I remember I called her sissy. Laughed at her and made faces. Was a part of” her hating crowd”. I know I was one of them, one of those kids who involved her in the games just to have a scapegoat. She never asked us if she could play. She just stood there watching us jump the rope or swing or do anything small girls do. We were the ones who invited her and then made fun of her. Called her names and then laughed at her. All of us together and she alone. Just on her own, fighting her own battles or actually not fighting at all. That’s why we called her sissy, dumb, loser. These were the names we associated with her. Looking back I still remember the way she responded. Not by uttering a single word from her mouth but thousand from her eyes. They looked hurt every time we said something but she never answered back. Never, not even once. I used to wonder why?
I was her neighbour. We shared a common wall and am sure my room’s wall was her wall too. Because I could hear no voice from the other side at all. She had no father and her mother made enough noise to make it clear that it was she next to my room. I was really excited when she moved next door. She was about my age and her mother was excited enough to tell my mother and all the other mothers around that she will be starting school soon which turned out to be mine. I was happy. I thought I was given the gift of a friend, a friend who would tie the string to her cup and then tie it on mine so that we could have those telephonic chats through the window in the night. Boy! Was I wrong? She never spoke a word.
We all commit mistakes, don’t we. Well here was my childhood sin. There she sat on the swing in the park one day. Combing her Barbie’s hair. I had a similar Barbie and I wanted to play with her. I went up to her and said hi. She just smiled. When I showed her my Barbie all dressed up proudly and asked her if she wanted to play, she just smiled again as if mocking me and went back to combing the hair. That made me furious. I snatched her Barbie, beheaded her and threw her on the ground and stomped away. I still remember the look in her eyes. At that time that look salvaged my childish pride and made me feel like I had won that battle but today thinking about it makes me wonder how cruel can a girl of five be.
Her mother was hospitalised. She had some disease my mother wouldn’t tell me. I knew it wasn’t cough and cold as you don’t go to the hospital for such things. Then one day my mother told me that her mother went far away to meet god and will come back after many years. She was sobbing when she said that and somewhere I knew she was lying. Her granny took her away. She waved at me while leaving .I just made a face.
She faded from my thoughts then till today when I overheard my mother talking to an aunt about her as my only disabled friend. I asked her about it and she said “now don’t be such a kid". You know na she was dumb”.