It was exactly a year ago that I met Stephanie. Oh Stephanie! Quirky in ways of her own. She walked with a quiet way around her, minding her self, lost in her own world. Those big grey eyes could keep the world’s darkest secrets within her. You know the sudden unexpected rush of emotions you sometimes randomly get? The energy, positivity, happiness bundled up into a fire going through your heart, churning out thoughts positive, one after the other. You get up, you look around the room, you write-down things needed to be done, the goals that were a distant dream now seem reachable, you can see the steps that will take you towards that goal of yours. Such were the emotions in me, whenever Stephanie was around.
I was a loner. Anxious, introvert and insecure were the adjectives that described me the best. I was also a drinker. Jack Daniels was the friend I never had. People took coffee to receive the morning jolt, I downed a glass of JD. Another few glasses each night to ward off the impending nightmares and a sleep so deep, you would think that would be your last. I never envied other people of their friends and relatives. it never struck me watching families get together each festival, celebrating. I was content. Satisfied. Or so I said to myself before passing out each night.
It was Tuesday, I remember. The January chill coming down on us. A swig of the good ol’ friend kept me warm enough to make the regular walk to the liquor store nearby. Patrick, the owner started towards the back upon seeing me. He knew the routine. I looked around until he came back. The same world war II poster hanging on the left wall, dingy floor, distinct smell of the beer, the rickety fan going about its business, a couple of persons checking out the wines and whiskies. Patrick reappeared with my regular. Wishing him good day, I returned on the path to home. The wind was stronger than usual, chillier as well. Hugging my coat tighter, I kept on walking. A breath left me as I closed the door behind me in my apartment building. Finally, some warmth. A dozen or so cardboard boxes on the floor caught my eye. Looks like someone’s moving out or somebody is moving in. Ahh well! The building had six apartments on each floor and 8 floors in total. Mine was on the 3rd floor, not much of a climb. The good thing about corner apartments was that you had only one apartment across from yours and you were completely out of view from the other doors. Sounds good to me. Upon reaching the apartment, I saw the one across the hall had its door open. Someone was moving in. And that is when I saw her, Stephanie. Torn jeans, white t-shirt, grey hoodie, ruined shoes. Blonde hair turned up into a bun of some sorts. She saw me looking, my hands turned the keys faster. Fumbled a bit and a “Hi” came from across the hall. Turning around, it was Stephanie. A cardboard box in hand, a couple of them laden across the floor and standing between them was Stephanie. Carefully making her way across, she came up to me and said : “Hii, I am Stephanie. I just moved into this building. Looks like you are going to be living across my hall.” “Hey. Welcome to the building. I am Joseph. Haha yes. I’ll be living across from you. Let me know if you need anything okay.” I replied, carefully, trying not to sound too awkward. The conversation went on a bit before I entered my apartment. And so entered Stephanie. Into my building, onto my floor, into my life.
The next day, I saw her again. It was late night. Her lights wouldn’t turn on. I went over to see what was wrong. A flashlight in my hand, the hunt for the fuse began. It wasn’t that difficult, since the layout of the apartments in the building were the same. In a few minutes, the lights were back on. So there we were, in her apartment, which was arranged in a manner that was far far better than mine. Wall prints hanging almost on each wall, beautifully color combined upholstery and so much more. Everything seemed to inspire something in you. “Want some coffee?”, she asked, snapping me back to attention. My introvert instincts started to kick in, but before I could said no, she had already started the preparations for the coffee. So there I stood, in this stranger’s house, waiting for coffee after fixing her fuse.
I woke up. Severe headaches visited like an old friend, a glass lying sideways and an open bottle next to it. Another normal night. After forcing myself to wake up, and clean everything. I sat in the chair, contemplating if I should make a drink for myself. And the thoughts of Stephanie came back to me.
The way we talked every night after a few months of her moving in. Me with a glass of whisky and she without any. It was always like this. Whenever I offered her a glass, she’d always say no, saying that she didn’t wanna be drunk when I was talking. She always said I had stories to tell, tales that had emotions in them, that drunk me was completely unlike the real me. I believed none of that.
One thing always struck me though.
Stephanie was beautiful.
Why did she hung out with a guy like me? I could never gather the courage to ask her.
Stephanie tried to introduce me to her friends, she knew I had none of my own. But she stopped trying after 7 times. I guess she realised the depth of my social anxiety.
Stephanie talked a lot. And I loved to listen to her. Her eyes so expressive of the emotions she wanted to convey. I liked her company, which came as a shock to me.
She told me stories. She told me about her childhood. The story how she got dumped by her first boyfriend and how horrible it made her feel. She told me about her pet dog and how he was no more. She told me about her life in the past city and how she loved the current city. The stories had details, details I still remember. I told her about my childhood, atleast that is what she told me. I remember not, because I was always drunk. She was never.
Stephanie was such a good lady. A good friend, if I might call her that. Slowly I started to drink less. I wanted to remember the moments I spent with her, enjoy the conversations we had when I was lonely. My anxiety never left me, but it subdued itself when Stephanie was around.
I started to open up to her. Tell her about my ambitions, my goals, the things I wanted in life. I never thought I would open up myself so much to someone. Stephanie liked listening to me. That is what she told me and I’d like to believe that. She spread a vibe that full of positivity and happiness. It made me feel better about myself. It changed me in ways I could never imagine. With Stephanie I was honest with myself.
And one day, I came back to an empty apartment in the hall across mine. She always told me that she wanted to travel the world. Maybe she went ahead with her plans. I never knew. I feel good thinking that she is out there, fulfilling her life goals.
I never got to say goodbye to her. I hope she’s having fun. I could never thank her for the changes she brought in me. I was now a better person. I was not an alcoholic anymore. I had friends and a better job now. I always thanked Stephanie. I still do.
This post has been written for the Indiblogger Youth ki Awaz #SpreadTheVibe contest.