Like the marbles, memory rolls back and forth, sometimes sideways only to drop in the tunnel of forgetting. Thankfully some letters are never posted and some memories remain hidden in cobwebs.
Two tiny palms joined together to cradle the green glass marbles. Emerald green were their colours sliced by a yellow line passing through, creepily reminding a cat’s eyes. If one peeps deep down through the dark smooth rounds, a flicker of sunlight is seen trapped within. A tiny fire deep within it. Maybe that’s why the marbles feel so cold when touched. She tries to look further down but every sight has its own limitation, a certain measured distance that it can travel and then because of disinterest, wants to go no further and comes back.
She looks up at the tall slender figure with glasses, half lying on the bed, with the book in one hand both resting on his chest. The book looks heavy and so is his look. Her eyes travel and finds his other arm neatly folded behind his head heavy and loaded with all the words cramped up between the two hardcovers. Her questions never reach the destination and they come back and settle between her brows. The brows get raised a bit in parallel. She doesn’t like him when he has books. Or she doesn’t like the books which come in between. She is sitting on the floor at the side of the bed, her chin resting on the top of the mattress next to his half lying body. The ceiling fan flirted with the pages of his book and that bugged him alright.
‘Do you even know how to play this?’ she shoves her joined palm a little bit closer to him. She bothers him more than the ceiling fan. He gives her a quick glance which swiftly passes through the palm holding the tiny glass marbles only to quickly settle back on the boring manuscript. ‘Nope!’, is the only reward she gets. It is a sharp response telling her to shut up and to get lost if not now at least later.
But she stays. Her palms joined together in an ‘azan’ holding the emerald green rounds. Funny how the marbles look different to both of them – a treasure or a trash.
“I can strike with two fingers and even crack a marble!” she is boasting, a bit to herself and a lot to him. “Even over 8 feet distance!” She wants him to look at her. If he does, she will then explain how the index finger needs to be pulled way back like a catapult before whirling the green ball like a bullet. It will hurt, only a bit initially, but the sharp sound of contact between the glass balls will clink the afternoon in pieces leading to a smile. But he doesn’t turn his head neither his gaze.
The afternoon feels long and dry. Even the ceiling fan is tired of the book with no images. She still waits with hands joined together as if in a prayer.
“This one,” she points with her eyebrow, as the hands are busy holding, “has two tiny fireballs right at the core. If you hold it in front of the window the fireballs roll and change their places.”
“সত্যি!” she rolls her eyes and look at him eagerly. She is definite, this will startle him from his read. But it does not. If she is disappointed it doesn’t show up in her expression. Her voice, unlike his, is still a bit thin and naïve just like their age. Grade six is neither too young to overlook the fire hidden in the darkness nor too old to handle it to explore. Moreover, he has a different world studded with stars and quite complex just like the universe. The book looks as vast as the universe and he hasn’t made much progress because of the two dull marbles, a joined palm and one never-could-be-zipped-all nonsense mouth. He still struggles and tries to remain drowned.
She tries again, lifts her face up and with her eyebrows raised and looking at the tiny shiny green rounds she utters the most difficult ask, “You want one?” It is almost an offering! She has fought nails and teeth for them. She has fought like a boy ferociously with her tiny frail figure to win each of these rolling balls. Each has its own glorious history and she can tell and differentiate one from the other. She gulps the memories and asks again, not so softly this time, “You want one?”
This time he looks. Quickly at her face and then slowly at the joined palm waiting for him to oblige. Two tiny glass balls, same dull green and one with the tiny thin crack. He looks completely disinterested. “If I take one, will you shut up and vanish?” She has definitely made the sage angry for breaking his meditation. He took the one with a thin crack but two golden fireballs quietly waiting deep within.
She gets up now, but somehow her hands still remain joined cradling the other emerald ball preciously and cautiously. As she slowly walks out of the room to vanish she gives a quick glance back at the marble that he has kept at the side of the bed without much of an interest, soon to be forgotten. She wants to tell him that if the green ball is held in front of the window, the afternoon light passes through and two tiny fireballs start moving rolling and playfully changing their place every time one feels lonely or cold. One day he will definitely find that out, she told herself quietly before leaving, one day.
(Artwork: Piu Mahapatra)
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