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Friday, April 08, 2005

Rahat

My first Model U.N. was at King's College in Wilkes-Barre on October 25, 1983. I don't remember that date because of any personal relevance - in fact, I had to look it up. Not the Model U.N. itself, but the major event that happened that day: the invasion of Grenada.

Organizers of Model U.N.'s like to throw curveballs at participants. At Lock Haven 1984 we had a make-believe all-out world war nearly break out. For a while at the King's College 1983 Model U.N. we didn't believe that a major war might be unfolding for real while we were playing diplomats. But Grenada didn't amount to much, except for the people involved.

I met John Morgan there for the first time. I would run into him a few more times, mostly at Model U.N.'s. I wound up going to college with one of his friends, a guy named Walter.

By October of 1984, my second King's College Model U.N., I was more experienced with the structure and function of the event and had a better idea of how to have fun there. But King's College was a local get-together, not a state-wide assembly like Lock Haven. Still, I thought it might be a good place to meet girls. And I met one.

She reminded me of Beth, who I had met just over six months before. She was a few inches taller than Beth. Her hair was black and gently curled, where Beth's was chestnut and straight. Her eyes were brown, while Beth - I don't really remember what color Beth's eyes were, but they might have been brown, too. Her skin was dark, the color of coffee with two shots of cream. Her lips were dark, and pillow-soft, and warm...but I'm getting ahead of myself.

She and her delegation represented Israel. I don't remember much about the actual activities that day. I do remember sending her a note asking her out for a coffee, but I never got a response. I never got her name, either, let alone her address or phone number.

Time passed. Lock Haven 1985 happened. Beth. Rindi. Graduating from high school. Starting college.

My second year of college eventually rolled around, and like most upperclassmen (and upperclasswomen) I spent the first week or two checking out the incoming crop of students. I met a lot of the kids going into the SJLA program, the Special Jesuit Liberal Arts program that I was a part of. Other people I met parasitically - I let my friends make first contact, and then I met the new people through them. I think this is called "networking" nowadays.

I don't remember where this next bit happened. It might have been when I was visiting some friends in their dorm. It might have been in our Student Center. But I was with a group of people, including several Freshman girls, when suddenly I realized that I knew the dark-skinned, dark-haired, dark-eyed, dark-lipped girl who happened to be standing in front of me at that moment.

"Israel!" I shouted, and suddenly she knew me, too.

Her name was Rahat. I got to know her fairly well over the next three years, though not as well as I wished.

We talked a lot at first, and found out things about each other. We were both going to school on full-tuition scholarships. Maintaining mine was very important to me; without it I would not be able to go to college, not without taking out crippling student loans that could take many years to repay. Hers was less critical to her; her father was a doctor, and her family was fairly wealthy, or at least well-off. We both had been born on exactly the same day, in exactly the same year. Our birthdates placed us on the cusp of kindergarten registration the year we were eligible; my parents decided to put me in school a little early, making me younger than most of my classmates throughout my educational career. Rahat's parents had held off until the next year.

We had some adventures together. We had some moments. They're none of your damned business, most of them. She's married now, with a career. I hope she's happy.

There is one story to tell. It might have been that first day that we met on campus. It was fairly early on in what I will call (for want of a better word) our relationship. We had been talking to each other about each other quite a bit, and when dinnertime rolled around we headed up to the fancy upstairs dining room on the top floor of the Student Center, not the more utilitarian cafeteria on the first floor. We sat with a group of Rahat's friends and continued to talk.

We talked about many things, for a timeless infinity. If you've ever seen the movie My Dinner With Andre, you'll understand what it was like. You might also know what's coming next.

We talked and talked, ignoring her friends, my friends, everything around us. The world was, for a moment, just two people getting to know each other. We talked and talked and kept on talking until a strange noise interrupted our conversation.

The noise was silence, which was then broken by the whine of a vacuum cleaner. We looked up. The dining room was empty except for the staff, who were removing linen tablecloths, putting up chairs on the tables, and vacuuming the floor. Oblivious to the world, we had kept on talking until after every other student had left the room, until the cafeteria itself had closed.

We decided it was time to go back to our respective dorms. I walked her to her dorm and said goodbye. I think I hummed "Getting To Know You" as I walked back to mine.

There's not really much to add, at least, not much that I'm going to add. As I said, we had some moments, but they never amounted to anything serious. Sometimes I wonder if I ever had a chance with her. Maybe I did. I don't know. Fifteen years later, it probably doesn't matter.

Much.

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