I guess I met him two years ago.
I sound unsure when I say this because we never really exchanged any words. He was one of the four or five of us in that red-walled room, where guitars hung around and our music player was an amp.
It was a good time in my life. Things that seemed complicated were so easy to ignore or run away from, and other things were excessively do-able.
It was strange seeing him walk around non-chalantly, tapping away at his phone, with a blue backpack, closely cropped hair, school uniform.
So different from the couldn’t-care-less guy with wild, surfer-boy hair that I remembered.
He was different and he was cleaner, less hazy; as if these two years had tweaked some invisible dials and fine-tuned his personality. Ironed out the wrinkles and given him the confidence to flaunt his anomalies.
It was a hot Friday afternoon. The adhan would be heard any minute now. I was sitting on a lone marble bench, twirling my phone in my hands and staring at the dusty football field.
My mother was late.
Readjusting my dupatta for the tenth time, as a cool gust of wind blew, I tore my eyes away from the unending dusty brown of the field and cast around a quick glance. There were few of us left.
I missed my old school, where the man who ran the canteen always loaned me money for ill-timed snacks. No such luck here, I though, glaring at the canteen on the other side of campus. It would take me four minutes to walk there and cost me what little original shade my skin had retained.
It had always been tough for me to adapt. My constitution seemed to be in the habit of rebelling, and nearing the end of my teenage years I was naive enough to wonder if I would ever change. If i would ever be the first to initiate conversation, the first to smile. If I would ever stop thinking so much about everything and just take it as a simple and inevitable changing of environments.
But the truth was, I was not old enough yet and I did rebel, and I did wonder and I did not like taking first steps. And I never stopped thinking so much.
It was then that I saw him, kicking up dust lazily, looking around, walking past to confer with the school security guard and then returning.
I wondered for a minute how it was possible that someone who was so sure, could ever be left behind. Of course I was talking in my head, in rhetoric and referring mostly to his class of friends in school and the kind of vibe he gave off.
There had been a feeling of unexpected familiarity when I saw him at school on the first day, and the jarring and unsettling realisation that this boy had always stuck out in her past, a marking-stone, and now he was part of her present . A present that I had never seen coming.
And his suddenly tall stature and short hair and sarcastic mouth were all reminders of how much had happened for me in these two years.
It was a sickening realisation, to be honest. Looking at him brought back memories of long car-rides, and expensive sandy-colored guitar, eccentric music tastes and my first taste of center-stage fame. All of that was well-behind me, yet clung on to me like the smell of cigarette smoke to a dead man’s trench coat.
He was looking around, an impatient beat playing out from beneath his running shoes.
My face was cupped lightly in my left-hand, resigned to the fact that I couldn’t do much.
He recognised me in school and I, him. And yet conversation was unnecessary and unwanted. It always had been.
Leave things be, I had said to myself on the first day. I needed to concentrate on the present.
It was then that he turned around and came and sat down next to me.
I blinked and realised I had also calmly moved over to give him more room.
My backpack dug into my arm but I couldn’t move. Not now. The initial movement seemed to have been all I was good for. My first reaction was probably reflected by my slightly dumbfounded expression, which slowly transformed into a casual, blank look.
I tried to stare at the field again.
My mind was in overdrive.
I didn’t understand. I couldn’t make sense of the gesture. Why was he sitting here? Had he even looked up long enough from his phone to recognise me? Did he want me to talk to him? Should I talk to him? What should I say?
“Umm… go away.”
No, that would sound bitchy. I had never spoken to this boy ever in my life.
So why was I over-thinking this. Maybe he just desperately wanted to sit. That was probably the right answer. It was a hot day, after all.
I frowned a little, shooting a surreptitious glance behind me. Another bench sat there, longer than my bench. It was occupied by just one junior, a timid little girl, her white hijab loosened. The rest of the bench was empty.
I looked down at my hands and questions bombarded the windshield of my mind. like raindrops or hail in a freak storm.
Would it be rude if I said nothing?
Not ruder than him plopping himself down here uninvited.
It might be a bit rude.
I don’t care.
But what was the worst that could happen.
Yes, I should talk. I should initiate conversation, smile, not think so much; be old enough.
I opened my mouth.
The security guard’s voice called his name. His mother was waiting.
He got up and left.
I decided I’d always sound unsure, and be unsure, because I had never really exchanged any words.