Julie is out with another writing prompt this week, and here is my attempt at recreating a child hood trip experience. The trip happened, and Vinitha’s thoughts are mine. But some parts have been fictionalized to make up the story.
I’d love to hear some feedback or your thoughts on what you liked and didn’t like about this story 🙂
Prompt: Write a story based on a trip you took in childhood
I was nervous. There was no other way to explain what I was feeling sitting on the bus to the Quiz venue with two teachers and four other students who were going for the inter school quiz competition.
‘Hey Vinitha! Why don’t you come and sit over here with us? We could do with another person to play this game!’ , said Karin, the other girl from my class.
There were two senior boys traveling with us too, all part of the school quiz team.
One of them gave me a fleeting glance and remarked, ‘Don’t worry, you girls are just the junior entry. Even if you don’t know the answer to something, we’ll make up for it. So take it easy.’
I couldn’t contradict them, but I didn’t want to join them either. I felt as if I might throw up anytime, and I needed to look outside the window. I was nervous, but they had no clue why. It wasn’t the stupid quiz. I didn’t care about the quiz, whether we won or lost. Yes, I was the topper in my class. The girl who always studied or had her nose buried in a book and had one best friend in the whole class. The girl who oiled her hair and wore two plaits and didn’t have a hair out of place. I was a stickler and wasn’t messy like the other kids. And they looked at me oddly because of that. Most of the kids thought I was a snob and a teacher’s pet, and they treated me like a pest. I came to know this through my kind best friend Trupti, the only girl in the class who talked to me and liked me. Who knew the real, insecure me.
I was nervous about this trip. You see, I’ve always only traveled with my family on vacations before. I’ve never had a sleepover, and never participated in school events where we had to go on a field trip. Our school didn’t have field trips on a regular basis for all the kids, so I’ve never traveled anywhere further than school without my parents. And I was really nervous about this trip because I had a million problems running through my head at that moment.
Where will we sleep?
Will I have to share a bathroom with the others? I hate sharing bathrooms!
What will we eat?
Will there be mosquitoes?
I stared out into the afternoon, with the warm wind blowing against my face and the bus jumping along the pot holes and traveled ahead alone, in the middle of all the others, with my million worries about this trip.
When we reached the destination – another school which was hosting the event, we saw groups of students from various other schools in their uniforms, milling about, or sticking with their teachers or getting introduced to each other, while waiting for their room assignments. We were going to have the semi finals today and the finals tomorrow, and everyone will be spending the night in their respective rooms tonight. Our teacher led us to the room we were to keep our stuff in and sleep in later. I was horrified! It was a classroom without the tables and the benches! On the floor, they had laid down various mattresses with white sheets that looked really dirty and a dirty looking blanket. We could keep our belongings in the allotted lockers in the teacher’s common room. I hated it. I thought about my pristine little room back at home, about how there was never a speck of dust anywhere on my bed or the study table. My neatly arranged toys and books, and I felt homesick. The others seemed to love this mess and had already taken dibs on mattresses. I took the one that was left.
I looked around and noticed Karin, my other classmate, talking to a bunch of kids from another school. I felt a pang of something that I couldn’t explain when I looked at her. She was intelligent, pretty and was so confident. She could talk to anyone and it seemed as if everyone wanted to be her friend. She was always messy and sometimes I thought that might be deliberate. Her shirt half tucked out, skirt pulled up, one sock loose, hair coming out in wild curly messes. If you were looking for picture opposites, you could put the two of us together and notice the contrasts between us. Suddenly, she turned and looked at me, and waved me over. I pretended not to have noticed that, and opened my notebook instead.
Soon we had our first round of the quiz and we did well and qualified for the finals, along with two other schools. I had answered two questions and Karin had answered one and we both seemed to be quite happy about that. After the quiz, the students were taken into another huge auditorium in the school, which had been turned into a makeshift cafeteria where dinner would be served. All the benches and tables that had been emptied from the classrooms had been arranged here and there was a long table where huge cauldrons of food were being served to the children and the teachers on steel plates. Our little group walked over and got our lunch too, and this time, I didn’t pick my nose at the sight of the food, because I was so hungry, that I thought I couldn’t wait to start eating!
The four of us walked back to our table and quickly gobbled up the food. No one uttered a word and I was absolutely fine with that. But then, the food was over and everyone started talking about the day. I tried to pitch in here and there, but when the conversation moved to TV shows, something strange happened. The guys were talking about sports first, but everyone started talking about Wonder Years once Karin started the subject. And I mentioned that I liked Wonder Years a lot too, especially the title track, but I was a huge fan of X-Files and would throw a pre-teen tantrum at home if mom didn’t allow me to watch X-Files. Dana Scully was like a role model to me. The boys just nodded, but Karin looked at me with a kind of intensity as if she were trying to tell me a secret.
When we were all finally back into the classrooms and those icky mattresses, Karin whispered across to me, ‘You know, I have a girl crush on Dana Scully too’. I was stunned and turned around and asked her, ‘You watch X-Files???’ I never would’ve thought! Why didn’t you say something then?’
She sighed and said, ‘If I tell you something, will you promise to keep it a secret and not think I’m weird or something?’ I just nodded suspiciously.
‘So well, you know how everyone thinks I’m this popular girl and although I am intelligent, no one really gives me credit for my brains. I’m popular because of this person I’ve made up’, she gestured with a flick of her wrist towards her body.
‘People have this strange way of thinking. They think that beauty and brains cant go together, and I’m not as tough as you, to be able to be myself and have one real best friend, instead of having multiple fake friends, who are there just to be entertained by the cool girl in school. But I want people to like me, and so I keep up the pretense, hiding the real me’, she said in a sad but matter of fact sort of way.
I was stunned to hear that she thought I was tough! And then I was surprised to hear her say that about herself. How had I not seen this? How could she not see how insecure and hated I was, and that I was this way not because I was tough, but because I had zero social skills!
‘Well, sorry to burst your bubble about me, but I’m not tough, Karin. Far from it. I have difficulty talking to people because people think I’m a dork. Even though I watch 90210 or Wonder Years, people don’t believe me and think I’m just pretending to be cool. It also doesn’t help that I have this urge to be neat and have everything in order all the time. Apparently, that is not acceptable pre teen behavior. I do have a best friend and I love her, but I also have always admired your spirit and the easy going way you can connect to others with. I always wanted to be in your circle of friends too!’, I said with a laugh.
That night was a revelation to me.
I had discovered the real Karin, and we actually liked each other! We had talked for long after that, first normally and then in whispered giggles, until the teachers threatened to make us stand outside, and had promised to meet up after school once we were back.
I hadn’t missed my family, once we had reached the venue and with the buzz of all the other kids around.
I didn’t care about the dirty mattress or the fact that there really were mosquitoes, based on the little dots that had marked all of us in the morning. Because I was so exhausted, that I had slept into a deep and happy sleep after our talk and long day.
We didn’t win the finals, but I had won new friends and new experiences. I wasn’t treated like a snob or a weirdo anymore. I was a part of the gang.
On the return trip, I wasn’t sitting alone. I was singing aloud like an idiot with the rest of the gang. The teachers didn’t care about the level of noise in the bus. I remember the heat giving way to clouds, then a light cool breeze, followed by rain- not the thunderous kind, but the light refreshing kind. I remember the smell of the wet dusty road once the rain had fallen and I remember feeling surprisingly happy, content and not nervous at all, jumping up and down, that rickety bus.