She was Charlotte but we all called her Charlie. It had a certain androgynous ring to it.
By all, I mean a total of not more than 5 people who were part of her circle. I would have said inner circle, but that would imply that there was an outer, potentially larger circle. There was none. She was unrepentantly reticent.
She was taller than the average girl, with a fairly athletic build. Her hair fell in soft coarse curls to the center of her back when she wore it long. It was a dark rich brown, almost brunette colour, reminiscent of African honey. When it wasn’t overcast by the shadow of the hooded sweater jackets she liked to wear, her face was very very beautiful. There were no sharp facial features, but every edge had a softness to it, from the bridge of her nose to her eyebrows and cheekbones. The icing on the cake was a carefully coiffed philtrum giving way to small, but plump full lips. Her eyes were a beautiful brown, with specks of gray and they lit up some when she smiled.
You could tell instantly that she was of mixed heritage. She was French and West African from her father’s side and Ukrainian Jewish from her mother’s side. She didn’t like that people had no difficulty telling she was multiracial. She would often wish she looked more African or more European. She was tired of sitting on the fence. But beautiful she was and she knew it. So, it was quite surprising, her being withdrawn. She wasn’t shy per se, but very choosy whom she traded words with.
I should have felt lucky when she chose to make me closest to her. We met one evening- late summer, early autumn. My friend and classmate, who happened to know her had invited us both to a concert he was playing with his band at the independence square in the center of the city. It was a really good show and everyone left in high spirits. We bumped into each other when I went backstage after the show to congratulate my friend for giving us all a good show and met her there with him. He introduced us and we briefly discussed on the short tram ride back to the dormitories.
I invited her to a medical students’ conference I was helping to organize the following weekend. Typical nerd, maybe. She declined when I asked for her cell number, so that I could send her a reminder. I thought no further of the encounter and moved on with my life. I saw her very few times afterwards, always alone, always from afar.
Color me surprised then, when after the summer vacations that year, I was standing over the sink doing dishes in the kitchen of our nearly deserted floor when no other than Charlie walked in. She was with her mother. How did I know? They spoke in French, her preferred language and she had a more-than-passing resemblance to the older woman. First, they walked past, then they doubled back and asked me if there were any free places on our floor, since she was moving out from the floor for prep faculty students. I told them I didn’t know of any, but that I’d ask one of my neighbors who was presently off for a few weeks at the coast and who’d kniw better. This time, she volunteered her phone number.
I didn’t save it to my phone book. A little arrogant maybe.
That autumn, I moved to another dorm and one day, while going out to buy groceries, I saw the mother-daughter duo moving into the same dorm. I said hello and asked if they had any luck finding a good place. I guess by now, she was already tired of running into me. I excused myself, and ran along to where I was going.
I wasn’t expecting it at all when she gave me a call, more than 2 months later. I was on my way from one hospital to the other- between classes. At first I didn’t even know whom I was speaking with, but I played it by the ear. Next came the text messages. She wanted to meet. I showed her to my room and we started getting to know each other better…
If there’s any girl I feel that I have treated badly, since I discovered the difference between boys and girls, it’s Charlie. I have always prided myself on being a gentleman, in and out of all my relationships. She stands there alone – one dark blemish on what had otherwise been an impressive record.
It’s probably too late Charlie, but there are a few things I should have said when we were together, things that might have changed how things ended between us. If you ever get to read this, I mean every syllable. I only wish I had the courage to tell them to you in person. When I had the chance.