Thwack! The ball hit the bat, and Sid batted it away, before running like crazy between the wickets. One run, two… Three runs! Wow! Not that he deserved it of course, considering he and that Tania— what kind of a name was Tania anyway? — were going steady now.
Tania cheered from the sidelines on the opposite side of the cricket pitch. I tried to be envious of her and failed. Truth be told, I was actually more resentful of her boyfriend. Not about the fact that he was her boyfriend: more that he was able to run like the wind, with complete abandon; and jump and play like there was no tomorrow.
Oh! I wanted to be down there with them. To once more feel that sweet shudder running through my hands when the ball was hit away for a four. That was the sensation I lived for; which woke me up every day and had me racing through school. So I could run home, finish my homework and be down at the playground by 4pm: the first person at the pitch on Oval Maidan. The smell of the freshly cut grass, the feel of the sun warming my skin, the thud of my sneakers as they hit the ground, the dust flying in my wake as I ran towards the crease to score a run. If there was a life to live. It was this… Until, just a few months ago.
I could if I wanted to still go down and join them.
I really did want to more than anything in the world.
But, there was a part holding itself back now. I didn’t want to not go, know what I mean? I actually very much wanted everything to be as it was. Yet, this new emotion budding inside me: it was something so delicate I could not yet put a finger to it. It was there though. Could not ignore it. It was for real. Like a stone, which had entered an oyster shell, and now could not be cast out? So that you simply had to make peace with it, until finally with time it would transform it into a pearl.
Not that I am an oyster, far from it.
But you get what I mean. It’s the first time I felt hesitant about anything. Till then, life had been like a super fast train. I had been right along hurtling at top speed; refusing to stop for any stations, chortling gleefully as I left the passengers on the stations stranded far behind. Pushing aside any barricades, which came my way. And, then I had come up against the most unexpected of barriers; myself.
I looked down at myself.
Under my long sleeved shirt, I now wore a second shirt, and below that, a third skinny, sleeveless vest. The layers almost smoothed out the ripples. From a certain angle, I could almost pretend my chest was as it used to be. Flat.
If I closed my eyes as I ran, I would once more be that straight sharp line, cutting through the wind, euphoric in my single-mindedness. There was nothing more to worry about than reaching that point I was hell bent upon crossing.
Yet something had shifted within. Even then I knew it was monumental. It was that emotion, which was making me hide on the side, burning up with frustration, while the thirst to be out there with them was consuming me. Yet, here I was chained, pulled back.
I mean if I wanted to run, why didn’t I just jump in and join them regardless of how I thought I would look. Conflicting isn’t it? Now imagine multiplying that by a thousand times through the years. You get where I am now right?
The ball appeared in front of me and involuntarily I put out my hand; grasping it.
“Catch!” Screamed the bowler
“Catch?” Sid scowled
“Howzzat!” Smirked the umpire, holding up his hands, bouncing on his heels as if a parody of a bird flapping in joy.
“What? How can that be howzzat, I am not playing, I am just watching” I protested, my heart sinking, at the look on Sid’s face.
“We know you, so you are part of the team, so you count as a fielder, so Sid is out.” The bowler was now almost turning cartwheels in joy.
“Howzzat! Howzat!” The fielders chanted.
“Ha! Your girlfriend got you out,” the umpire sneered, to my mortification.
Sid walked up to him and holding his bat hit him on the head. Forgetting my promise to myself to not run, I broke into a sprint towards him, hoping to console, the various parts of me bouncing in that much hated way reminding me why I had decided to stand aside in the first place. I stopped, so suddenly the fielder behind me crashed into the ground.
“Ruby!” I looked up from my perch on the muddy ground, the other boy sprawled on top of me. It was ma. Dressed in her silk-kanjeevaram saree on her way to another party. She looked like a goddess. The others thought so too obviously as the rest of the team descended into silence.
“Too busy being a boy. When you finally want to be a girl, no-one is going to want to look at you.” Pausing to brush a piece of lint from her shoulder, she moved on, leaving behind the remains of me.
That was the day I realized, I never wanted to become her.