That’s it. Aura looked with slit eyes at the blabbering boy sitting across her. What was wrong with him? Every other afternoon he sat with Aura to prattle on his crush. He went on and on about Rimi with a wide-eyed enthusiasm that made Aura’s blood boil. She wondered if it would be a good idea to pour the cup of tea on the table over his head. She glanced at the dark liquid in her cup with pieces of swirling ginger and then decided against it. The tea was lukewarm anyway; would not do much harm. Afterwards, she would have to spend the rest of the afternoon consoling a droning, ginger-smelling boy with a vapid smile on his face. But even that was not the problem. What made her fall for this dunderhead who was head over heels in love with her stupid cousin with not even two ounces of brain inside her head? Aura shook her head and virtually groaned.
“I know you feel sorry for me, Aura. You’re a good friend and it’s such a relief talking to you,” the motley fool chattered on. He was wearing a colourful loose fitting kurta (one of those with trendy patches) and bottle-green trousers that somehow reminded Aura of Shakespeare’s clowns. She tried to imagine him with Rimi and felt so angry that she wondered if she could practice her latest learnt karate-moves on the tea-table. At long last, she mumbled, “I … I ‘ve a splitting headache, Adit. Would you mind if I went home?”
For a split-second, Adit looked crest-fallen, but then he sprang up. “Of course, of course, Aura. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry! It’s all my fault… I’ve been chattering on and on…”
Aura said tiredly, “Yes, you should have told these things to Rimi. So before I go home, I’ll drop you off at Rimi’s house… No, no, don’t say ‘No.’ You’ll come with me and tell her that you love her. Enough is enough.” She paused and added, “She’ll accept you, I’m sure.” She muttered to herself, “She’ll accept anything that walks in pants. Who in his right mind would propose to her?”
The two of them got on a rickshaw. It was a long ride though the monsoon wind. The sky overhead was hung with grey and purple clouds. Aura thought she could detect drops of water hanging there too. A lone bird circled high up among the clouds. The trees smelled wet and fresh. The scent of rain clung to the air and everything else around them. As they passed by the clogged Dhanmondi lake she realized that her love for Adit was probably going to be forever clogged like the waters of that lake. How in the world was she going to get over him?
Meanwhile, Adit was going on like her psychology teacher at college, “You think Rimi will accept me? You never said anything about her liking me! And do you think I’m wearing the right kind of clothes? Maybe, I should have changed.…”
Aura snapped, “Just shut up!”
She felt that her heart along with her head would burst. From now on they would be just friends. There will be no more rickshaw rides like this. As long as Adit was unattached and free, they could have these long rides from Mohammadpur to Satmaasjid Road where their university was. The rides never seemed long enough to Aura. She smiled ruefully. Nobody would believe that the Karate-kid no nonsense girl Antara Shahnaz could fall in love with a nerd like Adit. They were the best of friends, of course. But to think that it was all they could ever be made her heart ache in a way she never thought possible. She suddenly felt grateful to the few drops of scattered rain that fell on them—covering up the tears that suddenly threatened to spill over.
At the gate of Rimi’s house Aura pulled out her cell phone and sought out Rimi’s number. She announced, “Hey Rim, Adit is here. He wants to talk to you.” She heard her cousin’s silly squeal with distaste and turned to Adit, “There you go.”
“Aren’t you coming?” asked a flabbergusted Adit.
Aura was blind with fury. Her eyes sparkled dangerously as she replied, “Go inside and say what you have to say. Don’t get me involved in this ridiculous business of yours.” She paused and added with spite, ”You two are perfectly matched. Never seen anything lovelier and more stupid.”
Her rickshaw turned around leaving a stupefied Adit before a grey apartment complex in Dhanmondi Road 8.
After travelling aimlessly for about twenty minutes, Aura let go of the rickshaw and started walking in the rain. She clutched on to her small but sturdy umbrella and walked on. Torrents of rain fell about her, and she took solace in thinking that at least the sky understood and wept with her.
When she finally reached the rusty gate of their small house, her heart was still heavy and sore, but somehow the monsoon had calmed her just a little. Aura looked at the overgrown bushes of spider-lilies that surrounded their house, one of the few remaining old independent houses. It was her Nanabari and she had been living here with her mother since her father had died twelve years back. Her glance fell on the tendrils of blue aparajita climbing the cracks of the walls and she acutely felt the gnawing ache that was taking over. This was her home, and once she had hoped that she would be able to share this precious wilderness with Adit.
As she walked through the short brick-laid path she saw someone lingering near the veranda. And before she could think of anything, the silhouette transpired into Adit.
“O no, I can’t deal with this now,” Aura almost whimpered. “The fool has come to thank me.”
“Goodness Gracious! Where have you been?” asked a furious Adit.
Aura looked at him warily.
Adit ranted on, “What’s the meaning of dumping me at your cackling cousin’s place and then disappear forever?”
“What do you mean? You…you said… you love her!” Aura asked falteringly.
“Who can even think of loving her? I was telling you that I love YOU.”
“What?” Aura whispered hoarsely.
Adit raised his hands defensively. “Okay, so I didn’t tell you the whole truth. But then, you’re the karate kid. I was afraid that you would break my bones if I tell you that ‘I love you.’ Only when you called me stupid, I realized the truth.”
A sense akin to overwhelming relief washed over Aura. And then a searing rage. She was looking this way and that for something to attack with.
The monsoon twilight saw a young man in ridiculously coloured clothes being chased by a young woman in jeans and faded kurta in a garden running amok with creepers and wild flowers. She was screaming, “And you made me wander through the rain crying… you wretched fool…” And the boy was yelping, “I was afraid… cummon Aura, gimme a break…see I told you… this is what I was afraid of…”
That’s when the rain decided to pour in forcing the truant children to give up their wrangling and rush inside the house for safety.
Sohana Manzoor is the Literary Editor of The Daily Star. She also teaches at the Department of English & Humanities at ULAB.