“Okay, then. Meherin, you gave up. Great. Well done. But you see, you deserve some punishment for not giving up in the first place.” I turned around and looked at the boys. “Doesn’t she, guys?”
“Yeah!”, “Give it to her!”, “Hell she does!” were the replies.
I turned back at Meherin and started making for the table. Meherin was literally bloodless, sweaty, and shaking too. And I was a brutal predator, creeping toward my prey in style.
Like the previous bench-encounter, I stood on one end of the table and she on the other. The table wasn’t too long, but long enough so that I couldn’t reach her stretching my arms and trying my best to hit her with the ruler. And every time I missed and she looked back at me, the terror I saw in her eyes…… It was sheer poetry.
“Look, Tawsif!” she tried to negotiate. “You got what you wanted. Now let me go.”
But I shook my head. “No, my girl. You have a punishment to take.”
And right then, I dashed along the side of the bench and swung the ruler. But I missed her by inches. She drew back immediately and hurried away to the other side of the bench. But since the table wasn’t as wide as it was long, we weren’t so much apart now. I took the chance and struck her shoulder with the ruler. It was a tight little strike, somewhere between a slap and a pat, and not painful at all.
Meherin acted like it was a hell of a smack, though. She winced and ran from the table back to the benches. I could’ve hit her again as she ran past me, but I didn’t. I only so much as lifted the ruler again, and she sprinted so fast that it pretty much seemed as if she was running for her life.
The boys went crazy now, shouting and cheering and thumping on the benches madly. I waved at them, ambled back to the benches like a hero, and had to receive a torrent of slaps and punches on the shoulders and back. Then I put the ruler back into my bag and turned to the girls’ benches.
Meherin looked embarrassed, but it wasn’t that kind of embarrassment. She wasn’t offended at all. In fact, the other girls were enjoying this too. They had to; it was quite a show I put on today.
“Aw, Meherin! Are you hurt?” I teased. “Don’t be. I’m so sorry.”
The boys started laughing again, and the girls too giggled.
“Are you still sad? Come on! Smile for me, will you? Just smile.”
Meherin hid her face now. But I knew she was smiling.
“Still sad? You know what? I think I’ll apologize to you.”
I took the ruler out of my bag again. I had another crazy idea!
I stepped forward and stood in the gap between the two columns of benches. Then I dropped on one knee and stretched my right with the ruler—the way I’d watched so many Hollywood actors do—and said, “Take the ruler, Meherin! Punish me! Punish me all you want!”
Everyone’s jaw dropped in the girls’ benches. And I bet same was the scene behind me as well. Blood was streaming like electric waves all over my body. This day couldn’t have turned better!
With a shaky voice—I had no idea how I could make my voice sound so pathetically shaky—I kept pleading, “Oh, Meherin! I can’t live with this guilt. I can’t bear this shame. Hit me. Punish me. Please!”
She probably realized I wasn’t going anywhere until she hit me. So she walked to me and took the ruler, and I bowed my head down like I was going to receive a knighthood or something.
She barely landed the ruler on my palm three times. All I felt was a tap, then another, then another. Then she put the ruler back and shied away. "You got your punishment. Now calm down.”
I intertwined my fingers and went on with the plead. “Thank you, my lady. Thank you so much. You’re so kind and—”
I would’ve gone on, but I had to stop. Because Mrs. Mahbuba, the Math teacher, had entered the classroom. I got to my feet quickly and went back to my seat. I looked at my hand and saw the ruler. I put it back to the bag too in another swift move.
If Mrs. Mahbuba saw what I was doing—down on one knee, in front of Meherin—she’d probably send me to the Principal’s Office.
“Goodness me! I can hear your screams from the Teachers’ Room for god’s sake.” She takes off her round glasses and places them on the table. “Stop all the chatting and bring out your books.”
So she didn’t see it. Thank god!
Mrs. Mahbuba continued teaching us how to do math using Unitary Method, and as always, I didn’t pay attention. I’d finished learning Unitary Method back at home myself. That’s what I did all the time, finishing up lessons before teachers taught them in class so I could be keep myself ahead. That also gave me the luxury to be careless in school and be miles away from the lectures.
Right now, my mind was replaying the things that happened not too long ago.
Meherin’s face was so red! She was so scared! It was like Tom versus Jerry. I was Tom and she was Jerry. Though in this case Tom was all over Jerry. Tom was the winner.
I should be auditioning for films, man! I can’t live with this guilt! Punish me! Gosh, some dialogues! And I made my voice sound like a bloody poet or something. Didn’t know I could do that!
I bet she won’t ever do that again. She’ll always give the planes back. I think if someone even intentionally throws a plane at her, she’ll give it back too! Thanks to me!
You do enjoy playing with girls, don’t you? It was the inner voice.
Of course, I do. I like playing with them. I like beating them, like I did today. And I’m pretty good at it. Remember how I beat Nidhi?
Yeah, that was one epic victory, the voice says.
Thinking about that exam brought back memories: How I felt so thrilled when I got my answer-script; how all the thrill vanished when I saw the disappointment in Nidhi’s face; how the anticipated success meant nothing.
My heart started to pound. It had to; it always did when Nidhi reigned in there.
She had her eyes on Mrs. Mahbuba, concentrated, nodding and taking notes every now and then.
I felt something different. It wasn’t that familiar enigmatic feeling that filled me every time I looked at her. It was something different.
And I didn’t know what it was.