The Moonstruck Columns

Zoya… A Short Story (Part IV)

She stood up to make way for me. I was very resentful of her absence in the previous days and I wasn’t willing to talk much. But halfway through my paper, she closed her script, capped her pen and set them aside.

‘Do you need some help?’ she asked rubbing her palms together.

‘Yeah if you can solve the income tax problem’ I said instantly. We had mathematics and that’s one of the problems I didn’t have the slightest clue about. Moreover, it was long and boring.

‘Oh! Anything other than that please’ she replied bitterly. She disliked the problems and she didn’t even mean to hide it.

‘Okay’ I laughed. ‘Can you do these?’ I said pointing towards the linear equations.

‘Yeah sure!’ and she started solving for the variables.

‘So you missed the previous two?’ I asked her after a while.

‘Yeah, I was group-studying’ she said. I started humming ‘Summer of 69’ very deliberately but carefully enough not to allow it to reach the invigilator’s earnest ears and just like I thought, she joined in again.

By the end of the day, she had solved three of my questions, offered me to do it for me in my spare answer sheets and we hummed many English numbers together. My mood was back up again and it was better than ever.

After I got home, I dug up my music collection to look for rare tracks which I could feed into the remaining conversations with her in the coming days. I also picked up Wuthering Heights and read it in ten straight hours over the next day which was the day off because of the Republic Day. My mom was bewildered because she was sure I didn’t have Wuthering Heights in my syllabus.The icy chill of the winter was disappearing as days passed and a gentle air was taking over, unusually agreeing with the mood and dexterously carving its way into my head. The dull of the examinations had vanished into thin air making it probably the only exam-time I ever enjoyed in my life.

‘Can I be of any help with anything?’ I whispered the next day after quickly finishing my script like she did the previous day.

‘Only if you know anything about Accounts!’ she replied.

‘Umm… no, not a clue!’ I replied, my balloon inside suddenly showing signs of a big puncture at her answer, as soon as it was inflated. However, I was soon reassigned to my previous part-time job of the holy messenger which worked out quite smooth over the next hour. After both of us were finished, we had a half hour to spare in which time we discussed some music including George Michael and Goo Goo Dolls and also a detailed analysis of Wuthering Heights which was only interrupted by the bell.

Days were bliss. Books lay forgotten, more songs were queuing up in the playlist. Heaven couldn’t have been farther away. I knew it was not for long, still I willingly pursued the unknown and I also knew I cannot expect anything else than what I’ve already got; a chance to spend some time with her. It served to be sufficient for a reason.

The last paper of the second pre-board arrived eventually and I was ready to make it count, yet a little nervous.

‘I hate this subject; Sanskrit’ I whispered to her furiously. She smiled.

‘You know, I used to wear full sleeves in those days and I used to hide pieces of paper saying all my answers. I could “never” stand that subject and moreover couldn’t get the spellings right’ she whispered back reassuringly. I smiled this time.

‘Finally the papers are going to be over’ I sighed, but for a hugely different reason.

She smiled in acknowledgement.

‘What are you going to do after this?’ I asked.

‘I was planning to do CA. How about you?’

‘I am another passionate IIT enthusiast’ I replied. In those days I was more than sure that I would crack it.

‘Ah good luck with that’ she replied with a carefully muted laugh.

‘I was wondering one thing, you remember that guy who sang an English number in the competition last year?’ I asked hesitantly. I wanted to make an impression.

‘Ya ya! He was the only guy who did such a thing. It was a lovely song. I forgot the name though’ she whispered trying hard to remember.

‘The song was called “We’re on the Same Boat Brother” by Leadbelly’ I said proudly.

‘Oh! Wait a minute, it was you?’ she hushed with her eyes widening.

‘Yeah!’ I replied smiling broadly. My head had wandered off to the Pluto and might as well have strolled beyond that.

She adjusted herself in her bench.

‘You know I love that song “Summer of ‘69” ’ it totally agrees with me. I wonder how that guy managed to say the things I wanted to say’ I said.

‘Yeah, really unusual. The song agrees with most of us’ she said and hummed the first few lines and when I filled in the lyrics, she became excited and we started to sing together even though in whispers, but I could make out every single tune in her voice.

We discussed some more Bryan Adams the whole time and that day and she was more interested to talk than ever. Her paper too lay forgotten, like mine did the previous days. I felt that I succeeded to make it count.

Time flew faster than light that day and the time of the unwelcome bell was drawing nearer and nearer and my heart was shrinking painfully making me a little uncomfortable to breathe. I didn’t want it to end for it was too magical to let go.

‘I was wondering if after a few years when we would be in different places, would you like to meet again?’ I asked her…

To Be Continued…


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