Had he not looked in that direction, Oliver would never have know what the essence of life is. He was not sure whether he had seen a prettier girl in his life ever before. He wasn’t even sure whether he had seen a girl before in his life (apologies, he often doesn’t know how say things less directly). She had intricate curves like the grand showpiece of a master wood carver. A genuine craft of God’s hand. Oliver was mesmerized.
She was seated at the window when her eyes caught sight of his eyes. And for a moment everything slowed to slow motion as their spirits connected. She then made a little warm smile that made Oliver’s heart feel something nice, something like an extra heart beat. Something a little harder to put a finger on. And as the bus rolled way, Oliver was certain that that was the feeling he wanted to feel some other time for a long time.
From that day onwards, Oliver made sure he was at the bus stop at the same time as the day when he first saw her. And many days he missed her. Then another day, when he had hung his head and the hope of seeing her again was lost, he looked up and she was there. By the window of the same damn bus. And this time, the seat next to her was not occupied, and the bus was not rolling away. He hopped onto it and settled next to Mildred. And he found that he could say hello without dying. And she said hello back. The bus rolled away, with Oliver seated next to Mildred and Mildred next to Oliver. And that was the start of their journey.
The many nights of texting and calling that followed would take a toll on our young man. He would not sleep on time and he would spend his days thinking about her. He would spend ridiculous amounts on airtime and mobile data until he would run out of cash. He consistently dropped the ball at work and many times he did not shake the bushes like he was supposed to. The only thing he managed to shake was his head while being corrected because of a silly mistake he had done. His boss took note. One day he called him into his office and told him, “Have a seat, Oliver.” The suit wanted to know what was going on. Oliver truthfully explained. The suit understood, and offered some advice. Then Oliver concluded that even bosses fell in love!
A few years later he asked her how she thought he performed that day on the bus, and she said “4 out of 10. You were rather shy. But very interesting.” And she added that it was the kind of interesting that made her want more.
Oliver was a dreamer. If dreaming were a career that paid the way millenials imagine they should be paid on their first pay check, it would be his area of excellence. In none of his dreams he had he seen her going out with him. So he did not bother to ask her out. On the other hand, she kept on hoping that his next call or his next chat would sound something like, “Mildred, can we go out sometime this week?” But that never happened. She had observed that he was shy, and so she attributed not being asked out with his low confidence. But she never said anything, she continued to wait.
He had never imagined wearing a suit. Not once, not ever. But on that day he was in a black 2-piece suit and black well-polished boots. “What colour for the lucky lady?” inquired a short fat lady with a stained white apron. She sold flowers. She had this pleasant wide smile on her face that could thaw even the coldest of hearts. Oliver thought she also traded in bees, because the world had become a weird place where people bought weird things and called them pets. He did not know what colour would please Mildred, so he went for a girls’ default, pink. And she gave him a variety of pink and pink-ish flowers that really did not smell like anything special. A breeze from the ocean smelled better!
Oliver had not been built for patience. But on that day he calmly waited a while, and a while longer. 30 minutes later and she had not shown up. Neither had she called nor texted. He had seen in movies guys being stood up by girls, and the way this one was going he considered his fate the same as that of those boys. After he was vexed enough, he considered trashing the flowers in the nearest bin on his way home. But he stayed a bit longer. Why? He could not explain.
As she would in future explain, she had dressed up for him that day and had purposed to be on time. But because women are utterly useless at keeping time, she had found herself running late. Such reasons would have made Oliver turn into nothing short of a mad man, but not when they came from Mildred. He remembered how her African print dress danced in the moving air as she walked to him. How she stood out of the crowd around her as if she was the only vibrant colour in a monochrome world. He remembers how tightly she hugged him and how sweet her scent was. And Oliver realised that he wanted to be hugged by no else but her. “They are beautiful Oliver! I love them!!” She expressed about the pink and pink-ish flowers.
At the restaurant, he was too spellbound to speak. He just listened to her talk. And he wanted her to hear her talk many more years to come. When their gazes connected, Oliver found that her eyes were like pearls, and he wanted to look into them for the rest of his life. She made him feel as if little children were joyfully running around in his heart barefoot. And that feeling made Oliver smile. And she smiled when he smiled.
He had found what he had heard people call love. And he loved it. He had found the only person who understood him and genuinely cared about him. He had found what he had been missing in his life. She, on the other hand, had found the type of man she had desired. A man who went after what he liked and who wore suits to dates. A man who polished his shoes. A man who bought her flowers even though he did not like their scent. A man who kept time but waited a little longer for the woman he loved. A man who allowed her to speak and who listened to her. She had found Oliver, but Oliver had found life. A life without Mildred was impossible. She was literally the reason why he existed.
Unbeknownst to him, one day he will sit alone on his bed, where Mildred used to play. But on that day Mildred will not be there. Instead, a bottle of rum will lie spilling on his sheets.