Month: October 2014

Dream in a dream

I think it was a dream. But then I could not be so sure. Because one moment it felt like a dream, from someone else’s perspective and the next moment, I was there getting out of my warm car and into the cold winter night.

It was cold, almost 5 degree Celsius but there I was, walking into a fancy Halloween party. The ones that you could see from outside through windows, with shimmery lights fading into the dark. So technically, it must have been October. I strode towards the house and climbed up the front stairs.

Now that I recall, I don’t know whose house was it or who invited me for the party.

I was only wearing a plain black suit but I could see Gandalfs and Batmen and Jasmines, a Dumbledore, a Harry Potter and a fat little dwarf among others. There was Chucky with his knife—a little taller than the actual—and Annabelle, a recent addition to horror tales. For a moment I could not decide where I belonged and so I lingered in the hallway. But then I turned to a corner where I had spotted Bellitrix Lestrange in the bluish darkness. Now, in reality I hate the existence of Belitrix but the fact that I decided to move towards her and not Hermoine (in the far end of the room, also by her own) tells me that this could not be real.

Bellitrix was, Bellitrix. There is no other way to explain it. But she was gentle. Although she did not smile while we talked, she never made me feel intimidated. But she kept hidden in shadows. This concerned me. I feel stupid right now but I tried really hard to make her smile. Maybe I wanted to see whether she her soul too was Bellitrix or not. It’s very hard to understand I know, so I won’t try to explain. It was one of those moments when the lights were changing and I was trying to crack lame jokes that she laughed—a heartless Bellitrix laugh. I swear I heard my heart tremble. I wish I could see her face and not her silhouette then—see whether her laugh reached her eyes. But by the time the lights made their way back, the laugh was gone and so were her expressions—if there were any. She was back to being dry and gentle.

We had drinks soon. As I followed her down the hallway I could faintly smell her—raspberry, herbs and perhaps, burnt wood. I liked thinking of burnt wood then. The drinks were in blue and red. I had never tasted those before. She held a paper cup for me while took a sip from the other. I did not like my blood-red drink but gladly finished it because well—because I was having a drink with her!

I think she read my mind because she smiled at me for the first time without hiding herself behind the dark shadows. And I swear I saw two black teeth between her smile. I needed to know if they were fake and unreal just like her costume or was that really her—the dry-laughed, black toothed Bellitrix. I needed the answers but I couldn’t dare to ask. And so I tried to run away.

She said she would come see me off. I almost did not hear. But she followed anyway. When we came out of the house into the silence, it was snowing—in October. I must be losing myself completely.

She looked at me and then up at the sky for a few seconds before she looked at me again. ‘Amazing isn’t it? What’s been happening tonight?’ She smiled at me. Her teeth didn’t show.

I didn’t know what she had been hinting at. ‘I think I’m just tired tonight. So I’ll go. It was nice meeting you.’ I could only manage.

‘I’ll see you around I guess.’ She said and went back to the illuminated house.

I did not wait to look at her back. And I don’t remember what happened next. I had begun to imagine that it must have been a dream after all

But when I was shopping today for the weekly groceries, days after the Halloween incident, she appeared in my aisle (which was deserted except of course myself), at the far end—I cannot imagine how that might have been—and said, ‘Hi’. She was still dressed as Bellitrix, her hair was as messy as you could imagine. Only she was more cheerful.

I could make up my words together to say hi back. I was struck, dumbfounded.

‘I told you I’ll see you around, didn’t I?’ She said nonchalantly. ‘And oh, by the way, those teeth were fake.’ She smiled her brilliant smile so that all her white teeth showed in the bright light.

I have been trying to remember what happened next.

Revisiting

I step down the stairs. Slowly at first but then quickly because it is 8:30 pm, way past the working hours and building seems almost deserted. It’s a four storey landing for me—the lifts have been closed too—and by the time I reach the ground floor I am almost panting. I walk from inside the building towards the dark marble floored foyer outside.

I need to sign out from my account and then wait for my car at the entrance office of the campus. I am carrying a brown envelope containing exam papers of my students who—I just notice—are in the foyer waiting to go home too—in groups, some them sitting on the wide black marbled stairs, others lying down on the cold floor listening to their friends while remaining, just standing in groups, accompanying their friends. As I walk towards the entrance office I look at them, nod and smile. While a few kids stop saying whatever they’ve been discussing, others keep on going. Suddenly I don’t want to go and sit inside the office anymore.

Only a year ago, I was one of them, a college student coming out of an exam in the evening, laughing with my friends and discussing how I screwed up my paper. I want to be with these kids, laugh the nervous laugh and forget about it a while later, discuss my questions and get excited if my answer matches others’—simple joys of life—but I move on, and walk into the office.

I am reading a book to pass time, a Neil Gaiman book. But it doesn’t help me turn off the excited voices coming from outside. I am neither an introvert nor someone who likes to sit inside. I’m an outdoor person and so I stand up again and walk out under the clear night full of stars while the cool breeze of fall hits my face. Few kids eye the envelope in my hands and whisper. Few others smile when they see me. I ask them about the paper. They smile and say it was alright. Their smile does not reach their eyes. I have to admit the paper was a little tricky. I already feel bad for them. I make a mental note of being easy on them while marking.

It’s never easy teaching kids who are few years younger than you so you have to be careful. Always. Kids are always one step immature than you (even the brilliant ones).  Kids idealize good teachers (of all ages). I hope one day I could proudly call myself a good teacher but until then I can only try to be one. Being an extrovert doesn’t help. You talk to a kid one day randomly before or after class and they could think they are your favorite. The news spreads like fire. Other kids start looking at you from the perspective of liking that one kid (or those few that you’ve been seen talking to) and as soon as you applaud them in class for their performance (again, it’s routine), you are labeled biased. I have witnessed this phenomenon being a student where teachers are called biased because they are seen smiling and talking to kids outside the classroom, whereas they are only being polite. Which is why I always take caution while talking to my students.

I want to sit on one of the wide stairs (which is empty) and enjoy the loud voices of kids, the cool breeze of autumn and the evening in general—it has been more than a year since I have come out of an evening exam, my favorite shift of taking a paper. But I just stroll for a while and decide to go back to the office and wait. I wouldn’t feel easy being there and not talking to kids, and the kids would be too awkward talking to each other in my presence and deciding that they should move to the far end.

By the time my car comes and I walk towards the gate at the far end of the foyer, I notice a couple of kids walking beside me careful not to walk past me. I look at them and smile again. I cannot help it. They smile back and look at each other. Perhaps communicating silently. I am recalling a familiar scene from not long ago.