Rain, Rain Go Away...
The one thing you'd have to hate about Vancouver is the incessant damp, rainy weather. You have rain 300 days of the year! The only time you can catch a peep of the Sun God is during the summer months of July-August (if you're lucky!). Someone told me that Seattle has the highest suicide rate in the US of A because of its rain. I am not surprised. Vancouver, just 3 hours away from Seattle, used to drive me crazy!
The entire weather system used to confound me. Being a typical Indian, I was only used to Hot, Hotter and Hottest seasons. I was witnessing the four seasons - Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn - for the first time! My walk from my home to school took me 20 minutes and I used to love that walk during Autumn! Bright red, green and yellow maple leaves strewn on the road creating a carpet of colors were a novelty to me! The snow capped mountain peaks formed a background to the hilly, curvy road leading to my school. I used to savour the fresh, mountain air as I walked to school everyday! It was heaven.
Winter was not really that bad. The warm currents of the Pacific kept us reasonably warm. During winter, the sun used to rise at 8.30 AM and set at around 3.00 PM. Darkness descended within 3.30-4.00 in the afternoon. I was gloomy and upset because of that. During the summer, it was the other way around. The sun was around till 11 in the night sometimes and it rose as early as 4.30 in the morning! I used to feel extremely awake by 6 with sunlight filtering through the blinds prodding me to get out of bed! I hated that.
My brother and I were dying to see snowfall. We were a bit disappointed early on when people told us that Vancouver never received that much snow. Our prayers were answered. Vancouver had the heaviest snowfall in decades during the Winter of 1996. Our driveway, lawn and backyard were fully covered with 6-9 inches of snow. All of us stayed up at night to watch the magic of falling snowflakes covering the ground in a robe of pristine white.
Huh. We didn't know what awaited us next morning. My dad sounded the alarm first.
"Uhh..hey guys, want to come down for a minute?"
My brother and I looked sleepily at each other and dragged ourselves downstairs. Mom was busy cooking.
"Look at that!"
My father pointed dramatically to the front of the garage. We followed his gaze and gasped. Foot high Snow had piled up outside the garade door! There's no way my dad was going to get the car out unless he happened to be Moses parting the red seas.
My nose, meanwhile, was getting red in the cold. I rubbed it slowly and said,
"So what do we do?"
"We take a shovel and clear the driveway."
My brother and I cried in unison. But there was nothing else to be done.
So we donned our winter jackets, cap, gloves and all of us went to work on the driveway. We dug out a shovel from somewhere in the garage , my father took out a packet of salt and off we went to work like little soldiers. I realized that day that having a huge, long driveway overlooking a big lawn doesn't only look pretty; It means a LOT of work. For some 40 minutes we laboured to carve a path.
"Whew. You wish for more snow?" I asked my brother.
He shook his head huffing and puffing.
"No snow. I don't want to spend all my mornings like this!"
After we cleared the drive, we even took a triumphant picture in front of our garage. I don't have it with me here. It is in my parents' album. I looked at it even this time when I went to India..:)
School stinked for a while. I had no friends, no lunch partners, nothing in common. Zilch. Zip. Nada. I was under pressure on the academic side as well. I shed a lot of silent tears wondering why in the world I was going through this. But I realized soon enough crying wasn't going to solve my problems. I got in this despondent mood especially after Physics 11. I was getting out of Physics class one day, my shoulders hunched, head down - the picture of misery.
Darn. I'd have to take another long route to go to the North Building.
I had to avoid the bully guys. As if all my troubles were not enough, I was in trouble with the Italian boys "mafia". We called them the school "mafia". They tried to look typically Italian - lots of grease on their hair, an arrogant gait, fast cars. In retrospect, I think they were inspired by John Travolta's "Grease". They used to bully and tease a lot of "uncool" people (as they called them). I was sitting in the cafeteria one day doing some homework with a Chinese friend. These guys walked in and sat at the next table.
"Hey, she looks new!" One of them called out pointing at me.
I kept my head down, my heart pounding.
"C'mon, less go talk to her!"
By now, my head was deeply buried within my Math book. If I could've dug a hole through the pages, I am pretty sure I'd have stuck my head inside it.
"Hey, who are you?"
"Err.. I am Subha" and I stuck out my hand as a greeting.
One of them snickered and waved my hand away.
Yeah, sure. You dumbass.
The first guy was tall and dark with so much grease on his hair that I thought it was going to drip on me. I stared at him.
He grabbed my Math book.
"What're you doing?"
"Will you buy us all lunch?"
My heart raced.
How do you answer this question? Do I say no? yes? Oh God!
"Err..I don't have that much money", I answered truthfully.
"Hey, listen guys. She doesnt have money. What're you doing to eat?"
"Err..I was thinking Apple Pie.."
"Go get it.."
Am I getting away so easily? Thank heavens.
I moved to the counter and got my apple pie.
"Come here...", they called.
I took my apple pie with me, shivering a bit. After all, 6 huge, muscular guys do seem scary especially when you are 15, new, small compared to them and they're busy bullying you! :) A very unnecessary, unseeming comparison popped into my head.
I am a midget. An insect in a world of mammoths. Whatever! Why am I trying to make a metaphor out of my misery?? Shut up, brain! I don't need your literary eloquence now. Oh gosh, now I am talking to my brain. How sad is that?
I obeyed. Other students in the cafeteria were now watching the drama unfold. The next moment the tall guy picked up my fresh, new Apple pie and smacked it on my face.
I heard racuous laughter as they left the cafeteria. I burst into tears more out of shame and embarassment than anything else! I ran out the cafeteria, tears blinding me, looking for the washroom.
I HATED SCHOOL!
I meet a friend
After that, I avoided those guys taking circuitous routes to my class. Thinking of that incident, I went to my locker and was getting ready for another class when I saw a familiar face nearby. M was in two of the classes I was taking. She had raven black hair styled in a boycut and soft, European features. I knew she was deadly smart because she cracked some of the tough homework problems in Physics. And the other reason I remembered her was because she always had a green apple with her.
She called me in thick, accented English.
"Are you going to Math?"
I nodded my head looking at her curiously.
"Can I walk with you?"
Sure. God, you're actually listening to me. Now I don't have to cross mafia territory alone.
Outwardly, I smiled and said yes.
For the first time in 3 months, someone actually wanted my company! I cannot tell you what a relief that was. Of course, I talked with a lot of other students. But none of them were what you could call friends. All of them were "hi-bye" types. I felt a happy warmth pervading my body despite the winter cold.
Maybe, I can be friends with her.
You want someone to care if you don't turn up for class one day. You want someone to share lunch with you and sit and talk of mundane things that happened. You want someone to share your crush on that cute guy down the hall. Above all, you want to belong. I think the reason I cried in the cafeteria after the bullying session was because there was none who would come to me and comfort me after that. There was none who would lend their shoulder to me and say, "Hey, its ok!".
I know I make meeting a new friend sound a big epic victory. But then, that's how it was with me back then! I was glad MJ walked with me to Math class that day.
The Diary will continue to write itself....