Saturday, 24 March 2012

My Years At Westminster: Three Stories About Three People


The bus jostles its way down the crowded, unpaved Rawalpindi road. We are lost; we can’t seem to find the correct route to Saint Mary’s Academy. There is a Model United Nations competition there that we are headed for. I have no idea what an MUN actually entails. In fact, this is my very first tentative foray into the daunting world of debates.

The bus is full of nine other boys and girls from my new school, Westminster College. They laugh, chatter, and discuss people I don’t know. Almost all of these people have known each other their entire lives; I have never before felt this left out. If this is what life at Westminster is going to be like, I don’t want to go here, I think bitterly. Tears are brimming up, and I’m starting to feel frustrated by how easily my emotions can overpower me. But then, I have always been terrified of being alone. Loneliness is the one burden I know I cannot shoulder.

We reach there, an hour late. Saint Mary’s is a huge, sprawling campus. The amiable, chatty lady at the reception desk looks at me, mouths questions that have answers I don’t know. I shrink back, turning to one of the people in my teams for help. A boy from my school comes forward, rescues me, smiles at me. I develop a crush on him then and there, and I’ll continue to have feelings for him for the next six months. And then one fine day after six months, I’ll wake up and discover that those irksome feelings have packed up and gone, like thieves stealing away in the night, taking the treasures and riches of my heart with them.

                                                                              *             *             *  

He’s fat and loud. He comes over to me, appreciation in his eyes and warmth in his tone. He quips jokes; jokes that fail to amuse me. I smile politely. My mind is on other things. I’m focusing on the people around me. I don’t know anybody here, but I plan to change that very soon. I want to make good friendships here, valuable friendships, friendships that will last. This overweight boy with his too-loud voice is definitely not on the list of acquaintances I want to forge, that much I know with certainty.

He says something else, another attempt on his part to grab my attention. I don’t even bother pasting my fake smile on my lips. I turn around and start walking. What an annoying person, I think, not knowing that a few months down the line he will become one of the most amazing friends I will ever make.

                                                                                *             *             *

“I miss you,” he whispers into the phone. His voice is low and throaty and I can hear desire in his voice. I swallow, clearing my throat. I miss him too. I shouldn’t, but I do.

“I have to go now,” I reply. It’s late, I need to sleep. I’ve missed too many morning classes already because of my topsy-turvy sleep schedule.

I make it to class on time, and see him there. We exchange glances, and smile shyly. For the entire next month, we will continue to meet each other between classes, sit across tables and drown in each other’s eyes. I can’t tell if its infatuation or love, but I’m so damn happy that I don’t care either way. We open up around each other, like buds uncurling into blossoms. It’s beautiful and glorious and like a ray of warm, warm summer, right in the middle of the frozen wastelands of December.

But the more we blossom, the sharper the thorns that emerge. The differences in our personalities and outlooks are vast and unyielding; the bridge between them too fragile. The bridge splinters apart one day, crumbling into clouds of smoky dust. And I cry and cry over its demise, until my eyes are red and puffy and I’m as empty inside as an abandoned shipwreck, washed up on a sandy, barren shore.
                                                                                

Thursday, 1 March 2012

And there's always so much to think about, so much to miss.


He sits at the same table every day. He smiles at everybody politely. Small, shy smiles. The kind of smiles that make your lips automatically lift up at the corners too.

He’s overweight, but that doesn’t stop him from getting up every two hours and fetching food from the canteen. Small, bite-sized Snickers bars. Chilli rice. A bottle of Coke. He sits and eats in perfect ease. His movements are relaxed and unhurried, as though he has all the time in the world to sit here and consume Lays, pulling the chips out of the packet one by one.

When he’s finally finished, he reaches into his bag, rummages around and digs out his iPod. Plugging the earphones in, he listens avidly. Tap tap tap. That’s his left foot striking against the ground, matching the beat of the music.

People swill around him, me and my friends included. We laugh at weird Punjabi jokes, quip lines at each other, share spicy masala fries and pass around gossip. We moan over the results of our latest round of assessments, chatter about upcoming birthdays and school events. But he just sits there, listening to music. He’s enclosed in a cozy little world of his own. And he’s not lonely. He’s fully satisfied in his own company.

But that’s not to say he doesn’t have any friends. He does. And when his friends arrive, he puts away his music and devotes his attention to them. But when they leave, he reverts back into himself. I stare hard at him, but I can’t derive anything from his expression. He’s expressionless, I suppose.

And then one day when he comes to school, someone’s written his name on the wall behind the table he sits at. I ask him who did, but he only shrugs and says he doesn’t know. I stare at him for a while, and then plop down next to him. He looks Chinese in appearance, and I’ve always assumed he was so, but after I make small talk with him I discover that he’s actually from Brunei.

“So,” I speak, and my voice is full of genuine curiosity. “Don’t you get tired sitting here every single day?”

He looks up, at me. He unwraps a Snickers bar, strokes the side of his iPod with the tip of his index finger. “I have music by my side,” he replies simply, and his words stir chords of faint envy within my heart.

                                                                    *          *          *

We used to be best friends, but now I can’t stand her anymore. She has long, jet-black hair, huge brown eyes, a round face. I used to think she was immensely pretty, but now nothing about her appearance appeals to me in the slightest. ‘Ordinary’ is the kindest word I would devote towards her now, and that makes me realize just how influential and despicably fickle my feelings are.

We used to be inseparable, joined at the hip. Now I go out of my way to avoid her. I look up and I see her rounding the corner, heading in my direction. I want to get away from here, be someplace else. I start walking. The sound of my footsteps is too brisk, too loud, too desperate, even to my own ears.

                                                                    *          *          *

The clack-clack-clack of the keyboard resonates as my fingers fly over it. Only when the last word has been typed out, do I sit back and allow my spine to press up against the wood of the chair. Silence descends. I hit Send.

I don’t know why I keep writing to you. I don’t know why I keep clinging onto the sweetness of past memories. The past, no matter how sweet it is, is still the past. And no one knows that better than I. Yet I can’t help myself from writing to you devotedly, religiously. It’s not because I don’t have anyone else to talk to. It’s not even because I have all that much to talk about, really.

It’s only because every time I see a new e-mail from you in my inbox, it’s like candy waiting to be unwrapped. My pulse flutters, my heart thumps faster. And then I know that it’ll always be you. You’ll always be the only one to take away the deadness I sometimes feel inside.