Ajay was 17. Not much older than myself. But he always had a mystery about his age.
Like everything else about him.
He was never the first to smile or greet. He had a peculiar tilt to his neck. It wasn’t a condition. It felt like he had developed that from watching a lot of movies where the protagonist gets squeamishly close to the villain’s ears and grunts "You ain’t seen nothin yet motherf..."
I knew he was kind of a big deal, because he told me that all the time. So I couldn’t figure out why he’d want to hang out with me. Me?! The timid little guy. I was grateful, nevertheless.
Ajay seemed like he was always in control. For instance, when the bus approached our stop and people started getting restless to get in, Ajay would not move a muscle. He would wait for the bus to fully stop. I would be following his cue but then we would never get a place to sit, because others would have moved past us.
He gave extremely firm handshakes. I’d only watched adults do that. None of my other friends were doing it. So it hurt to say bye to him— no, it physically hurt.
He told me how he always ate with a spoon, even if it was dal-rice, even at home. But this one confused me — was he saying that he was better by doing that? Or had he not learnt eating with his hands yet? It almost felt like a problem. I didn't ask.
He never hung out with me in the class. I wasn’t his 'very good friend' there. He hadn’t said that in so many words, but I could tell.
I was certain that girls were falling over themselves to get his attention. Not because he was particularly handsome as such. In fact, I’d never seen him speak to any girl. But I just knew that had to be true about him.
Once, he revealed to me how he got girls to like him like that. He pointed to a girl in purple before class one day and said that two months ago he checked her out for ten days straight. Then he completely stopped looking at her. The eleventh day onwards she was mad about him, he said. And he had achieved all this without the two of them even speaking.
Ajay had dazzled oh-so many.
I was just one more.