“Liar, liar, freak freak!”, his friends said as he stormed out the front door. He didn’t turn around to argue this time. He stomped his feet as he walked upto the street. He looked right, then left and right again. He finally made up his mind and turned right. He was going to the creek.
He was not his usual self today. He walked with his head down and dragged his toy tiger on the ground. As he walked past a car, he took out his cap and looked at his reflection in the window. He thought he looked quite cool and failed to understand why his friends were calling him a freak. He had told them the truth and yet they called him a liar. Yesterday it was his parents and now his friends. What is wrong with the world, he thought. He heaved a sigh, wore his cap reluctantly and kept walking.
Ever since he got the tiger, he had included it in all his favorite games at the creek. Hide and seek was to close his eyes, turn in a circle around himself, throw the tiger in some direction and try to find it. Cops and robbers was to chase squirrels with his tiger. But most of all he just liked to talk to his tiger, hold secret meetings and ponder about life! But not today. Today he didn’t even realize when he left his tiger behind and wandered off upstream. He saw a girl sitting by the water, throwing stones in.
“What are you doing ?”, he asked from a distance.
“What does it look like ?”, she turned around and said.
He shrugged. “I am counting the ripples”, she said.
He thought for a moment and asked, “Can I join you ?”
She held out a handful of pebbles. He noticed her mismatched hand gloves. He walked up to her and sat beside her.
“Aren’t you the boy from the yellow house, the one with the new pet tiger ?”, she asked
He was very surprised. He had not told anyone yet about Tiger.
“I live in the white one at the end of the street.”, she said.
They loved to talk. Both of them. And so they did. About digging up dirt to find earthworms, making snowmen with moving hands, an alternate number system where one plus one was not two, saving dying racoons, setting dead butterflies free by attaching them to hot air balloons, the geometry of cloud shapes, their favorite comic books, how the grass looks blue sometimes and chocolate frosted sugar bombs! And they continued throwing pebbles.
“Fifteen!”, she said.
“I got seventeen!”, he jumped and his cap fell off.
She gasped when she saw his orange hair. He hurried to lift his cap and started to walk away.
“Wait! Sorry! Where are you going ? Tell me what happened ?”, she said.
“It is no use. You won’t believe me.”
“You will call me a liar or a freak.”
“I won’t. Please. Tell me. Please. I really want to know.”
“Umm, okay. Yesterday I was out in the rain playing with my stupid friends. We all saw the rainbow. And then magically the rainbow started to move. I swear I saw it move! My friends didn’t believe me, but Tiger did! So we both followed it all the way to this creek. And then the rainbow turned into just one color. Orange. And it melted into the creek. Tiger wet his paws and suggested that I wet my head in the water. And then this happened.”
She didn’t say anything.
“You don’t believe me, do you ? I knew it. Don’t know why I thought you were different. Bye. I am going to go find Tiger”, he said angrily and turned to go away.
She held his hand to stop him. She was crying. He looked around not knowing what to do! He didn’t really like girls. But he thought he liked this one. He didn’t want to say something to upset her, so he was very relieved to see that she had stopped crying.
“I believe in magic. I believe in rainbows that melt. I believe you.”, she said as she took off her gloves. “Mine turned green. And it did not melt, I ran after it and caught it!”
“What! That is awesome! I was so close to catching it! But Tiger was too slow. Otherwise I would have”, he said.
“Oh, oh! Cry baby. Blame it on Tiger. But you know you just can’t run as fast as I do”, she laughed.
“Lets race! You and I. All the way upto Tiger. Whoever finds him first, wins!”
“Ha! Get ready to lose!”
And they ran. They ran together for years. And with them ran their childhood. Chasing rainbows and counting ripples.
I have often wondered how it would have been to be childhood friends with Calvin. This is one of those wonderings.