'I hate you, Will.'
'Why do you hate me, Sal?'
'Because you singlehandedly destroyed the illusion that I was over her. Fuck you.'
'You know I didn't do anything.'
'You just allowed me to talk about it. You also allowed me to reflect on what had happened. Seriously, why did you even have to talk to me in the first place about her? Just when I thought I had already moved past, she comes alive in my head again to haunt me.'
'You said that you moved on from her.'
'I did say that. But that thing was, I tried to push myself forward because I think she would never tell me anything.'
'Then why have you given up?'
'Because it didn't take words for me to know, and besides, I had to drag myself away. She was never going to give me an answer.'
'She didn't say anything about you or her, remember that.'
'She only hides herself from me during Facebook chat, and thinks I'm a stalker. And yes, while I do know I stalked her a bit without my foreknowledge that it could actually classify as stalking, I did it to try and at least grab hold of her, if not her shadow. I think part of her charm to me was that she was as hard to catch as one's shadow. She would often disappear from the college after her classes, and I had to talk to her before that. I guess she pulled away when she actually recognized I was interested in her. She is also just an interesting lady I'd have liked to know more of.'
'Did you love her?'
'As far as I know and remember, yes. It may have been torture for her, though. It's like, I don't want to change what I did, but I also don't want her to feel any pain or sadness for being associated with me, but I guess all I am to her is just another creep.'
'What were the things that you did to have classified you as a creep, anyway?'
'Well, I tried giving her chocolates last year. I also tried to prepare tea for her, and the usual stuff.'
'I tried to help out in her studies the best way I could. I was pretty good in Biochemistry.'
'Not only that, but you also were one of the top 10 in the comprehensive examinations, right?'
'That was luck, pure, undiluted, and simple.'
'I can't imagine how you can actually luck out on something like that. It's either you're smart enough to begin with, or you studied hard. So I think it's just because you're smart enough to begin with.'
'Thanks for that. All I really studied was biochemistry during that time. I filled in the rest with guesswork.'
'Luck. Or as I say it, God.'
'So you tried to help her out?'
'I could only help her out early on, anyway. After biochemistry I knew I was pretty much an idiot. I was the only one who had the lowest score in our practical exams, and I already studied, at that. She was probably much smarter than me after the first quarter of the year.'
'That led to you guys not talking anymore?'
'Well, no. I tried to keep on talking to her, waiting for her during dismissal time and talking to her a few sentences at a time. On retrospect, that probably brought me closer to her idea of a creep, but I had to try.'
'Why are you saying that you have no chance, anyway?'
'Because she told me off the second time I gave her chocolates that she was embarrassed being given them.'
'Maybe it was because you did it in front of a crowd?'
'No, I specifically just asked for her.'
'She still told you off?'
'Yeah, in the nicest way she could muster.'
'But that's not really definitive, is it? I mean, that alone wouldn't make you want to stop.''
'There was this other thing.'
'You mean she's that brutal, Sal?'
'No, she probably just has a hard time expressing herself. I think I understand a bit.'
'What did she do, anyway?'
'She didn't actually do anything, but that was what made it hurt more.'
'That makes me curious. What did you do?'
'Well, I think we talked one time about tea. So I decided to prepare some tea for her, my own style: I bought one of those branded darjeelings, and bought some fresh milk.'
Will laughed. 'You seriously thought you could pull that off?'
'I had to try. So I did it, and even hazarded to steal a sip. It tasted good enough for me, so I brought it for her.'
'Then what did she do?'
'She didn't take it.'
'She didn't take it?'
'She just shook her head, and just didn't take it.'
'Ouch. Maybe it was because you did it in front of many people.'
'It was then or never, so I took a risk.'
'But you knew she was a laconic lady, right?'
'Of course. That was among the reasons that I fell in love with her.'
'Maybe she was just embarrassed, you know.'
'Yes, but that was just so different. That was probably my first heartbreak my entire life.'
'Your first heartbreak? Are you serious?'
'I never tried to get to know a girl before her. I was too afraid of failure, and I also planned to finish university first.'
'It's been two years after you graduated from university, you know.'
'I know. I was just too afraid of failure, I guess.'
'What was different in her?'
'Well, of course, to me she was physically attractive. But more than that, the more I got to talk to her shadow, the more I fell for her. She had that kind of intelligence that I appreciated: it wasn't the antiseptic, purely scientific kind. She had a way with art and creativity that just pulled me to her. She had so much more hidden, too. But I guess she just doesn't like me. Sometimes, that's the way it goes with life.'
'So with that rejection alone, you already stopped?'
'Of course not. I tried to help her as much as I could for as long as I could. But then I had an inkling she probably hated my guts when she no longer replied to any of my messages. I tried my best to be civil about it, but then it had reached a point where I texted her about three times a week for three weeks and then realized she was avoiding me. I'm pretty slow like that.'
'Were you angry, or anything?'
'Of course I was angry at first, because I knew I gave her everything I could, Will. There were scores of people telling me that I should have stopped but didn't, because I knew I could have done more. I didn't want my first love to be haphazard. I didn't want it to be just a fling, so I wanted to give it all I could.'
'Did she give anything back – or anything at all?'
'She painted me a portrait.'
'That was it?'
'That was all it took to make the anger disappear. I fell for her all over again.'
'You fell for her for the third time despite what she did to you?'
'Well, she rejected you twice already; and you still fell for her.'
'It was a beautifully-done painting, Will. It was something that was special to me because she tried her best at it, she really did. That was her way of reciprocating, but she could only probably stay stuck at friendship.'
'What did you do, then?'
'Like any fool, I tried again. Probably it was for the last time since I've done it all before. Save for flowers, I also tried to sing for her. I even visited her when she reported, probably for the last time.'
'Ew. Visiting her during reporting was creepy.'
'I didn't really hang around, I just wanted to watch her talk and report, and disappeared immediately after she finished reporting.'
'Still, couldn't you have been more subtle?'
'I already tried that. And I couldn't see that report otherwise, could I? That was the only time I could cheer for her, you know, and I wanted to be there. She was awesome. I had no regrets.'
'People probably told on you.'
'It wasn't as if I had much of a chance anyway. Well, for my last attempt I just tried to talk to her. Since she was never alone I asked her in front of her group while stammering and being red with disappointment, but I asked her anyway. That was absolutely a creeper moment, but that was my last stand. I hope she knew that I had never ever courted a woman before and even that simple action was absolute horror for me.'
'So are you still communicating?'
'She probably hates me now and probably thinks of me as a monster. She's avoiding me, I think.'
'Well, at least you tried.'
'I find it funny that my first five rejections were from the same girl. I've no regrets; she is worth it. I just don't have it in me to be rejected for five times more.'
'I don't think most guys could even be half as forbearing as you.'
'I wish that she knew it would have been an honor to have my heart formally broken by her.'
Will nodded. 'Where did you steal that line?'
Sal looked at the sky. 'Look, Will. Dead stars. I've been seeing their long-extinguished light, and yet still, they seem to be there, just like me and her, unmoving.'