While laying the books on the desk with a disturbing thud she has looked at me. Her starched skirt ballooning, as she sits down two seats behind me to the right – that newcomer in the class, with panda eyes, dressed in a crumpled white plaid shirt, grey skirt, and a big distracting bandage on her left arm.
She looks like she’s made her way out of a tragic painting. And somewhere in a big Manson her spirit still haunts the halls, ruffles the piano keys, and drops chandeliers in front of the bewildered inhabitants.
No one has talked to her yet, but I might. I am yet to hear her voice, but I like her already and the way she stares at me through the viscous whites of her eyes, I feel we have a connection of sorts. Love at first sight, I reckon. Next thing you know, I am one of the popular guys of the class. The center of all the water cooler gossips. Girls desire me. Teachers complain. Guys want to pick up fights with me. And all that is okay, I really wouldn’t mind breaking a few jaws. It’s been a while we moved out of that neighborhood and I put my hands on someone’s chin and their tooth came flying out of their mouth.
When we both are staring at each other I find her slobbering her own lips. The behavior, although strange, has my knees weak, and when I try to reciprocate with a flirtatious smile, my lips crack open. So I wipe the blood off- of my cracked lips. Neatly dabbing it with my off-white handkerchief and keeping it on the desk.
During the recess, when the bell strikes five and the janitors lockdown the building for a quick clean up routine, she walks over to me. Leaning alone on the bicycle stand, I smile at her.
“Hey,” she says, with a sore voice that makes my own throat itch.
“Hey yourself,” I say, “new here?”
“New indeed,” she says, “you are bleeding from your lips.”
“Am I? Again? God, I hate the winter.”
“I don’t. Let me help you with it,” she murmurs and before I can comprehend, care or cuss, she is all over me; tongue on my lips, making that disgusting kissing slurp sound, biting it hard.
Now, I could push her away, tell her this is highly inappropriate and that she needs to mind her tongue, but because this is all happening so fast and because the pain if not enjoyable then at least bearable, I play along for some time. Until I realize she won’t stop. I push her away maniacally and with that, a flaky portion of the already ruptured skin of my lower lip comes out. It leaves a tiny boat like shape on the remaining chapped portion of the lip that still belongs to me. I quiver. It hurts me more when I see it glued between her bloody teeth.
“What the heck is wrong with you?” I manage a terrible squawk.
“I like you,” she says.
Dabs her own lips and spits the wad of my skin in a tissue paper, keeps it in her pocket, and strolls away to the class, occasionally turning around, smiling at me.
The rest of the day, during the remaining lectures, she keeps glancing at me while sniffing the tissue paper when our teacher miss Ray’s gut faces the blackboard and she draws charts with tiny diagrams and equations in them. While I keep a handkerchief close to my face, that now has pink-orange random spots all over.
As soon as the final bell strikes, I scurry away from rear doors, ducking down, my chin to my chest, hurdling past the enthusiastically inane mob. She shouldn’t see me and she doesn’t. I go and first thing I do is hide in my school van, and through the window I look for her to come out.
She does, fifteen minutes after I have comfortably settled myself. Her eyes looking out for something, someone – probably me. And when it fails to spot something visually pertinent she sits down on a broken wall behind a school bus, fidgeting with the bandage on her hand. At first, it’s just the pus-soaked corners of the bandage that she fidgets. Then she looks around and unties it from the corner, unwrapping it one whole turn at a time. Soon she is lost in it and the bandage has come out, exposing the pink laceration with thick brown borders of it looking like dead elbow skin. She sniffs the wound, closes her eyes and repeats the gusto with the mannerisms of a coke addict.
And one more time she looks all around to make sure no one is catching her in the act. I duck down in my seat, slide the tinted window to the side, and from behind it, I see her licking the pinkish gash. Licking is perhaps not the accurate description. She is dribbling the pus that has frothy stinky texture to it and then like in the “squeeze and extract” kind of medical way, she is getting as much as she can out of it. Out of the gash, out of her hand, and into her mouth.
I throw up a little in my own mouth and bury my face deep in my backpack that is clumsily sliding away from my lap. When I gather myself and look up, I see a nun, grabbing her by the hair and yelling something that I cannot hear, taking her to an 8 seater van that looks like it runs on charitable money and has other sick people inside it.
Before I can realize what’s going on I feel a tap on my back, and Mrs. Roy, who also is often my co-rider asks me to move to the side a little. Seeing me distressed, she asks me what’s the matter? I answer her with a question that has the same tone of inquisitiveness as hers but it’s about the girl down yonder.
“Well, that’s Lisa. Troubled child that one. She was expelled from the previous private school. Has some medical condition. So no other school will take her. But ours did. We are quite a charitable school. Aren’t we?”
“Some psychiatric disorder. I haven’t enquired in depth, child. You know, in fact, when father Elvis began explaining my head wandered. Partially because, I have a terrible attention span, but more than that, I cannot tolerate the gruesome. Anyway, from what father has also told us, she is has high emotional intelligence and is very passionate about art.”
“Right,” I say to myself, as I push back my seat.
Have seen the Van Gogh in her today, looking forward to see her paint tomorrow.