“I am dying for a cup of hot chocolate…”
The tiny hangouts chat box blinked green and popped up in the corner of his laptop screen as he sat plotting yet another graph of temperature versus conductivity. Just at that moment, he was arguing with himself about whether or not to shift the fifth reading by a fraction for the curve to look good.
“But it’s 11 pm in the night…” he typed back. Taking a break from his inner ethical conflict.
“So what? Are you scared?” pat, came the reply. He wondered now, how she could type so fast. He glanced once again at the fifth misfit on his plot and decided to re-do the experiment later.
“…Yes… Bangalore comes in the ten most unsafe cities for women…” went his cautiously reluctant reply.
“Ah..But aren’t you a purple belt in karate or something?” the chat box glared back. A strange warmth began seeping into his heart, in that dark laboratory with the liquid nitrogen cannisters hissing and the ion doping machine churning his next invention. No one had been so persistent for his company before. The warmth glowed.
“It’s brown and it’s kung-fu. There is no purple belt in kung-fu no. Will be outside your lab in a few minutes” he typed, mentally checking the boxes “persistent” and ”bossy”, as the first character sketch of his maybe forever started forming in his mind.
“…I will be waiting with open arms and bated breath… “ His adrenaline began rising with tensed apprehension when the next ping cruelly deflated the bubble of tension that had started forming.
#…srkforever…ha ha ha… I could see you go red from here….#awesomeimagination…don’t worry. It’s just a cup of hot chocolate and the walk to it… 😉” the box flared, teasing.
He smiled, checking his reflection in the dark laptop screen. He had gone a little red, cheeks, ears, forehead..all. He should figure out a way of controlling this giveaway.
He closed the chat box, hit “save” on the unfinished paper, packed his bag, double checked all the equipment and gingerly stepped out in the long, dark, tall, drafty corridors of the department.
Darkness was not his friend or even an amenable colleague. It freaked him out. Literally. But he had made his peace with this minor dent in the manly stereotype. And so, cautiously but quickly, he walked through the cold stone walled corridors, out into the moonlit parking and jumped onto his late 1900s shiny sparkling red Hero cycle and pedaled away, huffing and puffing up the slope of Gulmohar Marg, beneath the canopy of the tall ageless trees, in the company of fireflies and a cloudless sky, to her lab.
And that was the beginning of a very strange yet very special relationship.
The late winter night walks, to a cup of hot chocolate, in the dwindling moonlight, along deserted campus pathways, curving through whispering woods.
The occasional mistaken brushing of hands and the blushing after.
The sharing of past heartbreaks and bitching about bosses.
Her openly flirtatious remarks, his very witty but shy comebacks.
Tall, strong and muscular, he had a lean body hidden in a shy hunched back and loosely hanging clothes and dark black eyes that forever seemed melancholy, tipped with the world’s most exquisite eyelashes. He liked writing, reading and watching crazy hilarious videos from lesser known nooks and corners of the internet. Staying indoors, playing board games, timing his rubick cube solves and ruminating about senseless stuff was his thing. His idea of the “male ego” was humility towards those less fortunate than him and his acceptance of defeat when proven wrong, which happened rarely. Though, he could easily pass for a starving bouncer, he preferred things that required no adrenaline rush. And that made him detest bike rides and treks and perching on dangerous mountain peaks for a cool selfie. He loved chess. Excelled at it. He spent his free time polishing his rubiks cube, learning newly invented non scripted languages off the internet and reading emotional stories and watching animation movies with happy endings. He didn’t crave intimacy, content with an emotional connect. Secure in it as no man she had ever dated before had been.
The only thing common between them outside their professions was an innate disdain for swearing and an insane love for dogs.
Tall, also muscular and a little on the heavy side, with silk like dark hair and soft honest brown eyes, she was an outright rebel. She was an adrenaline junkie and loved the outdoors. Anything from long pointless bike rides, to cycling down hill slopes, to trekking along thin slippery ridges looking over endless valleys amongst untouched forests, to playing defense in basketball games. Indoors was only to sleep and study. Board games required too much patience and brains for her liking and she had never once successfully solved a rubiks cube. Her choice of movies began and ended with the action-adventure genre and she scoffed at any display of emotions. Her ego was a difficult monster to handle when challenged. She was abysmal at chess, lost every game of scrabble and purposefully placed her jenga block to topple the game.
In no universe of imagination, could her inability to sit still for a moment and his resilience and patience, could have coexisted. But they did. And they did so without a compromise.
She started to find his comic videos funny and he began enjoying the calm romantic bike rides.
He conquered his fears by slipping his hand into hers, soft and warm, during the long winter night walks. She started feeling secure in his insanely mundane facts and observations.
And just like that, the world got another love story, a little imperfect this time. The timid hero found strength in the heroine’s misadventures and the wild spirited heroine found serenity in the hero’s innocent laughter.
** This piece was written during a writeclub session on breaking gender stereotypes