A Practical Fool


By Nandita Gaur

How could she not recognize me? The question kept repeating itself; my head was churning. I had to put in a lot of effort to reach the venue of my own party. I was trying hard to focus but my brain had frozen.

Soon, I was standing in front of hundreds of people whose names I had single-handedly printed and pasted on invitation cards for my book launch party. Being a confident orator and an impressive presenter that I am, it would have been a matter of few minutes to win everybody’s heart. It was different today; my mouth was dry and I was sweating. I looked around to get a feel. Few people who knew me better than others understood that something unusual had happened.

I gave the best possible smile and held the microphone in my shaking hands, tapped on it to check if it was working. In a very monotonous tone I began.  “You must be thinking what kind of prudish male comes late for his own book launch? I am sorry friends, but Cee Jay the author of two best selling novels is not a snobbish male.” With a slight bow, I continued, “This man standing before you, considered an idol of composure by many, is a practical fool. I have to confess the biggest mistake that I made in my life.” For many months I have been waiting for this day. I had planned on telling you about my new book, its protagonist, some great things about it and the rave reviews that I got from my reviewers, instead of which, I am going to tell you how I made a fool of my myself?”

“On many occasions people have asked me about my relationships. They were curious and wanted to know- “why was I still single?” It was hard for them to digest that a man in his forties with seemingly good looks, a creative brain, and who writes about love doesn’t have a woman in his life. I never had an answer to this question. Each time I would make a joke about it and somehow get away without saying much.”

“It all started when I was in middle school. I was in sixth grade when my mom taught me about Scientific Method. She was preparing me for the upcoming Science Fair Project. What I did for the project is a different story altogether. One thing that I certainly understood was the practical way of approaching things. I mapped out that when you have a question– you make a hypothesis – you devise an experiment or steps to check your hypothesis- based on the experiment you collect data and then finally you have conclusions and results.” It was all set.

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I tested this logic on few things and it worked. One of my studies was – “Why do obnoxious little brothers cry so loudly even if they are not hurt as bad?” I studied my brother’s behavior and hypothesized that he wanted to get me in trouble. For the sake of the experiment, I deliberately did few things to make my younger brother cry and finally I concluded that my hypothesis was right. As soon as he cried, I used to hear my Mom’s voice inquiring, “Jay, what’s going on? Why are you hurting your bother?” Which followed spanking or a long lecture depending on how loud my brother could yell. Anyways, I became a big fan of Scientific Method, so much so that I even wanted to know all about the scientists who started it.

After experimenting few more things for couple of years I became a pro. I had a very good understanding of how scientific method works. I was in my freshman year in a co-ed school when I got a brilliant idea for my study. Girls.

Why do girls act weird at times?

This question changed my life forever. I started thinking of them as a subject of my study, I observed them and their behavior. For me their feelings, body language, actions and reactions were nothing more than a data. After studying them for sometime, I knew about all the girls in my class. Which girl liked which boy? How would the girl react if the boy she liked looked at her? How a girl’s mood would fluctuate when her prospective boyfriend talked to her friend? What does she like about that boy? I even knew about the girls who were kind of studious and kept their feelings well hidden. I knew it all. I passionately studied my subjects and the best part was that I was never wrong about them. I was able to predict some of the incidents or accidents even before they took place. My friends admired me for my ability. I was their hero. I was higher than everyone especially the girls- my subjects. I began to think of myself as God.  Everyone wanted to know the secret but I trusted none; not even my best buddies.

None but one; she knew about my research and my formula. She was a girl who lived next door. I never thought of her as a girl or boy. I don’t remember how tall she was or how she did her hairs or what was the color of her eyes or which color- pink or yellow looked best on her. We enjoyed our camaraderie; she was a special person whom I liked to talk to and share things with. She was always a good listener and probably that’s what worked between us. I used to talk and talk and she just listened. She was not in my school but she knew everyone in my class.

Whenever we went out to the promenade near our house and accidentally met some of my classmates, she would recognize them just by their body language. We had secret names for everyone. Later, when they left we used to make fun of them and laugh. It was a beautiful time. I still cherish the time we spent together.

Three years later, I started college. Her family was about to move to another city.  Nothing had changed for me; she was still a friend next door and all the other girls were my data. It didn’t change even when she was leaving. She came to say bye and I was still telling her about the girls I met in my college. Finally, I asked her if she has my dorm number and she said, “Sometimes all a person needs is a hand to hold and a heart to understand.” And then she left. I liked how the phrase sounded but didn’t make much sense to me. At that time, how would that make any sense? I didn’t know that it was going to be our last conversation in a long-long time.

She had left and I missed her. I wished I had someone to share my findings with. I knew what city she lived in but something stopped me from taking that extra step to find her. I don’t know what it was but I easily let her go off my life.  

Years passed, the space where she used to live remained vacant. I met many people, made many friends but instead of filling the gap, they kept widening it. Soon, the vacuum of her absence began to haunt me. To save myself from the depression, I started putting my feelings combined with my findings on paper. Dear friends, my books are the result of the pain I suffered because of my foolishness. My scientific approach towards life forced me to live the glorious years of my youth in solitude- sans my love, my first love.

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In spite of the fact that my books are listed in best selling books, I don’t like the depressing ends. If she had been with me I would have been able to give them a better climax. My writing, my life might have been livelier, more beautiful and more meaningful.

God is merciful. He grants us a second chance and today, after twenty-seven years I got one to undo my mistake. I saw her. I met her and not too far from here. She was browsing through my books at the bookshop right around the corner of Winchester and San Thomas. She was looking beautiful, elegant, youthful and poised. She still has the best quality in her; she was as peaceful as she was during our school years.

I approached her and talked to her. I introduced myself to her that I am the author of the books she was holding in her hands. She got excited. Then she said, “I have read both your books. I had a friend who used to think like you.”

I was shocked. How could she not recognize me?  It didn’t matter if I was writing under a penname. I was standing before her- in person she should have been able to recognize me.

Even before I could get grip on my thoughts, a little one came and started pulling her, “Mommy, let’s go.”

She slightly nodded, looked at me and smiled, “Do you have a pen? Please give me your autograph?”

Something stopped me from saying what she had said to me many years back, “Sometimes all a person needs is a hand to hold and a heart to understand.”

At that moment, I realized that it was my ego that allowed me to let her go the first time and once again it had stopped me from telling her that I loved her. She was the one for me and I am still waiting for her.

I stood still. She waited for my response for few seconds and then searched her bag for something. Not finding a pen, she took out a card and handed it to me.

“I am Liz, Elizabeth Gardener, a Marriage Counselor in San Francisco.” Smilingly she shook hands with me saying, “if in case you ever need me.”

“And once again, she left me and didn’t even care to turn back to check if someone was watching her go or not. “

I stopped and then continued to address the silent crowd before me.

“Folks, this revelation has helped me to pull myself out of my agony. Last time I let her go off my life easily but that wouldn’t be the case this time. Previously, she left me with some empty spaces but it’s different now, those spaces have seen some light.” I said waving the visiting card; she gave me, before my audience. “I am hopeful that I will see her again and then I will get all the answers. How could she possibly not recognize me?”

 “I have learned my lesson, my friends. Honestly, I thank you all for being patient with me and listening to what I had to tell you today.”

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