Thursday, 21 October 2010

The Zebra Project


When I was in year 8 I got a crush on a girl who it was pretty much guaranteed that nobody else would get a crush on, mostly because nobody noticed she was there. She was virtually silent, sitting in the corner of every classroom saying absolutely nothing. She hated being asked to speak in public at all, possibly because of her voice which was quite squeaky. Moreover, the only time she was mentioned by anyone else - other than in conversation with me - was in connection with her intelligence, or - sadly - in racist remarks (she was, so I hear, part Mauritian, and had a nice tanned skin).

I don't know why I fancied her so much - but I did. I think the mysterious inaccessibility had some effect on me, as did her appearance. In year 11, when I mentioned her in passing to a friend, my friend remarked, "she's well pretty," which was about as close as an accurate description as you'd get. And she was. She had a remarkably well-defined face, gorgeous skin colour, dark eyes, nice teeth which showed when she smiled, and very long, black hair which reached down well past her shoulders.

I referred to her as "the Zebra Project", due to my attempts at that time to hide most things from everyone, revealing my unrequited affection to only my three closest friends (well, one of them. The other two got it out of him somehow.) - and somehow managed to wrangle my way into sitting next to her in year 9 Science lessons.

But the thing that intrigued me most was the fact that, clever as she was, she seemed to be attempting to get away with doing as little as possible. The SEN register on our head of year's wall - which I memorised because it had me on it - listed her as "EWO??", which suggested that she may have been playing truant. She rarely did any homework, yet when she did it was always of a high standard and made most (but not all) teachers forget about any misgivings; in fact, it was probably this intelligence which provided the mask for her to hide behind. I remember her doing some English homework during a Maths lesson (the English lesson was directly afterwards), scoring the highest mark in year 9 Science with no indication of being at all interested in the subject, and gaining a National Curriculum level 8 in the year 9 SATs for English, becoming the first student of the school to do so... well, joint first. I was the other one, naturally.

But she never seemed to want to be there. If she had her way, she told me in a whisper once, she'd be at home playing with her German Shepherd (the dog, not a real German shepherd - although that conjures up some disturbing imagery...), who apparently ate one of her Nintendo 64 joypads. Just because.

She also disappeared at the beginning of year 10 for a couple of months. Turns out she was in hospital for some strange undefined illness. I don't think I'll ever work that one out. Her best friends weren't telling.

This pretty, intelligent, enigmatic girl sort of vanished partway through the sixth form. I don't know where she went. Maybe she'd had enough. Maybe she sort of disappeared into the background. I never found out enough about her. But I liked her. I liked her a lot. I daydreamed about the ways in which we could be together. I wrote a play in which the protagonists included myself and her. It was all very sweet. Very innocent. And it lasted a long, long time - through most of year 8, all of year 9, and part of year 10. I never said anything, or did anything, about it. But apparently, somehow, she knew. She knew all along. She just never said anything either.

I wonder if she ever thinks about it any more.

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