As soon as I put the packet of gummy bears on the counter to check for the bill and Raha calls.
“Asif, where the hell are you?”
“I am at the turning point of where you find the shop before your house.”
” ‘Kay, then I am coming. Just start your junk.”
“Roger,” I hear her cut the call and the girl on the counter even after taking the bill asks me the same question she’s been asking for a moment now.
“Anything else you want to check in?”
“No, thank you,” I feel the rush working inside me to get to see Raha and I keep telling myself it’s now or never. It’s been seven years since I’ve known this girl and not once do I remember hearing from her that she is thinking of dating someone. And now it’s been 2 years since I’ve wanting to confess my feelings to her. But just remembering the day from the 1st year of collage when a senior was actually trying to hit on her and said she was sexy, in a snap of finger she just twisted and broke his arm and the next moment everyone found out he had to be taken to the hospital.
I rush to start my bike and I see Raha appearing in a lemon yellow shirt which makes me stare at her as if it’s the first time I’m ever seeing her. Come to think of it, yeah, this is the first time she is wearing a shirt like it should be worn.
“What are you staring at? The bike won’t start driving on it’s own. Or are you waiting for it to?”
For a second, I just forget that we are even being late for the concert and I don’t know how I talk. “Raha… you’re wearing a shirt,” I finally get to speak.
“What?… Oh yeah! You won’t believe if I tell you it’s a trendy boyfriend shirt which was delivered at my place this morning as a gift! I mean, it’s not like you get a gift every morning and I didn’t know that my songs were this nice to get me fans who would, like, ever send me gifts!” Raha laughed as she jumped on behind me.
I don’t know which irritates me more, the fact that this girl who never wore a shirt like it should be, just accepted this gift from someone whose name she doesn’t even know or the fact that how she is always there but not really. What is it that makes me wanna hold on her and never let go? Sometimes I wonder how she makes my heart go crazy with that perfect smile of hers… and then I wonder if she wonders too…
All the way to school I imagine how would it be if we were to be together… together being a little more than friends and a little closer. If I tell her that I have no interest in playing the bass in the concerts, rather it’s because I want to see more of her; her smile, her laughter and her sadness. I want every version of her. And I am always being selfish when it comes to her.
As I pull off the bike, people start to gather at the parking lot. Or it seems to be more likely that people are crowding over my bike.
“What is everyone going on about?” as Raha hands over her helmet to me. For a second people were talking and now they are quiet and every one of them are literally staring at us.
“What the-” before Raha can say anything to anyone, the crowd starts to divide into two. A guy seems to come from the middle of the crowd. Now this guy, whose shirt not exactly but definitely matches with Raha’s one, who is tall and fair yet kinda pale looking, and with this gentle smile on his face comes to our direction and stops right in front of her.
“I am glad that you liked the shirt. I wasn’t sure if you would like the color,” the guy says as he strokes his hair as if he is shy or something. I am quite sure he is not from the first year or from the second year. He must be a senior. And for some uncertain reason, I don’t like the vibe that comes from him.
“So you sent the shirt. I like it, thanks…” Raha seems like she never even saw this guy before.
“Oh, I totally forgot to introduce myself. I am Sohan, third year, Economics.”
“Thank you so much, Sohan. It was nice meeting you but apparently we’re in a hurry for the afternoon’s concert. I hope you understand.” Of course she is trying to get away from unnecessary attention.
“Well, yes, I remember. And I don’t actually intend to waste any time of yours anyway. Then I want to get straight to the point. Raha, I’ve known you from your first day of your first year. After seeing you on the cafeteria playing my guitar and singing on your first day, I wanted to know more about you from then,” and now he kneels down before her.
“Though till now it’s only been one sided, can’t it be two sided? Will you go out with me, Raha Tasnim?” pulling out a baby blue colored rose out of his back pocket, he proposes Raha. And now he totally got on my nerves. I don’t want her to accept his proposal. But being selfish at this situation makes me hate myself. Maybe it’s that I am too late or maybe I am not.
For some reason Raha looks disturbed. She takes off her backpack and lets it sit on the ground and says,” I don’t want to give you any false hope or make you wait for my opinion. I know you have been observing me a little too much these few days, and so you might know that I don’t have a boyfriend too.”
“You can-” Sohan doesn’t get a chance to say anything.
“Actually, I don’t go out with boys. Specifically, I don’t intend to go in a relationship with anyone. I am sorry to let you down.”
“You really don’t have to give me your answer right now. You can think about it. No one’s in a rush, you know, “Sohan said with a smile.
Interrupting again, Raha says, “That’s a quite rare and beautiful flower you got there. Don’t let it die soon, Bhaiya.” Turning to me, she says, “Give me your shirt.” Raha says it as if she is asking for a pen. Why would she even ask me that? To confirm her, I ask, “What?”
She replies the same,” Give. Me. Your. Shirt. Asif. “
Raha starts unbuttoning her shirt and Sohan snaps,” You don’t have to give it back, Raha. You can keep it. It’s really okay.”
“Aren’t you just calling for unnecessary attention right now?” I whisper though I know it could be the least of the matter to bother her at this moment. She never gives a fuck about other peoples thinking. But she is not the kind of girl who reveals her skin in public like that. I’ve never seen her revealing her arms to be honest.
“I don’t care,” Raha says, and it makes the scenario kinda unpleasant now.
The moment she pulls the shirt off, I think I know why. Her upper arms have uncountable scars. I don’t think there’s any way to hide them without getting an operation on the skin. There had been some deep cuts on her shoulder too.
With my shaky hand, I give her my shirt to her. She pulls it on as if everything’s fine and okay around her.
As Raha hands over the shirt to Sohan, with calm but shocked voice, he says, “Have you been-“
“I am sorry, I couldn’t wash the shirt before giving it to you as for the current circumstances. I really don’t want to owe you anything,” she says, taking her bag from the ground.
Raha starts walking and I follow her. All of a sudden, Sohan stops Raha by holding her hand and says,” I don’t know what happened to you and I don’t want to. Unlike others I don’t want to give you sympathy. I want you as you are. I like you for who you are and I mean it!” And Sohan kills his own words by giving away a smile full of sympathy.
Raha has always hated it when people tried to give her pity or sympathy. And now I too know that she will just burst in anger and so I wait for her to break off his hand too. But rather she laughs it off.
While putting away Sohan’s hand off of her, with a nice and cheery voice she says,” You surely don’t want to sleep with a girl who’s been raped by a gang full of rapists at the age of 15.”
With deadly eyes, she looks into his eyes and adds,”Do you?”
Every word she said seems so untrue to me yet I know that no one is more surprised finding out about it. But what really is behind those deadly eyes, is it pain, if it is then what more is there? Regret, grief, agony? How long has she been hiding the scars that are yet to show to anyone and how long can she hide them?
Even after knowing her for seven years, I feel like I don’t know anything about this girl in front of me. Who really is she?
And I still follow her as she walks alone.
Wordsmith: Mahzabin Mahi
Painting by: CraftyJenn