To me the worst have got to be e-cards and SMSes, but who am I to complain?
Initially an impromptu idea that came to mind while I was — what else — making a birthday card, after which I expanded it into a full-length piece until 2.30am in the morning.
I run out of silver ribbon, so I
drop by the fabrics and crafts shop
and buy a new roll.
It makes the eighth addition to
my collection of coloured strips
of ribbons and strings and shining wires.
I drag a metre each of silver and blue,
snip them off, and twist
a butterfly bow. I run the scissors along
their ends, until they spring
into tight ringlets. A little tape, and
I fasten them onto the blue-wrapped box,
the final touch of perfection.
I hurry next door, to the ongoing party
and hand the box over to little Trevor,
smiling my wishes and relief.
He whoops with delight, and
scrambles to the heart of all the excitement
where a pile of opened packages lay.
The ribbons come undone, the wrappers
are torn, the flaps unfold, and then
Trevor clutches the snow — no, wheel globe
with the truck at the base,
and the flying wheels in the water. He laughs,
shaking the globe, again and again,
and everyone laughs along with him.
I am just glad I managed to find
plastic beads of that queer shape
I do not know Mira very well,
but still there is something for her
I plan to make. The palette comes out of
my cupboard, the dried blobs of
rainbow paint all over the little craters.
I wet a size eleven brush,
and dab it with white, then red.
A pink trail runs over the art paper,
followed by a dash of lilac.
The colours blend well, and I work till
the paint dries up. I draw
white snowflakes all over the page,
then sprinkle glitter onto the complex asterisks,
letting it dry on the thick white paint.
Soon enough, my desk is full
of diamond dust, but before I can clear
my things, the curtains swell and
the brushes roll off the palette,
streaking colours onto the desk.
I snatch the card away before it gets
marred; grabbing the escapees, I wipe
everything clean, and mutter under my breath.
The next day in class, I hand Mira the
card, and say cheerfully, 'happy birthday'.
She seems surprised, but smiles
and thanks me all the same.
Throughout the day her friends shower her
with charm bracelets, teddy bears,
CDs and bags — and I remember seeing
a shimmering halter top and her eyes
gleaming. Link gives her an ox-eye daisy with a
bee-shaped clip, and she calls her thanks
I check the packets right after the
bus ride, and thankfully nothing is broken.
In the corridors everyone is in a great mood,
dying for classes to end and
for Christmas to come. Link catches up
with me, and teases, "What has Santa's junior assistant
gotten for the class this time?"
I deliberately take out the gifts, yet say
it's a secret. He tells me
to reserve the extras for him.
First period is free, so I pass around
the butterscotch and pecan cookies —
dark red ribbons for girls, navy blue for boys —
wishing my classmates a happy Yuletide.
Mira giggles at the message her best friend
sent her, and accepts one absently;
well-heeled Wesley smirks, "Nice try,"
and pats me kindly on the head.
Stuart stares dazedly at the mobile phone keychain
his girlfriend gave him earlier. "I'm on a diet,"
he murmurs, then laughs at himself and
confesses his allergy to nuts.
Elaine and Valerie shriek over the silver
necklaces they've gotten for each other,
and my cookies seem too general
for intrusion. Link hands me one of the chocolate
cubes he's been giving everyone too. I ask
about his progress, and he shrugs. "All except Stu —
but he's just nuts." He takes the rest of my
cookies cheekily, then gives me his bag of sweets, and
I fret much over what to make
this time, because I don't want to
recycle ideas I've used before. I try to
recall, and the school team's victory
in the water-polo championships last year
come into my mind, so I work from there.
I get out my art paper, fold a piece
into half, and draw my version of
his face on it above the water.
Beside his head is a circle I later paint yellow
with a smiley face, bright and happy like
his grin. And just for fun, I add
a tiny crown above each of the two:
champions of the pool.
The sky is white, the water is blue, and his face
reflects every colour with his smile,
together with the freckles on his chin.
On the inside of the card I swirl my third
birthday greeting for him, and then slot it
into an envelope of champagne gold.
In school I slip the gift under his desk, only to find
two other packages in two different carrier bags
from two different stores in the same
shopping mall. The boys hoot and holler when
Link comes in, slapping his back and
giving him a brand new pair of goggles
and blue sports bag from the coach and team.
When the last bell rings Link comes over
to my seat, his face flushed but happy. He says,
"Thanks for your card," and smiles at me
that same smile he gave only once last year
when the judges announced that our school
I see heart-shaped balloons, heart-shaped
chocolates, heart-shaped bouquets,
even heart-shaped declarations
of 'I love you's. Vaguely I wonder
if the departmental stores have run out of
V-day goods, and am secretly glad I made my own.
The tinkling bells of red and
the clinking wings of wire hang from
the keyrings which I keep in a bunch, and which
I don't have the chance to reveal.
For on my own desk is
an exquisite bouquet of paper flowers,
each meticulously folded, fixed and fashioned
and of varying shades of red and pink.
Globules of scented cotton on branches of green wire
dance their way around the floral spray.
They are surrounded by white and rose-coloured
soft paper, and tied with silver ribbon
in loops and curls that run all the way to the floor.
And under my desk is a paper collage
of a butterfly, an image captured during
its flight in the crescent-mooned night,
over a field of pale periwinkles. That is all that exists
in my mind during all the lessons, but eventually
the day is over and the classroom empties.
I watch as the only other person remaining comes over,
smiling ever so pleasantly. "I don't know why,"
says Link, "but it took me three Christmases
and three birthdays to figure it out."
I shake my head, not wanting to hear any
declarations, but all he does is kiss me softly
on my forehead, and I can almost breathe
the freckles on his chin.
His hand finds mine, and we walk out of class
together — giftmasters to each other —
me holding my posy, him holding my file,
with the white and black reminder
of his well-kept love