Nine rings of a bell and school was over. The great clamor of eager students rises noticeably. Streams of children were soon pouring out of every gate. The sun, it seemed, was fighting a failing battle to shed its rays of brilliancy through the congregation of troubled and grey clouds. This gathering of mourners in ashen robes was not the harbingers of rainy storm; nevertheless it surely indicated a warm tempestuous afternoon, sultry and heavy of atmosphere.
Let us draw our attention to a lone boy trudging up the hill. The child was rounded of shoulder but straight of backbone. Perhaps the bag was simply too heavy? The feet splay apart as he walks, an ungainly sight, which makes us wonder whether he wasn’t used to walking. Perhaps he did not get the chance to do so often? His brow was furrowed, but this is his habitual expression. Notice how his hands alternate from gripping the straps of his bag tightly at the shoulder to fiddling with the fastenings and buckles that hang at his side, the use of which is only known to the one who designed the bag. The possessor of this bag seems to use it to work out his… frustration? Anxiety? Anyway, the nervous disposition of our protagonist is clear.
He now reaches the gate, lingers to gaze up and down the thoroughfare. It teems with humans of every age and vehicles of every shape. He starts. Peers to the left and right once more. Pauses to reflect. Feels the panic rising within.
His van was not there.
Yes, it was certainly not anywhere to be seen.
How was he to get home?
This situation requires substantial reflection.
Several expressions of varying degrees of terror cross his face. His hands hang limply by his side. The road gradually becomes empty of people, where it was once crowded with life, as it did daily.
He did not know his way home.
He suddenly becomes calmer.
A glimmer of sunlight begins to widen through a break in the feathery dome above. The entirety of the world around him suddenly springs to vibrant life. The rich greens of the sylvan walkways bloomed in beauteous praise to revel in the source of life. The silence that reigned so far is broken by mild wind that flows past, and the trees start to whisper encouragingly. The dullness that prevailed before creeps back in; the clouds shift with the new-born wind. Yet he still has hope.
After all, he did know the way home. Did he not spend every minute by the window of the van, letting the fast wind ruffle his hair out of its pattern combed by loving hands, scrutinizing all and sundry that whipped by? He eyed every closed door, each impassive face wondering what stories lay behind them. Sometimes he made up ones for them. He knew every sluggish canal spanned by arching bridges; he knew every twist and turn of the little alleyways. He could name every shadowed street and describe every flamboyant bill-board to the most mundane detail.
And so he begins his long walk home. His step was still hurried as it led him where the Marine Drive begins. His pace slowed as the straight road stretched on and on. Even the novelty of trying to guess what the towering sky-scrapers that rose from the horizon could be soon wore off. The sea heaved monotonously to his left. And still the road grew longer with each step. As afternoon turned to evening, he reached Colepety. A slight smile flickers on his face, despite his sore feet and aching back. He turns to say good-bye to the sea, which he notices, as if for the first time, a curious shade of green and grey which had a surreal yet a strangely stunning quality. He turns inland. Things get interesting from here.
His speed accelerates. A sense of eagerness and determination he has never felt before envelops him with every step. But how? For someone so frail of body and has never raised a limb in vigorous activity to have the strength to do so is impressive. By now the straps of his bag had cut welts on his shoulders, which hurt, beside the ache of having to swing the weary arms. His shoes may surely be full of blood; school-shoes nowadays aren’t meant for walking, only to glisten and look… nice, I suppose. And we too must recollect how heavy a scholar’s bag is. It should be like an anchor. His body shrieks in agony but is shushed by his mind.
For some obscure reason of the human psyche, our frank conqueror feels an odd sense of detachment from the toiling world around him. He seems to be an external viewer, peering at one live page of the book of his life. His body has achieved a state wear the mere physical sense of it has perished and nothing remains but an enhanced feeling of himself. I, who haven’t even come close to such an empowerment of self, find myself short of words to describe them to you, dear reader. The whole world seemed alive and throbbing with excitement to him.
So he sped on. Turning when his path did, he came to the Duplication Avenue. His journey south began. Halting briefly at each blue and white signpost to find where he is, he eventually found himself on his knees by the banks of the Kirulapona Canal. Spasms of exhaustion wrecks his body, he was starving, dehydrated and drained of what energy his scrawny body held. The soothing dusk drew her cooling embrace around him while the world darkened before his eyes. It was past nine of the clock.
He staggers up and manages a few steps. The bag slips off him, the shoes lay discarded. A fine trail of blood red gems grow as he makes his way to an ornate gateway decked with iron spikes and intricate patterns of delicacy backed by unyielding iron towered above him. He had reached home at last.
He had no one to be his guide, to help him there was none. He was unaccustomed to ask for help, and could not except any in return. He had no way to contact anyone; the act of conversing was alien to him, though he did have the gift of speech. He did not have any cash on him; “After all,” his parents were known to comment, “What could a fifteen year old want with money?” And worst of all he simply did not know. Knowledge breeds power. Ignorance breeds weakness. But there is hope; there is hope that this specimen of humanity had at least gained an inkling of intelligence through his bizarre endeavors.
We stare at the gate, you and me, reader, and at the collapsed heap at its foot. We wonder what could happen next – will the austere gates open? Will he have to crawl in or will he be borne in with tenderness? Will they open at all? Is there still life in that immobile form? No, that thought must be driven from our minds. We have nothing to do but wait; an all answers may come someday, someway and all will come to a happy end.