? This was my time.
I didn’t think, but I turned to face Tanya. She looked at me. Her eyes were saying something, but I was too lost to read it. I slid my hand away from hers. She looked confused now. The next instant, I wrapped it around her. So many flashes of thoughts flickered through my mind in that span of hardly a second or two. So many emotions ran through my veins, like never before. But when I hugged Tanya, everything disappeared. It was bliss. I was in heaven, lost somewhere in time and in space that was warm and so full of love. I felt her hands move gingerly across my back, softly and purposefully, until it reached a point where it stayed firmly still.
Time was such a lousy consideration here. Nothing in the world was a consideration anymore. Nothing mattered anymore. Just her. And me.
Her hands slid down, and as if on cue, I did the same. And then, she clasped my hands and looked into my eyes. I stared back, trying to read what she wanted me to know. She smiled, as if she knew what I was thinking. She kissed my cheek.
[Read: My Embarrassing first kiss story]
It left a cold, and yet, burning spot on my face. I wanted to feel that forever. I ran my fingers through her soft hair, they felt like strands of fine silk, and smelt of cinnamon. We didn’t speak. But we didn’t stop communicating. There was something in the air. And it was magical.
[Quiz: Are you more than a friend?]
Jonathan and Tanya have been in love ever since and life couldn’t get any better for both of them. They’ve moved in together and have a dog. She still calls him an idiot. He still can’t stop smiling when he sees her. A chance get-together that leads to a beautiful ending, how can that ever not be a beautiful romantic love story?
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