She was the most sought after girl in 7th standard. Then she got herself a 'princess diana' haircut and lord were we envious!
One afternoon during lunch hour Tina and I were strolling aimlessly on the ground when a stray piece of shattered glass hit the top of her head, right on the middle. First time I saw blood spurting out. Blood trickled down her forehead and she had the opaque look of shock in her eyes. Held her tight when the resident nurse, a monstrous creature we loved to hate, pulled out the glass piece with gusto mumbling something about the current generation having no tolerance for pain etc. I held Tina's hand tight till a blinding rage to shove the needle on her fleshy bottom passed. The ogre and our classteacher took Tina to the nearby hospital. I saw her again the next day after school in her room. She was lying on her bed among a sheet full of blue flowers. Were they lilies? I looked at her. There was this huge white bandage on her cleanly shaven head.
Tina didn't come back to school for the whole of next two months and I missed her terribly and kept a copy of all the class notes for her which I took along with me when I visited her every weekend. When she came back to school, her wound had healed and her hair had grown about two inches but her spirit was forever scared. She never stepped out of class during lunch and she always wore a cap though her hair had grown long.
Next year we were in different classrooms. She spoke little and wasn't the livewire that she used to be. Even our after school shakespeare workshops led by the boisterous Anil Sir became a drag. By this time I had made it to the junior hockey team and made new friends. Years passed and I saw less and less of her. The last time I met her was when I went to collect my 10th standard board exam marks card. She had come with her mother. We talked for a while and promised to keep in touch. The next few years as I traversed through my now complex life Tina was forgotton. Till I came back from Delhi and rummaging through my old pile of keepsakes found a well preserved autograph book. 'Drink coffee, drink tea, when you burn your lips, think of me'. Scrawled across the pink sheet with 'Lots of Love Tina' at the bottom with an arrow through a heart. I called her old number that evening.
'This number has been disconnected'.
Somedays later went to the lane where her house was but the neighbours didn't have her new address. One friendly fellow told me that she was studying dentistry and no he didn't know which college. I never found out either.
We were 13. He a couple of months older. They lived in Nigeria and visited Kolkata once every year for about a month where we were neighbours. Our parents were friends and bro and I always got invited for his birthdays which always were during their annual Kolkata trip. Though he would spend most of his time in our house - eating lunch that MY mother made and chatting with MY dad in the evening, I didn't consider him a friend. He would always greet me with animated enthusiasm and I would give him a passing 'oh you again' smile and go on about my work. Deliberate disregard. My parents adored him ofcourse. Which was the big problem to begin with.
He was quite intrepid for a boy of that age. My brother hero worshipped him. Which was the other big problem I think. We had this group of neighbouring kids led by Glamour Queen (the young neighbourhood beauty - she was always three inches shorter than me - my saving grace) who would meet up every afternoon and have a good time mostly chattering away as pre-teens do. He desperately wanted to be a part of that group. I ofcouse ignored the request. Glamour Queen can do with one less fan. My brother finally introduces him to the group and everyone seems to like him and his accented bengali. Except ofcourse me. On our terrace, Glamour Queen suggests Go-Statue. A silly game if you ask me where most of the time you are supposed to freeze pose and the tagged one tries to unfreeze the 'statues'. All agree enthusiastically and someone says 'go'. He is tagged and we freeze as statues. We are allowed to blink and I try hard to control the giggles as I watch him make funny faces and body gestures to make all of us laugh. He moves from one to the other and finally he is infront of me. He smiles. Gosh his teeth are REALLY white. Must be because his skin is so dark. Contrast. I blink. He sticks his tongue out. Crosses his eyes. Pulls his eyelids till he looks like a chinaman. Nothing. He bends a little and inches his face close to mine. I can see his pupils. They are jet black. Smell the faint mint of his breathe. Its not so easy to scare me. I don't even blink this time. We hold each other's stare. Dumbass. He thinks he can 'out-stare' ME? Next second without warning his lips are on mine. Soft and warm. My eyes close and his hands are on my shoulder. I jerk my face away. He straightens and there is a funny look on his face. They all laugh out loud. I am tagged.
Glamour Queen's mother calls and we all disperse. My ears are hot and he nonchalantly comes home with us to sit with dad. If only looks could kill. God how I hate him.
One sunday we went to 'Wonderland' which was the only video game parlour in the whole of Kolkata. I have always been a bad driver. I am more of a pac-man person. That day I was a disaster on 'Night Rider'. I cringe as he stands next to me giving me helpful instructions and then suddenly he just grabs the jog stick with me still holding it and took over the game which I was losing 3-10. If I had a sharp object near by he would have been dead right then. How dare he? I deserve to atleast lose with dignity. I try to push his hand away and in the ensuing tussle realize the zipper at the back of my summer dress had given way. There I was all of 13 standing in the middle of the game parlour with a open zipper and a flushed face. My bro no where in sight. Shomit turns towards me. Heck he was a good three inches taller and I bet he saw my now bare back and frozen form and must have the sweet look of revenge on his face. I refuse to look up. He touches my shoulders. Yeeckkks! Isn't it bad enough that I have a gaping hole of a dress! He says,"I will be back". Back for what? He returned in a few minutes with a grin. Hell!!! He must have told the entire crowd and the TV station!!! I cannot hold back the tears anymore. He moves behind me and I hear stapling sound. He turns me around and shows me the stapler, that he got from the cash counter. With a puzzled look he asks, "Did it hurt?"
The drive back home I was perfectly quite while dad, bro and he were sharing their exploits of the afternoon.
They left for Nigeria the next day. I met him two years later. He came over to say hello to all of us. What had happened to him? There he was in his blue denim shirt and faded blue jeans looking like the tall dark handsome M&B heroes I read on the sly.
He hugs me and says, 'Hey did I ever tell you that you were a damn good statue'.