Thirty-one

The evening sky was wearing a blend of pink and purple when I came out the bathroom, brushing my wet hair with the hairy towel. And I wished I had a gown of that shade. Stepping inside, I saw my dad reading the day’s newspaper sitting on one of the grey chairs. When we had returned to Mangalore from Bangalore in the year 2000, we had put in three grey plastic chairs into the lorry while transporting things. As years passed, a blue plastic chair was added on and a decade later, a three seated wooden chair arrived. I would always tell my mother that we replace the plastic chairs with a wooden Diwan. She’d like the idea but couldn’t do much about it.
‘How much does it cost?’
‘Maybe around 10k’
‘Uhm’
I went inside my room, sat on the edge of my bed and resumed brushing my hair in all directions. After a while, I picked my phone from the bedside table and dialed on to my cousin’s number. He didn’t pick. Left him a message and turned on my WhatsApp. Scrolled down through the notifications and stopped, at an unknown number. It read ‘Hi’. Just hi. I tapped on the chat box to open it. Tapped on the person’s display photo to see who it was. It took me a moment to realise that it was him.
It was the first day of my class 7 in school. A lot of new admissions, new faces in class 8. Kannada medium folks after finishing till 7th, would prefer joining an English medium, provided they maintained remarkable grades. And since Jaycees, the school I studied at was the only English medium school in the town, we had plenty of new admissions for class 8. Though we were smaller and belonged to the primary section, we acted like seniors with the freshers, cause half of them were newly arrived and all the highschoolers had to wear full uniforms, you were not supposed to wear skirts but chudidhar and for boys no shorts but pants. So it was quite a scene to watch them look old. On one of the beginning days, class 8 folks were scurrying about, out to the ground in groups. We had social class going on. Sir Guruvappa was explaining the chapter Harappan civilization. I was watching them as they moved one after the other, muttering and giggling. Probably were excited for their first ever PT period in their new school. I was playing up, tossing my pencil between fingers, occasionally offering glances to Sir Guruvappa and looking out through the freshly painted blue window grids. A final group of boys was arriving. All were brown. There was Anirudh, son of our school’s president. Behind him was a dark face. Attractive. Handsome. But dark. Nigga. Nevertheless, he was damn cute. Neatly dressed, neatly combed. He had a pair of spectacles. I didn’t take my eyes off him until the crew disappeared into the ground.
5:30 pm. Post tuitions. Sam and I were waiting for the bus by Rego shop, where we’d buy chocolates and drinks from. Today we bought chewing gum with which Uncle Rego offered us two balloons. ‘You buy these gums, you take home these balloons along as well’ he said. While Sam put hers in the front of her bag and zipped it, I started blowing mine right away. It wasn’t a round balloon, but was straight as an arrow. It streched out uncurving as we blew it. Sam was giggling at me while I was struggling hard to blow it.
‘You never can achieve it. Just put it inside’
‘I’m gonna do it. You just wait and watch’ I told her in between inhaling and blowing.
‘Guess it’s got some defect’ yelled uncle Rego from inside his store.
Minutes later I was now getting it correct and the air was filling in.
‘Wow! Finally’ Sam exhilarated.
Just when I was about to finish, my eyes fell on the road and I stopped blowing, letting the air out.
‘Hey! What you doing!’ Sam leaned her hand forward at my face.
He was wearing a lemon yellow T shirt which was a perfect contrast to his skin colour. And biscuit brown trouser. He had a milk can swinging in one of his hands. The guy next to him was his brother, I knew. I was charmed as he walked without taking his eyes off the road. While I had his brother look at me, who was taller and appeared to be the elder one. Once they were far off from where we stood, I turned to Sam ‘He’s from our school. Class 8. I saw him the other day while they were wandering out to the ground’
‘Oh.’ she said looking at his back.
I had had friends from every class as I was an oldie, so it wasn’t difficult for me to find out his name, his past school, whereabouts, etc etc.
In the middle of all of this, he too had somewhere, maybe noticed my sneak peeking him. Cause months into it, I’d catch him doing the same with me. So by the end of my class 7 and his class 8, we had both caught eachother enough times squinting and I wondered what he had thought of me. He’d have a smile, slightly, everytime he saw me. And I always took it for granted by not acknowledging it. Lunch break was the time when I’d get to see him from close. While passing in our respective queues to wash hands at the long basin, we’d meet when both our lines crossed eachothers. He’d mask a serious face when he’d see me arrive. But once I passed, he’d look down and smile to himself according to Sam.
March arrived. End of School.
I was a highschool girl now. Wore chudidhar with a shawl and two plaits. It didn’t look bad on me. Sam looked nice too, and she was growing fatter by every passing year. Stories of girls in my class getting period were talked of and I wondered what it’d be like when I have it and I just couldn’t wait.
And then there was him. Neither grown taller, nor fatter. He looked the same as when I first saw him, a newly admitted class 8 from Kannada medium. This year, our class had been shifted to the opposite of class 9. So I could see him in the assembly, while lined up for the prayers, during lunch hours, and I’d peep into his class now and then. It was the same year when Sam got into relationship with Nitin and Aditi with Calvin. There were many others too. And I was strolling alone.
It was children’s day. I was wearing a pink salwar. Cotton push up pant with the top, designed by my cousin for a wedding. And a light pink shawl spreaded with trinkets all over and heavy beads hanging at both the parallel ends. My hair was left open. Sam and I had been talking and watching the events from the corridor outside our class. All the kids were in colour dress. The stage was Jazzy and picturesque. Games on account of sports day, on the other hand, was underway outside on the ground. Sam’s boyfriend was on the parallel end of the corridor. He was looking at our side, at Sam. They were both seeing eachother and smiling.
