Part 1 - 30 Hours
"This seems to be the way it's going to be. I'm out of this city in January, unless a miracle comes through.", she said, with her classic sadness-concealing smile - a signature smile that I could read by now from a mile away.
She looked up at me. "Hello?"
I was counting.
"Counting time in terms of the estimated number of real hours you have left to spend with a person is fucking scary as hell. The other day I realised I probably have less than 1000 hours of proper in-person interaction with my parents, based on past numbers. Bringing that back to our irregular hangouts, your departure probably means we probably have 15 more of those - essentially 30 hours or so of us hanging out."
"Well, thanks! I knew I could count on you to make me feel worse about this whole thing", she joked as she stood up.
"I'm sorry", I said, sheepishly.
"I'm going to fill my water bottle and get out of here before the rush-hour hits."
"I'll walk with you - it'll give me a few extra minutes with you - on top of my estimated 30 hours"
"You see, this is why people think we're dating!"
"To hell with them! It's been four years since we've known each other, and we've literally set each other up with other people. I'm trying to increase that 30 hour estimate here. May I join you on that walk to the train station, or should I continue subtracting from my estimate?"
"Shut up about the 30 hours and join me".
As we got out, we said nothing. My mind wandered to how our friends, on multiple occasions, at varying levels of intoxication, joked about their theories of us secretly being together. None of them true by any means, at least to us. Or so I thought.
Months ago, I began thinking about the legitimacy of these assumptions. Was I was deceiving my own feelings for this person as they grew over time? I strongly believed and professed that no individual had the obligation to be the person they were a second ago. So what if the present me felt differently from the person I was months ago? Were our friends right all along?
The more I thought about this, the more I found myself in a mental purgatory between platonic and romantic feelings for her. Was I feeling this only because she was leaving? Did my relatively recent breakup push these further? Was this a typical rebound phase? Were these feelings even romantically motivated? There certainly were moments where I found myself disarmed by her wit and beauty. Are these feelings even relevant now that she's leaving? Would this ruin the beautiful friendship we currently have?
"Yes, because a walk filled with silence is so much better" was the sentence that interrupted my thoughts.
"Sorry. I was thinking about the absurdity of those claims about us dating."
"Yeah, they're idiots. But that's why we hang out with them. You're an idiot too. Remember when you coerced me to wear that dress because you thought I should up my game?"
"Yeah, you looked fucking hideous in that dress", I smirked.
"I know", she laughed, "but I did it because you told me too. Never again."
"Excuse me! I also suggested other things that you initially vehemently disagreed to try, but then ended up loving them."
"That's true. Sometimes your friends know things about you that you don't."
I went silent again at that statement. What if our friends were right about us having feelings for each other?
"Silence again?", she asked.
"No... it's just that... Look, I'm going to say something stupid".
"Nothing new there", she interrupted.
"What if our friends were right about us?", I went on, unabashed.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I've been thinking... "
"Are you asking me out?"
"No! Well... I don't know.", I blurted.
"You're thinking this as we discover I'm about to leave?", she asked, calmly.
"I don't know... I've been thinking this for a while", I confessed.
"And you decide to tell me this when we know I might leave in a month or so?"
"No, it just came up!"
"How long have you been thinking this? I mean you said that dress looked ugly the first time you saw me in it. Where did that upfront honestly go?"
"Okay, I'm sorry - I have probably been thinking this for a while. Since that weird breakup. I didn't want to tell you because I didn't know if it was some weird reaction to the breakup. This is weird to me. I don't think I've had these weird thoughts before, but it's weird. Am I saying weird a lot?"
"You want to start a relationship that has a 30 hour timer set?"
"Look, I think I want to be with you... not with a promise of some cheesy, fairy-tale unlikely future, but with the honest, harsh realism of the present. I don't know about you, but I really think I want to increase that 30 hour estimate. I don't think my feelings for a relationship sprouted because of this weird 30 hour thing, but I know I hate that it's that low. "The daggers of silence muted the screeching brakes of the subway train. We were already at the platform.
"I think... I don't know what to say. "
"You don't have to say anything. This was just a stupid thing to bring up right now. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have."
"Don't be sorry. I like that your being open with whatever's on your mind. Like with the dress - honestly, I hated that dress, and hated being in it."
The train doors opened.
"Stand clear of the closing doors, please.", warned the automated PA system. This time it sounded far more annoying that it usually did.
"Okay. This is my train.", she said as she gave me a hug.
A few seconds pass as she let go.
"Was that longer than usual?", I wondered out loud.
As the train doors closed, with her classic sadness-concealing smile, she said, "Well yeah, didn't you say we only have 30 hours left?"