The distant pre-adolescent laughter rang at intervals, drowning out the low hum of the prehistoric bus. It's three-thirty in the afternoon, travelling from one difficult place to another, the asphalt rickety and unstable beneath the turn-of-the-century magic carpet.
I'm surrounded by uniforms, the sign of conformity and all things mindless and easy. Their owners twist and turn, giggling and ranting, seemingly determined to challenge the brinks of verbal discovery.
I sit perched upon my seat, like the doe tensing before the lion's leap, the street-smart pigeon about to take flight, or simply because there's an extremely large, unpleasant wad of stranger-gum stuck to the back of my chair.
A commotion occurs beside me, a heavier weight lifts me slightly higher into the air, and it's startling, it forces me to gasp. This delicious wave of woody scents and zesty fruits engulfs me, making me swallow hard, the click of my voice box and the audible gulp.
I will learn later on that the brilliant scent that first attracted me is called 'Armani Mania'. Which is reasonable, what the way I fell, tripping and tumbling blindly into unfamiliar, enemy territory. My each step producing this incredible heat, this sickness within me. My each step offering me a constant chance of cardiac arrest.
I will tell him later on that he is beautiful; he will laugh it off and thank me. Then again, it would take more than a blind, deaf man to be oblivious to his ethereal splendour. His skin is like the white canvas, the freshly set snow still shimmering in the early rays of morning. His freckles, a genetic error that is so sinfully right, they sprinkle across his cheeks, so light you have to squint to see them, you have to be close. His hair is black as night; a mob of soft, velvet turmoil, which with each erratic curl promises safe, sweet dreams. However, his eyes hold the key, the brightest, purest shade of blue that seem to look right through you, yet allow you to look right through him, in return. Those sparkling, perfectly arched windows to his soul, it's no secret that they have captured me, it's no secret that I don't care.
It was there, upon that brink-of-explosion vehicle, that I met him for the first time.
I knew boys like him, they turn away, they pretend girls like I, don't exist. Instead, he was different and he stole my heart, all with one simple gesture.
He turned around and said, 'hello'.
He's the new kid in our grade, in my class. He comes stumbling in five minutes after the bell rings, face flushed and eyes bright. One sparkling, lop-sided smile had the group of cheerleaders giggling, fluttering their blackened and elongated lashes, wet with lust, like the tiny claws off beasts.
He looks at me, a question forming in his eyes. Even then, I had marvelled over just how expressive those eyes were, widening in fear, narrowing in suspicion and able to look dewy with care. I had shifted my books aside, inviting him in, the eager equivalent to hacking open my chest and exposing my heart, saying 'here, take it'.
He had spared me that first chance of falling for him, of hitting the ground hard. The pack of athletic jocks had halloed him over, not unlike the aggressive territorial calls of wild wolves, the latter being the more dignified kind. He had spared me one last fleeting glance before settling down beside the barbarian of a rugby captain and his princess, trophy girlfriend.
It took him exactly five minutes to introduce, interact and gain intercourse access with all the popular girls and that one soccer boy, whose jeans had always been dangerously tight. It took him exactly five minutes to climb the complete social ladder I had craved to conquer in the previous five years of my life.
For a heart wrenching minute, I watched him delve deeper and deeper into the hysteria and chaotic life of being just another dim witted, high school cliché. I stared in despair at the true love of my life, as he was sliced and diced by those cold hearted, two faced individuals, who clearly represent the politicians of our future.
My knowledge of him extended no more than twenty minutes of shy, light banter upon a suffocating bus. Yet, it didn't seem insignificant that all I knew was that he liked grapes and rainy days. That if I was to vanish now, he would be completely unaffected, and that such a blessing could not be granted if it were visa versa.
But, he had always known how to quench my fears, navigating around a flirting blonde to wave at me. It was like the signal for me to breathe again.
From that very first day he replaced the sun, forced me to orbit him, to live for him and stop time for him. His smiles defined warmth to me, his laughter meant life to me and every word he spoke, like the air I breathed. Every sentence he utters like tender poison, coursing through me.
You'll go and I'll be okay, I can dream the rest away.
