The noon sun bore down with full force, the tarred ground glistening like steel in its wake. Warm beads of sweat slithered down her back, and she grimaced. What made it worse was sitting inside the cloistering environment of the school bus, especially one that had been parked in full view of the sun for hours perhaps. She almost felt giddy, thinking of the one hour impending journey.
The bus was parked at the side of the school ground. Sitting near the driver’s seat, she watched as the kids from kindergarten piled inside. There was much jostling and animated conversation amongst them. A couple of them came and sat next to her, looking at her with a mixture of suspicion and awe. She attempted a half-smile. Their expressions did not change much except that the suspicion probably increased.
She turned to look outside, at the ground. Her eyes fell on the huge white structure in the middle of the ground, the imposing structure’s brightness blinding her. Looking at it brought memories, of days past, and for a few moments she was lost in them, tiny frowns appearing on her perspiring forehead.
It was as if a cloud had cleared suddenly, because out of nowhere, her vision was caught by a movement. And a boy appeared as her eyes focused on the emerging form. He was tall, and … if her mind had been able to articulate just one word that would describe him that instant, it would have been: majestic.
His hair spotted tints of orange from the sunlight filtering through it, and little wisps of them moved as the wind went past them, flicking the edges gently. His walk had a lilt; athletic and supple, it was like his body was made for movement, even as all he was doing was walking across the ground. He wore the school uniform: white shirt and blue pants. Even from where she was sitting, she could make out that he was tall, for his age. He wasn’t wearing the customary tie; later she would reflect on it and think that it indicated perhaps, a streak of rebellion? His collar was open, and though his shirt was tucked, for her, he didn’t look like a school boy. No, not yet a man, but not a child either.
As she watched him, a child of 7 or 8 ran into his tracks. He stopped for a brief moment, to avoid a potential clash. The child was inches away from him. His hand went to the younger one’s head, and with a brush of affection, the edges of his lips curved upwards and broke out into a grin. Within a second, his frame moved out of the child’s way, and he resumed his walk even as he turned for a brief instant to watch the child who was on his way.
She watched as if in a trance, unable to pull her eyes away as the tabloid unfolded in front of her. And even as she watched, the frame of another bus moved into her line of vision, and he was out of sight.
Her eyes continued staring at the spot she’d seen him last. A few seconds later, she pulled her eyes away and her consciousness returned to her environment – the heat, the babble of the kids nearby and the background cacophony of the school ground. The heat was so thick that it was almost like the air had stopped moving, and one could cut chunks out of the humidity, but she didn’t notice it anymore. Her thoughts went back to the boy.
It was weird, she reflected. That was probably the first time someone had captured her thought process so completely. Like the earth had stopped, the breath had been flushed out of her lungs and every pore on her body stood still, focused entirely on that one person.
Years later she would read about happenings like that, but for those moments, her chaste mind fumbled, unable to comprehend. She wondered how it was possible that despite the sweltering heat, one person could appear so unaffected by it. Hadn’t she seen the air move around him? Wind in his hair, and dust swirling around his feet? She smiled to herself … ridiculous!
The sound of the bus starting jerked her out of her reverie. She felt a slow warm sensation around her cheeks. Sighing, she shook her head. Trying to get herself out of the thoughts that had occupied her mind for the last…5 minutes? Had it been only that much?
As the driver of the bus put the machine into first gear, she wondered to herself. Would she get to see him again?