The Student in Love

 



Manjushree Thapa

The Student in Love


Nirmal Bhattarai walked past the bridge, clambered over the fence and skirted a heap of refuse at the crossroads into Kathmandu. In twenty minutes he reached the campus road. There, he spotted his best friend and ducked into an alley. He was in no mood. His neck was hot and his mouth parched, so he stopped a while at the foot of a bottlebrush tree. The morning was torrid, but the shade of the bottlebrush was touched by winds that were almost cool.

Nirmal felt drained. He waited till he felt a new stirring inside him, and he started to his feet, soon passing the taxi stand and the fenced-off ping-pong club where boys were idling because it was too hot to play. Then, on the next block, hordes of men were streaming out of the movie hall, and Nirmal, shoving against them, felt an urge to slide his lover's thighs against his own.

It was almost ten o'clock when he reached his girlfriend's apartment building. He found her front door padlocked. He faltered, suddenly confused. Eh. She had classes this morning. Now he remembered.

There was a sound behind him and he turned to see the children from next door tiptoeing into the yard to steal apricot buds. One of them caught sight of him and froze. Then the other children also saw him and stopped.

"Stealing flowers!" Nirmal shouted. "I'll call the police on you!" He waved his arms in irritation, but felt too tired to chase them away.

The children stood and stared at him, trying to see if he meant it.

"I'll call the police, I said!"

After the children scampered off Nirmal went up to the apricot tree, fingered one silken bud and ran his palm along its brown trunk. It was a miracle that such trees thrived in this city of asphalt and dust.

Nirmal knew it could be hours before his girlfriend returned. There was no point waiting for her. But it was too hot to walk back to his own apartment. He had no change for bus fare. He didn't know what else to do, so he sat in the shade of the apricot tree, and, lulled by heat, fell asleep.

 

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