There is a little black bird sitting in the tree outside Lara’s window. She watches it as it turns this way and that, its little chest catching and reflecting the sun rays. Lara likes birds. She likes their sharp, glassy eyes, their smooth feathers, their wings. She wishes she had wings too, wings to carry her away when Mr Diamey, her Mathematics teacher calls her to the board to solve a problem. Lara is not good at Math. She always mixes up the letters and the numbers, and she can never keep the formulas in her head. Today, Mr Diamey has called her away from the little black bird to solve for x, if a is 3 and b is 5. Lara’s hand clutches the piece of chalk hard and shakes as she writes x on the blackboard over and over again. There are tears in her eyes when Mr Diamey finally snatches the chalk from her angrily and orders her back to her seat. When she gets back to her seat, the bird is gone and there is a folded sheet of paper on her desk. With a glance at Mr Diamey to make sure he’s not looking at her, Lara picks up the paper and unfolds it. It is a note. She begins to read it.
Two rows away, Nnamdi watches nervously as Lara unfolds and reads his note. It had taken him nearly two weeks to find the right words to put in the note, and another week agonizing over whether he should send it or not. Unable to watch her any longer, he closes his eyes and remembers the words he wrote in the letter, so that he can read them along with Lara.
“Dearest Lara,” her voice is shaky as she reads out loud. Nnamdi opens his eyes to see Mr Diamey glaring at Lara, who is standing up and holding his note in her shaky hands. His neck feels hot and cold at the same time. He sits with his ears burning as Lara stammers her way through the letter, her voice interrupted by snickers and giggles from their classmates. She doesn’t look at Nnamdi as she refolds the note or as she hands it over to Mr Diamey who rips it up and throws the pieces in the bin. She stares hard at her Math textbook for the remainder of the class. But it is hard for her to keep the smile off her face and the note out of her mind.
I don’t know how to say this. I watch you watching the birds, and I think that you are more beautiful than they are. You are the most magnificent bird to me. Special and beautiful and proud, poised for flight.
Nnamdi. (Third row, second seat).
Pamela Naaki Tetteh is a student of the arts, who spends her free time reading, napping and complaining about how she has no free time. You can read more of her work at pamelatetteh.wordpress.com.
Related country: Nigeria