I know Valentines Day and the month of love always gets a bit of a bad rap for being a commercial marketing day to get couples to spend money, but that angle of it aside, I thought it was important to tackle the honesty of romance.
I put up a post asking for people to share their stories of how they met their partner, and this is what they had to say.
This is the last couple in our #SeasonOfLove – Enjoy their story.
Nidha and Adrian
I could have torn a ligament in my knee. I could have left behind my knee cap. I had pivoted on the balls of my left foot and swung around in my haste to change direction and walk back to a room I had just passed.
It was the smoking room at 47 Sauer Street, Johannesburg I used to frequent. Something caught the corner of my eye as I walked past, intent on poisoning my lungs outside for once, in the fresh air. But a well-groomed head of long hair and a beautiful face made me change direction.
I was curious, and I wanted to see more.
The rubber soles of my shoes caught the dirty tiles and twisted my knee enough to send a sharp pain signal to my brain, saying “Fuuuuck!” My brain sent a signal back saying,“Not now.” I gathered myself and took a few steps.
In that split second of changing direction and nearly putting my knee out and causing long term injury, my life changed forever.
This was The Star building and many cool and incredible people have passed through this room. Legends. Though none were as beautiful as what was sitting in front me when I pushed open the door. Through the floating dance of cigarette smoke, seated at a round table, legs crossed, arms folded – there she was.
She was a twig of a woman. Skinny, wearing blue jeans and a blue jersey. My gaze lingered on her hair. I confirmed it was a beautiful dark brown with streaks of light brown and blonde. It perched upon her shoulders effortlessly. She held a cigarette in her hand, a little awkwardly. Dunhill Menthol.
I smoked Dunhill Lights, so at that point I figured we were meant to be together.
A match made in heaven. But I played it cool.
I took my seat a few chairs away from her, and looked ahead of me into space, then looking around for something to read. Nothing. I stared at the floor.
Seconds later I felt the need to introduce myself, I don’t know why. Maybe because I had been in the company for a now and felt a sense of duty to break the ice and make a new employee feel comfortable. (Which is complete bullshit. I would never do that under normal circumstances. I would just greet a person and stare into space.) Maybe it was her eyes. They were big and light brown and piercing like they could see through my heart.
We shook hands. I said, “Hi, I’m Adrian.”
“Nidha,” she said under her breath. I didn’t quite hear her name the first time, but I didn’t ask her to clarify. I thought to myself, “Nita? Nina? Shit.”
Her hands were soft and cold. The great handshake lasted all of two seconds. Now what?
I leaned back in my chair as my chest cavity began to beat a little faster. My breathing seemed to lose its rhythm, so I pulled harder at the cigarette. Playing it cool and acting casual is not something I practice. Besides, two colleagues were sitting with us in the same room. This was awkward. There are many awkward silences in smoke rooms and balconies. Smokers are often forced to make idle chit chat with strangers or risk alienation at ashing time and there’s only one ashtray around.
I stole another glimpse while she leaned forward towards the ashtray.
I asked her which Department she worked for. She mumbled something about News or Subs or something; I wasn’t really paying attention. It didn’t matter. She was in the building and that was good enough. Besides, my brain had stalled on her eyes, and someone had switched the sound off.
Again, this is perfectly acceptable social behaviour. Not creepy at all. People do this all the time. Many people except me.
I was outside my comfort zone. I had just come out of a shitty divorce and wasn’t in the mood for love or anything resembling it. But I was intrigued by “Nita”.
I went back to my desk, and rummaged through the newspaper publishing system we all use. I found a name I didn’t recognize, that could possibly sound like “Nita”. She was designing a news page. Her name was “Nidha Narrandes”.
Now, at this point you’re thinking “stalker” right? Wrong.
I was merely doing research. Facebook wasn’t that popular, so I couldn’t do the usual stalker thing, so the next few weeks consisted of finding excuses to walk past her desk, and “coincidentally” meeting her in the smoke room. I worked a few metres from the smoke room and every time I heard the tick tock of high heels enter the room, chances are it was Nidha. Sometimes I was wrong, and so I tried meeting her for the next round. I smoked a lot back then as a result.
Every time we met we talked a little bit more, learnt a little more about each other, found common interests and similar life experiences. It turned out we lived parallel lives, growing up in Pietermaritzburg, attending the same pre-school, then studying journalism, me at Natal Technikon and Nidha at ML Sultan, just a few blocks away from each other.
When a trip to Cape Town was organised by the two journalism institutions together we would have met for the first time in 1998. But her mum fell seriously ill and so Nidha pulled out at the last minute.
A few years later during our early working years Nidha was employed at Independent Newspapers in Durban months after I had left there to start working in Johannesburg. Again we had missed each other until that day in June.
I learnt that Nidha moved to Joburg because of a man she was dating, but got her heart broken in the process. Selfishly and silently, I was pleased about that.
We’d bump in each other on the way home, in the lift, share idle chit chat and say goodbye. We’d buy each other breakfast at work and share lunch. We ate a lot back then. We’d continue to take longer than usual smoke breaks and pass knowing glances when others were around.
We would grow closer and closer with each passing hour and day and week and month. Slowly our conversations became personal. We confided in each other, and let down our guards. We were old enough to know what we didn’t want in a relationship, and what we weren’t willing to compromise on. But at that stage we weren’t sure how much to give. Time solved that puzzle for us, but along the way we gave as much as the other would accept. Everything. We still do.
Fast forward 10 years, two kids and two cities later and we are that annoying couple on Facebook who puts all their shit out in the open. The syrupy posts about being in love and forever and how much we adore everything about each other. We make others want to hurl, I know. But here’s the thing, we actually mean it, and frankly we don’t care what people think.
We’ve learnt that life is too short to waste your love on the wrong person, and when you find that right person, tell them whole goddamn world about it! We’ve learnt that love needn’t be a struggle. It should be the easiest thing you do, the most natural and the most fulfilling.
Love should make you want to break your knees for it.