I don’t remember many pre-divorce vacations, because I was only 10 when my parents separated. The transition was as smooth as it could possibly be. I was transported to the best boarding school in the country. Unlike other regular parents, mine chose that was located the farthest from home. So this way they did not need to reschedule their busy lives for short vacations. I stayed back in the hostel for the long weekends. Other big vacations were carefully divided between Mom and Dad. I was the only kid so I really cannot point out if their divorce had any major impact on me. I was a loner even when we pretended to be a family living our own individual lives under one roof. And so growing up in that house and then in the boarding school, my insides stayed inside me without ever seeing the light of the day.
The walls of the hostel became home. The classmates away from their own families became my family. Though I don’t think any of us really knew the correct definition of the word ‘Family’. It was more of a follow the one with the fancy things and lavish vacations. I was excellent in studies so my parents hardly had any issues to discuss with the teachers. It was my teachers who showed concern because I refused to get sucked in the world of a normal student life. I was the student who kept the benches warm, cheering teams during competitions but never participating in any. I kept myself busy backstage with the production of events never exploring my dance or acting abilities. I was the best definition of a loner.
I learned to make decisions by myself. Don’t get me wrong, there was no freedom behind those thick red brick walls of the hostel. Yet, there were so many choices to be made. Which girl to befriend, who to hate? What exam to study to impress Mom for the next vacation? And which subject to skip to get a reaction from Dad? I figured my own system to make choices and live by them.
The first time I had a fight, a physical one, my parents were called. Well, mom was unavailable, and Dad was in another country, so I got scolded over a video chat in the principal’s office. At the risk of sounding rude, it was a complete waste of time. That girl and I ended up becoming good friends. In fact, we even took a trip together after school to Leh.
Being a loner, I found my friends in Books. From early on, reading had been my escape. Actually, reading and playing tennis. Tennis was the only thing that reminded me of Dad. He taught me how to play when I was only 7 years old. And I was good at it too. My free time was spent playing tennis with random kids. I was like the practice buddy for all those playing tennis for the school team. The rest of the time, I spent reading resting against the giant brick pillars in the corridors. Zoned out and lost in the world of whatever book I was reading.
It was one of those Sunday afternoons, with my back to the sun and head resting on the pillar reading ‘The Historian’ when a football hit me knocking the book off my hands. And if you are a reader, you would know, ‘The Historian’ is not a small book to be so easily knocked down. The kicker had to be really strong and good. But when I saw a timid girl with two braids wearing an oversized dress walking towards me bare feet, I realized how wrong I was. Her name was Mayna. And just like the bird itself, Mayna too was tough and gregarious with strong feet. Football was her passion. She was the daughter of our school custodians and the youngest of the 3 kids.
After that day Mayna and I started meeting every Sunday. Under the shades of Oak trees behind the thick brick walls, I narrated stories to Mayna from the books I read and she told me all about the King of Dribbling in Football, Lionel Messi. She talked about Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo with such ease and passion that it always left me amazed. Neither of us ever changed our schedule. We did the same things, read, and play soccer.
We shared everything with each other, but our families. That aspect was never too interesting to talk about. Any time Dad sent me money to cover up for his insufficient presence in my life, I ended up using that money to buy gifts for Mayna. I can still feel her warm loving hug when I gifted her shoes and a new football. She was so happy. She would play wearing those shoes but then leave them with me until the next Sunday to keep them away from her siblings.
But then after 3 years of spending almost every Sunday together. I say every Sunday because I hardly remember the time I spent home with my mom or dad. They were always a blur. The days spent with her were the vision of clarity. I came back from summer vacations and realized the she had moved away. I tried to locate Maina the rest of the years I was in school but to no success. Who would bother to keep records of the custodians who had left the school? It was of no importance. But to me, I had lost my best friend. In a span of 3 years that little kid had given me a lifetime of happiness. I still don’t make friends easily and mostly keep to myself. Don’t get me wrong I have people I spend time with. I even have had a relationship or two somewhere in the past. But nothing sticks.
I have gone back to those moments almost every day. I don’t remember them exactly anymore, it has been over 7 years since I last saw her. All I remember is the feeling she always left me with. Her carefree and loud laughter to her easily getting scared listening to scary stories. She explored the world her own way and not how she was taught to see. I on the other hand, had no point of view. I was only dealing with life as it was coming to me. It was only with Mayna that I realized I could be someone. But like everything else I stopped fighting for this one too. I accepted the situation and her leaving me behind to start a new friendship with another lonely soul.
Luckily, my loneliness found a new love, Science. Strangely, I decided to pursue the world of Medicine after being known as a history genius in the class. Even my very creative and business-minded parents were shocked when I told them I wanted to be a Surgeon. In science, I found answers. Sometimes it was tough to get to one but there was always a way. All my life I never understood why I was so different from others. Aloof and disinterested. It was the Anatomy class that opened my mind to how similar we all were when we were cut open. Every cadaver was just another body to learn from. I could easily overlook the uselessness of my emotions during the classes. I was here to learn and there was nothing that could stop me, not even my own broken self. The first time I stood next to my classmates looking at a cadaver, I remember wondering what hid behind this plain exterior. It was like I was in control, finally. I was not going with the flow but carving my own path. I was in my world of happiness. The same freedom I had felt when I was with Mayna, to be myself.
But today standing here I cannot remember any of that. I am as cold as the cadaver in front of me. For today I don’t see any new possibilities, I only see Mayna shut down forever for me to even dream of. The cadaver today has left me numb.