Stall-ed: Unrequited Love and Unexpected Encounters

Some journeys take us far from home. Some adventures lead us to our destiny. 

~ C. S. Lewis

If life is a book that’s made of a series of choices, Cora Mora’s genre would probably be a romantic tragedy. 

Born into a quirky family, Cora’s life never contained a boring day. In the office, her father was just another accountant amidst the sea of middle-aged men stuck with a desk job. Once free from the constraints of work hours, however, he utilised his accountancy skills to carefully catalogue and budget out his plan to expand his assortment of collector’s items. Cora’s childhood memories were filled with roaming the various rooms full of ancient manuscripts and mediaeval artefacts and listening to her father talk about the history of his latest collection. Her mother was an author, and in order to gain inspiration to write, she often went on trips to experience things firsthand before coming back to clack away on the early 20th century typewriter that Cora’s father had gifted her. It was on one of these trips that her parents met; her adventurous mother came to explore the ruins of Greece while her gentle father attended an auction in the hopes of purchasing an 8th century BC vase. Two very different lives, permanently twined together by a simple act of one asking the other for directions. Her father had gotten on the plane without doing prior research and spoke no Greek, and ended up relying on her mother to ask the locals for directions after he took one too many hopeless turns in search of the auction house. The rest, as they say, became history.

Her mother had always wanted to name her firstborn daughter Corazón, or Cora for short, in the hopes that her daughter would find a beautiful love. Fate, however, had other plans. Her husband, Cora’s father, bore the last name Mora. In Spanish, Cora’s full name translated into ‘blackberry heart’, while in Latin, Mora meant “delay” or “linger”. Her name essentially foreshadowed her love’s delay. When Cora found out, much later in her life, the meaning of her surname, she wondered if her name was a reflection of her life or a curse that sealed her fate. All she knew was that her name was apt.

Throughout my teenage years, I’d spent years harbouring a crush on my schoolmate Casimir, my neighbour. Without knowing my last name’s meaning at the time, I’d confidently presumed my first name was a lucky charm and tried my utmost best to discreetly get closer to him, to no avail. I participated in everything he did. He joined the school band? So did I, except that I was kicked out within the month because, no matter how hard I blew, Battle Hymn of the Republic never sounded like anything other than a cat yowling as it took a wrong step and dropped into a trash can. He enjoyed playing basketball with the other neighbourhood boys? I tried, truly, but when you’re 5’3” playing amongst rough-and-tumble giants who are at least 5’11”… well, the determination is admirable, but you should know when to give up. Especially when you end up being thrown in the air along with the ball more often than not.

When the end of highschool neared, I made the decision to confess, not knowing if I would see him after graduation. However, that attempt was as equally disastrous as my numerous attempts to get closer to him. When I finally gathered my courage to boldly march up to his class, I faced the weight of 28 pairs of eyes staring at me, all but the one person I was looking for. 

“Hi, uh, does anyone know where Casimir is?” I squeaked, my bravado all deserting me at the most crucial moment. 

The stares had continued, before a girl at the back of the class replied casually, “Nope, but if you’re here to confess I’d advise you not to. It’s not gonna go well.”

The panic sank in… How’d she know? Who knows I like him? DOES CASIMIR KNOW??

My face must’ve betrayed my thoughts, because a boy added nonchalantly, “I’m pretty sure the whole school knows you like him. It’s pretty obvious. You’ve been following him around like a lost puppy for years. But don’t worry, Cas receives confessions all the time, and he’s not remotely interested in anyone, so you’re not the only one. We’ve got a bet going on if he’s gonna be a monk one day, wanna join in?”

“No thanks,” I said hurriedly, scurrying out of the classroom, my face flaming. It might seem like a small matter to them, but it was a massive disaster to me. The whole school knew? My growing horror set in, and I dashed to the safety of a toilet stall. Well, safe for my social wellbeing, but the smell is probably detrimental to my physical wellbeing. 

My breathing fast and shallow, I slumped to the floor like a deflated balloon, banging my head on the door with a loud thud. I realised I had just wasted four years of my life chasing after a guy who probably didn’t even know my name. No, he should know it because we’re neighbours. Oh no, he probably knew it and hated it. And, it was gossip fodder for everyone.

“Seriously, what were you thinking, Cora? Confessing to Casimir, a guy who probably barely knows you? Ugh, maybe I should have argued with my mum to change my name to something less ironic. Like Misery. Or Embarrassment. ”

Suddenly, I heard choked laughter. Wallowing deep in self-pity, I plead over the stall door, “Girlie, please don’t interrupt my wretchedness with laughter right now. I’m having a private conversation with myself.”

The person cleared their throat, and a deep voice sounded out. “Well, I think this is the first time I’ve been called a girl, but I’m sorry to interfere in your monologue, Cora.”

I freeze. I slowly unlock the stall door and peek out. Instead of a wall of sinks, I faced a row of urinals. And, worst of all, I come face to face with a guy. And not just any guy. It was Casimir Andrzej Cislo. 

I screamed. 

It was bad enough that anyone heard me, that I’m in the wrong bathroom, but why, why, did it have to be him?

His face contorted into a worried look and internally I envisioned his thoughts. 

Is Cora alright? She looks a little off her rockers. Maybe I should leave. Yes, I should leave. 

He quietly backed away and left the toilet, leaving me to my hysterics in peace.

That is, peace until the security guards came to investigate The Mysterious Case of Washroom Screams.

That was 2 years ago. After that fiasco, I never dared to show my face to anyone from highschool. I applied to go overseas for university and that’s where I’ve been, quietly eking out my existence…

“Cora? Is that you?”

Stopping mid-run and turning around to scan the landscape of the park to locate the speaker, I jump as I spot him. Casimir Andrzej Cislo, looking effortlessly put together without any sign that he’d just been jogging as well.

Impossible. Why him? Why here? Was it not enough that I moved thousands of kilometres away? Outwardly, though, I try to maintain my cool, casually smiling and praying my eau de sweat doesn’t waft over to him. 

“It is you!”

“Cas, I, uh, didn’t know you were here? How are you doing?”

“Oh, I’m studying at Loxington University,” he shared.

“Oh? Me too,” I cringe at the coincidence, memories of our last encounter flashing through my mind. Hopefully he doesn’t rememb-

“Hey, uh, about that time in the bathroom-”

No chance. The only thing left to do was feign ignorance. I gave him the confused smile that people give you when you start a conversation and they don’t recognise you.

“I’m sorry, what? I’ve totally put my highschool memories into the deep recesses of my brain’s storage. I can’t seem to recall what you’re talking about, haha.”

“Well, I just wanted to say, on the off chance that you still feel the same way back then, actually I-” he pauses, cocks his head, and starts over. “Nevermind, it’s alright if you forgot, it’s actually a bit fuzzy for me too. Do you want to grab breakfast together? We can catch up then.”

It’s obvious that he’s pretending to forget, but his thoughtfulness resurrected the butterflies in me that I thought died 2 years ago. Plus, what was he going to say before he stopped? Was there a chance…

Without that incident to lead me to study abroad, I never would’ve reunited with him. Maybe it was, in the curious way that life works, meant to bring us to this point.

I smiled, genuinely this time. “Sure, let’s do that.”

Sometimes when things seem to be going wrong, they are going right for reasons you are yet to understand. 

~ Alan Cohen

Written By: Marinella Lotte

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