A stroll in a graveyard

The beginnings of a faint black were gradually tinging the heavy air. The sun had passed the day in an effort to boil the earth and now seemed rather puffed out, rather tired, and was already starting to resign, falling through the far-away sky. As such, the atmosphere was rather pleasant, and this combined to the fact that it was the day of the dead, 2nd November, set the soul on a venture for a calm, sad stroll through the graveyard.

I walk alone, looking at the tombs in turn, searching for the state of melancholy that sets the mind alight with a small sad flame. Some tombs are simple mounds of coarse earth, others ugly stone painted with a nice white, and others are of shiny black marble. Almost all of them have white candles blowing their shy fire, some have rows of flowers and lastly some have nothing, no person who cares anymore, nobody who remembers: a lone forgotten life. As the fires in my mind settle down and my breath slows down, I wonder.

Suddenly, a voice calls my name. Annoyed, I turn round and smile at the boy. He is called Joseph, is 14, speaks English roughly, and is the boy I know best in the village. In a way he reminds me of my first friend ever, easy to like, even easier to hate. He advances his hand, sure that I will shake it. This I do, rather sadly, because I know that all the children in the graveyard will run towards me so as to shake my hand, that strange European custom! Soon I’ve got a crowd around me, laughing and shouting in the dignified graveyard. Heloh! Waisya name? Bagunara?

I try to explain to my ‘English’ friend: “I walk alone now?” “On my own?” But it is not fated to happen, anyway I doubt he is familiar with the word ‘alone’, and the others… I’ve learnt to stop interminable discussions so I march away. They all follow. Sigh… But after all, it’s my fault for being strange, who ever heard of a guy with white skin? Absolutely ridiculous! And hair which is not black? Unheard of! And the extinct language French? Don’t make me laugh!

With my troop following me, quickly accepting new members, a girl invites me over. With another sigh, I come up with my best smile. Hello. Hello. Soon I escape again, but my followers have grown bolder. Joseph calls me. Grandfather mother father he says, indicating two tombs. Oh… And I realize a dozen hands are pulling at me, trying to drag me all over. But I’m used to it, I stand firm. And, like if I wasn’t being teared into a dozen peaces, I calmly continue the ‘conversation’, trying to escape. Joseph tells me two boys want to talk with me. I was hoping that today I would be able to have a calm walk, for once…

I stroll towards the two elder boys, muttering ‘fiddlesticks’ under my breath. One of the boys actually speaks English and I engage once again into the type of conversation which doesn’t mean anything. When people ask me my name they actually do not care about the answer but rather are overjoyed by the fact that they have spoken English to a European, been understood, and been responded to. Yet it tires me sooo much… After a few seconds of silence I thank him warmly for the conversation, tell him I’m going to walk now, hesitate to ask him how to say ‘alone’ in Telugu, and walk away.

Soon my mind, who has had the notion of patience battered by an army of noisy hammers for already two weeks, pleads Joseph, and by him the troop that is still following me to, please, let me walk alone. “I’m bothering you?” he asks. Not another trick question! If I say yes he’ll be profoundly hurt, and if I say no the troops’ distance will soon degrade to me carrying a fistful of near-teens on my back. (Side-note: they do that since they’ve seen me skipping with Amandine on my back…)

I opt for no, and he suddenly looks very sad. Hastily I ask him a question, why two tombs have dolphin pictures on them, and a bright smile followed by a babble of incomprehensible words are pronounced. He takes me to the tombs and proudly explains that the dolphins have dolphin shapes… Then he adds, you eat dolphins? I reply no. He replies yes, and soon everybody is accusing me of eating dolphins. Mega sigh…

Talks with many adults follow this, smiles which begin to hurt, and then I excuse myself so as to go to the celebration. Learn to give up on some things, although a silent stroll would have been so welcome…

I sit with my father, on the side of a water container. A little calm. Inevitably though, Joseph comes along and very soon, there are so many children sitting beside us that my father goes off for a calmer place. I don’t. Joseph starts leaning on my shoulder. I let it be. Then, loads of people start pushing him on me, so as to make me fall. Then they all want me to swim in the container… During this an adult comes beside me, folds his arm, and tries to touch me with his elbow. I lean to the side, he leans also. When his elbow has touched my arm for a few seconds he goes off all happy. Soft European skin, right. A child starts stroking my hair. Joseph asks me if I’m his very best friend. I avoid the question. After this an adult comes, shoos away all the children, and proudly sits beside me.

Off I go again, and my fan club follow. This ‘club’ is mainly composed of Joseph’s violent character and of a big boy who folds his hands all the time and stands beside me wherever I go, and who, suddenly, will lower his maturity so much as to be giggling stupidly about any odd matter. Jospeh slaps my buttocks, and I sharply stop him. I’ve been trying to condition him not to touch some special body parts of others. I almost lost his friendship after hurting him in an effort to protect Eric from having his trousers taken off. Innocently he tells me to slap his buttocks. Em, thank-you but no…

Quite soon another ‘shake the European’s hand’ game ensues and, inexplicably, the big boy tries to crush my hand. Unluckily for him, I’ve put that move high on my priority list and am pretty good at it. He shouts and lets go. After that a teen girl tries the same thing but I can proudly state that I am not sexist, so I crush her hand as well. She yelps, lets go, and has another try at crushing my hand.

An adult starts fire-crackers going, and great excitement ensues. I’m asked to dance by about twenty voices, but I flatly refuse. Joseph finds a used fire-cracker bomb on the floor and has fun throwing it at me every two seconds shouting ‘bomb!’ under the furious giggles of the ‘big’ boy. Finally, I decide to go back home. A troop of children come up to shake my hands, and I patiently shake each one, smiling especially at all the little children as well as the girls. Then I turn to go and the big boy decides to have another try at crushing my hand. I again retaliate but he just winces and keeps on holding. My main muscles are all in my right wrist, so I have a go at twisting his hand, and finally twirl him around me a few times. Finally, after his efforts not to let go, I examine his hand a little, find a good spot, and make him yelp off, cradling his hand. Then I smile goodbye to all and depart.

I’ve had weirder shaking hands. Some girls will start stroking my hand, and some little boys will start doing violent movement of hands up and down, until they’re jumping up every time they shake.

I’ve often tried to teach order, but the children keep on fighting. After one such two-hour try at playing a game with them midst all the fighting, I devised a tactic to teach non-violence. Joseph translated my words into a ‘if anybody fights, we all beat him up!’ Ineluctably a major fight started. Reminds me of democracy…

4 Responses

  1. This was one of my darkest periods of adolescence. Tired, weary, dreadfully lonely, and unsure of all that I had previously regarded as true.
    The writing style is filled with negativity…

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