Note – While clearing out my Google Docs, and creating some new files, I noticed this piece. It seems to have been written in November 2007. Perhaps I wanted to write more, and didn’t post it. I haven’t changed any of it – and am letting it go as it is. But I think it was to be a character note on a little novel I have always wanted to write. At one level I am almost confused – I did write this didn’t I?
Ideally, it should come as a shock. Seeing her in a city we didn’t grow up in. But going by appearance, she had changed so much, that I didn’t feel the usual exhilaration one feels when running into an old friend. It’s odd when people tell you that appearances are deceptive. That a change in the way we talk and dress doesn’t really indicate a change on the inside. Well, all I see of her, and anybody else is on the outside. Unless we’re talking about my mother. Her, I know. Inside out.
Appearances count. I am sorry, I cannot dive into your head and heart. By appearance, I don’t mean your clothes. But the kindness in your face. The expressiveness in your eyes. Some people, they were born to be Bharatanatyam dancers. Eyes that flashed, cajoled, laughed and teared up.
I see her. The tinkling of glasses all around seems appropriate. To drown out the sounds of our adolescence. In a strange way, our adolescence never really belongs to us. Unlike say middle age, when misery appears to suck itself into the stomach. But teenage years are shared. Like vines, we cling to each other, searching constantly for assurances from the other. Even the loneliness of an adolescent never really belongs to her. We were forced together into a proximity that we didn’t desire.
I move to the wall, where my back can find support and I can lean sideways. I don’t know if she is more beautiful. At seventeen, everyone, regardless of their bodies, shapes and acne looks beautiful. Perhaps it is a retrospective beauty. But in the way that I remember her, I think of her holding her absurdly large backpack. She always carried the map of a city. Some carry maps to avoid getting lost, and others, to discover shorter routes to where they want to go. Some others to indulge in that delightful discovery of meandering little streets that have curious names or none at all. I think she carried it because it was heavy and filled her bag. Which is more sad than funny.
She also had a hardbound notebook. She began writing about her walks. The city. As is also with that age, the back pages of any notebook have a lot of use. Reminders, phone numbers, sudden thoughts that present themselves like Haiku. Short bursts of seemingly disconnected words. Over time, the notebook began to fill faster from the back pages.
Because we had so much to hide.
In those back pages, we learn to hide from ourselves. Our secret corners. As easily accessible as the front pages, but perhaps incomprehensible to another person. I wonder if she has recognized me yet. If the added layers of fat and weight make it difficult for someone to see the seventeen year old within. If she thinks of me as beautiful, but different. I wonder if we have different memories of the twelve odd years spent in the same school. And if she notices that my glass is empty for the fifth time in two hours.