‘I’ll go drink some water and come’
‘Sure’
I walked down the stairs, straight on the way to the Aquaguard just beside the wash basin. The sameness of the granite floor cause my eyes take off it. And when I looked up, I saw him. He was walking towards. My mouth went dry and I stumbled. I literally stopped walking. He glanced at me and turned to the Aquaguard. Took the steel glass that was chained into it’s hook, filled water until the glass brimmed and he began gulping it. I watched him as his Adam’s apple went up and down. His face was in drops of sweat. He was in black shorts and cream T-shirt. He had been playing in the ground. I was about a metre away from him. When I quivered and realised that I had been waiting for a lucky chance to talk to him, I scuttled to where he stood. And stopped nervously. He replaced the glass, looked at me as if he knew what I was going to say and began walking away.
‘Hey’ I yelled.
He turned, smiled, raised one of eyebrows and meandered out to join his friends. I stood there puzzled, with my heart skipping not very many beats.
The events were going on at the same pace as it had when I had left from there for water. I took my seat next to Sam.
‘What took you so long?’
‘I’m asking you’ she shook my hand as I sat there lost in thoughts.
‘Sam!’
‘Yeah?’
‘I think I like him’
‘Who? The chashmawala?’
‘Um’ I nodded.
She narrated the whole story to her boyfriend that evening. And since highschool boys were a crew, they knew eachother some or the other way. Things happened pretty quickly after that. Sam’s boyfriend was gabby and so, the news spread rapidly. I had people teasing me with with and I was pleased. He seemed to have a good time too, when he learned that he was getting teased with me. Cause he never kicked a fuss about it and remained silent rather. We never missed to exchange smiles whenever our eyes met. During lunch breaks he began coming to my class to have his food. By then he’d become a good friend of Sam’s boyfriend. So they’d sit together and eat. He’d come to cheer me whenever I had a match to play during the sports events. I’d go to his class, wear his pair of shoes which would be sitting under the wooden bench of his in his class. When the classroom would be empty, I’d check his bag for things inside it, I’d write his name with mine on the black board and tee-hee at it. He’d come over to watch me dance and I’d do the same on him. He’d be caught smiling now and then and I’d dance in the drizzles while on the way to school.
His dad had owned a stationary. Two actually. Right in the heart of town. He’d bring cola from there for us and I, while walking down to the bus stand from school would peep over for him at the shop.
He asked me out when I had been ascended to class 9 and him, class 10. His final year of schooling.
One evening of that academic year, I was anxiously waiting with my mom’s phone in hand. Mom’s because never had one of my own. I had given Sam my mom’s number written on a chit in tuitions that morning. She had handed it to her boyfriend, and her boyfriend to him.
Since the time I was home from school, I made sure my eyes never left the phone, no matter where it moved. I feared if my mom would find out, but she didn’t. 7:30 pm, the phone which was only my arm’s distance rang when I was on a chair in my room. I quickly grabbed and silenced it. And checked with the number that Sam had given me in the chit handed by her boyfriend, who had been handed the same by my partner. We had both exchanged our numbers through chits which without the help of Sam and her boyfriend wouldn’t have been possible. The ten digit number matched. I slowly walked out the house, near the cowshed. And pressed the receive button. I could literally hear my own heart beating.
‘Hh-e-ll-lo’
‘Hi’ said a gentle voice.
‘Hi’ I said again.
‘What were you doing?’ he asked.
‘Ah? I was just.. sitting simply’
‘Ok. It’s my number. Have it saved.’
‘Ya ok. ‘
‘Alright, I’ll text you. Bye’
‘Will be waiting. Bye’
When dreams finally come and stand at your doorstep, you can’t help but feel too heavy to handle the reality. It could be for the anxiousness or whatever. I was feeling so burdensome I wanted to be freed.
My phone beeped it’s message tone and my heart sank. I opened the message. As days passed and as we became good friends, I got used to the pressure. We’d talk over phone, exchange messages on a daily basis.
‘Did you ever have a crush?’ I had once asked him.
‘Not until I saw a girl struggling to blow a balloon at Rego shop’ he grinned.
I blushed.
‘I’m in love with you’ he said one night in the middle of our texting.
I looked at my mom who was sitting in front of me watching a serial on the tv and then at my brother who was lying down on her lap. I wanted to weep. I had always wanted to be in relationship when I’d watch lovers on the TV, when I’d see Sam and her boyfriend together. But when it was about to happen to me, I wanted to run away from it and not be found at all.
That night I slept with my mother. I put my hand across her chest, lay my head on her hand and told her everything that had happened. With all courage, I told her the story of my first ever love. She listened and rest was history.
I told him a ‘No’ and we never saw eachother after that. When I tried to talk to him, he’d walk away, he’d avoid my face. I’d cry. I was guilty and helpless both. He’d tell Sam and her boyfriend that I played up with him. But that was not the truth, I was only scared and I tried explaining him but he wouldn’t listen. Months after that he gave his final exams and left school. It took me to get into a college to forget him. And I heard he was in a relationship. It was someone from his college, according to that someone else who told me.
Years later, just recently we met on Facebook. And exchanged our numbers. So here he is texting me hi. And we had a healthy conversation after I replied, ‘Hey what’s up :)’
Right things always happen at wrong times. Why?

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