I remember walking into a crowded classroom and sat on the first empty chair I could find. She walked in right after me and sat right across on the other side of the classroom. I remember her grey coat, one she still wears occasionally, muffled up around her neck complementing her beautifully tamed hair. She looked at me with her vast eyes almost as if to say “who are you and what are you doing here?” Soon after all the other students had settled in the professor singled me out and asked me for my name while holding up a list. “Elie Andari” I said to him nervously. I thought he was taking attendance but he just sat there precariously staring at his list of names. I made my way over to help him spot my name. As it turned out I was in the wrong classroom or at least the wrong group. My group´s lecture was taking place in another room across the hall. Had I made class the week before, I would’ve known this. I timidly made my way back to my seat, picked up my backpack and regretfully walked to the door as I stole a last glance at the girl that had sparked my interest.
A few days later, when I eventually made it to accounting class, I noticed her sitting in the middle of the auditorium surrounded by intimidating posh girls. I remember her laughing enthusiastically at one of the jokes our unwitty professor made. I remember thinking “that’s a girl that laughs with all her heart.” It was goofy and I liked it. I shook my head and convinced myself that there was no way I was going to let myself fall for a girl in my first year of college, the infamous age that all adults reminisce about being their glory days, the days that were supposedly reserved for finding yourself in a bewildering pool of women, drugs and alcohol. I tried. I tried to be unapologetically wild. I tried to reenact the scenes instilled in my brain after having watched American Pie years ago. My friend Johnee and I went out religiously trying to capitalize on our youth. But I could not stop thinking about this girl and her grey coat, and her goofy laugh, and her big eyes.
One day I sat up late in my bedroom and decided I was going to stalk her on facebook. I could only see her profile picture because of her privacy settings. I thought to myself why don’t I just add her, surely she would remember me from the few times I showed up to class. She surprisingly accepted, we got to talk, few weeks later we went on our first date. Turned out we had a lot in common. She had lived for 3 years in South Africa and I was from Africa! I took her out for lunch on our first date. I´ll never forget how scared and confused she got when I ran out of the restaurant after eating and pretended I hadn’t paid. Funny enough we became friends before we became a couple. We spent countless hours on Skype and Facebook talking about nothing and everything. One day I walked her to the subway station. It had been a particularly silent walk because I was imagining how I was going to kiss her for the first time. I had planned it out a week in advance. It was going to be slow and romantic just like Jasmine and Aladdin. Few minutes later her subway was already there and she was leaning in for a hug. I panicked and went in for an awkward quick kiss/hug maneuver. It was definitely not the most conventional first kiss but it had to suffice. The message was transmitted and more importantly, it was acknowledged. Fast-forward 4 years later and my kissing her has improved considerably.
I don’t know what the secret is to having a happy and fruitful relationship. Older people are quick to give advice on the matter but no one truly knows. They just speculate with circumstantial evidence. As humans we have developed in multiple areas but we remain oblivious about love. Some will say the most important factor is compatibility while others will argue the contrary. Some will even argue that we are not meant to be monogamous. I don’t know if we were meant to love in a particular way I think you kind of just have to do what feels right and hope for the best. I think it’s a shame that people are quick to give advice that isn’t always empathetic. Especially in the example of children we are so quick to deem it “puppy love” when such instances go on to profoundly shape the manner in which kids grow up to see the world. My point is, as much as we think we may know about love we actually know very little. You can never put yourself in someone else’s shoes and entirely feel what they feel.
One thing I have learned though is there is no “the one” and the reality is far from what we see in romantic comedies. I don’t think you find the perfect person but rather you make each other perfect with the time and effort you put in. Sometimes the bond is not right and the revelation can be disheartening. But I believe there is a somebody for everybody and as devastating a situation we may find ourselves in we cannot stop believing that. If I were to give advice I would say talk less and love more. If it fails, take the time to grieve and try again. Don´t think about labels or what may be in the future, if you love someone let them know how you feel and be present in that moment with them.
Just like any relationship Mari and I have come across our fare share of challenges. I think our biggest test has been to maintain our relationship across the Atlantic Ocean. We have a routine where I would call her every morning and during my lunchtime. We would also text each other throughout the day. When I first left Norway and we had decided to prolong our relationship I remember everyone being skeptical. Opinions ranged from people who believed it was a matter of time and those that confirmed long distance relationships never work out. Generally, no one thought we would tough it out this long. It’s funny that the most pessimistic of people have now turned into our biggest supporters. I think my girlfriend and I are well underway into creating something special. I think our relationship transpires hope to those searching for love. My parents always raised me to be a rational thinker, to make commitments that abide well with societal norms. I seem to have done the exact opposite, as it appears I am the only one in a long-term commitment in my circle of friends. Does that scare me? Yes it does. But it’s not the kind of overwhelming scare that weakens your body. It’s the kind of scare you feel as kid when the prettiest girl in class talks to you. I don’t think there is a specific way to love someone. Love is not meant to be analyzed and quantified. It is meant to be felt and unquestioned. It is by far the most puzzling yet exhilarating feeling I have to come to fathom in my life. And I share it with this girl. It feels right. More right than any equation I have ever solved. More complete that any puzzle I have ever given up on. I can sit here and spend hours trying to come up with accurate analogies but the truth is no words could vindicate what it feels like to love someone and know that they reciprocate that love. I know we´re still somewhat young and that life may someday try to get in the way. However, I remain optimistic, as I am fully aware of what I have and even more aware of the life we can build together. When I look at her I still remember how she looked at me when I sat in the wrong classroom. When I kiss her I remember our first awkward kiss down by the subway station in Nydalen. When I am with her I feel whole and calm, at the same time less perturbed by existential questions and figuring out what I want from life. I want to laugh with her and love her wholeheartedly without pausing to think why. It is the only way I know how to live.
Thank you for reading 😊