Sunday, July 22, 2007

Schoolboy Crush

My very first crush was a pretty girl named Lorna. I might as well tell you that isn't her real name. As they say in the newspapers, all names have been changed to protect identities. To get back to the story, I was fourteen then and Lorna was a year older. She lived in a small bungalow opposite my apartment house. The two were separated by an open plot in between where construction had been begun and abandoned.

I would stake out Lorna's place from my third storey balcony with keen telescopic eyes. They had a largish verandah on the ground floor where her brothers would hang out in the evening with friends - I could see them lounging in rattan chairs laughing, having tea, chatting, occasionally having a drink. As backdrop, there would be loud music playing from inside the house. Tom Jones, Neil Diamond, Abba, Boney M.

When her brothers were chilling out with friends, Lorna could be seen making an occasional appearance in the verandah, joking with her brothers' friends, getting them tea and snacks, and once I saw her singing to them. She was wearing a steel grey short skirt and a cute white top and she sang leaning against the door connecting the verandah to the living room. Though I couldn't make out the song I could sense it was a naughty song. There was raunchy applause as she finished.

Lorna was studying at a convent in Santacruz and I at a missionary school in King's Circle and Jesus worked it out in such a way that we were often in the same BEST bus from the railway station to our respective homes.

I would get off the local train and my heartbeat would hasten. As I walked nonchalantly to the station gate I would peer from the corner of my eyes to see if she had alighted too. Sometimes I would be rewarded. I would see her jabbering away with friends, her thick ponytail falling over the bulky schoolbag on her back. Her face would be flushed red, her hair pulled back over a broad forehead, her eyes large and bright and a shimmer of sweat glistening along the hairline. She had a throaty laugh that did things to me every time I heard it wafting across the station platform.

Lorna knew I was besotted. If she saw me in the bus queue she would be more vivacious, more flushed, more frisky with friends, more bindaas. And through all this she wouldn't even look at me.

We would both get off at the same bus stop, but she would alight first, walk ahead of me till she reached the gate of her bungalow. Then she would open the gate and skip up the little path to the verandah. And I would be trying hard to appear not to be looking but of course everything would be registering in great detail in a kind of slow motion recording.

If I walked painfully slow, I would sometimes be lucky to see her reappear in the verandah with a glass of orange squash. Still in her school uniform, she would slide up on to the verandah wall and sit with her smooth legs stretched out straight before her, taking stylish sips from her glass as she slyly eyed me pass by on the road.

I would reach home, dump my school bag, wash up, pick up something to eat and head straight for the balcony. There I would settle down with a book (just in case mom wondered what I was doing there), eyes and ears furiously tuned to what-is-she-doing-now.

After a while, as it got darker, and as the mosquitoes from her little lawn started wanting a piece of her too, Lorna would slide off the wall, collect her glass and with a sideways glance towards my balcony, vanish through the billowing curtain into the living room. I would sigh and reluctantly retreat into my room to attack my homework.

So you want to know what happened between us? Nothing. Lorna started growing up and filling up. She sprouted fair-sized breasts. Her hips became larger. Her eyes betrayed carnal knowledge, her look became openly teasing. She was not particularly intelligent but she was street smart. She was a body person, she was physical and she oozed sensuality.

And as Lorna started blossoming, the bees began buzzing around her in a frenzy. The behaviour of even her brothers' friends would change in her presence. They would woo her without appearing to. They would crack sexual jokes, rib her, give her fawning attention.

At Christmas, I would watch her family troop to church, all dressed up in fine clothes. And later I would watch the Christmas party happening on the terrace of her bungalow. Everybody wanted to dance with Lorna who suddenly looked so grown up in that sexy white dress. Even I had eyes only for Lorna. She seemed to be dancing wildly, laughing loudly, mingling a bit too much. I became a sigh specialist.

Then one day I heard Lorna had flunked her school-leaving exams. And then yet again. I had moved on to college and she was still to reappear in the board exams. Somewhere in my mind, it seemed almost as if she had stayed back in school while I had outgrown her. Our timings didn't match anymore and she would rarely be seen in the verandah.

By and by, we, who had never been close, simply drifted away.