Chicago, or alternately the windy city, land of Lincoln, The heart of Illinois or City of the sears. It’s embellished by innumerable names people associate or identify it with. In the history of the United States, many artists, entrepreneurs and revolutionaries have dedicated their struggle and success stories to this wonderful city on the shore of Lake Michigan. And I, a freelance model from India, was invited here for a month to shoot posters for a prominent Indian clothing brand in the city.
Well, being alone in a city that is alien to you is seldom a good idea. So, with the scarcity of options and time available, I decided to try out Tinder. For those of you who don’t know what Tinder is, I know you are all being ignorant. All of us, by us I mean the esteemed members of the “male” community have tried out our luck on this dating application and most still haven’t crossed the grand milestone of ten matches (myself included!). However, this time the experience was pleasantly different. It was USA!
I had a bundle of matches in few minutes of swiping (The six pack profile picture worked!). The spree continued for a few days and I felt like the next hybrid of Casanova. Women were craving me like I was “The Catch!’. Some sent me naked pictures, some gave their phone numbers even before I typed a text and others asked me to come over. That’s how luck plays a vital role in a classic rag to riches story. From being considered a creep for having a shirtless picture on display in India to being the ultimate “Alpha male material” in the most powerful country in the world, I was intrigued. And not surprisingly, I loved the attention.
After a few days into the player’s mindset, I slowed down my swiping for some peace of mind. I had an inbox of 30 unread messages and I didn’t care. Little did I know, the most beautiful 20 days of my life were around the corner!
One day after a few swipes left and right, I saw something so majestic that my heart skipped a beat for a second. I didn’t swipe left or right, I just stood there entranced. There she was, with her eyes gleaming along the smile she wore so perfectly. I stared blankly at her pictures for an eternity. She was perfect!
No I don’t want to hook up with you, even if you’re the next Brad Pitt out there!
Foodie, and just here to meet new people ☺
Reading the first sentence of her bio blew my accumulated male ego to trash. The six -pack wouldn’t work here! Hesitant, I swiped right. I waited for what seemed like forever so that I may be able to witness our match notification that was if she found me worthy enough. And she was online, that added to the anxiety.
After about an hour, I received my desired tinder notification. It was a match!
I immediately texted her “Haven’t seen such a beautiful foodie in a long time!” keeping my fingers crossed as that was the wittiest opener I could come up with at that moment. I waited and my anxiety levels reached new heights. What if she blew me up and unmatched me? Or worse what if she sent a bitchy text? I tried distracting myself by watching the television at my hotel room but all I did was stare stupidly at my phone’s notification blinker. She was so stunning. I wanted to make her mine!
Some fifteen minutes later the reply flashed on my phone screen. “Aww thanks! You don’t look like you’re from around here?”
And then started a spree of texts which lasted for week at a stretch, she was not only beautiful, but the most interesting woman I had ever seen, or well, texted. We discussed everything from my travel stories, to our not-so-pleasant past relationships. From places which served authentic Chicago food to “why I wasn’t dark like my Indian counterparts!’. Our conversations flowed like symphony; the way I could connect with her was so magical, that we could get over the most ‘heated up’ discussion with an inexplicable smoothness, which I never knew ceased to exist.
After a few more days, we decided that talking all night over the phone, caused her falling into a deep slumber at work, and resulted in heaps of ‘concealer’ being applied under my eyes to hide the dark bags and give me a presentable look for my shoot. It was time to meet in person! I was excited because I knew how much I liked her and yet nervous because there was a fair chance that she liked me too! (We had phone sex once, so I was just assuming).
The day before our first ever date she told me “What if you are a cat-fish?” (Apparently, cat-fish is an American slang which stands for an old or middle aged man, using fake profile pictures to invite young females and trick them through words and kidnap or rape them, or do whatever he wishes with them- poor victims). I laughed at the irony. Here I was, some 16000 miles away from home, alone in a city I knew nothing about, and I was already being viewed as a potential rapist by a girl I desperately wanted to date.
I followed the Metra (Chicago’s version of the public train transport, which unfortunately, should not be compared to our Delhi Metro) route she explained and reached the aforementioned station by her, where the most beautiful girl I had ever seen awaited my arrival at 12.42 pm. I sat in the train (yes, sat! that’s why I said comparison with Delhi Metro would make no sense!) Like an anxious anime schoolgirl until I reached Elmwood Park station, where she was supposed to meet me!
I saw her standing at a distance from the compartment of the train I got out from, and I was mesmerized to the extent of being numb. She wore a long white dress and carried it so elegantly. She smiled and waved at me. I smiled back. A part of her beauty was so magnetic that it invited me to go over and kiss her passionately and on the other hand a part of me wanted to run away. My legs started shaking, which was quite unusual as I am socially confident otherwise. It felt as if all the people in the background had melted away and all the noise and settled down. All I could see was her, amidst the silence and the empty station.
She was right in-front of me smiling, my dream had materialized. I went forward and leaned in for the kiss. I didn’t know whether I was right or wrong, my impulses were in action. I kissed her hard and long and she kissed me back. We walked hand in hand in silence thereafter; all words which would come out seemed futile in the intoxicating silence. We knew it wasn’t just infatuation, it was LOVE!
After our silence broke, we engulfed in each other and carried our date ahead at an Argentinean restaurant. The more we shared time together, the more we wanted each other. We danced at subways, drank in cheap bars, had long walks by Lake Michigan, sat for hours discussing why we hated our hometowns at Navy pier and told random people that we were happily married. The only sad part in our perfect love story was that it wasn’t durable. Spending every day with her surely gave me a inexplicable joy, but I would return to the hotel miserable and depressed. It wasn’t going to last forever. And long distances NEVER work!
She would tell me how much she loved me and how much she would miss me when I was gone! It felt as if I was nearing my death with each passing day. Our souls were attached, and breaking such a strong connection would always hurt. The pain would subside but the memories would haunt. We were in a state of no return.
On my last day in the city, I decided to go and see her for the final time. She insisted on not meeting because she wasn’t a ‘goodbye’ person. But I decided to show up at her house. She opened the door, and looked gloomy and tired. Her eyes met mine and suddenly, their gleam returned. We embraced for a long time. I asked her to dress up and get ready.
Puzzled, she asked “Where are we going?”
I told her to follow suite and sent her into her room. I went into the kitchen and got my apparatus ready for our last ‘Pasta Dinner’. By the time I finished cooking, she came out, radiating panache of a queen and we had a quiet dim light dinner together. I cheered her up singing a few Hindi Songs on her old guitar and we spent the night together making love. It was then I realized what people meant, when they said sex is a sacred unison of souls when you’re in love, not a humping game. Looking at her sleeping beside me, with a lone tear flowing across her cheek made me want to stay back with her, live for her and protect her like she was a part of me. I didn’t sleep all night.
I had an afternoon flight back home, so after our morning coffee, she decided to walk me back to Elmwood Park (the station where we first met!) although I didn’t want her to walk 2 miles just to say goodbye. We walked hand in hand and she hugged me whenever she broke down into tears. We didn’t talk much during the walk.
My train arrived and I wished it would disappear or break down so that I could stay there more and look into her eyes for a bit.
“I am going to miss you Isabel.” my voice cracked.
She held me tight and kissed me long and hard, just like I kissed her the first time I saw her. My soul felt content.
“I wish I see you again.” she could barely blurt out the words.
I entered the train and it started moving. I saw her from the window waving goodbye, teary eyed. Tears trickled down my cheek. Isabel Miller had disappeared amidst the distance.