Vega is also fondly called Vegs, Vegsu, Vegas, Star, Helmet Girl. I came to know this only after I got to know her well. Before that, she was only Vega for me. She’s got a sister — Venus. She has only one name, as far as I know. Vega is always on time to work because she rides her purple scooty very fast. I think she likes to imagine she’s on a ski jet. I wonder if her skinny fingers that look like twisted skin-coloured pencils keep sliding off the handlebars. Has a puff of wind ever pushed her off the seat? I don’t think I have spotted a bruise. Vega has eyes like Monday and clothes, the colour of death.
Everyday we sit on the sidewalk outside our office and under the winter sun. Everyday at 4pm. The cold isn’t for us and the Gulmohar trees have lost their flowers that look like sunset. One day we sit on our spot and secretly drink Bailey’s out of an old, semi-broken coffee flask. Vega bought the Bailey’s from a friend coming from Germany or Thailand. Alcohol is cheap at Duty Free and we don’t have much money. But expensive things that become inexpensive for us are particularly good to taste. Nobody at work can spot our intemperance. We have developed a liking for the balmy nakedness of November.
We gift each other books because we both like to write notes on the first page. We write notes to each other in office too. Notes making fun of people around us, and notes that only say Hi!. Sometimes we draw. And then we exchange them under the table. Last week Vega gifted me a copy of Persepolis and wrote Nirvana’s lyrics on the first page. And then she added two of her own lines below. I love Nirvana.
We also swap music and stories on Granta. She recommends Bonobo and I, Belle and Sebastian. Then we discuss what we didn’t like, more than what we like. Rarely, she beams, and without any good reason. I want to ask her if she’s understood 42 and found the answer to life. Most likely she has, but I don’t think I want to know. Now I am used to Vega. In the same way I am used to sneezing.
Who got you that Goatse key chain, Vega? I ask her, and she tells me an unknown person from Reddit Gifts FedEx-ed it to her, as she looks for a hate note inside the package she unwrapped, but couldn’t find one. And what did you FedEx him? I say. She tells me she sent a Beatles t-shirt to someone, but it’s unlikely the Goatse person would have got it. Reddit doesn’t let you choose persons. The Goatse gifter must really hate people, or he doesn’t know what a Goatse is, or maybe he was in a very foul mood. Vega gives the Goatse key chain to me. But she doesn’t even hate me! I decide to give it to my crazy ex-boyfriend who beat me up, but I never do.
The stories she is telling people these days about being the Helmet Girl, it’s not true. Especially bikers, they are so happy to get acquainted with Vega. After all, her name is on their helmets. They lean in, smile and listen. They think her father owns the Vega helmet company. Why do they think so? She tells them so. Her heart is chuckling, but her eyes like Monday light up and her head of moons bobs up and down, and she tells them her father named the company after her. And that he makes millions of rupees because all bikers are wearing these helmets. Vega is famous. She doesn’t want to be famous. Vega is a star, a bright one in the sky.
Now she is no longer interested in telling these stories to strangers, so we escape the noisy pub we are at because we are not even drinking. We want to go somewhere quiet and have a conversation about stupid boys. Boys that we waste our time on. Boys that don’t like us back. Juicy chicken momos invite us to a small ugly restaurant on the sidewalk off Church Street. We order our food that is given to us instantly and park ourselves at a table near the door because we would want to smoke after eating. A stranger wants to share our table, so we let him. We talk about stupid boys until the pale momos that look like cotton pads are over and the cigarettes have burnt our insides. We get up to leave and the stranger smoothly comes on to Vega. “This jacket of yours, I like it, I want to wear it,” he tells her. We leave after an artless thank you. We saunter around to let something capture our fancy, but nothing does. Dude, I think he thought we were gay, Vega says. I shake my head and giggle out a Pah. Then I turn around to face her. She is looking at me. She is wearing a black leather jacket, and I can see all of her short crisp hair. I’m wearing a short dress and my long hair is hiding under my trench. Really? Our laughter bursts like a firecracker and we tear up in the damp winter evening.
It’s next week. Slow drizzles are now morphing into full-fledged rainfall and winter is getting colder. We go to a pub to watch a live indie-rock gig braving the sharp showers in our raincoats. We are broke and the concert is free. The band is playing boring music but people are not bored. We are. We are standing on the balcony, leaning like dolls against the railing.
Let’s wave to these people below, Vega says. I say no. She ignores me and starts waving at them with a huge smile. I am watching the band, so I don’t know she is doing this. When I turn around, my mouth opens as wide as my eyes. I move aside and pretend like I don’t know her. People below think she’s crazy. Some are squinting, trying to remember if they know her. She pulls me and makes me wave too. Suddenly they are all laughing and waving back. Now we are also laughing. The rain outside is morphing back to a weak drizzle. And the cold music in the background is slowly drowning…