So what happened in-between eating a piece of cake and six years later? I can’t fast forward through all of that so quickly, but I can at least give you the next installment.
For the first week or two I knew P, I couldn’t for the life of me remember his name. I knew it started with a P, and that it sounded similar to the last name of another Nepali student who lived in the I-House that I had met the year before. I really try with names, because I think they are important, and especially in my current profession of international student advising I have to know names of all sorts, but something about P’s name just didn’t stick. Maybe its a family thing, because later on my mother and grandmother couldn’t do it either. In fact, to this day, both of them still don’t say it right. Anyway, during those first few days on campus most of us referred to P as “the new Nepali guy” (at least when P wasn’t around) so it was easy to not come across his name on a daily basis.
One morning I found myself in the nearly empty college cafeteria and P was the only person I recognized sitting at the tables. I sat with him and made small talk, but it was awkward to sit with him and not properly know his name. If I continued chatting with him, eventually I’d know the guy pretty well and I’d look like an idiot if I had to ask. So I tried to play it real smooth… “we call Abhishek Abhi and Omprakash Om, so do you have a nickname you go by?” he told me, and I quickly forgot it before the end of breakfast. The only name that would stick in my head was the last name of the other Nepali guy that sounded similar to P’s.
Meanwhile P and his friend AC were talking about some of the people in the I-House, and eventually P asked, “What about that C girl? She seems nice,” to which his friend replied, “Ah, she’s just weird, don’t bother with her.” A few days later P and I realized that we worked the same early morning shift in the campus library. I sat at the circulation desk while he worked in the interlibrary loan office. That first morning he walked in I gave him an enthusiastic wave and he thought to himself, “AC is right, she is weird.”
Yet regardless of my naming issues and P’s friend’s discouragement, we became fast friends, and started studying in the I-House computer lab quite frequently in the evenings together. I remember being very studious back then, in part because I enjoyed spending time with him. I use to teach him phrases in French, and he would write down some stuff in Nepali. We were dorky, but had a good time, and never really thought of each other as any more than friends.
Then one night, as our dear friend S likes to take credit for (yes, the same S of momo fame), things started to change. S had somehow come across a DVD that he thought was really good back at his school in Maine and assumed that P would like it too. To my knowledge, I think this is the only time that S has done this, but he mailed P the DVD, and P decided to show it one night in the I-House lounge. The movie, “East West,” was half in French and half in Russian. P mentioned the movie in passing and asked if I’d like to watch it due to my interest in French. As with most random I-House movie screenings, the movie started with about four people on the couch but ended with half a room full of people sprawled out all over the place.
Once the movie was over everyone filed out of the room–P and I just happened to be the last two to leave. We were chatting while walking down the hallway. It was a weekend, I hadn’t really showered, and I was disguising my somewhat-too-greasy-hair with a handkerchief. As we walked P said, “why do you wear that thing on your head?”
Me: “Well, I’ve been a bit lazy this weekend, I need to take a shower and I’m trying to hide it.”
P: “Oh… well I think you look fine… actually do you know what song I think of when I see you?”
Me: “Um… no…”
P: “Pretty Woman…” awkward silence… “I think it’s the glasses…”
Me: “But Julia Roberts doesn’t wear glasses in that movie…”
P: Confused look, “oh, okay…” and we both turned around and went our seperate ways.
Little did I know P was making a reference to Roy Orbison the singer of “Pretty Woman.” He was known for wearing dark sunglasses, which I never wore, but I think maybe P was confused with Buddy Holly or some other random 60s singers who wore thicker rimmed tortoise-shell glasses. I wore glasses at the time (and continue to wear a similar style) that had a retro tortoise-shell type of look. Roy Orbison is actually not very attractive, and perhaps if I knew what P was talking about I would have been a little confused or even offended. Instead it planted a seed in my head… why would he say such a thing? Does he have feelings for me? Why would he put himself out there if not to let me know he liked me?
Poor P, he wasn’t used to an American girl’s way (or at least my way) of over analyzing these kinds of things. In fact he was just making an innocent comment, even if it came across a bit corny and romantic, he assures me that at the time he didn’t actually think of me as more than just a good friend. Yet from that moment on my approach to him was based on my perceived interpretation of his feelings for me. Instead of me reacting to his pursuit of me, I actually started pursuing him all on my own!
…and, what South Asian story about “Pretty Woman” would be complete without a link to the “Kal Ho Naa Ho” Bollywood movie scene of Shah Rukh Khan singing a Hindi version of “Pretty Woman”??? At least the “pretty woman” (Preity Zinta) in this song is also wearing tortoise-shell glasses! Enjoy…