Where does she go from here?
Her sunny smile and eccentric ways charmed all who saw her. Alive with a naiveté that disarmed me, her socialist ways and contradictory opinions always left me puzzled. A livewire of a woman, her disposition was electric. Big eyes, the biggest I’ve seen, and a nose carved by two swift strokes of her maker’s scalpel, a high brow and a wide mouth completed the picture. She wasn’t beautiful in the conventional sense, instead she could be expansively described as attractive. I first saw her a decade ago. She was a chubby little thing, perennially amused at the follies of her peers. Too intelligent to hold anyone’s interest, she flitted…a social butterfly in her adolescence.
I ran into her on the causeway in our college campus. It’d been over a year since I’d seen her. She greeted me with a typical squeal of delight and a big hug. “what are you doing here?” we both said to one another at the same time. Celebrating our reunion with a cutting chai and ciggy, we caught up over where we’d been, who we’d been dating, the books we’d read and god knows what.
She was thin now; I detected a blossoming feminism which was at once alluring yet somehow misplaced. We exchanged phone numbers. She wouldn’t call, she said, coz she couldn’t. She was broke.
We met most days at , lolling in the plastic chairs at Happy Guys, our on-campus haunt. Over endless cups of tea, shared cigarettes and the daily crossword, we bonded. I watched her metamorphose; the bindi phase, the peasant skirt phase, the jeans and knotted shirt phase and the short skirt phase. She was waif thin by then…but the shrill squeals of delight at beating me to a word were still rendered with a volubility which is simply unmatched.
One evening, I got a call. A small voice pleaded with me to come to Happy Guys, now. There she was. The ever-smiling face was downcast. The voice was monotone. This was her sad phase. She wept. She called people names. She ranted. She stopped.
One afternoon, she skipped in, in her peasant skirt, her tiny anklet clinking, and with a hicky the size of her palm adorning the side of her neck. I groaned inwardly, and dare I say, I felt a twinge of jealousy. But that was her. Ever bold, ever the centre of attention. She could have any man, and she knew it.
Did I sleep with her? No. It would cheapen what we had. We talked about it though.
She grappled with demons. Well-meaning but misguided, I always wished she’d keep her own counsel. Her gullibility was at odds with her intelligence. Her “why me?” phase extended beyond the regular time frame I had gotten accustomed to, and became a worrying facet of who she was. Fond of her drink and with an abiding passion for marijuana, she escaped to an imaginary world where her siblings weren’t suicidal, her house wasn’t prison, and her lovers were people who cared.
In my mind’s eye I’ll always picture her walking the desert, her hair loose, in no hurry to get anywhere. That was her; expansive, free. And monochrome.