Thursday, October 21, 2010

lost and found

When I was four I enjoyed playing with him. He said I was his “bestest” friend. By the time I reached eleven, he grew boring. He would still like to play with cars. He could not gossip. He would still lisp whereas my speech had grown perfect by then. The only word I lisped was his name. But then I continued calling him Lessi only out of affection. I had a whole bunch of friends at school who were smart and stylish, but Leslie was still a child. Mom said Leslie would always be a child. He could not grow up, God won’t let him. But she reminded me that had nothing to do with us being friends. However, with time, I spent less and less time with Leslie, because he was not allowed to go beyond the community park; and I liked going out with friends.

The year I turned thirteen, I learnt, people like Leslie suffer from autism. My friends got me make up kits and deos and glitter nail polishes and lip glosses for my birthday; Leslie came with a box of lollypops. During my birthday party, some friends made fun of Leslie. They said he is grown up enough to be a man, and he still likes lollys! I chided my friends for laughing at him. I didn’t like others making fun of him, but at the same time I realized that I have to choose between Leslie and the other bunch of friends; because Leslie would always be a child. I chose the latter. I felt proud to grow up, and saw no reason why I should hang around with someone who would never grow up.

At sixteen, my best friend Priya stole my boyfriend. I came from school, crying my eyes out. Mom wasn’t back from office, and I did not have the spare key. So I went and sat in the park. Leslie was playing alone. I asked him if I could play with him. He said he would allow me to play only if I agreed to lose in the hot wheels car race. Also, he had two cars, and I would have to play with the bad looking one. I agreed. We played for like half an hour, and by the end of it, I was bored. I did not enjoy playing with him. While we were playing, Leslie mentioned, I was no longer his “bestest” friend. I felt guilty of having neglected him, when he had been my constant companion ever since I knew myself. But I realized Leslie and I had grown apart. He still enjoys things I had left far behind. Mom had come back, so I went home.
At eighteen, I left home for college. On my last day at home, Leslie visited us with his mom. He brought me a cute hand mirror as a good bye gift. He didn’t look happy. I thought maybe he is sad because I was leaving. Later, when his mom joined my mom in the kitchen and we were left alone, I asked if he was sad because I was leaving.

“I am not sad because you are leaving. You don’t car race with me anymore. I can play alone.”

“Then why are you so down Lessi?”

“Because I didn’t want to bring you that mirror. I wanted to get you lollypops. But mom said you would not like your lip gloss to be spoilt by licking lollypops. And in college people like to look beautiful. So we should get you something that can help you look good.”

Leslie said it very innocently, but somehow he made me realize I had grown up. He was still in his blissful childhood, and I was not. For the first time I felt jealous of him.

Next vacation when I visited home, I hardly saw him playing in the park with his cars. I went to his place and saw him sitting in front of his computer. His parents got him one for his 30th birthday. He was playing Road Rash. Still not bored with racing, I thought.

I tried talking to him, but he hardly responded. Thereafter, I barely remember him being in my life.

Ten years from then, one night, I was in my New York apartment, trying to make Zoro sleep, when I got a call from the hospital. My husband had met with an accident. We rushed to the hospital. He fought with death for three long days, by the end of which he lost. I was all alone with a four year old kid, that too in a city which was not mine. Mom asked me to return home. 

It took me six months to complete all the official formalities, and when I flew back home, I saw the entire family waiting for me at the airport. Along with them, Leslie had also come. He looked old now, and dull, and lonely. He stood in the far corner while everyone else was busy greeting me.

That evening, while I was doing the unpacking, Leslie came over. I introduced him to Zoro, my son. Leslie asked Zoro if he liked cars. Zoro had a huge collection of them, all gifted to him by his father. He asked me to take out his toys. I took them all out, and gave them to him, except one, which I hid under the pillow. I thought Zoro should have at least one memoir of his father to look at later when he grew up. I left the two of them to play while I carried on with my unpacking. Suddenly my eyes fixed at Leslie. I saw something which was long lost, come back… that spark in Leslie’s eyes, when we as kids used to play together, reappeared. They were fighting over the better looking cars and arguing on who should win and who should lose.

By the end of four hours, when it was time for dinner, Zoro and Leslie were at harmony. They were taking turns to win and lose, to play with good cars and bad cars, lisping away merrily all about cars and races. Zoro wouldn’t leave Leslie, so he had dinner with us. In the next few days, both of them grew equally fond of each other. Leslie’s computer lay unused and he had excavated out all his old cars.

Leslie has some grey hairs now, but his heart is still green. I feel happy for Leslie. He lost his only friend when I grew up, but found another in my son. Last night, when I went to call Zoro back from the park for dinner, I saw the two of them looking up at the sky. Zoro said Leslie was helping him find his dad among the stars.

“And how would Leslie know which is your dad? There are so many stars up there.”

“Lessi would surely find out Mom, he said he would do it for me, even if it takes the whole night. Because he said I am his ‘bestest’ friend.” 

p.s. - this is a piece of fiction

1 comment:

  1. Fabulous is all I can keep writing your stories. ;)