I think I was about 10 years old, in grade 5. It was a weekday, and I hadn’t gone to school because I’d been down with a fever the night before. I don’t remember it being cold, so it wasn’t winter. Perhaps Fall or Spring, I’m not sure. I wish I could remember it all.
There was no one home except for Bhai. Mom was at work, sister at school. I can’t remember why exactly he was home, it might have had something to do with skipping college or being down in the dumps after a rough break-up.
We lived at the intersection of Hurontario and Burnamthorpe, minutes away from Square One, a sprawling mall which I’d only gone to with my mother and sister to buy groceries and house-hold things.
Out of the blue, Bhai asked if I was hungry. Of course I was, at that age and weight, I was ALWAYS hungry. He suggested we go to Burger King, which was inside Square One. My eyes had lit up at the thought and I became really excited. Fever forgotten, I quickly got ready and as we were leaving the apartment, Bhai asked how I want to go there. Should we take the bus or walk?
I remember feeling very grown-up at just being asked for my opinion on this. I also remember very very clearly that I pretended to think about it for a moment as we rode down in the elevator together, and making up my mind, I said, in the most grown-up way I could imagine, “I would raaaaather walk.”
We’d been reading something in school that had the word ‘rather’ in it and I loved how it sounded. I remember Bhai looking very amused at me using the word, and he replied “Well, okay since you’d ‘raaaaather’ walk then let’s walk!”
We walked to the mall, and at the intersection, he held my hand and told me very sternly to ALWAYS remember to look both left and right before crossing the road. I’d nodded seriously and to this day, I always look both left and right before crossing.
At Burger King, Bhai surprised my by getting me my own Combo Meal. This was another new and grown-up experience. With Mom and sis, I had always ended up sharing a burger, and being told how to hold it so that the condiments don’t fall out, and then being scolded after getting ketchup on my shirt. Not this time, though.
I sat there, happily chewing on my very own burger that I didn’t have to share. We didn’t make much conversation, I think I must have told him a story or two about school and he had probably made fun of me somehow but it was generally a happy time. We sat in companionable silence, and I felt amazed that he was treating me like an equal.
On the way back home, we sang songs. Or rather, he sang songs and I listened, trying to hum along to whatever Junoon or Vital Signs track it was. At that age, it all sounded the same to me.
I fell into deep sleep, right after reaching back home. It had been a happy day and I remember always trying to skip school again whenever I knew Bhai would be home. I have always wanted to re-create that blissful afternoon.