His shoulder is soft and warm against mine, his smooth, lithe bicep flexing and relaxing, as he taps his fingers to the beat. The air is chilling inside the bus, always turned down too low. Usually, I'd be cold and annoyed at the goose bumps upon my arm. Today, they stand for a whole new reason.
The rain patters onto the window, creating yet another natural work of art. The drops slide and meld together, playfully destructive. I stare in wonder, it's so simplistic, so common that nobody notices, or cares for that matter. Yet, the sharp, fresh air seems to brighten the world, the sky a little bluer, the road a little greyer. I turn and there he is, eyes half-lidded, forehead furrowed in thought and the red tip of his tongue, sliding out to touch his lip. I watch this display in wonder; it's so simplistic, so common that no one notices, no one but me. I begin to question if its oxygen that's making the world brighter.
It's just a little touch of fate, it will be okay
One white earphone is placed in his ear, the other in mine. We're connected, if only for the span of a song or two, never have I been so grateful for modern technology. Sitting here, cramped in too small seats, in a too small bus, watching the too small world go by. It's strangely comforting, Mother Earth's tears, two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen, washing over our bus, the very thing that's killing her slowly. I place my hand against the window; it's icy and stings my fingers.
A hand that is not my own, mimics my action, I turn and look at him quizzically. He only shrugs and begins tracing the raindrops to the edge. I tap his pinkie and he lifts his pointer and index fingers, chasing my hand across the window. It starts off as a giggle and ends as a hysterical game of handsies on the frosty surface, as mischievous as the raindrops upon the other side.
I look at our hands, his so large and pale, mine small and chocolate brown. Our reflections in the window contrast like ying and yang. Him, fair as a ghost, flittering in and out of view, my reflection like a dark ghoul in comparison, mesh of frizzy, brown curls to compliment my dark, olive skin.
It sure takes its precious time, but it's got rights and so have I
He smiles and tells me my eyes are so warm, the bus no longer feels cold.
I'm lying on a soft, faded rug, laptop in front of me, chatting to him again. It feels more like a monologue upon my side and waiting in line for his reply, than a proper conversation. I don't mind, pretending every 'lol' doesn't make my heart leap.
My little cousin is rolling upon the floor in front of me, her long, black hair like writer's ink leaking from her head, sprayed out grotesquely behind her. Her skinny frame propped in an uncomfortable position, legs half in the air, arms flung out towards me. I reach over to brush her fringe out of her big, inquisitive eyes and then ask him if he comes from a big family too.
His reply comes after two yells from my mother and my brother's frustrated attempts at getting me to move. He says, 'no'. Just no and I have learnt already that he's a boy of little words; he uses his eyes, his brows and his body to convey his messages. It makes the whole concept of instant messaging a hard one, makes not being able to see him even harder to endure than before.
I begin to type my jealous reply when my brother knocks over his soda and it splashes lukewarm and sticky onto my leg. I yelp in shock and scramble to my feet; he's curled up in a corner laughing till his face turns purple. I'm about to lunge at him before I look down and realise the absurdity of the whole matter, standing there in pyjamas with black, sticky liquid dripping down my leg.
It makes me look around, at my little cousin who's still twirling on the floor, smiling broadly like the queen of her own imaginary land. My brother who's gotten over his stupidity, mouth still turned in an obnoxious smirk but with an apologising glance. My mother and aunt in the next room, teaching my other cousin how to write his very first essay, the former excited and the latter just wishing to get to his computer games. My father and uncle still away at work, till late in the evening when we'll all rush towards the door to greet them, to share our day.
I ignore the cola for now and get back on the rug. My smile is small but true as I type, 'it's a shame, big families have their moments.'
His reply is shockingly, almost instant, 'yeah, it sounds fun.'
Then we talk about his extreme, cult-like love for guitar and little of anything but much of nothing. We talk till I'm in bed, coke-stain-free and my clock reads three.
We talk till my wall blurs and my eyes fall shut, hands still on the keyboard, head lolling into the soft, familiar fabric of my pillow.
We talk till we simply can't talk anymore; not really knowing which of us was the first to fall...asleep.