This is a blog about writing. Mostly short fiction. And occasional personal rant once in a while, if I may. Feel free to make your comments and feel sane again.

Monday, March 9, 2009

She Wore A Red Ribbon


The merciless epidemic AID has inspired countless number of stories, films, dramas, and novels. Here is my take. How did I write it? The idea came when I visited a friend of mine at a Design Institute. I saw countless number of young students mingling in the cafeteria, in the lush compound, and the restaurants outside the Institute.

I wrote the story in one sitting but had pretty tough time coming up with a twist for a few months! Then I polished and polished till my fingers ached and I felt sick my self. First person narratives sound arrogant at times, but I find it intimate, and that is the way I write most of the time.

The title sounds too much like John Wayne's Western 'She Wore a Yellow Ribbon' because, I leafed through an old classic Hollywood movie guide and got the neat idea for the title.

Here is the story. Enjoy!

She Wore A Red Ribbon

Pale sunshine braved through the icy blue sky. A nip in the morning air made my skin tingles. The 1500 cc engine throbbing under me, I turned right under the arch of Pyramid, the cutting edge design institute of Asia. The happy young crowd milled about. Many of these pony-tailed and pierced ears types would take up their prima donna jobs at Esprit, Braun, or Swatch. A few might end up in drug rehabilitation centers. I passed the avant-garde facade of the main building and reached the girls’ hostel complex. All the guards knew me by now, but as per the rule, I asked the guard anyway to call Nora Kandinsky from c-714.

I parked the bike and strolled between the rows of well-maintained shrubs. The yellows of marigold in pots competed with the pinks of palm-sized roses. The shiny dew on emerald leaves had yet to dry. The aroma of fried eggs and wails of UB40 from the canteen filled the air.
There. A bird announced her arrival. She ran down the marble steps, all 17 of them. She wore a screaming yellow shirt, tomato red pants, and a matching wristband. A red ribbon fluttered from her hair. The only sober color about her was my khaki sweater dangling from her shoulder. The young guard gave her an eyeful as she crossed the gate. Looking at the rhythm of her breasts, I tried not to smile. She handed her leather bag to me and pulled on the sweater.

"These silly elastic bands." Her head emerged through the neck of the garment: an angel’s face without cheekbones. No lipstick for those lips.

"It is designed for men," I started a half-hearted argument.

"Not by a Pyramid designer!"

"Why don’t you return it to me? You were to keep it for only one semester." I felt a mild stir in my groin as remembered the day we went on a drive in my convertible, the bet she won because her silk scarf turned out to be wider than the seat width. She had kept the sweater from that day.

"Till death do us part," she announced.

She led me to the furthest bench from the gate. I guessed - demand for a lavish dinner today. Or she might have received a long-winded letter from her home and wanted a ‘serious conversation.’ Probably both.

We sat down under the acacia. She dug into her pocket and picked out three chocolate nuggets. She offered me one with a tilt of her head.

"Nikky, how old are you?" I pointed at the chocolates.

"I am seven, 17 or 70. How does that matter now?" She started chewing. With a few deft movements, she made a peacock out of the gold foil wrapper.

"You seem to be all right. Your blood reports came back normal? Any fever since we met last fortnight?"

A long spell of silence connected us. I tried what I was good at.

"Where have you been?" She pushed my face away.

"I was down with a nasty flu for a week. And then the soda ash delivery business, I told you about. Too much travelling these days. I called you, but your hostel phone was dead." I patted my mobile on her knees.

"What are these trips all about?"

"Sales calls and stuff like that. Are you taking the medicine? Better to finish the complete dose."

Her fever was the third instance in this semester. She never fell ill so easily.

She tugged at me but wouldn’t look in my eyes.

"You missed me, didn’t you?" I held her tight. "I have found a fundoo Thai restaurant. Let me take you out for a spicy, candlelit dinner tonight."

A vein on her smooth brown neck throbbed imperceptibly. I kept my arm on her shoulder, but her smile was missing.

She turned to hold my face in her tiny hands and checked me, like a plastic surgeon looking for a flaw. She rubbed her nose on my chin and pecked. No comments about my new aftershave. I propped her up on the bench and started to kiss. With a sudden pull, she snatched away from me. She raised her hand and slapped me. Hard.

"What the f..." Tears in her eyes stopped me dead.

I looked around to see if anybody was looking at us. Nikky got up. She and her stupid leather bag. She pulled out some papers and thrust them in my face. I was too mad to read but the word HIV+ registered. One paper had a logo of twisted red ribbon.

The traffic noise seemed to die down; green leaves and branches above me were a green blur, the hostel building swayed gently in distance. A squabble was on in the canteen. I felt a man-size hole in my stomach.

"I am volunteering for a HIV drug experiment program," she whispered.

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