(Originally written: April 7, 2021)

I stood on the mosaic tile and faced the wall that surrounded my grandparents’ house. It was gray and not at all entertaining to look at. The gate was to my left. I could stand in front of it instead if I wanted to see what was beyond the wall. Grip the metal and the red paint flaking off it. But that wasn’t enough for me. If I stood in front of the gate, I would only be able to look straight through. I’d be out of luck if I wanted to look left or right on the street. I glanced at the gate. It had gaps in it that were enough for a hand to slip through and undo the lock. But not a head. Even a kid’s head like mine.

I spotted a pink step stool that was sitting in the shadow of a TVS-50 moped. I picked up the stool after making sure it wasn’t supporting the moped in any way. Dust rubbed onto my fingers immediately. The gritty sensation lingered on my hands even after I clapped them on my shorts to clean them. Ah well. I can wash my hands later. I got on the step stool and gained just enough height for me to peak over the wall and onto the street.

A bicycle bell’s chime drifted over from the left.

My head whipped in that direction and did not see the man I was hoping to see. Instead it was some other guy, ringing his bell to warn the two old ladies he was stuck behind. He easily maneuvered between them and went on his way. Behind him, the old lady that was nearly knocked into the ditch cursed him and his children. The man didn’t seem to care. I guessed that he was going home. It was the evening, after all. Many people were heading home. The man I was waiting for was doing the same. Likely ringing his bicycle bell and raising the hopes of children waiting for their dad. Or, like in my case, their uncle. Eventually my uncle would get close enough home, ring his bell, and my hopes would be met.

He always brought snacks when my parents and I visited my grandparents. He’d bring my mom her favorites. My dad and I got whatever fried snacks or sweets that caught his eye when he dropped by the store. The favoritism didn’t bother me. My mom always shared what she got and my uncle would smile when she did.

A bicycle bell’s chime drifted over from the left.

I looked again. Straining this time, causing my cheek to brush against the wall. The chalk brushed onto my face and I absentmindedly rubbed at it while watching this new bicyclist that wasn’t my uncle. This guy had some lady sitting in front of him on the bicycle’s frame. His hands reached around her to grip the handlebars, making his arms form a barrier for the woman. It looked like the bars that came down on a rollercoaster I rode once. Except these bars were hairy and sweaty. And the seat the woman was sitting on was definitely extremely uncomfortable. It was just a metal bar. But her face gave no indication that she was sitting in discomfort. She spared me a glance when she passed so I smiled. She didn’t.

My mom came out of the house and asked if my uncle had arrived despite him clearly being absent. I answered with a simple no, making the mistake of facing her when I did so. She tutted, put her slippers on, and came to wipe off the chalk that was still on my cheek. She also gave commentary on me being barefoot that I listened to silently until she went back into the house. I did not put on slippers. And I did not heed her invitation to join her and my cousins at a game of carrom.

My uncle’s very good at carrom. He’d never lost a game, as far as I know. Which is probably not very far. I played with him whenever we visited and whenever I managed to score, he’d cheer and clap like he was my biggest fan. He’d also give me tips on where to place the large white striker, which pieces to aim for, and how to properly flick the striker so it would hit the pieces I wanted to hit. Essentially, he was playing for himself and for the opposing team. Maybe that’s why he always won. The thought made me shake my head. My uncle wouldn’t cheat like that. He won because he was good.

Stray dogs played in the empty field across the street. Playing or, possibly, looking for food. They were sniffing the ground a lot, crouched so low that only their dark brown tails appeared above the tall grass. Now and then a noise that only they could hear would cause their heads to pop up and look in a random direction. Maybe they were waiting for their uncle too.

A bicycle bell’s chime drifted over from the left.