The college cafeteria was bustling as always, various groups sitting in their chosen corners and favourite tables. The nerds sat at the far end, animatedly discussing the latest assignment and how they could out-do each other, leaving the average joes to listen intently nearby. The cool dudes and chicks sat near the entrance, making themselves highly visible to those who walked in and out, giving them the ‘top to toe’ scan and passing judgement in light sniggers to their fellow ‘superior complex’ buddies.
There were the ones who tried to fit in, the ones who were painfully shy, the ones who couldn’t speak proper English, etc. When I sat down with my friend Susan, a new girl who had joined our third year, she kept staring into space. Well, not space really, but in the direction of a guy who was sharing a joke with his friends. Amy, a fellow third year student came and joined us. She noticed what I did and snapped her out of her reverie. “Who are you looking at?”
“No one”, she said hastily, looking at her tray and turning scarlet at her obvious inability to hide.
“She is looking at Ronald”, I said, in a matter-of-fact voice, chewing through my second bite, not looking up from my meal either.
“Shut up Sam!”, she said, furious that I shared her not-so-well-disguised-desire.
“Listen,” said the voice of third year wisdom Amy. “I know him, he is in my year. He is a great guy. He has been in the friends zone so many times that he never makes the first move. He may chat if he is interested, but he will never ask you out. That’s why all the girls who made advances on him eventually became his friends, or lost hope waiting to be asked and moved on to other guys. And if he liked someone, he never told them, and suffered silently. It’s positively ghastly”, she exclaimed, in her fake British accent.
“So, he has never asked a girl out in the past?” I asked, a bit surprised.
“Yes, Sam, he has. I myself liked him in our first year. He is an adorable, dependable guy, we had similar interests, and he was cute. I mean he is cute. And he was, sorry is, a thorough gentleman. So chivalrous, generous and very popular.”
Sounds perfect, I thought. Then why is he single? Susan was listening with rapt attention, with a tinge of jealousy now lacing her gaze towards Amy. “So, it seems you were, or possibly are, still smitten by him. Did you ask him out then?” I riddled.
“Excuse me. I am the girl. He is supposed to ask me out. I got tired of giving hints, and besides I didn’t think I was his type”, concluded Amy. I rolled my eyes. I didn’t get this ‘type theory’. I didn’t have a particular type and if you saw a line-up of people who I liked, they didn’t fit any pattern whatsoever. And who in his right mind wouldn’t ask out Amy? She was a great girl and easy on the eyes!
“Has he dated anyone since you knew him?”, Susan asked sheepishly, breaking her silence finally, exhaling now that she knew Amy and Ronald were not an item in the past.
“Yes, he has had a girlfriend in the first year, she was nice, from our year, but it didn’t work out. They are still friends. If you like, I can introduce you both,” added Amy. Susan looked shocked and merely nodded a vigorous ‘no’.
“Don’t worry, I will tell you what to do”, assured Amy. Susan seemed to brighten up at this suggestion, while I was starting to zone out. “It’s Psychology 101. This Friendszone phenomena can really mess things up. If two people like each other it works out to some period of dating”, she continued with an imperial understanding of the subject. “If one likes the other, there is always a fear of rejection. But, I always feel, say it. Hell everyone likes to be told they are liked or desired, right?”, Amy gestured excitedly with both her hands, like an Italian marketing his food. Susan was nodding like a dancing doll on a dashboard, while I was pretending to be like Dory, having lost all interest in this conversation.
“But the worst thing you can do is not say it”, Amy advised Susan, standing up at the table with her eyes getting larger. “Otherwise you will be doomed to this awe struck, crush like behaviour”.
“Ask him out”, I said suddenly, interrupting what would have become a saga of ‘what, if, but, could, would, should’. Amy agreed, throwing aside her feminist views.
“Or, becoming friends with him and then ask him out?”, Susan suggested as she seemed horrified at the earlier suggestion.
“No!” yelled Amy and myself in unison.
“Maybe we could be friends and if I saw some signs that he is interested I would ask him?” Susan suggested.
“Signs are very tricky. You may think one thing, he may not, why go into a blurry place?”, I tried to put some sense into her.
“Do as I tell you, otherwise I will see you stuck here at the end of the year, yearning across the cafeteria!”, Amy warned before she left. Susan nodded vaguely and I walked to get some well-deserved dessert after this involuntary Psychology lesson.
Having left our table, Amy went over to Ronald. “Good Afternoon your Highness”, she addressed him with a bow and a rude gesture with her finger. “We can confirm one more dame who has been bewitched by your spell. Shall I introduce you, or will you let this one pass as well?”, playing the sly, unsolicited cupid.
Ronald, without looking up murmured, ”And what makes her so special?”.
“She is the female version of you! Shy, ‘friends first jazz’ and has been mustering the courage on how to approach you!”.
Ronald, with his familiar twinkle in the eye and dimpled smile said, “Why don’t the three of us do coffee?”. Amy’s eyes widened in surprise. She was expecting Ronald to laugh it off. It was time to dethrone this King.