Monday, September 12, 2011
The Girl in the White Dress
It was the lace of her white dress that caught my eye. It looked so radiant against her tanned limbs.
I've loved white since that day.
She sat across the aisle, on a desk to my right. She was this beautiful distraction. A distraction that I welcomed.
You see, on that day, I had been ruminating. There was much bitter brooding to do since my dad had left moments earlier. He'd left me alone, you see. Traitor. I was about to face my very first day in Grade One. Institution Notre Dame, Dakar.
Try to imagine it. This is West Africa. I'm in a Catholic school, in a classroom filled with individually spaced out wooden desks, among fifty or so little girls who sit before their little crayons and plastic pencil cases, all of us waiting in suspense to discover what our first day of school, our very first day in twelve years of schooling will be like.
And all I could think about was her white dress.
I know because when I saw her, I put aside my self-pity. I forgot my dad instantly. I think I stared at her pretty dress in utter disbelief. She had little brown limbs and a boyish haircut. She looked a little Spanish. To me anyway...I called out to her. I asked for her name.
Her name was Nasrin.
Check it out...
Nasrin (also spelled Nasreen, or Nesrin, Persian: نسرین,Nasrīn) is a female name of Persian origin meaning "wild rose". It is among the most popular names given to baby girls born in Azerbaijan,
Take it from Wikipedia...
There you go. I had good taste and I didn't even know it. So this girl, this 'wild rose', she had my full attention. And soon I saw nothing except her.
I asked her how old she was. She replied that she was five. You know, it's routine with little girls. First you share names, then you compare ages and then if they pass the 'vibe' test, you go on with the next question. And the next question is simple. Especially when they happen to be wearing that dress...
Me: Do you want to be my friend?
So that's what I did on my first day of school. I picked up. It was easy in those days.
Nasrin smiled at me. I think she was shy.
And I was in heaven then. Ah yep, I had completely forgotten about my dad. Who cares if he wasn't there. I had Nasrin now! Nasrin and that fabulous white dress.
I didn't really care that we were in a middle of the classroom. Well, not yet anyway. I shot a glance in the teacher's direction. She was affairing herself to her papers and chalk and whatever teachers do when they must prepare to face fifty odd children on their first day of schooling. She told us to be quiet and I knew then that we must all behave.
But something took hold of me. As an adult, I think you might call it flirting...Either that, or I was so mesmerised by Nasrin's white dress that I absolutely had to touch it. It was now or never...
Verifying that the teacher was not looking, I leaned to the side and reaching across to my right, I quickly tapped Nasrin on the shoulder. What thrill. The teacher did not even see me. I smiled triumphantly as though defying Nasrin to do the same. She did. Much to my delight. She reached across to tap my shoulder.
My heart was beating faster, I took my turn and reached across to grab Nasrin's hand. The joy!
Soon we were giggling quietly, very satisfied with our clandestine little game. I think there were three exchanges before I looked up and noticed that the teacher had heard us and seemed to be looking around for the source of the noise. I noticed that Nasrin was giggling too loud. She liked me that's for sure...
I'm not proud of the next moment.
I did not like to get in trouble. So I immediately stopped playing. I sat up, staring at the teacher, determined to show attention and to be well behaved. But while I was taking great pains to avoid the teacher's scorn, Nasrin was still enthralled by the game I had started. And it was her turn to tap me...She reached across and tapped my shoulder. The teacher saw her.
We blame the victims. Remember that.
The teacher said some very nasty things to Nasrin in front of the whole class. I felt for her. I think to this day, it didn't seem right that she had such a pretty white dress and yet had to be the first girl to be humiliated in front of the whole class. I felt as though somehow the teacher had stained her dress. This upset me. But I was afraid. And it quickly became apparent to me that to avoid humiliation and public scolding and to avoid any negativity at all, I should be well behaved and put all my energies into being a good girl at school.
And I did just that. I forgot about Nasrin. I shut everything out and thought only of avoiding punishment and humiliation.
I think on that first day of school, I learned that friendship can be a precarious thing when authority and fear are involved. This incident in my life embodies the dynamics of many situations even today. So many times, we have to choose between truth and loyalty at the risk of our reputation and the threat of social scorn. When those moments come, I remember the girl in the white dress.