So I went.
Actually, I went to the Holy Site. It was too late for her to be there, but I felt I should go anyway. I don’t know why. It wasn’t a pleasant experience, but maybe it helped. They had just finished up a ritual of some kind and I had brought the red scarf people wear to pray, which I usually don’t bring and then realize I should have. But I got there and it seemed most people weren’t wearing them. Then I noticed instead they are all wearing red or pink shawls. Damn. I walked around like an idiot holding a red scarf I thought, after arriving, I didn’t need to wear, and then realized I ought to have worn it.
I’m a foreigner….
There were lots of people there that I didn’t know, since it was a special occasion, and I don’t really know if they were staring at me, but since I was feeling freaked out anyway, it seemed like they were.
Then I went to buy snacks and fortunately they had them. Just enough for two plates (whatever that amounts to: 8 or 10 little dumplings).
Oh, I forgot to say, on the way there, a very little girl who lives on that street where the dumpling shop is grabbed hold of my hand and wanted me to go somewhere with her. I had dumplings to buy, so I wouldn’t. Instead she came with me.
So that was interesting.
I began to walk up the long hill to the school. It’s a nice walk, actually. I enjoy it. But a man was driving in his car with a bunch of little kids, all of whom began to say, “Miss Ash Miss Ash Miss Ash…” So I got a lift. He was taking them up to that area for a walk.
Then I got there and a Class 4 student (still mine. He failed last year) was standing by the entrance with his little sister. He said there was a dance and music show and he had come to see it. The show was starting at 4 pm evidently. I said it was after 4.
He helped me find the Girls Hostel, since I didn’t quite remember where it was from the last time I came to meet C at school with Madam Sonam Dema. I asked at the hostel where C was. At the show. I thought as much, but I thought I would ask.
I went up to the show then. A man met me near the entrance—a teacher. I meet these teachers once or twice a year. I ought to know who most of them are, but the problem with dissociation is the forgetfulness involved. Also, proper introductions never get made. If you really want to know, you can ask someone, and I rarely do. Teachers remain these decontextualized faces. He welcomed me into the show. I said I had come to meet C, but that I was happy to see the show also.
He went to call her for me then, and a fair amount of fuss was made over my sitting at the cushioned bench where the important-ish people sit. (VP had the Guest of Honor Chair. The Principal was a judge and sitting closer to the stage). C came then, seeming very surprised. Strangely, she didn’t see me until she was almost in front of me. I was the only white face in the room, but she was looking past me. Odd.
She stood awkwardly in front of me and I told her to sit down. She crouched down then. I think I took her wrist and asked if she was happy. She said she was. It didn’t feel at all comfortable talking to her there, so I said let’s go outside. She wanted to go out a side door, but it was locked from a place very high on the door I don’t think either of us could reach. We went out the main door in the back instead, but I know she was trying to escape attention, and that was one of those adolescently humiliating moments for her.
We stood outside then. It was still awkward, but less so maybe. Just because people kept walking by, and I know she had the sense of being observed and probably (distorted thinking) scrutinized. I asked her about being scared when she sees me. She didn’t seem to realize this, then told me it’s because the older girls look at her. I asked if she knew I wanted her. The thought of that seemed to make her happy. She smiled. Yes, she knows I want her.
Then I talked to her about the shopping trip and the misunderstanding about her school uniform. I said you were really angry, weren’t you? Yes, she was. I told her about this phrase, “I think.” It means I am not sure. I am asking her. That made her smile. I asked her then how she would feel if she went to school and had no school uniform. “Ashamed.” I told her I know that. I would never do that to her. I would never let her feel ashamed. I would buy her an extra uniform if I wasn’t sure. I don’t know if that point got across. By now she really wanted to go. She wanted to watch the dances. Dance her big strength in life. But I think she also felt self-conscious talking to me.
She took the snacks in a small bag I was carrying. My purse was inside. I don’t know if she knew that. Maybe she did. She said she would return it to me later.
I had a lovely time watching the dances, chatting with the Vice Principal who seems really, really kind, and with one of the other teachers whose kids I think I know very well. But maybe they are not his. I sat there and for a while I didn’t quite know where C was sitting, and this seemed to be absolutely fine, not to know where she was exactly. I can’t say that would have ever felt fine before. Again, I had that rush of comprehension at how worried I used to feel about her. I had it so much of the time, I didn’t notice it. It was like breathing air to feel worried about her.
Afterwards, she brought me the bag. I made her talk to me again, because she had said something of her plans and then I immediately forgot them. Now all of the students were around. She was scared now. “Don’t know. Don’t know.” I didn’t get much more than that out of her.
I put my arm around her. Probably I shouldn’t have. She was self-conscious. That’s why she was acting scared, and her whole body felt tense under my hand. It’s hard not to touch her when she is scared. I can remember sometimes—last week, at the Holy Site, I remembered. But that was a different setting. The degree of not comfortable was even greater.
After some “Don’t knows” I let go of her and she fell behind me. I looked back at her. She seemed quite shocked, like she didn’t want me to touch her, but she didn’t want me to stop either. She didn’t want me to be with her, but she didn’t want me to leave either.
“Good night,” she said.
“Good night,” I replied and she disappeared into the crowd of girls somehow.
It is frightening to be so happy, but maybe less frightening than it used to be.