Saturday, March 05, 2005

melissa's story

I met Melissa at the bus stop opposite the Public School. Melissa is not her real name, I never asked her what she was called, but the name came to me, in the manner of old. Those days, we used to sit around the square tables and name people based on what they looked like and how they acted. I was never any good at it, and I even objected to this sometimes, but my companions had turned it into a full blown art. An instant would determine whether the names fitted well or not. To be honest I know that the naming of Melissa did not follow the rules: I was naming her for a character in one of my favorite novels, but even the character was different there. However, it's reasonably good, for a fake name. Melissa was listening to a small tinny tape recorder, as she was waiting for the bus. I was surprised to see her there, usually the bus stops are deserted in this car crazy country. She was listening to children's songs- nursery rhymes more or less, being sung by children themselves. i thought it was odd that she should be listening to this given that she seemed like any other regular teenager. After a while she put it away, and I asked her -what was that all about?
Melissa said that they were children's songs and that they were the recordings of children whom she'd worked with before. We didn't have much of a conversation after this, except to talk about how the bus was so late today.
But her story came to me slowly. How she really felt close to those kids and wanted to work in the day care centre. How she was asked to leave, because some parent felt uncomfortable leaving their kids in her charge, only because Melissa didn't talk like other normal people. How she never got over the fact that she couldn't see those kids, and all she had for consolation was the tinny recordings of their voices. Melissa never realized that people looked at her oddly, her sudden movements alerted them to the fact that she was different. But as long as she carried the voices with her, everything would be ok.
I saw Melissa only once more, at the very same bus stop. I heard the music much before I saw her. She asked me for some money, she said that she'd lost her money. She asked for 20 cents. It was such an absurdly small amount, I wondered, as I gave her all the change I had. She got off at the Mc Donald's and headed for the phone. I felt relieved. She had someone to call.